31 January 2006

A Place Called Earth.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was a rollercoaster ride.

It started off well enough. My first class wasn't until just after noon, so I slept in a little. The extra sleep helped to ward off the cold I've been fighting the past couple of days, and gave me a chance to rest up for the rest of the week.

After my classes, which went well, I found myself on the way home to take care of some business before heading back out to DIS again.

I dropped by the bike shop to pick it up after it had some basic repairs to its tail lights, tires, seat, etc...and, after seeing that the bike was in much better shape, and the my hindend wasn't nearly as sore as it was the day before, I decided that I would ride my bike to my meeting at DIS.

So, after checking my e-mail and doing a little work, I went outside, unlocked my bike, put my bag on the back and headed out. My trip to DIS was uneventful. I navigated the bike lanes and lights with ease and soon found myself parking my bike along Vestergade (the street where DIS is located).

I went to get my bag. And it was gone. My bag that had my cell phone, camera, books, etc. Missing. Hans had warned me to be sure that the bag was secure, which I thought I had been, but clearly I was mistaken. I ended up walking all the way back to the apartment, retracing my route to see if the bag was anywhere. It wasn't.

I was devestated. I knew that it was my fault, but all those feelings associated with culture shock began to boil up inside. I was pissed I'd lost it because I was riding a bike that everyone rides because the approach to commuting is completely different. I was mad because I'm sick and cold and its all so different and its just now hitting me that this isn't vacation. It's school. I'm here for a while.

And just when I was really about to loose it, I typed in the code to get into my apartment building, and walked through the doors. And there was my bag. With everything. It had fallen off before I even left the building and someone had placed it on a side shelf, knowing that the owner would return.

That was a hugely humbling moment for me. I was at the breaking point, and some how, the message got through that this is right.

Before I left for Denmark, I (along with all the other Elon students studying abroad) went through a session on culture shock and its different phases. The first is the honeymoon stage--where everything is beautiful and fascinating and new. The second is a bitter stage. You miss home and the comfortableness of it all. Next, you transition to a stage of being able to make jokes about it; and finally you get to a point where you can call it home.

Yesterday we witnessed the first three. But by the end of the night, I was comfortable. This is it, where I need to be.

In other news, Coretta Scott King died yesterday.

The candle may be out, but the light shines on.


30 January 2006

Lessons Learned....so far--

I thought that after a week of living in Copenhagen, it might be time to review what I've learned, enjoyed, and found out through friends, experience or mistake.

(1) Everyone speaks English. Thank God.

(2) Your hands get really cold when you're riding a bike if you don't have gloves on.

(3) Sometimes, you meet good friends in the airport.

(3a) Gummy Bears always make people feel good during layovers/delays.

(4) You don't look as American as you think. Who are you to think people care that you are American, anyway?

(5)"What's for dinner?" "Meat and potatoes."

(6) Warm hats make all the difference.

(7) Bikes + Cobblestones = PAIN

(8) Skype.com is a god-send...assuming you are using the same type of computer as the person on the other end.

(9) Night Busses have different schedules than day busses.

(10) McDonald's is universal. That can be bad. But that can be goooooood.

(11) Danish is hard to spell and harder to speak, because it is never spoken like it is spelled.

(12) From where I live, you can go two directions. The harbor or the lakes. If you go to the harbor, you know you are going the wrong way, because you live at the lakes. Don't swim across the harbor.

(13) My bathroom tiles are warmed constantly by warm water running beneath them. This is probably one of my favorite things about my time here thus far.

(14) This isn't a vacation. I do have homework.

(15) The current administration is growing more stupid with every passing moment. This opinion is due to the American Deputy Ambassador's speech at the opening ceremonies of the program.

(16) Elon friends abroad make everything better.

(17) New friends allow for new 'club' opportunities.

(18) Ain't nothing like the real thing! Coca-Cola, baby.

(19) Always know where your wallet, passport, public transport pass, and phone are.

(20) The opportunity of a lifetime is at my finger tips. All I have to do is sieze it.


Manic Monday

I'm tired, sore and grouchy. It should be an interesting day.


Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
up to where you're bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birdwings.

Birdwings, Rumi (13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic)
[Emphasis Added]

Thanks Rumi. You, like Cher, always know what to say.

blessings and godt morn!

29 January 2006

The Bike Ride.

I'm not sure how many people outside of Denmark know this, but there are more bikes in the country than actual citizens. At least it seems that way, and such a statistic is rumored to be true.

Per and Hans (pronounced like cans, except very quickly) took me on my first ride around the city this afternoon. Now, the first thing you should realize is that when I say "bike around the city," I don't just mean through a park. We did have a nice ride through the old citadel--along snow covered ridges and across cobblestone alleys. But we also rode along the major streets in Copenhagen. Thankfully, bikes don't compete with traffice all the time. They have their own lanes, traffic signals, and rules. That is no doubt convenient, but it is certainly still a tad bit stressful worrying about where the next car is.

We tackled the streets first off. But after a wild ride through some surface streets, we decided that it might be a good idea to ride through a park, which lead to a ride through the harbor and a visit to a museum. The museums galleries were filled with plaster reproductions of Classical, Byzantine and Renessaince sculptures. They were stunnning. What really grabbed my attention, though, were the eyes. They all seemed to be either hollow or full of emotion. It was fascinating to see how sculptors seemed to leave the eyes without character because they knew they could not convey the emotion they wanted the piece to have behind its eyes.

After an hour or so in the museum, we made our way to the main shopping street and the darling Cafe' Europa. After another cafe' complete with Billie Holiday, and a quick sidetrip to grocery store, I found myself back at the apartment with a delicious meal in front of me. I made the cheese plates this time. I'm just that talented.

It was a wonderful afternoon of roaming the city, and beginning to really feel like I belong here.

So my ass hurts everytime I sit down, stand up, or walk around. I think it's worth it.

But check with me in the morning.


28 January 2006

The Night Bus.

What a great day!

I slept in until 10ish, then decided to go explore the city on my own. I can't tell you how relaxing it was to be alone, with no particular agenda, roaming the streets of this city. I found myself at the harbor, the Queen's palace, and the Marble Church to name just a few. And, of course, I took pictures of it all--which will soon be posted online.

Earlier this evening (I'm writing this at 3.19 in the morning), we ate Wienerschintzel (I hope I spelled that right); and, of course, it was wonderful! Let me tell you. These guys have a knack for cooking.

Then it was decided that we would all go bar hopping together so my homestay dad's could show me the "happening" places. I won't go into all the details, but I will say that 5 bars and 3 ABBA songs later, we were having a blast.

The question became how to get home. After midnight, the busses stop running on their normal route. So, I had to figure out which bus I needed to take that would get me sorta close to where I live. I can't say that I had much luck. Obviously 84N was not the one to take; rather, I should've taken 94N or 96N--duh, Jon.

All in all, it was a good night. Here are the lessons learned.

(1) Bars are wayyyyyyyyyyyy smokier than at home.

(2) What better way to see the town than with your two dads?!

(3) ABBA has a way of bringing people together.

(3b) Dancing Queen is always successful.

(4) It's easy to get lost in Copenhagen, but it easier to find your way.

(5) I'm having the time of my life.


27 January 2006

If They Could See Me Now

For the past two days, I can't get Gwen Verdon (the first lady of Broadway--may she rest in peace) out of my head. She was the unforgettable star of such Broadway smashes like Chicago, Damn Yankees!, and Sweet Charity. In her groundbreaking role as Charity, she sings a song in which she wishes that her friends could see her in her current situation which is far beyond any high she has experienced before.

I can't help but think the same thing at this moment. If they could see me now! Not to mention the place I'm in now and the experiences I'm living.

Today was the first day of classes. I think DIS has got some quality professors--at least from my first impressions of them. The two classes that I was introduced to this afternoon were "Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe" and "Philosophy of Sex and Gender." Both of these classes seem fascinating, and the professors that teach them really seem on top of their game.

Afterwards, I went to buy a sim card and minutes for my cell phone. The system for cell phones is completely different from that in the states. It took some time for me to figure it out, but I think I have finally got it. But don't ask me to explain it.f I'm not sure I can do that.

Later this evening, some friends and I went out to survey the gay bar/cafe/club scene. It is thriving in Copenhagen, and looks like there are lots of opportunities for fun places to hang out. We called it an early night due to the long week behind and the many weekends ahead of us that we can use to explore. But all in all, it was a very affirming night.

What a city and what an adventure!


25 January 2006


It is in the wee hours of the morning here in Copenhagen. Just after midnight, actually. I'm not sure if that can be called the wee hours or not. But you get the point.

The past three days have been a whirlwind of experiences and events. After meeting Hans and Per on Sunday, I had an early Monday morning filled with all sorts of orientation events. Luckily, none of these (at least for me) included balls being flung at one another as we each struggled to remember names or some other form of name game. In fact, there was some pretty useful information such as the fact that Danish has no word that equates to please, so when Danes speak English, they often don't use the word. We shouldn't be offended.

Believe me, that wasn't really a concern. Not as much as, you know, the fact that the language is soooooooo incredibly confusing. I just finished 6 hours of "Survival Danish." This is a class all the new students take in an effort to at least help them know sort of how to pronounce things like street names, names of people, and basic orientation skills. I haven't failed at it. Yet. But I will say that every time I try to get some sort of guttural sound (which there seem to be in EVERY word here), I end up sounding like Kermit the Frog.

In other news, I went to the Carlsberg Brewery last night. The process was fascinating. To bad I don't like beer (or as I like to say "I'm better than beer. Bring me something fruity"). I tried some, and nearly wretched all over the place. There is just something about it that I cannot swallow--literally. The experience was nice and it was a fun diversion after a long day of information overload. Later that night, some friends and I gather to celebrate my friend Natalie's 21st birthday. Some of the Danes were confused why we would do such a thing, but once we explained, they were just as enthusiastic as we were. I'll tell you more when I turn 21 in a country that doesn't care.

Today was pretty calm. I saw some of the city and did some more Danish. I also bought some long underwear (don't worry anymore, mom). HOORAY. Because, yes, it is cold.

Tonight, Per, Hans, and I had a REALLY good dinner and a great evening talking about movies, music and that man. Things are really working out great. Their apartment is beautiful. In fact, before we walk around, we take off our shoes. Can you tell which pair is mine?

Overall, things are going splendidly. Granted, I missed the bus a couple of times, have gotten colder than I ever care to be and me feet hurt sometimes, but I'm in one of the most beautiful cities in the world with an amazing family and meeting some of the most wonderful people through the program.

I'm not sure I could ask for more. Wait. I can. My mom is having surgery tomorrow. Think about her.


be well!


23 January 2006

First night.

After the tumultuous 30 hours of airports and airplanes, I, along with my new friends Andrea and Leo, arrived in Copenhagen. We made our way to Baggage "reclaim" thankful that we hadn't died on the super tense landing which included a lot of fog, strobe lights and praying.

Once we reached baggage claim, we found ourselves amongst throngs of people. It was probably one of the most disorganized baggage claims I've seen. We waited and waited. Then Andrea found her bags. We waited and waited and waited and waited, when finally, just as I was thinking about giving up, my bags ascended the belt. All of them. Even the little gray duffle I took to the gate with the intention of it being a carry on, but was taken as check anyway.

So, then to customs. We didn't really have anything to claim, so we didn't think it would be a big deal. Were we wrong! It wasn't a deal at all--not even a small one. You walk through a round hallway and find yourself in the main concourse. Poof. Like that.
So, we (the we from now on is Andrea and I) found ourselves a taxi and made our way to the classy, yet cozy Hotel Astoria right next to the Central train station. After a filling meal of a pizza buffet, we hit the sack, glad to be safe and warm and clean and sleeping.

The next morning, we enjoyed a traditional Scandanavian breakfast which includes soft boiled eggs, various meats and chesses, breads, and yes--a danish. I decided that this would be the one time it would be OK to be as cliche' as an American eating a danish in Denmark. Andrea and I finished up our tasty morning meal and dragged our luggage down the elevators and to the train station where, somehow (thanks to English being known by virtually everyone) we found our way to the rendevous point of our program.

What a relief!

For the afternoon, we (along with many other DIS students) explored the city, checked e-mail, found famous sights, and returned to the rendevous point to go through a primary orientation on our individual living situations. Then we waited for our families.

I wasn't sure if I would recognize my family. But when they walked in, I saw them and knew it was my family. I ran across the waiting room screaming dads, and bear hugged them.

Acutally, I did nothing of the sort. I did recognize them, and after a short ride on the metro and a bus, they invited me into one of the most beautiful homes I've been in. We visited for a while over a gin and grapefruit soda then made our way to dinner. The menu included a delicious white asparagus cream soup, frikadeller (Danish meatballs) with potatos and sauce (gravy), and finished up with a course of cheese--all kinds. Two glasses of wine later, we were all feeling nice and warm.

It was a wonderful night. I settled in, and fell contently asleep. Only to miss the bus the next morning.

But I will give you that story tomorrow.

be well!

Rainbows and Copenhagen

**This was written during what turned out to be a 10 hour layover/delay in Frankfurt.**

The update since the last update is that I am still sitting in the Frankfurt airport waiting on a flight to come in from Copenhagen, so that it might just turn right around and go back out—with me on it this time! Yes friends, that’s right, I’ve been stuck in this airport since 7 am local time. The time now? 4 pm. I won’t be leaving until 5, but at least I will be leaving!

I was sitting at gate B-7 (a change from the previous B-13) with a my new friends and DIS peer Andrea when we looked out the window across to another terminal, and lo and behold—there was a rainbow. A big one. Now, I’m not sure if any of you believe in Providence, or even coincidence, but, I took it as a sign.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to my friend David. When I told him that I would be living with a gay couple, he exclaimed (in instant messenger talk) “Jon! If that doesn’t mean God wants you to go, I don’t know what does!” –or something along those lines. Like I said, its been a few weeks.

In any case, I looked out the window this afternoon and saw the rainbow. For a quick Hebrew Bible lesson, the rainbow symbolizes God’s covenant with Noah that God would never again destroy his people in such a way. What’s great about this particular rainbow that graced my vision, was that it appeared as the airline announced that weather had finally cleared up over Copenhagen and that our flight had already departed for Frankfurt.

I was beginning to have my doubts. Or at least become irritated, tired, and just plain grouchy. But its when we feel ready to give up, that something reminds us to keep going—that we have something to look forward to.

The rainbow left for a while, but as I began to write this post…it came back.



**This was written during the beginning hours of what turned out to be a 10 hour layover/delay**

Good. My flight arrived safely in Frankfurt, Germany around 730 am local time (1:30 EST). My next flight leaves in 4.5 hours to Copenhagen. So, I suppose there isn't much to do but wait. And read. And write.

I've always loved airports. There is something magical about endless tunnels and escalators and sidewalks that move themselves. Even more magical is the ability to disappear. In airports, you can blend in, become lost. Everyone sticks to themselves, everyone searching for a way out of this labyrinth through any number of gates.

I must say that in the first hour that I have spent in the airport, I have already realized just how American I am. In fact, the second I stepped off the plane onto the jetway, I felt in the minority. I clearly wasn't in America anymore, and no where near Kansas. And to be honest, I wasn't a huge fan. Granted, I'm sure that the sensation of being in an airport which is under construction and completely foreign to me contributed to my discomfort, but I'm afraid there was more to it than that. As I made my way through tunnels and hallways and trains, I realized two things. Firstly, those who complain about the Atlanta airport have clearly never flown into Frankfurt to catch a connecting flight. Secondly I realized that I was really nervous.

What's funny (in a strange, not haha, sort of way) is that part of the reason that I'm nervous is because I'm afraid I stick out like a sore thumb. I just know that the people sitting at gates B-11, B-12, and B-13, are secretly mocking me as I pass by, looking at one another, sneering "look at that dumb American." Clearly this is hyberbole; but, it has such feelings have significantly impacted my hour and a half here already.

For instance, I took me a good 30 minutes to finally muster up enough guts to make my way to the bathroom. Yeah. Why? Because it was all the way down at gate B-11 (I'm at B-13), and that meant I had to pack up my things, and walk down there in front of all these people. Then, I decided that I was hungry, so I went and bought a fruit salad and coke (because let's face it--there ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby). My coke, without ice, is divine. A little piece of home across the Atlantic. The fruit salad, on the other hand, is in some kind of container that is virtually impossible to open. Honestly, I have absolutely no clue how to open it. So I suppose I just won't eat my fruit. Because you know the second I go up to someone to ask if they could do it for me, they will think "Ha, we knew you Americas were stupid. You can't even open a plastic container holding fruit!" Well, maybe not is so many words, but the thought is there.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I've never really been a fan of Bush. Either one, for that matter. But, I'm fairly positive that the reason I'm so concerned about being IDed as American is because I worry that people will then automatically equate my beliefs to that man who likes to be called The President.

Maybe I'm experiencing these emotions as sort of a call to (1) make me aware of how other people of differing races, ethnicities, and nationalities feel when they are the outsider and (2) to make me want to break the stereotype--which, believe me, is my goal for the next 5 months...to be as non-American as possible.

On a completely different note, I had a really nice thought while our pilots were landing the gargantuan Airbus that had just crossed an ocean. I'm not sure how many of you have ever landed in an airplane while it was still dark outside. This was one of those landings. Not only was it dark, but it was cloudy too. After a full 8 hours of stargazing 40,000 feet in the air, our plane had to descend through a cloud cover that seemed to reach clear to the ground.

(Here comes the Religious Studies major in me).

As we were making that descent, I thought to myself that this flight is a lot like faith. You pray your not going to die, that you will make it safe and that everything will be OK. Then, you get to flying and everything is going alright and you become satisfied in believing that things will be OK--smooth sailing. But then comes the time when your faith is really tested, when you have to find solid land beneath you again. You start to make for the landing, pulling on past experiences and understandings. Suddenly, you are in the midst of clouds, lost and blind. The only thing to do then is to trust that the runway will appear. And it always does.

We have to have faith like that. We can quote verses, state opinions, and debate theology all day long, but when landing time comes, there's not much else to do but believe that the runway is beneath you.


21 January 2006

Made it...finally

Well, folks, after over 24 hours of travelling, I'm finally in Copenhagen. More updates to come...

20 January 2006

This is It.

I decided to go to bed semi-early last night. Semi-early being around 10. Of course, once in bed, I couldn't actually fall asleep. Two hours later, I was up again, this time taking Tylenol PM in a desperate attempt to actually get some rest.

But, after mutliple episodes of South Park & Friends and one hell of a cat fight (between the new cat, Nellie, and our old one, Ginny), I eventually fell asleep and awoke this morning at 7:44--exactly 1 minute before my alarm was set to go off.

I took that as a good sign. I'm ready for this adventure and anxious to get it started.

I decided to leave my blog with this poem by one of my favorite American poets, Mary Oliver.

I will post again once I'm in either Germany or Denmark to let you know I'm safe.


The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

19 January 2006

Last night....For a while, at least.

I'll admit it. I'm a total sap. Today I woke up knowing that it was the last day I would spend at home. Starting with that first thought, I decided to keep reminding to myself that everything I did that day wouldn't be the last time, but rather the last time for a while. For instance, I drove for the last time for a while, ate at my favorite eateries, and napped in my own bed.

I don't mean the third "last experience" to equate to my laziness. College has taught me the fine art and afforded me the supreme pleasures of napping. And I will no doubt miss the option, but I'm sure that I will find better things to do.

I fly away from this country, city and life tomorrow afternoon around 4:30. I think the thing I'm most nervous about the whole trip (right now, at least) is the flight. I will spend over 24 consecutive in three airports before I finally arrive in Denmark Saturday afternoon their time (about 10 am EST). I've made my hotel reservation, and figure I'm pretty set to go, but I just can't help worrying that I've forgotten something. The bottom line, though, is that I can't do anything about that now. I seem to conveniently forget that I, indeed, am traveling to an industrialized country that has all the amenities that I am familiar with in the states. So, if I do leave something stateside, I won't be forced to live with out.

In the morning, I've decided that I will unpack and repack my bags, in order to ensure that I have packed as efficiently as possible, then I will do my morning one more time before I go, eat lunch with my mother, and make my way to the airport.

That's the plan, Stan. Wish me luck.


18 January 2006

You Can't Go Back

I woke up this morning to find that my mother had graciously pressed the slacks and dress shirts that I was planning on taking with me on my trek to Europe. With those final articles, I shoved and zipped and squeezed and tagged my way to being so close to being done with packing that I could leave in 30 minutes and be set.

After spending the majority of the morning packing and watching Martha Stewart, I took a shower and prepared for the rest of my day which included picking up some money for the beginning of the trip, eating lunch with my Katie, and a short walk around the school that educated me for 14 years.

What strikes me now as ironic was the fact that while doing my morning routine, I kept singing "Sunrise, Sunset" from the smash Broadway hit Fiddler on the Roof. In the show, Tevye (the main character, and father of the show) and his wife, Golde, sing the song at the wedding of one of their daughters.

Sunrise, Sunset.
Sunrise, Sunset.
Swiftly fly the years.
One season following

Laden with happiness and tears.
Anyway, after singing the same lines over and over (because I didn't know the rest of it), I headed out to my mid-day activities. After running the necessary errands, and an absolutely delightful lunch with my best friend here (which I walked away from with the coolest Irish t-shirt reading "I can resist everything except temptation"--Oscar Wilde, what could be better?), I returned to my alma mater. Initially I had decided to only visit the ladies in the Campus Store. The two women, and the others that have worked there through the years, were some of my best friends at Woodward. The four summers I worked there and the two years I stayed on through the academic semesters afforded me some of the best memories I have of school. After a great time remembering and chatting, I decided to go visit some other teachers from my past. I stuck to the fine arts building because that is where I spent the rest of my time. Since the 8th grade, I was highly involved in choral activities and technical theater. In fact, I thought I was going to attend college to do technical theater. Funny how things change, as I am now a religious studies major. But that is a story for another time.

In any case, as I ran into my former teachers and walked the halls that I used to practically live in, I was overwhelmed with the realization that you can't go back. I was flooded with memories of my days there, the fights, the homework, the jokes, lunches, shows; and for a split second, I wished I could go back. It was easier then in some ways. I didn't have the independence I do now, nor the freedom to express my opinions in the same way, but it was still a good life.

But then I got over it. I'm going to Copenhagen. And Woodward definitely isn't in Denmark.

Traveling is about opening yourself to changes. But in order to change, one must first realize where it is they are coming from. It is good to remember your roots, the good along with the bad. In looking back, we can see forward much more clearly. Life is a journey between sunrises and sunsets, a series of seasons which mold and form and create each one of us. As I enter the final moments of my time in the states and with my family until July, I hope that I can remember where I come from. I want to be sure in this foundation before I fly.

17 January 2006

Brown or Black...

Traveler, there is no path
paths are made by walking.
-Antonio Machado, Spanish Poet

My bags are slowly filling. After a lazy morning, including breakfast and a mid-morning call to Lufthansa (the airline delivering me to Denmark), my mother and I went to Fayetteville. Fayetteville, Georgia, not North Carolina, holds a huge number of memories for my mother and I. From the Dunkin Donuts to the Kroger we would do our grocery shopping in, much of my childhood was spent roaming its roads. It was good to spend sometime with her before I leave.

I finally began packing this afternoon. I called my airline (as referenced earlier) this morning to figure out exactly what limitations were on baggage (carry on, checked, and other wise). It should work out. With out a doubt, it will certainly be a tight fit.

The debate about my bags is currently centering around deciding whether or not I should bring my suit with me. I'm pretty sure I could fit it in one of my bags in a way that minimalizes the potential for wrinkles. The problem lies in the fact that the rest of my wardrobe consists overwhemlingly of browns, which require brown shoes, etc...My suit, however, is dark grey which dictates the use of black shoes--and belt.

So, do I take the suit, shoes and belt? Or leave them in the states, settling on wearing brown slacks, a nice shirt, a cute tie and a handsome overcoat.

In other thoughts--is this really what I'm concerned about?


16 January 2006


I think it is about time that I start considering the fact that I leave on Friday afternoon; and I have yet to place a single piece of clothing, bottle of cologne, or pair of socks into anything remotely resembling a suitcase. I did place a book in my satchel for the airplane ride, but then I took it out so I could read the first chapter. Bottom line--I haven't packed a thing.

I meant to start packing today. But I didn't think it would be very respectful task for the holiday. Not that going to the mall, exchanging bad Christmas gifts, spending gift certificates, sleeping, uploading music to my ipod, cooking dinner, or cleaning my room were any more respectful.

As you can tell, I'm not particularly in any kind of mood to pack. I am, without a doubt, ready to jump the pond, but I'm not looking forward to the formality of packing. Maybe I could just wear strategically placed layers and not have to pack. I know, I know, be realistic. But being realistic means that I have to pack 5 months and 3 seasons worth of clothes in 2 checkable bags and 2 carry ons, one of which is already taken by my manpurse (or, if you want to be trendy, my satchel). If I go over the 2 checked bag limit, I have to pay $25. Maybe its worth it this time--I might have to think that over.

And then, there is the concern of forgetting something. If you wear it all, then you know what you have. But the second you start shoving stuff into the the depths of nylon, it becomes overly easy to loose track of what you've already remembered and what you can't forget.

And trust me, I will forget something. I already forgot where I put my passport. Let me tell you. I nearly pooped my proverbial pants. Luckily I found it, along with all the rest of my important international documents, just where I had left them. Too bad it took me 3 hours to figure out where that was.

I so don't want to begin to pack that I cleaned my room today. For the third time in the past week. Now, this might seem normal to those of you who like to keep your rooms tidy and organized. But those of you who have lived with me can attest to my messy nature. My philosophy relies on the foundational concept that if I throw something in the floor, and leave it there, then I know exactly where it is--the floor. A dear friend of mine cleans her room constantly, claiming it is the one thing she can always control. I don't have such hang ups. But I do have a hang up about packing, so cleaning is one more barrier I can place between myself and the inevitable.

I think I'm avoiding packing because it seems to be so definite. How does one pack for 5 months? If only the lovely ladies below were here to help in my time of need!

In Phil Cousineau's book, The Art of Pilgrimage, the author writes of a hermit on a long winding road. Cousineau comments "On that long and winding road, it is easy to lose the way. Listen. The old hermit along the side of the road whispers, Stranger, pass by that which you do not love."

I asked some friends who had studied abroad before what they suggested I bring. They offered the same advice--Bring only what you need.

Right. Check. Now, to figure exactly what it is that I need.


15 January 2006

Home Is Where the Heart Is.

My whole extended family surprised me tonight. I knew that we were going out to one last dinner in order to say proper farewells, until we meet agains, and goodbyes; however, what I didn't know was that the dinner was also doubling as my birthday party. It was even more of a surprise because my birthday isn't until March. We always gather to celebrate birthdays, and since mine is during my stay in Copenhagen, I figured we would just skip it this year. Not so, according to my family, which had bought a cake, gifts and a symbolic beer (it is my 21st).

In any case, it was a great night. No fights, no tears--just solid fun and conversation with much loved family.

The past couple of days have witnessed a myriad of emotions. I'm certainly getting excited about my journey and time in Denmark. Of course, I'm a little nervous to get there and see how it will all work out. The most disconcerting feeling is that of homesickness mixed with a shot of bitterness. I'm beginning to realize just how limited my time is at home, and how long my time will be away from it. The bitterness arises from the readiness I have to go. I am so excited to leave and try something new, that it seems like everything thing between now and Friday (when I depart) is a barrier between myself and my pending adventure.

But the reality is that when I leave, I leave for a long time. I'm trying to keep that in mind every time I feel suffocated by people wanting to say goodbye and safe travels. This is the real deal. I feel like, for the first time, I'm really leaving home.

I've been thinking a lot about what exactly home is. They say "home is where the heart is." I've heard it ever since I can remember. It dawned on me the other day, however, that maybe this statement isn't big enough. "Home is where the heart is" lives in the moment of the singular. Its assumption is that there is one home, one heart.

Personally, I have more than one home. The primary place that my heart resides is in a small, Southern town outside of Atlanta, south of the airport. I grew up in Fairburn, was confirmed in its United Methodist Church, and still find a collection of childhood memories centering around its two depots and adorable main street. I went to school in College Park, spending 14 wonderful years at Woodward Academy. When I graduated from Woodward, I felt like one door had slammed shut behind me; but as that door shut, I found the path to Elon, and to a new life and a new home. But having a new home doesn't mean you loose the old one.

You see, if home is where you heart is, then you can never really be homeless. You live in the hearts of places you grew up in, the people that opened their arms, and the experiences that changed your life. You might travel all over the world, but when it comes down to it, your home is where your heart is--leave it in Copenhagen, leave it in Fairburn, leave bits of it at Elon and Woodward and Atlanta. You have a home in all those places. Leave parts with teachers and counselors, parents, and guides--there you'll find home too.

Home isn't a singular place, one expression of a place lived. It is that in addition to the lives surrounding it and the life crafted by it.

Mary Oliver writes these words in a poem called "October" from her collection entitled New Poems:

Look, I want to love this world
as though it's the last chance I'm ever going to get
to be alive
and know it.

Perhaps that the charge for each of us--to love this world and see it and feel it. Maybe we must treat everything we witness as our home and understand everything we sense as where our hearts live.


13 January 2006

Working for the Man.

"nepotism: (n) favoritism (as in appointment to a job) based on kinship"
-Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

The man that I'm referring to, of course, is my father. That's right, nepotism at its best. It is Friday the thirteenth, a huge surge of severe weather is about to hit Atlanta, and I am answering phones and running plans at my father's civil engineering firm. Actually, it is probably the last day that I'll work for him. I was going to work next week up until I leave for the pristine shores of Denmark, but I took a notion the other day that this might be my last time sheet turned in--and the more I think about it, the more it sounds like a good idea.

It's not that the job was particularly painful. In fact, it was fairly enjoyable as jobs go. Flexible hours, not a whole lot of interaction with people I'm not hugely fond of--pretty sweet deal. What's the problem? I'm working for my dad. Granted he's a good boss, and I am extremely thankful to have a job during my extended stay at home. Not to mention he came through for me after I had submitted at least a dozen applications to various stores from JC Pennies to Lowes and the Family Christian Bookstore. I just started the process too late. Everyone had already hired for the holidays, and some stores weren't even going to begin processing applications till after the new year.

Anyway, the problem with working for your dad, particularly when he's the boss, is that not only are you Terry's son, but you are Terry (the boss)'s son. One completely looses his identity. I'm not Jon. I'm Terry's son. What's more, I'm the boss's kid--so be careful what you say around me! Yes, that's right, working for dad is one more way that my attempts to liberate myself from my parents have been foiled again. That is not to say I want to be disassociated from them; but rather, I'd rather not be obligated to follow their rules anymore than I already have to. I don't call that mean, I call it growing up.

As I was waiting on the phone to ring, I was working on an essay for a scholarship I'm applying for. The topic surrounds my core theological commitments. As if identifying those was not hard enough, I have to explain "the ways in which they [the commitments] shape his or her exploration of vocation"--in three pages...doubled spaced. You might be thinking, "come on, jon, that's easy." Right. Check. You try. We aren't talking about pleasant notions like hope and joy or peace. Those are fine and dandy, but what I felt like I was searching for was beyond that. Those words are nice, but what lives beyond them? Where do those words spring from? Where do we find the emotions and ideas to take us to a place where God mingles with us? What are the most basic ideas that I cling to that are formative to my faith and foundational to the way I view the world?

As I wrote my response for this essay, I kept searching for answers. All I found were questions. I'm sure it sounds cliche', but questions kept answering questions--all of them summing up in one omnipresent concern. How will I use Copenhagen (the people, experiences, etc) to help me make these commitments come to life? How will I realize grace, justice and reconciliation?


12 January 2006

And so it begins...

I'm sitting in my parent's home watching TV with my mother. Well, actually, I'm writing and she is watching TV. You get the idea.

I'm writing and counting down the days until. There are 8 of them until I leave from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. For the first time in a long time, it seems like the International part matters. I leave on 20 Jan. in the afternoon to make my way to Frankfurt, Germany and subsequently make my way to Copenhagen, Denmark.

My time at home has been just that--time at home. I was doing pretty well with it my obligatory location until Winter Term started back at Elon. Up until then, I was at home, working for the man, trying to make a few bucks and genuinely enjoying the time in a familiar place where the radio stations are good and you know where the cheap gas (at least cheaper gas) is. Once my friends returned to Elon, I became bitter. Not in the old maid, I hate the world way. I became bitter in the imacollegestudentandthereissomuchoutthereandi'mathomedoingnothing sort-of-way. It's not that being at home is a bad thing; it's that being at home with virtually no friends and having to work for your father that is bad. Home is home, but afterwhile, that's not enough.

Not to mention the fact that in 8 days I will be on my way to the short days and long nights of the amazing city of Copenhagen. Not that I have to remind myself of that, I just thought maybe you forgot.

Just before Christmas, I was contacted by Mia, DIS's (Denmark International Studies--the program I'm studying with while in Copenhagen) housing coordinator. I had requested a homestay for the four months that I would be across the Atlantic; and Mia had called, then e-mailed, to let me know that she thought she founda family that would be perfect.

She told me that Hans and Per Hugo were an established gay couple in Copenhagen with many of the same interests as me. They've had multiple students stay with them before and were eager for another one. As a gay student with studies concentrating on women/gender issues, I was elated to hear that I might be offered a glimpse in the gay culture of Denmark, not to mention be living with folks who would be open and supportive of who I am and of what I study. Of course, I'm not sure any of that would've really been a problem in Copenhagen.

Since that e-mail, I have been corresponding with Per Hugo and Hans. They are currently vacationing in South Africa (quite the exotic vacation spot if you ask me--I'm used to the Appalachian Mountains...) and will return to Copenhagen shortly before I arrive. From the limited conversation we have had, they sound like great guys and I am pumped to get to know them.

I ready to go. It dawned on me the other day that I was genuinely gearing up to leave the country for a total of five months. That will be five months of no homecooking, or seeing my Elon friends, or hugging my mom. But you know, I think I'll manage.

Have I started packing, you ask?

No. We'll talk about that later.

Here's to the adventure.