Quick Easter Recap

Hey! Happy belated Easter!

J and I spent Easter week in rural Cyimbili, with no real access to anything except coffee and rain. Just kidding.  We also had some great hikes and home visits, and we made some great friends this week: Eriane, V, Anastasi and Nepo- all our ages, except Anasasi who had a decade on or two on the rest of us :)

With these four we shared every meal, most hikes, and all the hours of downtime watching the rain from the front porch:

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Easter week was surprisingly quiet. There were no Holy Week events or services or even a Good Friday something-or-other!  Most were celebrating the month-long break from school, which began on Good Friday. Jeff and I were a little sad about the lack of community commemoration, but found ourselves quiety observing things in our own way.

Then, out of nowhere- BAM! Easter Sunday was an explosion of colors and song and dancing!

The Service was 3.5 hours long, and celebrated the gathering of all the surrounding village churches in one giant service. The morning included a singing processional to the beach for 4 baptisms, 14 choirs from surrounding villages, 3 offerings (money, or for those without money, an offering of words or goods- beans and a chicken were offered on Easter morning!), praise and worship, sermon, announcement, strategic plan update, funds update, communion, and benediction. Whew! Below is a link to the Easter photo album, followed by three short video clips of the Kids Choir, some Easter Dancing and the Praise and Worship time after the offering was collected:

Easter Album click here.

Right after the service ended, the thunder rolled, winds picked up and it poured for 12 straight hours! We had a relaxing day on the couches of the front porch sipping hot coffee and tea and visiting with our friends. Not a bad East! (As Nepo kept calling it: Happy East! Happy East!)  Kirisito yazutse! Christ is risen!

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Love. Trash. Mardi Gras.

I’ve been meaning to write this for a year and a half.

Last Mardi Gras I walked out of my St. Charles Ave. apartment at 7pm in a total haze to meet some friends for Lebanese food. I squinted my eyes and looked around after just having woken up from days (fine, weeks) (fine, like a month and a half) of parades and parties and beads and king cakes and mimosas, staying up way too late and attending way too little class, to a totally empty and ghostlike street at dusk. It was trashed. The city had partied itself silly, vomited plastic cups and beads, and disappeared.

Mardi Gras is, without a doubt, two of the most super fun weeks in life. Days end at 3 in the afternoon to get home before parade routes close local streets. It’s normal to be offered king cake 8 times in one day, and its normal to accept all 8 times. Weekends start on Thursday and are stacked with parades, sometimes two or three a day, full of 12-foot high-heeled shoe floats and themes like Your Stimulus Package led by “Spanker Banker.” It’s okay to set up lawn chairs in the middle of the street car track and be drunk at 10am.

Mardi Gras is humanity in its most ridiculous glory. Six weeks of indulgence, leading up to the very last day, the very last hour, of unrestrained reckless abandon.

Why? Because midnight starts Lent: a forty-day season of restraint and self-examination in preparation for Easter.

I imagine myself in life, how I must appear to God, like that street. The aftermath of Mardi Gras knocking on the door to church on Wednesday morning. I’m (metaphorically, of course) sloshing beer and dripping gumbo all over the place, dragging a string of broken beads caught on my shoe, dressed in an Oyster outfit, fat off of King Cake, momentarily sidetracked by tiny little ponies and fire blowers. And God opens the door, and I see him, then I see me. Then I see him, then I see me. And I’m like, Maybe I should wash my hands.

The thing is, at 8pm on Mardi Gras night, the police shut down the streets, the French Quarter is emptied and everyone goes home. Street-cleaning crews start rolling, city employees set out on foot with brooms, rakes and blowers to push 100 tons of trash into the streets, the street guys sweep it all up, and dump trucks carry it away- all before midnight on Ash Wednesday. The city must be clean by midnight. While most of us are fast asleep in a drunken haze, smiling and filthy, our city is being renewed. We wake up on Wednesday morning to sparkly clean streets. The mess we made, no longer there.

So. Back to my story. I squinted my eyes and looked around to a totally empty and ghostlike street at dusk. It was trashed. What came to mind was a Mother Teresa quote I’d seen earlier in the day: Love has a hem to her garment that reaches to the very dust. It sweeps the stains from the streets and lanes, and because it can, it must.

Because it can, it must.

And then I remembered that God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners (while we stood at the door with our gumbo and beer and tiny ponies and fire throwers), Christ died for us.

God loves us. We trash ourselves. Jesus makes us clean.

Week Twelve: SOS

I’m drowning in Fruit Loops and America’s Next Top Model.

It’s killing me, literally. I may have turned diabetic this week for lack of self-control and the abundance of Oreos and Milano cookies. I turned down lunch at the Indian buffet today, because yesterday I ate my weight in cheesy potatoes and didn’t think I could be trusted at a buffet.

Also, I spent 5 hours in the eye-shadow section at Ulta and tried to buy shampoo a few times with a 20% off coupon and finally settled on the Paul Mitchell Color Care line with a buy 2 get 1 free option, but gave up after not being able to pick the third product.

I guess you could say I am overwhelmed with the overabundance of food and hair product options.

After a complete meltdown on Sunday, it took a full 24 hours to figure out what was really going on.

Here it is: There are holes in my life that can’t be filled with Paul Mitchell Color Care Detangling Conditioner or cheesy potatoes, even though I am thankful for those things and love them with all my heart on a normal day.

I have come to the sad realization that we have everything backwards.

I was upset on Sunday because my family jumped through hoops to get to the right church (out of hundreds in the city) at the right time (out of 8 services) to meet my brother and sister-in-law, who didn’t even show up or call to tell us they weren’t coming.

In Santa Familia there is one church with one service, and your brother lives 5 houses down. Not everyone has cars. Most people just walk. And if Antonia doesn’t show up, Father Foley goes to her house for lunch—just to make sure everything is okay. Most people go to church if only to make sure Father Foley doesn’t show up for lunch.

As I settled in on Sunday afternoon with my bag of Oreos and the Disney Channel (don’t judge), I understood that no matter how many cereals I can choose from, or how many Salon Style conditioners I get to use, no matter how great it feels to drive around 8-lane highways in my shiny SUV, passing two malls and 15 Starbucks, I will never have the quality of life I had in the village for those short few months.

My entire family will never live on one street; I’ll never be within walking distance from everyone I’ve ever known; my best friends are not my cousins or my nieces or my back-door neighbors.

Kids there have 15 moms and 15 dads—aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends. It was so cute to watch David’s eight-year-old son curl up in Imanuel or Ricardo’s lap, and to watch Juliet be passed around the church from aunt to aunt to cousin to cousin (though it was sort of embarrassing when she woke up while I was holding her, took one look at me, and wailed like she had been abandoned at the local homeless shelter).

I’ll probably never speak 3 languages or enjoy a fresh orange or a chocolate-chip ice cream cone as meaningfully and effortlessly as I did with Inez and Frances— though my cherished single-dip cones on the curb of Ben & Jerry’s and Baskin Robbins with Bec and Sprinky rival.

But that’s my point. Happy, simple meaningful moments are rare and hard to come by here, which is why they are etched into my memory and logged as happy places for me. It was never about the ice cream (except that one year when they had Chocolate Oddessy 2001). It was 20 uninterrupted minutes on the curb with my good friends.

In the village, moments like that happened all the time. Nobody had anywhere to rush off to. My time there was a thousand simple, meaningful moments strung together into days and weeks. One of my favorite memories will always be that half-an-hour between dusk and total darkness when Inez and I would walk to the shop for an ice cream or a snickers or in search of hard-to-find flour. It was just nice to be with her, and to not have anything else to do but walk around together.

Now I have no choice but to settle for The GAP and America’s Next Top Model in lieu of everything my heart really wants—community, an entire Sunday afternoon with all my friends and family in one place (can you even imagine it—all your best friends and family together in one location, for LIFE?)

My friends and I used to joke about living in a commune.

In the village, they have that. They have community. Not as a concept or a small-group idea. But as their actual life.

We have water, Tyra Banks, paved roads, Fruit Loops and Paul Mitchell.

(And we think we’re the lucky ones.)

I agree: in some ways, we’re privileged. I feel blessed to live where I live with the opportunities that have been given to me. Even after village life, I don’t feel guilty for loving Target. Or TV. Or the mall. But more than privileged, I would argue that, mostly, we’re distracted. And I sort of feel sorry for us. I think we are distracted in order to not be depressed.

For example. On Sunday, when family plans fell through, I got my tall-nonfat-sugar-free-caramel-macchiato, sat down with a handful of Oreos and the Disney Channel (don’t judge), periodically checked my Macbook for emails, and when there were no emails, I downloaded new songs on iTunes.

So I enjoyed a day of first world conveniences. But only as a filler for what I really wanted, which was to hang out with my brother, or chat with friends, or, in the deepest part of my heart, be celebrating Easter with everyone in Santa Familia.

Moments:

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“Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.”

For Good
Steven Schwartz

Got Carrots?

Imagine yourself driving along—its sleeting and snowy out—you pull up to a stop light, turn to your left and see a convertible full of rabbits. You try to look away, but they just keep honking and yelling things like, “Happy Easter!” and “Got Carrots?” and “What’s up doc?”

Can you picture it? Here, let me help.
The one yelling “Got Carrots?” was me— the cute one in the back.

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The other bunnies were Denise (founder of CFI) and Becky (our Belize Team 14 leader), both long-time friends of the family, and Lisa’s daughter, MacKenzie, also a good friend of the family who I happen to be staying with for the weekend.

Denise has been dressing up in rabbit suits and driving around the city in a rented convertible, hand-delivering Easter treats to friends, family and strangers for 20 years. I’m not sure how I got roped into it this year.

I mean—I’m not sure how I got to be blessed with this fantastic, unique Easter experience.

Step One: Bunny Prep

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Umm. Does this outfit make my tail look fat?

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Step Two: Car Prep

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Step Three: Dunkin Donuts

(It’s important to start the day off right.)

(Oh, and its even MORE important to NOT spill your entire cup of coffee down your right bunny leg and into the tub of eggs. I’m sure you guys already knew that.)

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Step Four: The Open Road

We drove out of Dunkin Donuts armed with signs, candy, eggs, toys, stuffed animals and donut holes, and we made it as far as 10th & Emerson before we were followed into the Dairy Queen parking lot for a picture with some lady’s son.

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We made a few house calls to friends (Ashley & Pulfers: hay-ay!)

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At about noon (sorry, I have to mention it), Denise looked at a girl in shorts and said, in all seriousness—That girl is wearing shorts and a T-shirt in winter. Is she crazy?

We had to remind her that she was the one dressed like a bunny in a convertible with the top down in the snow, and also she was honking and yelling. We had a nice laugh.

Kenzie and I (frozen in the back seat) “hopped” out just in time for the afternoon matinee of College Road Trip—I think Raven and I could be good friends, just like I think Jennifer Garner and me and Sarah Jessica Parker and me, oh, and Sandra Bullock and me could be—and then we spent the rest of the afternoon with Sprink-a-docious and BabyGap at the Fashion Mall.

Here are my most recent purchases for Baby Lily.
(Note: I am the coolest aunt ever)

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Other weekend happenings of note. We made Easter cookies. They were cookie-licious.

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I also dragged Sprinky and Kenzie to the Black & White store, tried on the dresses and settled on the black one for my dad’s wedding. I had a private goodbye with the white one and promised to come back for it when I was older, financially secure, and could assure it a good life. Boo.

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Anyway, Happy Easter!