Thursday, July 31, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
We visited Bergen the last few days and stayed with our host's niece, Christal. Bergen is a fantastic city and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
When we returned yesterday we could think of nothing but jumping into the fjord! We enjoyed a swim in a beautiful lake until 7pm. Since it stays light until 12:30am and the sun rises at 3:30am, swimming in the evening is no problem!
Thursday, July 24, 2008
We trekked for about two and a half hours up a steep mountain (fjell) and took in amazingly scenic views from every angle, fed some wild horses, pet a few sheep on the mountainside and enjoyed the 80 degree day.
Upon returning to the car, we went back to Kirsten's house for a fresh dinner (midday meal) of salmon, potato salad, green salad, fruit salad, coffee and almond cookies. We viewed the town of Bergen and many surrounding mountains from her 10th floor lovely flat.
We then made our way to her daughter's house that evening and enjoyed the warm evening on the patio with family eating lefsa (a delicious Norwegian dessert) and ice cream.
As the evening cooled down, we made our way back to the ferry through the fjord just in time to see the sun lowering. Time to go to bed and do it again tomorrow!
Life is good.
I learned to ask for the toilet or loo.
I arrived in Norway and asked for the toilet or the loo and got strange stares.
I learned to ask for the water closet.
It is hard to keep it straight when you have to go!
When in doubt, I find that miming is effective =).
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
It was very strange to walk up and down the train from Oslo to Bergen and feel like the vast majority of riders looked like members of my extended family. But, I guess when the capital city used to be named Kristiania (the original spelling of my maiden name was Kristiansen), this is to be expected!
This trip has also made me very curious to explore my Danish heritage. My mother’s family is Norwegian, Danish and Swedish; my father’s family is 100% Danish.
So, basically, I’m a Viking.
PS - Everything after "Welcome to Bergen" through "Quotables" was written while we were in Ireland. Anything that says "today" or "here" refers to Ireland (where we were when we wrote it), not Norway (where we are now)!
From a younger cousin who hadn’t heard many non-Irish accents, “Say something. Weird. You sound like the voice on my computer!”
“How can you eat dinner without potatoes?”
From an 8 year old cousin in response to learning that I do not attend Mass and did not know the Hail Mary, “Are you a Christian? Have you heard of the Bible? Have you heard of Jesus?”
-The famous three leaf clover was used by St. Patrick to explain the concept of the Trinity to the Irish?
-A small shot glass and a large water glass made of Waterford crystal are the same price because it is the workmanship, not the material that makes them expensive?
-Saving Private Ryan beach scene was filmed on Curracloe beach here in Ireland?
Now you do.
I’ve never really thought about historical Catholicism as my faith. But, being here, I am enjoying embracing my church history. When I see these beautiful works of art that were built as acts of worship, or I read inscriptions carved into stone 700 years ago expressing the same wonder that I feel…it’s just overwhelming.
The baggage of history or the specifics of my beliefs today aside, it is wonderful to feel identity with something so rich.
So if you’re Irish, you’re Catholic, much like I am Danish. You participate in a handpicked variety of rituals specific to you (or your family) because they are spiritually meaningful to you or heritage meaningful to you. I eat rice pudding every Christmas and dance around a small Christmas tree with my entire extended family singing a Danish song that most of my family doesn’t know the words to…but they would all tell you that it is one of the most meaningful and special parts of the whole Christmas season. Traditions are funny that way.
I think that’s why everyone I’ve met here claims Catholicism and has a collection of beliefs and rituals that they hold sacred while scoffing at the rest. As Michael (our host) said early on, “Everyone here starts out with Catholicism. Growing up is figuring out what you are going to do with that.”
Some would say education. Certainly it can be shown demographically the more educated you are, the less likely you are to be a fundamentalist. The religiosity piece is a bit tricky, though, since you have the question of self-selection. You also have to wonder about the nature of the education—at plenty of times in history education served to further the religious cause, not hinder it. It’s hard to isolate education ‘per se’ and its effect.
I’d say the Roman Catholic Church has done very little to adapt to post-modern culture. The Catholic narrative is attractive in some ways because it is a meta-narrative—they tell the story of all stories, and this contextualizes all other stories. But that will be difficult for a post-modern, who wants to give equal credence to different backgrounds, stories, insights, etc.
Oddly enough, I know people in the states who are attracted to the sort of pre-modern aspects of Catholicism. These people rejected modernity and the enlightenment, but they are attracted to the high church sacramentalism. My guess it that in our search for the sacred, arguments and charisms are falling short—we want history, a rich intellectual tradition, silence, a global view, symbolism, community…
Both the enlightenment and its rejection are chagrined by authoritative epistemology. Okay, I’ll get less technical. “Because God says so” isn’t terribly persuasive to a substantial number of people in the last several hundred years. So I can see why there would be a drift from the church over a few hundred years, but why the acceleration?
Historical moments have played a role here too. Michael Dillon (my former priest cousin) thinks one of the key moments was when Pope Paul VI called for a review of the rule about birth control. His (Michael’s) view was that it was headed in the right direction (change). In fact the commission that had been set up had drawn up the plans for the changes. But then a powerful and conservative faction of the church lobbied for it to remain restricted, and they won. But in the end, according to Michael, this is much of why they have lost. The pope intervened and the decision was made.
So perhaps that is something. When we as a culture start to really accept something as intuitively obvious (perhaps that priests should be able to marry, that women are capable leaders, that birth control isn’t just okay but it is often the responsible thing to do), we just won’t let go of it (unless we are willing to be a ‘fringe’ person). And people have changed faster than the church. I think that might be exactly it.
Weird side note: a close relative of mine was raised Catholic and married a Protestant. They got married way too young, under bad circumstances, and were in no way ready to make that decision (they would agree with that now, and it was evident to most of the people around them at the time). The biggest beef of her relatives? Many were upset about his lack of Catholicity. In fact, it wasn’t the really devoted ones (a nun played the organ at the wedding). It was the ‘nominal’ ones. And this was treated as if it were worse than his not being a Christian of any sort.
I want to know what drives this paradoxical behavior. Why bother with the church, I wonder, if you don’t buy it? Your kids don’t need it—because they get it at school, and because you don’t actually believe it yourself.
I have some theories developing here. This is good, since I plan to do some writing on worldwide religious practice after we return. First, I wonder, is why the sudden lack of devotion? It wasn’t that long ago that Ireland was one of the monastic centers of the world, covered in monasteries and sending out servants to the world. But even since Sister Claire joined her order, there has been a significant decline (about 70% in hers). And this is despite the fact that Vatican II made it much easier to be a nun, monk or a priest.
Sister Claire is absolutely beautiful. She’ll be 91 in a few days, and she glows with an unearthly joy. She is just starting to get a bit confused, and so we had to cover several subjects a few times, but that is to be expected. She had many interesting stories to tell, and although she may not be too worldly wise, there was something unmistakably wise about her. I truly felt blessed by her, and I don’t really care to use that word very often.
Some studies have shown that monastic people are the happiest in the world. The monastic orders that spend the most time meditating are in particular. Even though their circumstances are often traumatically difficult, they are not only supported in community, but through prayer and meditation, they actually change the structure of their brains. It turns out that people have a happiness set point and, outside of psychosis or chemical imbalances, after great excitement or great trauma, we return to it. Meditation or meditative prayer so far seems to be the only known way to actually affect the happiness set point.
It definitely worked for Sister Claire.
Michael Dillon, my genius of a second cousin once removed, suggested I drink from the wrong side of a glass. I’ve tried this before and only made a mess. I thought it was an absolute joke. It has worked now, four times (the hiccups go away for a couple hours at a time) and three of those times it worked as soon as I tried it.
Michael is a former priest, who used an old homeopathic remedy to heal me of my sickness (with scientific regularity). He’s a nicely integrated man—religion, homeopathy, science--a real renaissance man in fact (or a witch doctor).
So you have this nation where everyone says they are Catholic, but the church and the state aren’t separated, and yet the level of devotion seems to be less than you would find in the states. Church and state are blended, but they joke about the religiosity of US foreign policy (as well they should!).
They think it is absurd that in the US we would invoke the name of God for political purposes, or we would ground our political positions in religious conviction, and yet their children say the Hail Mary and are trained to properly take the Eucharist in public school. It seems so contradictory.
Although, fair to say, I suppose if you look at the US, we too embody a contradiction-- we would (and should) balk at the notion of a blended church/state and yet a large percentage of our society would live a more puritan piety than in Ireland. Of course that contradiction makes sense to me (which show just how culturally situated I am!).
It has left me thinking…
It seems that nearly everyone in the country is Catholic – that is, they are all christened at birth, go through confirmation and attend Catholic school. And yet, that has almost nothing to do with their level of religiosity. Catholicism has shaped most every piece of their culture. More on this later…
We are living with three pairs of pants (that zip off to shorts), three pairs of underwear, three pairs of socks, three short sleeved shirts and three long sleeved shirts. It’s working well, with the small exception that wearing the same shirt every three days is getting old…and it’s just beginning. For some reason, the repetition of pants or underwear doesn’t bother me, but shirts do. Weird.
Jet lag is definitely real and has been both helped and hurt by the massive amounts of caffeinated tea we’ve consumed.
I absolutely love my watch which has three alarms and has come in handy 4000 times already.
I am more dependent on the Internet than I realized. I feel really disconnected and a little upset when I can’t communicate.
I am eating far too much cheese, which is mitigated only by the large amounts of brown bread (highly fibrous) that go with it.
I feel like I’m in a vortex. It doesn’t feel like vacation particularly, it doesn’t feel like home or work, it doesn’t feel like a trip, it feels like a whole new category. I have no idea what day it is.
I spent a few days completely dehydrated because instead of drinking water every few hours, I was drinking caffeinated tea. That could have contributed to my vortex-like feeling =).
I am aware of my ignorance and difference. There is much I do not know that “everybody knows” here. It mostly feels interesting. It occasionally feels a little hard.
My emotions are heightened. So many new experiences, new people, new foods, new schedules cause everything to feel a bit stronger.
All in all, it is an absolute blast and I am loving it!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Ox blood. It's a great coagulant and thus, quite sticky and good for building. Given the volume of castles I've viewed from the 12th century in the past two weeks, it certainly works!
Michael's nieces all have beautiful, terribly difficult to pronounce Gaelic names.
Answer: Cuu-eeva, Neeve, Roe-sheen, Anya, Ashlynn, Kira
PS - We have been writing up a storm on our laptop, but have been without internet access for quite a period of time. When we get to the city (approx July 21) we will post a whole bloat of writing and photos.
Monday, July 14, 2008
She looked straight at me and said, "sounds like a cartoon to me."
No comment =)
Saturday, July 12, 2008
It seems the primary way of showing affection involves serving tea and biscuits. I feel very loved!
PS - When I speak of tea, I mean what we in the States would call Breakfast Tea (not English here!) or Awake Tea. Drinking morning tea at 9:30pm has been an adjustment!
Friday, July 11, 2008
Then, we hit the Cathedral in town, St Mary’s, for more ecclesiastical enjoyment. The only real drawback of this towering spiritual monument was that it is also carpeted, and the wet climate in old drafty buildings doesn’t quite work with it—it was moldy smelling.
Do also note the odd architecture on the front of these houses—most of the dwellings are fairly charming; I just thought these stood out a bit.
It is a substantial landmark in this area of Ireland. Parts of it have been quite well restored, and it is surrounded by exquisite gardens. The inside is ornate and luxurious, and there were rooms for every possible need you can imagine. Are you a guest, waiting to meet your host? Here is a room for you. Do you need a large luxurious place to meet? Here is another. How about a place to retire to if you are the host and you are done meeting your guest. Surely this room will do. A library? Done! What about staircases for the servants; they need not use the giant Jamaican mahogany one for the family and guests. Let us place one here for the servants. (As a side notes, the servants were expected to whistle while they climbed the stairs with the food, to assure the family that their food wasn’t being eaten).
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
This update will be a bit short, as we should have more time to write this evening or tomorrow. First, though, it should be noted that Ireland is incredibly green (and is wet, even in the summer). The foliage and feel, the smells and sights--it's very northwest. Mix that in with staying with Dillons and it feels a lot like home (which is a gentle way to enter a year long journey).
Our primary host is my cousin (actually, my grandfather's cousin's son) Michael Dillon. He's quite the concierge, cook, driver, historian and hotelier. We've been treated to wonderful meals, the insider's version of many local stops, a wonderful comfortable home, and much learning (which we nerds do love).
After our long day with no sleep (nearly 30 hours) we slept between thirteen and fourteen hours, which brought us back a bit more into alignment. Still, we are fighting a little jet lag, but we are getting on quite fine nonetheless. Yesterday, after our glorious evening of sleep, we rose, had a wonderful breakfast (Michael's diet is quite healthy, which we appreciate), and headed out.
Afterward, we went to WexfordCity, which is the head city of the local county (county Wexford). A beautiful town of about 20,000 people, its roots are Viking (those marauding Vikings did actually contribute occasionally). It's a coastal town, with a small port, and a comparably large boardwalk. We spent quite a bit of time, touring the town, the twin cathedrals, eating at a wonderful restaurant, exploring ruins (a Church) or just looking at the old City Wall.
But Mary's letters were particularly interesting to me, as she only passed away a few years ago (a few miles from my home) and I knew her quite well. Reading her concerns as she was in her early twenties and later (including her worries about my grandfather when he was drafted into the Korean War) was very touching. She also mentions my grandparents in a later letter, and their two children (that's before Bill and Joan were born). I stopped and checked the date--1961, my mother was 1 year old. It's very strange to read my Aunt Mary's words as she references my mother as a baby. Very strange and very wonderful.
Well now, I better get on... I've realized that if I lived here for even a month or two, I would easily pick up the accent. Maybe it's in my blood. Or maybe I'm just suggestible. Either way, I don't mind it a bit.
Oh, one more thing--perhaps a bit incestuous. It turns out I have Dunn lineage in my Irish blood. Apparently Dunn is Celtic, although I've long thought it was English. Many Irish are in England. This Dunn blood is directly in my Mom's lineage--and my paternal Grandmother (Grandma Kaye) is a Dunn. So my parents are probably like 5th cousins! Now that is weird. Given that there is Swedish on both sides of the family as well, it seems like I should have three eyes or something...
Okay, enough of that. Love to you all... (sorry for any spelling erros, I'm out of time to check carefully)Ron (and Trina).
Monday, July 07, 2008
Sunday, July 06, 2008
By accident of cheap rates, we have ended up spending 2 days in Boston with old friends from George Fox. (We flew to Boston on July 4 and will fly to Dublin this evening (July 6)).
I have to say, these days have felt like a lifesaver. Weeks of sorting, packing, moving, organizing and saying goodbye left us both exhausted. Having a couple days away from all the hubbub to rest, enjoy some friends and do some last minute emailing/phone calling will leave us much more ready to begin our international adventure.
Plus, Boston is a destination in its own right. After our few days here, we are reminded why we'd like most to end up here for grad school.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
After nearly three years, I've left Chicago Title.
At times I felt like I was the personification of this company. I lived, breathed, and moved it. Probably that was a kind of sickness, but whatever the case, it was reality.
As a rainmaker I did a lot for the company--and as a commissioned salesperson, the company did a lot for me (commission+frugality= round the world trip). Yesterday my boss, Julie McNeal, had some incredibly kind things to say to me. Her words were elegant and moving. All my blood, sweat and tears were worth it! I certainly have felt appreciated by her, her boss Diane, and many others in my operation. I will miss it.
I left my blackberry and keys with her and felt stripped. It was strange. I've tried to check my blackberry about 70 times since yesterday at noon.
By the way, if you do buy or sell a home, insist that the title insurance be through Chicago Title (and let them know I sent you). Chicago is among the strongest financially in the industry (in terms of reserves--and that matters for insurance!), at the cheaper end in terms of costs, and you will get amazing service!
See, I can't quite quit yet. Yesterday, as I was driving to Seattle, I made up a song along the way (well, I improvised it--it was terrible from a musical standpoint). It was called, "I don't have clients anymore." Yes, it was truly satisfying to tell top producing loan officers that I'm no longer concerned with their needs and wants! I can't say the song was the kindest I've ever sung.
All that said, I will miss my friends at Chicago Title, the identity that comes through advocating for an organization I believe in, the quality of life that comes with a talented, dedicated and empathetic boss--and actually making a good living. I did enjoy clients, making the sale, teaching Strengths classes, and all the wining and dining. I do wonder if at some point in my life, I'll find my way back into the title world.
But I'm on to bigger and better adventures for now. Seeing the world, learning the law, serving the poor, sleeping on white sand beaches--I'm SO ready for it!
I cannot imagine the suffering she has endured--on top of that, she was a newlywed several years back, and her husband died suddenly of a heart attack. It was just awful. It seems like Rhonda's pain is a real candidate for making the problem of gratuitous evil case.
Whatever the case, she has been trying to get disability for several years. And, unfortunately, they have treated her like dirt. They've humiliated her, and said no for years. She's had to miss key medicine along the way, basically bankrupt herself, and rely on a lot of support from some family. All along she's been extremely sick.
Apparently some lawyers got involved. Apparently the people who kept saying no were so far in the wrong that all standard procedure from here out is being bypassed. No hearings, no further investigation--five years of back pay due now.
It's about time.
Hooray and Hallelujah!
As I mentioned--I've said goodbye to my sister, and yesterday I said goodbye to my parents. I also saw my aunt, who has been very sick, and gave her a kiss goodbye. I'm pretty worried about her health. Said goodbye to my boss, who has become quite a friend, and all my friends from work.
I drove out of town yesterday while I was stuck in North Portland traffic I realized something. I'm leaving Oregon for the first time in my life! I'll admit, it will feel strange the next time I see this sign...
Now I'm in Seattle with my in-laws. That will be a tough one too, although of course naturally more difficult for Trina. Then we are off. No more endings, only beginnings!