Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Hajj Interlude: Labels

Well shoot: I just spent most of my time in this internet cafe talking with folks at home.

There was also a very notable encounter involving the discussion of Xtianty.

A particular fellow who speaks English quite well and was sitting in the chair next to mine involved me in petty conversation, and then on his own started talking about Jordan and Xtianity here. Turns out he's an xtin and so we just started mixing it up over different scritpures and I really want you's all to pr@y for his encouragement. He's part of the very small minority, and I do feel as if he, and his community, have totally disengaged in meaningful relig-s dialogue from their lost brethren--but what else I know comes only from reports from friends who've returned.

-Anyways, ask Father for encouragement and boldness for him and his village community

...If the Resident Director knew I was talking about stuff like this, she definitetly wouldn't take it lying down. Hah! But is silence what I really signed up for?
This leads me to my next topic:
The Hajj Interlude: Labels.

This is something N. (my travel bud) and I had a good long conversation over. Technically, we had this discussion sitting in the Denver airport over lunch, (and Denver was before Hajj Part 1) but it belongs in the middle of my story of relocation because I think it's iconic of what this trip means to me.

We were sitting down and talking over future goals in Jordan. We concluded:
1)It's good to have goals about what you intend to accomplish in a study abroad program.
2)It's also good to lower your expectations to the point of ludicrosity so that you don't feel robbed by said study abroad experience.

It was a really valuable talk. N and I have many valuable talks because he is such a different person than I am.

Here's a Very Recent Example: When I needed to take a shower before I came to this cafe--because I dropped my shirt in the toilet at a restaurant, which will be covered in the next installment---he realized that he had to use our room toilet really bad. The bad tummy ninjas decided to strike. And (please, please forgive me for the overemployment of scatalogical humor in this and the previous post) it was a deuce-and-a-half.

There's a girl who was coming with us, and she knew why I had to take a shower, and she's waiting on me. But N absolutely refused, absolutely refused, to let me explain why I was late. My explanation would have been the following: N laid a deuce-and-a-half and I could not approach the bathroom without either a)generous use of weapons-grade biocide or b)treating the emission as a roach bomb and allowing gradual filtration out of the premises, which, with the half-life of such substances, is at least 20 minutes, if not millions of years.

Alas, N would not have it at all, and insisted on maintaining his dignity as a human being.

Dignity? Dignity Shmignity.

And I'm sure when he gets around to reading this blog & entry, he just might cream me, or find some way to replace my toothpaste with ben gay or something.

(From now on I will be watching my toothpaste.)

So that was a long tangent, but it illustrates the serious and very mature nature of my dear brother N, and how we both get along extremely well to the point of nausea.

But seriously: it's really good fellowship. I couldn't ask for a better guy to point out my screw-ups and encourage me in the walk.

Where was I? Oh yes. Labels.

Labels are what are affixed to you when you enter a community, particularly a country. Some come as tourists. Some come as workers. Some attempt to obtain m!ssoinry visas and most fail if they are pursuing that front-gate way.

What is my label? I am a student. So is N.

So what kind of things am I permitted to do here? Study, travel, and a lot of other things. It's a pretty nice set-up. You can ask all sorts of people questions and go out on your own a lot. Your tongue even has a lot more freedom than many other people's.

If you go with a m!ssoirny organization, as N. said, "you travel around with a big painted bus and you have to explain to people that you are not the bad people they think you are." It's a lot tougher to get over that first bump. Plus you have a big blinking light above your head which is tracked by the go'vt. No Bueno.

The general gist of N's reasoning is that here in Jordan I am a student first, and I can't compromise that label.
I agree, and yet I disagree. N is here for expressly different goals than I am, namely a strict focus on academic research. N is still a believer. That's the way he does things here. It's not bad, it's just different.

I am also here to study. I need to be careful with the words I say and the people I see.
But I'm also determined to be the light of Xrst to whoever G-d puts in front of me, be it American, international kid, or anyone else. This might take a different turn than what N signed up for.
And I know that being this doesn't mean throwing tracts at people, nor does it mean attempting to covnret anybody. That's not my job. My job is to show up. Only G-d can change a heart, and anybody who says anything else is selling something.

So showing up, as I mean it, could mean a lot of different things for me. All of them include being a servant as well as a messenger. So I"m not sure, which makes this entry vague I suppose.
I'll still talk about the truth when the opportunity arises.
I'll try to see where the need is greatest in this country and explore serving that need in the future.
I'll try to visit people here who are working for the king, and see what it takes to handle that job.

Know what I'm sayin'?

Time's short folks, and my head is heavy. I'll leave you with these:

-My dad just went through major heart surgery a day after I left.
By the Grace of G-d he survived with a less than 10% chance of doing so, and he now carries around in his body the same kind of tiny defribrilator that VP Cheney wears. He's not now with G-d. Ask that this experience would become a kind of internal defribrilator shocking his heart to beat in sync with Him whose heart was broken for us, yet lives.

-I've been handed this tremendous favor with all the Americans here in the student group. I don't understand why they defer to me sometimes, or laugh at my lame jokes, or even lean in and quiet down when I'm talking in the bus about something interesting.
Popularity is fickle, and fades quickly. It's a kind of blessing, though. I want to use the blessing with the intent of the Gifter. Please pray for the opportunity to use that influence to affirm truth and point people to Xrist.

-And O. (See above)

Until next time,

Saturday, August 25, 2007

the Hajj Part 1: Travel Grime, Hidden Bathrooms, and other malicious pitfalls of the unwary traveler

I'm sitting here at INTRNT a couple blocks from my hotel and, seeing as I've got the rest of this hour for 1 JD, I'd better start typing.

(no pictures in this post either, miskeen, but next time I sit down I'll make sure to upload a few.)
The Hajj - a journey of relocation for Muhammad, and for me also.

The flight:
-9 hours to Frankfurt from Denver. Denver? What the heck?
-No sleep, but plenty of Germans and a foretaste of Arabic pop music on the 16-channel headphones. Think club music with a string quartet in the background. Pretty sweet.
-Nate (my travel buddy) and I touched down in Frankfurt in what can best be described as a state of optimistic confusion.

Frankfurt was--wow---what a disappointment. Part of the downer comes, I'm sure, from the fact that we lacked a basic amount of sleep and had accrued a great deal of 'travel grime' on the way over . 'Travel grime' is that grime that just accumulates in the various bodily crevices due to prolonged stasis of posture. Other aliases of 'Travel grime' are 'Dude sweat,' 'Major B.O.,' and, in some circles, 'Swamp Ass.'

Be warned. The onset of Travel Grime is mysterious and gradual, yet it reaches fatal magnitude at the most inopportune of times, such as: in places of close personal interaction with other people, commonly used methods of transport like trains, and especially the closed-cabin variety of aeroplane.

And it didn't help that whatever I had eaten before the flight was giving me massive, crazy mad corn farts, which are just the worst. The worst. I think that was the key factor in why I didn't get any sleep. I was waking up repeatedly. It was terrible. If I was the U.S. Army and I was devising a method of interrogation absolutely counter to the Geneva Convention, I would feed my prisoners food that gives them crazy, mad corn farts. It's probably the worst method of sleep deprivation imaginable.

So onto Frankfurt. I've got a nice owie from running up the down escalator in the Main Station to catch a train on another platform, so that's a negative. Add to it the huge district of sex shops slapping you in the face as you leave the Hauptbahnhof, and my experience trying to find one of Frankfurts many Hidden Bathrooms, while sleep-deprived and experiencing the final stages of Travel Grime (the dissolving of the integumentary system), and what you get in summation is a pretty miserable time.

One more story, if you please:

Frankfurt is not one of the midieval castle towns of historic Germany, but I feel for that reason it holds a great deal of castle envy. Because in more ancient times Frankfurt lacked any kind of valuable commodity which a King would feel obliged to protect, Frankfurt created a commodity of its own: Hidden Bathrooms.

Frankfurt is a veritable fortress when it comes to finding bathrooms. It has developed an entire aesthetic, an architectural style, envisioned around the inconvenient and awkward placement of unlabeled bathrooms.

Please forgive the following illustration, gentle reader. Imagine being in such a situation (the Hidden Bathrooms conundrum) while dragging around inside your body the Hoover Dam of reservoirs. You and I both know that after heavy rains, that dam's gotta let some discharge through the spillways, or else due to the massive compound force of gravity, scientifically speaking, it will explode.

And if you're trying to ask for the location of said Hidden Bathroom? Forget it--they will let you know, finally, but only after they are satisfied with your abject humiliation.

It really wasn't that bad. I complain only for the sake of hyperbole and to fulfill my duty as a blogger.

Although the bathroom was unlabeled, it was quite stylish and the stall was fabricated with one sheet of stainless steel. The light was an indirectly placed shade of delicate nicotine, and was vaunted off the mirrors at a precise, thorough, and overall very functionable location. In this manner it resembled another product of German engineering: the BMW.

But perhaps the only really redeeming feature of Frankfurt: great Chicken-Fried Pork.

Overall Blogging Critism rating for Frankfurt: C minus minus.

Part 2 will detail the odyssey of arriving in Amman half-mad from travel grime, possessing a meager and rapidly deplenishing supply of JDs in a neighborhood where every business was closed for Friday prayers, including all banks, money changers, and all sources of drinkable water.

Don't worry. The adventure gets far more upbeat. I am glad that my home for the next 5 months, Amman, is far, far, different from Frankfurt. As my friend Mohammed used to say:

-I'm already disliking Americans for their unique ability to complain about everything. (If you need an example, read the entire last post^.) Ask My Father that I'd have the kind of love he has for all people, including whiny Americans, the kind that are going to be my student companions for the rest of my stay at the University here.

Really, I'm checking up on you guys too. I promise.

Until Next Post,

Monday, August 20, 2007

Alright, the Nitty Gritty

"Because God is funny, that's how He is.
And He likes taking total misfits and using them so that everybody knows who did it.
There can be no confusion about who gets the glory
when He's using a bunch of wing-nuts to get something done."
-Mark Driscoll

The name of this blog is Arkansawi. It comes from the idea that if you're from Iraq, you're Iraqi. If your come from Saudi Arabia, you're Saudi. Thus: Arkansawi. The thread is quite logical, and proceeded from a conversation
I had with my friend Yassir about a year ago. In the conversation this fact was more mentioned in passing, and afterwards the conversation turned towards subjects of greater importance as we established that the Booty Booty Rockin' Everywhere song was not about cars honking.

So there you have it. I've heard that old-timers from Arkansas prefer to call themselves 'Arkansawyers.' I feel this attempts to create a false state affinity with Mark Twain and does little to conceal the fact that when Huckleberry Finn visited Arkansas he experienced the most hickified, plug-a-tobacca-chawin', hog-stealin', ignorantest turd-bog this side of indoor plumbing. Mark Twain was Missourian. I will say nothing more.

And I guess we all could be 'Arkansans' too, but the name just seems to piggy-back off of Kansas's reputation. Nothing against Kansas, but let a tree be judged by its fruits. The fruit of Kansas is corn. I will say nothing more.

This blog is intended to be the chronicle of my trip to Jordan and what I see and learn there. If the below post is any indication, this blog will assume the characteristic rhythm of my life: vast periods of desolate boredom interrupted by inappropiately manic frenzy. It's not all my fault, either, lest it be assumed that as a blogger I should take responsibility for something. Responsibility is so 2006. Whining is the new voting. Get with it, democracy.

If you're still reading, and this little blog still
stands bravely defending its small patch of blog-space, then maybe you can pray for me. A dude named Paul asked a church in Ephesus, "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. That's my request too. 'Gospel' literally translates 'good news,' or 'evangelion' or 'injil,' and this good news thing is the treasure of my life.


I'm leaving the US in two days. Some say I will end up in Jordan. Some say I will end up in the Mediterranean after a freak whale attack. But they would be wrong. Dead wrong. Just like the whale after the attack.

cue explosion*

J minus five days

" The apostle John wrote that Jesus loved his disciples to the last. To the last! When I read those words I pause breathlessly, and then I wonder: to the last...what?
If in those dwindling hours He loved them with all the blood in His beating heart, to the last marrow of His bones, then He loved them.
If He loved them in the walk through the violent, throbbing crowds, when he was stretched out as a curse on two sticks, chest heaving through the darkest noon, while His so-called friends hid from His face, then He loved them.
And if He loved them to the very last of Himself, to the last fiber of His humanity, unto death, then He loved them, to the last.

-the failed plans for a best man's speech at my brother's wedding, written at about 2AM in the morning.

Let me just say that while 2AM was the Witching Hour for Shakespeare, when creepy crawly things came out to land in the giant cauldrons of pointy-hatted neer-do-wells, for me it is the time when I come up with my most brilliant and creative ideas. 2AM is also about a half hour after I start trying to go to sleep.

Are you ever faced with the same dilemma? You have two choices: follow the nagging part of your brain which wants you to write down what, to you, seems like an excellent idea; on the other hand, you convince yourself that the brilliant idea will make you lose too much sleep, and vow to yourself that you will remember it in the morning.

Either way, the idea turns out to vault far short of the pole of 'Absolutely Great Idea,' landing in the sandpit of 'Misplaced Judgment.' For examples of misplaced judgment, I refer you to the vast graveyard of story ideas that, because they are so brainlessly dumb, keep stubbornly limping around to reach their undead appendages into my brain, time and time again. This happens usually at the Witching Hour of 2AM---who is responsible for this, anyway?

The vast graveyard:
-an economist who goes to church --and never tithes!
-an Indian grad assistant who kills his professor and steals a fusion reactor
-the story of a guy who doesn't leave the house
-the other one that's on the tip of my tongue because I didn't write it down

What is truly sickening is that two members of the undead horde mentioned above actually became stories. I guess it could be worse. I could be the cartoonist of Garfield. I could write a blog post which explains nothing about the blog title or why I'm going to Jordan for about half a year. It's all pretty dang crazy, after all. There's plenty right there to talk about.

Jordan is in five days. I've got 2 days before I'm gone from Arkansas. This is the best I can come up with for a first post? BRRAAINSS! BRAAAAAIIIINS!! AGHGHGLGLLLGHGLGL!

yeah, really: don't read this. It's an hour short of 2AM, anyway.