Saturday, February 28, 2015

No Meat 'Til Brooklyn

This year for Lent I decided to not eat any sort of meat.


Truth be told, I started late, but I will plan on tacking the missed days on at the end of the time period. When Lent began, I was on a hiking trip and needed all the sustenance that I could get, just to haul through. I swear.

The last dead animal that I ate was on February 27, at a Peter's Tex Mex in Chengdu. And, knowing I had to make it count, I ate a lot of dead animal.

And that was it. Until April 11.

I've been told to eat a lot of peanuts and tofu to make up for the lost protein. I'm also hoping to get back into running, so maybe this will be a time period of incredible health for me.

Motivation...hmm. Some of it comes from Ruth Haley Barton, author of "Sacred Rhythms." One of the chapters that caught my attention emphasized not only the fact that our bodies are temples for the Lord but also that our bodies function much better - and so we function much better - when everything is working smoothly and healthily.

A Bill Hybels book into which I have made less progress said the same thing, about living healthily: not only are we called to treat our bodies well, but if we listen to what are bodies are telling us - like, what time of the day do I have the most energy? Am I fueling my body well? Am I getting rest, the right amount of rest? - we'll have more energy and and get the most done.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I have been struggling with the most in the past few years. Not weight or health problems, but just optimizing my waking hours. Which is why I am reading those two books ("Sacred Rhythms" and "Simplify")...to try to get the most of my days here. We'll see how it goes.

I also just want to see if I can do it, or what will happen.

The last reason is for growin' closer to the Lord. A good friend of mine, Mr. Ben Whitmore (pictured below...eating a gratuitous amount of meat, on the far right), put it nicely. He is giving up coffee, which he might love more than I love animal flesh. But he pointed out that Lent is giving up something in order to show that nothing is more important in our lives than God, "so when you are really wanting it, say, 'Jesus, I want you more.'" And I though that that was pretty good wisdom.

So - I am getting hungry just writing this. Gotta go find some cashews. We'll see how it goes.



Sunday, February 22, 2015

Why Travel

...or, "Ellen and Reuben Go to Chiang Mai, Thailand, for Spring Festival 2015."

Why would anyone ever travel? It's inconvenient, sticking yourself in some far-off, unknown place just to blow all your hard-earned money and feel awkward. You probably have better things to do. Wouldn't you be better off on your couch, chit-chatting with your friends on your iPhone and reading Calvin and Hobbes? So why head out? Why not just stay put?

Try new stuff, learn new stuff

If you are going to leave the comfort of your home, you obviously need to to be ready for new, unknown things anyway. Usually it will be fun - especially if you are excited about having the experience, and even if you weren't very eager about it at first, you'll be glad you did whatever you end up doing. Even if it includes a stint in the hospital.




Pursue hobbies or passions

Balance out all the newness and the unknown with some things you know you love...whatever the pastime of yours is, it will probably take a new form or twist because of the new setting in which you are doing it. But that will probably make it all the more awesome and meaningful; a new layer of depth or a different perspective will be added to this love of yours. Even if - perhaps especially if - it includes a stint in the hospital.



*

Eat delicious food

Don't be that clown looking for McDonald's. Eat a lot of local food. Especially if you go to a less-developed country. I love how a particular food that is foreign to where you live can be a delicacy for special occasions and can be quite expensive, but when you go to the home country of that particular food and eat it, it is not only much cheaper but also much more authentically tasty.




Relax

Super far away from work. Sometimes physically removing yourself from any possible connection to life's obligations can be unhealthy, but sometimes it is just right, especially if you leave your computer and e-mail behind, and especially especially if you leave a really cold place for a really warm one, and especially especially especially if you are from Iowa.




Make new friends

Maybe the new friends will be local people who can share a bit of their own lives or their own perspectives with you. Maybe the new friends will be fellow travelers, people on a journey similar to your own. Whoever or whatever these new acquaintances may be, expanding social horizons is always life-giving. You know you are going to get sick of hanging out with the same travel buddy for a week anyways...



**

Grow closer to the person/people you travel with

You wouldn't go with them if you didn't want this to happen anyway. You'll get to see them in new ways, and they'll get to see you in new ways. You'll know each other more deeply because of the shared experiences in the new place to which you travel; whomever you go with is your anchor familiarity. Even if you do get sick of them after a week!

Just kidding, just kidding!




See and explore cool, interesting stuff that you don't see where you live

New architecture, unfamiliar landscape and/or wildlife, unknown geographical layout, different culture and customs...it is all stimulating and interesting and waiting to titillate your senses. And if this doesn't float your li'l boat, you'll end up appreciating your home much, much more.




Create unique memories

When you go back to your real life (which hopefully is also awesome), you'll always have some good times for your mind to wander happily back to. You will not regret going because the memory of all your fun will make you warm and happy. And you can move ever closer achieving your dream of reaching "Level 10 Travel Snob" status.


***









*Just to clarify which hobbies, passions, and interests we were pursuing here, they were, in order: being unconcerned with personal hygiene (me), cooking - in this case, at a Thai food cooking course (Ellen), and hiking in the jungle - not nature-worship (me).

**Just to clarify, this animal demon was not actually a friend we made...he was an enemy, the only mar on an otherwise mar-less trip. Every morning this foul fowl would begin crowing at 5 a.m. right outside our hostel room, and he didn't stop until we were wide awake and livid.

***Just to clarify, while I am looking at the camera, Ellen is actually looking at a larger-than-normal river monster**** native only to the Chiang Mai area. We, along with our raft guide, battled the beast for upwards of twenty minutes before slashing away enough of its tentacles to ward it off.

****Just to clarify, this is not true; I don't know what the heck she is looking at in this picture.

Friday, February 6, 2015

January Quiz

Between January 12 and February 6, there were four weeks of school, four weeks that were sandwiched between Christmas vacation (three weeks) and Chinese New Year vacation (three weeks). Below is a short quiz about events that took place in my life in these four weeks. Even further below...is an answer key.

1. One Friday after school, some students and I watched ___ in my classroom for about half an hour. 
a. "The Devil Wears Prada" (because they didn't know who Anne Hathaway was)
b. the Antoine Dodson "Bed Intruder Song"
c. an ISIS beheading
d. several innings of Game 7 of the 1987 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Minnesota Twins

2. Between January 21-24, I played a small part in a ___. 
a. six-part murder
b. "The Walking Dead" intervention
c. close friend's proposal to a thoroughbred horse
d. musical called Foundling Hill

3. At my school's Chinese New Year dinner party, there was an exhaustive lucky draw (prize raffle), and I won ___.
a. a two-person tent
b. several plane tickets to Siberia
c. a rice steamer
d. nothing

4. Some anonymous person left ___ in my mailbox in the teacher's lounge as what appears to be a Chinese New Year gift. 
a. a copy of the Koran
b. a horse's head
c. his or her phone number and some kissy lipstick marks on a post-it note
d. the Syria/Lebanon Lonely Planet guide

5. My ___ streak lengthened from 105 to 131.
a. days-without-showering
b. days-on-which-I-received-a-derogatory-comment-about-my-beard
c. days-on-which-dangerous-pollution-particles-entered-my-body
d. days-without-hiking

6. In January I fell in love with ___. 
a. Counting Crows
b. the art of ballet
c. a Chinese actress who looks a little bit like Anne Hathaway
d. a pink bass guitar

7. I made three trips to ___ with or to collect Ellen. 
a. a prison
b. Fatburger
c. Xinjiang
d. the airport

8. During each week of school I made two videos to promote ___ at Beijing World Youth Academy. 
a. Antoine Dodson
b. Minnesota Twins baseball
c. the importance of proper toenail grooming
d. community and service

9. A ___ opened up next to my house and started making my life vastly easier and warmer. 
a. public bonfire pit
b. sauna
c. 찜질房
d. subway line

10. For the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday, I booked tickets to ___ for Ellen and myself, and I booked tickets to ___ for Ben and myself. 
a. a spa; an all-you-can-eat steak buffet
b. heaven; hell
c. a fancy ballroom dance; a metalcore concert
d. Chiang Mai, Thailand; Chengdu, Sichuan

Answers!

1. One Friday after school, some students and I watched ___ in my classroom for about half an hour.
d. several innings of Game 7 of the 1987 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Minnesota Twins
A student started a baseball club at the school, but some students who wanted to join the club had no idea how baseball worked. I also made a note that this activity could, of course, be a romantic stay-at-home date night for Ellen and me.


2. Between January 21-24, I played a small part in a ___.
d. musical called Foundling Hill
An awesome friend of mine named Karmia wrote this musical from scratch in about four months. And it was good...very good. The music was incredible, the students who performed were amazing, and the plot was super solid. Very well done, and very well done on a short timeframe. The performance also raised a heapload of money for a school in Lanzhou. I was lucky to get to be a part of it, and if you missed it, you suck.


3. At my school's Chinese New Year dinner party, there was an exhaustive lucky draw (prize raffle), and I won ___.
d. nothing
There was a tent I really wanted, but I didn't win it.


4. Some anonymous person left ___ in my mailbox in the teacher's lounge as what appears to be a Chinese New Year gift.
d. the Syria/Lebanon Lonely Planet guide
I have no idea who left this, but it was an awesome surprise, and when I find out who put it there...dang.


5. My ___ streak lengthened from 105 to 131.
d. days-without-hiking
This stinks, but hopefully the streak will be over soon (see #10).


6. I fell in love with ___.
d. a pink bass guitar
Someone donated a pink bass guitar to my church, BICF, and it had just been sitting around there, all pink and whatnot. We mostly made fun of it. But early in January, there was a woman who was leaving the worship team for Brazil, and she said, "Reuben, it's my last Sunday. Will you play the pink bass for me?" I said yes and found that the strings and tone that belonged to the bass were much, much to my liking. So now I use it all the time, despite its somewhat feminine appearance.


7. I made three trips to ___ with or to collect Ellen.
d. the airport
She had business trips to Shenzhen, Xi'an, and Shanghai, all in a two-week timeframe. Frequent flyer miles, I tell you what.


8. During each week of school I made two videos to promote ___ at Beijing World Youth Academy.
d. community and service
Deadlines are approaching. It's time to raise awareness, whatever the cost may be.


9. A ___ opened up next to my house and started making my life vastly easier and warmer.
d. subway line
Line 14. It goes from my house to Lido (opening soon), to Indigo Mall near Ben and Sam's house, and then two bus stops away from church. It is a gift, a gift from Beijing. Thank you, Beijing.


10. For the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday, I booked tickets to ___ for Ellen and myself, and I booked tickets to ___ for Ben and myself.
d. Chiang Mai, Thailand; Chengdu, Sichuan
Both should be stupendous trips. Stay tuned for further blog posts.