Sunday, February 27, 2011

Warfare vs. The Bosnian Soldier and the Hippy

 “The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God requires a struggle…” More than ever, there has been quite an amount of warfare going on considering the closeness we are to Korea…and we can’t forget the events and protests going down in Libya…How about internal self struggles??
Since I’ve been in Saipan I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by quite a diverse group of people. One man in particular catches my attention. Born and raised in Bosnia, Goran is middle aged and ruggedly handsome. I first heard him speak after church and was instantly hooked on his love and mission in life. This man speaks of God like He should be spoken about…I don’t think I’ve ever heard a discouraging or negative comment be uttered from his lips. He knows the Bible back and forth and can spit out Bible text’s like bullets…He and his daughter, who is in 2nd grade and more on fire for God than I am, are contagiously kind.
BUT wait…did I mention Goran only has only one leg? The story of Goran is insane, and I still insist we make a movie about his life…but again, the man is unforgivably humble. Goran was a soldier in the civil war against the Catholics and the Orthodox religions in his country. He was drafted into the army near the end of the 1995. He stepped on a landmine, needless to say-lost a leg. Yet, while in this predicament he was able to save one of his fellow soldiers, stepped on ANOTHER land mine and lost the remainder of the same leg. Yes, twice…and he is alive. You would think his battle would be himself…but He gave his life to Christ after stumbling across an SDA book seller in Bosnia. Now, his battle is to fight the down hearted, to fight on God’s side…and to help win the battle against evil while living through example. WHAT a win.
Later this weekend I was invited to Banzai Cliffs for a monthly “Moon gazing”.  Every full moon Silvia and David’s diving instructors put on this pitch-black with a headlamp party to celebrate the love of life and check out the full moon over the cliffs…with some locals, hippies, and other chill islanders here…needless to say it was quite the shin dig. I was lucky enough to hear a man with a sweet gray pony-tail and a laid back Wisconsin-ish accent talking about sailing…instantly it caught my attention and I introduced myself. I met Rom and his wife “Moon”. Yes, Moon was quite the Thai woman-hippy-chef. (Now Silvia and I are well aware of the band ‘Decembrist’ lol).  Anyways, this man got into discussing with me issues about trade winds, and current changes, polar ice caps, glaciers, and the North West Passage opening up for the first time in 400 years…This was Rom and Moon’s battle. He was at war with the harmer’s of the environment…this to him is the most important battle ever to be fought.  
I myself have been struggling with my own battles…graduating college is a grenade…being half a world away from family and best friends is a trench… culture and language barriers at work are my cannons. Yet, despite all these weapons of stress I put on my game face, strap on my bullet proof vest (composed of amazing friends here…and daily talks with God) and go to battle. Yet, everyday is an adventure… It makes my battles seem all the more small hearing my students ramble in broken English about their boyfriend problems…or their hair not being brown or blond..and my favorite-wanting to stay in English schools.
SO my battle…myself. Being a model to these kids…to my friends…to my family. I am up for the challenge…with soldiers like Goran on my side I don’t know how we’ll lose the battle for eternal life and making our world…though disintegrating according to Rom… a better place. Encouraging people to live for a purpose…live to the fullest…and most important fight your battles WITH God..not against Him.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hafa Adai Bra...

After my Valentines blog, I figured I’d be pretty dry on the writing front until this weekend commenced! O my goodness. My weekend started turning quite the direction as soon as I stepped out of work Friday… with bumping into a very well seasoned Chomorran man “basking himself”…his whole self, in my favorite reading spot on the beach behind the school. This spot basically has my name written on it. Every day after teaching grammar and speaking e-v-e-r-y w-o-r-d clearly to my lovely Koreans…I take shelter under the perfect palm tree with a perfect view of the ocean and the Navy ships that float outside the reef. But no… my heavy anticipation of relaxation was turned to panic and laughter as I briskly jogged away from this dude “hangin” out all up in my spot. Hafa Adai bra...Chomorran meaning: what's up friend...
So this Saturday has an ENTIRE blog dedicated to it…I usually write one a week but it was too epic to not tell you about. We started the day out with no electricity…Oh, the joys of a hot sticky room and no shower to take before rushing off to church…which by the way Pastor Carlos, WHAT an amazing message. We had Joeie’s (my amazing friend and neighbor) birthday picnic at Oleai Beach…followed by a quite adventurous caving trip.
The caving trip, along with all of our adventures actually…always start with back-roading threw thick Saipan jungle in Rusty, an old missionary veteran, in other words… rusty-put back together truck, having a piece of plywood and bed liner separating you from the ground underneath…Rusty also includes a sweet skull of a booney dog on the front for added toughness. It has character though. Anyways, we trudged muddily to Calaveras Cave (which ironically enough translates into Skull Cave)…you could guess my excitement at such a terrifying choice of name (This name going along with others like Forbidden Island and even Suicide Cliffs here in Saipan). The cave was super tall once we entered and pretty terrifying, being you had to climb down this dingy, clanky, 50 foot aluminum latter and plunge into complete darkness until your eyes adjusted. Once we reached the bottom of the cave we scurried onto the lip of a huge down drop…where we threw several rocks trying to “guesstimate” the drop down…we got about 20 feet until our rocks kept getting intercepted. Next time we’ll think ahead and bring more flashlights.
NEXT! We were headed down this grass covered path when we ran into some pretty sketchy Russians that spoke no English…we thought they were going to kill us considering the hesitant actions played toward us and the wife sticking a video camera out the window recording the whole thing. But since we had a whole truck full of people in the back…and I ducked for cover allowing David to get shot at first…I ended up safe.  But, turns out….we directed them on their way to “Boird Issland?!” and laughed the rest of the way.
IT GETS BETTER. Our night continued with going to my first “karaoke room” inside the Saipan World Resort. O MY GOSH. For you Asians back home, I had always wondered why karaoke seemed to fascinate you but I totally get it now. We basically rented this square room, with a huge couch, tv, and microphones…add to it sound proof walls…and go crazy. I probably was laughing beyond the point of no return by the time my roomie Priya (an amazing, crazy Bermudian who is quickly beating me in the love of life race) and I were singing Abba’s “Dancing Queen” to the room full of people.
THEN as if the night couldn’t get any better we ventured into the hotel’s karoke night full of Japanese tourists…and as I was brave enough to start the train dance with Tina and Priya... I THEN got elected to sing ON STAGE by the lead singer guy jamming away to some pretty cheesy covers to 60’s songs….while a group of older Asian ladies were quite the hip busters kicking it across the dance floor to some old Japanese guy singing his heart out. I thought this was all pretty funny until the guy convinced me into singing Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” The conversation went something like this:
Mullet Asian: “You like sing?”
Me: “No, can you play Footloose?”
Mullet Asian: “NO NO! Sing…you sing...Lady Gaga… good singer…Lady GaGa.”
Me: “No, no sir. I don’t want to sing. I just want to hear the song.”
Is it because I was one of the only American’s in the place…probably. Maybe because of the fact he thought we were intoxicated judging from David, Tina, and Priya’s dancing about like crazos. But, only having pineapple juice and chicken…we found it even funnier. I conquered the ridiculous song and they got the whole thing on tape. I’m sure it’ll surface somewhere on FB for your laughing convenience. OR even on YouTube considering a creeper staff guy was recording me from the side door. I am still laughing.
OH, and we can’t forget the Korean man who caught me on my merry way to the bathroom while I was whistling “I kissed a girl.” He abruptly about-faced it toward me once I passed him and squealed after me. “KATY PERRY!” I, being a Katy Perry fan, knew the chances of her being in this hotel were slim, but I turned around anyway to find the guy and his son looking at me. I don’t think I was dressed up that much, but I guess any American with straight brown hair and any kind of…well...never mind…could look similar. So I pulled off a shrug-laugh, waved, and continued my hustle to the ladies room.
SUNDAY. Today started out pretty normal until we got the bright idea to rent scooters and bop around the island...OMG...I threw Silvia on the back and we named our scooty "Hoss". It was pretty epic going all the way to the north side of the island and driving some pretty back roads...but considering there were two of us..and the getting up the mountain we hit speeds of approx. 15 mph. LOL. I dared to ask a police officer on a motorcycle is he wanted to race...then got lectured in "safe driving" by some random in a red Mustang...need I say more...when you drive a Mustang, don't tell me how to drive. It was all fun and games until poor Joeie ate it...but she's ok.

…laughter is truly the best medine. Ciao <3

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Legend of Valentine...

So, Valentine’s Day is soon upon us. St. Valentine is quite the mystery man if I do say so myself. If you’ve ever attempted to look up historically accurate accounts of St. Valentine you’ll find quite the legends. But, through my ongoing history-nerd OCD research I have narrowed it down to two final legends. (If you aren’t going to read the whole epic blog…at least skip to the bottom.)
Legend 1: St. Valentine was a priest during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. Claudius, being quite the dictator…decided that his soldiers were losing battles and shying away from war because of their families and lovers…darn. So, he basically went on a rampage, like most Roman rulers around 200 A.D. and banded/cancelled all engagements and marriages in any time of battle. Valentine, being the Romantic that he was, continued to secretly marry couples hidden in church basements and bell towers.  Claudius found out and threw Valentine in jail. While rotting away in prison, Valentine was believed to have fallen (pause for dramatic effect) secretly in love with the jailors daughter (which I feel this is the dramatized version…besides the fact that everyone knew the jailors daughter was blind…). The day before Claudius had Valentine executed, the priest wrote a letter to the jailors daughter signed “Your Valentine” and from then on it stuck. Quite the sign-off line. Also, the poor girl was in fact blind…how was she supposed to read it? Legend said that she would exchange roses to have children continually read her the letter after he died. Sigh... It’s a legend. He was executed on February 14, 270 AD.
Legend 2: Everyone knows how intense and crazy blood hungry the ancient Romans were. So, we roll back to pagan times in the ancient Roman Empire. In those times, people celebrated a holiday on February 14 to honor Juno… the mythological Queen of Roman Gods and Goddesses. We all know Romulus and Remus of course…the founders of Rome.  Following the bloody tradition, the Roman priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for “purification”. Following the command of R & R, young “gentlemen” would chop up the goats and go around slapping women with the sacrificial animal hide. Ladies, who wouldn’t be flattered by getting wacked with a bloody hunk of dog or goat meat?? Roman women though, would gladly receive the slap, as they believed that the practice would make them more fertile…Oh the lengths of fertility. Later, during the Feast of Lupecalia, all the single ladies in the city would place their name in a big urn in the middle of town. Bachelors would then play the Roman lotto for their new girlfriend to be…and became paired with the girl whose name was on the stone for the rest of the year (rough 10 months if you got a bad one). Hopefully they got a descent match…if not, I guess they’d throw the stone back in and try again next year. WHAT ROMANCE!
So ending the legends…or tying them together that is… basically people became Christian and saw this practice as ridiculous...and made the dating lotto illegal…and Christians spread the “real way” to meet true love…o wait, they stuck women in corsets and kitchens...well , at least we do it right in 2011 after what, 1000 years? Yet even in 2011, some people should still get the memo…I won’t mention any names.  And as for Valentine, some priest deemed love to Valentine around 500 AD…after his legend number one.  Let’s stick with that.
Ending the longest blog I’ve ever written…My grandmother once told me that my luck with love is because I’m Italian…that Italians love to a different level. No one can quite match us…except for other Italians, which I’m commanded not to marry because they say the least…not to our level. So I guess I’m stuck. We’re just that deep. Sometimes, I’ve heard that my luck in love is because I’m not Catholic. Well, as written above, nobody seems to get it right...
…Love. Oh, the four letter word that can turn words in the mind so quickly. Love, amore, agape…the Bible says that Love is more than just a “feeling.” That people have made it a temporary, shallow feeling of want, lust, and even affection. It’s funny that you can go from loving Valentine’s Day to loathing the upcoming, pre planned day where you know you will voluntarily turn off your phone, get the cheesiest movie and hold up with a calorie fest.
So…if you have a lover…good for you. Just remember that LOVE is meant to be shared, not centralized and selfishly given to one other person. After my disaster, failure has opened my eyes to reality. It’s about loving yourself, about loving people, and most importantly loving God…after all…Valentine was a man of God…keep the legend going.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Asian New year 新年快乐

Xīnnián kuàilè!! Which is actually the Chinese...Japanese…Korean…and several other Asian culture’s traditional New Year. Basically the Chinese New Year falls on the first new moon of the now set Gregorian calendar and it last 15 days until the following full moon. 15 days of pretty epic celebrations of dancing dragons, kites, and good food. It comes to an end with the lantern festivals. These lanterns are…outrageous to say the least. My students were showing me pictures and they are unbelievable!  I find the ancient traditions much cooler…and so did the Japanese and Koreans until western life swept in and brought our high tech calendar into play. Whatever. So, Year of the Rabbit…bring on new luck!
So basically, I was kept awake all night with firecrackers and huge fireworks basically being set off at every angle outside our apartment windows. Saipan walls are pretty thin, hence all the cockroaches that share housing with us. And let me tell you…Chinese fireworks make American “fireworks” look like Pop Rocks. They aren’t illegal either. Hence the raw danger when David and I blew up buckets and bottles in the back yard the other week testing them out.
So, I’ve decided with the dawn of all these ancient traditions I might as well visit a Buddhist temple while I’m at it. I mean, when in Asia. The relaxing mantras and chanting seems very meditative. Don’t worry though, being here as a student missionary I am just as strong in my faith, yet why not meet other people of greater peace than I? Enlightenment can come from more than just Buddha. That’s why I flock to the beach after work every day in prayer. Also, planning my trip to Tokyo and all of our temples Silvia and I will be stopping by for a week is sparking interest as well. This religion is so old. A religion based on peace of mind…yet no higher power. Buddha was basically a dude who was a prince, who encountered 4 suffering people, sat under a tree for quite a while and got brain freeze…ate too much, ate too little…then settled in the middle and called it “Enlightened”. Though I find this all far-fetched I will respect it, and still find Karma a real force ;)
Happy to report next Monday my roommate and I start our MIXED MARSHAL ARTS CLASS!  KEE-YA!
Street market today was bustling with people. I witnessed my first DRAGON DANCE TONIGHT…EPIC. I find my spicy “cheeken” on a stick and Pad-Thai a welcomed gift to me after a hard week of teaching Korean students…who also flock to the street market… hunt me down, and parade around with me giggling and planning my future with every male that may look my way. It makes me laugh. Oh, and the drinks here entertain me. You can physically drink ANYTHING in Saipan…Rice soda, rice punch, Sardine concentrate…mmm...pear soda, and Aloe water being the weirdest. About last week’s statement of bad luck due to a birthmark…we saw a foot long blowfish snorkeling last weekend. Koreans find that good luck, considering blowfish is a deadly delicacy. Win.
To everyone back home, Happy New Year! Know that I miss you, and know that “The world is a book, and staying in one’s place is only reading a page…” Get out and read the whole book people. That’s where I’m at.     新年快