Sometimes

Sometimes I smell cigarettes through my bedroom window.

And hear gang calls on my walk to the train.

Sometimes I pay for my groceries in Spanish and stumble over Italian for lunch.

Sometimes I watch helicopters fly and airplanes land.

And get rained on and return home with a layer of the city to wash down the drain.

Sometimes I hear my neighbor’s music and smell their food and listen to their loud calls for ‘Mother!”

And I hear 300 curse words between my school and my home.

Sometimes I spend the whole day in my apartment, aware of the whole world right out there, yet stuck with a text book for hours.

Sometimes I run for trains and pay for laundry.

And sometimes I hike stairs like I’m preparing for the Himalayas and pack lunches like turkey and cheese are the new ramin.

Sometimes I read books and write blogs and knits scarves and print power points.

And stumble upon street fairs and historical monuments.

And sometimes.

Sometimes I think- I live in the ghetto!

Just a picture from our window.  This is my ‘hood.’

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Same. Same. But different.

My old commuting scenery. ImageImageMy new commuting scenery.
ImageImageMy old campus.
ImageImageMy new campus.
Columbia’s Main lawn:ImageTeachers College, Columbia University (My part of campus):ImageInside TC (Teachers College) (Sometimes I walk around this 125 year old building and think, “Wow! Cool!” Then I remember how much I’m paying to go here, and wonder why we don’t get personal butlers.)
ImageA view from the courtyard:Image
My old city.
ImageMy new city.
As seen from The Top of the Rock(efeller Center)
ImageImageMy old road to home.
ImageMy new road to home.
ImageAnd this is a picture of me that I took on the first day of class, sitting in my school courtyard.

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So.  Some things have really changed for me. But as you can see, I’m loving it here (so far).  So even though “New Yorkers” say ‘stand on line’ instead of ‘stand in line,’ and sometimes I’m the only white person in my subway car, and I have to borrow a car to get my groceries, and I do my laundry in a public facility, so even though so much of my life is totally different than it was even three weeks ago, I have come to find that there is something very peaceful and energizing about being where you are meant to be.

Which reminds me.

On Sunday in church our guest speaker reminded us that when Moses faced God in the burning bush and asked “Who am I to take this message to Egypt?” God said, “I will be with you.”  That’s a promise friends. It really doesn’t matter who you are, it is Christ in you that makes everything possible, even moving 700 miles from home and starting something new.

Unreached People Groups

Did you know- at one point in time- you (or your grandparents, or their grandparents, or somewhere down the line) were part of an unreached people group?

Now, I have no idea who actually reads this blog.  I don’t know my demographic of ages, genders, or cultural backgrounds.  So.. I’m going to assume.  I’m going to assume that you were born and raised, like me, in a God acknowledging, comfort expecting culture.  AND, if you were lucky enough, you might have even been raised good old fashioned Mennonite.  Now those of us who were raised Mennonite, or really, any long standing Christian denomination, may feel like we are part of a never ending culture.  When I imagined the history of ‘my people’ they probably dressed like pilgrims and came to the US in search of religious freedom as a result of the ‘Anabaptist movement.’  Before that they were probably part of the Roman Catholic church.. and before that.. maybe one of the original 12 disciples?  Yes, I’m naive.  But I thought that my ancestors must have always been part of the ‘right’ form of Christianity.  The popular form if you may.

Enter: education.

This weekend is missions focus weekend here at FJMC (Followers of Jesus Mennonite Church- where I now attend- you know, because I moved to NYC 2 weeks ago… I hope you’re keeping up with my ramblings).  Now, I don’t know the name of our speaker, and I’m only able to attend 1/2 of the talks.  BUT, tonight he told the story of how his ancestors came to know Christ.  And since his grandparent’s were Swartzentrubers (as was my grandmother) and this took place in Switzerland I am kinda assuming that perhaps my family came from this same story as well.  And if not: 1. I will probably never know and 2. there is still a good point to this true story.

And the story goes:

There once was a Celtic missionary and his friends who met up with a group of Barbarians in Switzerland (that’s us) with the intent of relaying to us the saving knowledge of Christ.  Wellll… we wanted nothing to do with it.  After all, we already had some great gods.  Take Thor for example.  We knew he was mighty and powerful- he even had a special tree just a few miles from our village that he protected, and if anyone so much as touched it, they would DIE!  Because he would zap them with lightning, of course.

When this information was relayed to said missionary (of whose name I have no recollection), the missionary said, “so.. what if I cut it down?”

We said, “we’d like to see you try!”

and so.. he did. He and his friends (together, because it was a big tree) cut down our symbol of divine power.  And suddenly we were interested in said Celtic missionary’s Christ after all.

The end.

Wrong.

It was just the beginning.  And now here we all sit in our comfortable little churches in the wild-wood and talk about missionaries, about how we WISH we were braver so we could be missionaries right where we are now, but how we were too intimidated to mention God to a co-worker today.  We console ourselves by telling small stories about how we had a chance to ‘bless’ someone, or say “I’m a Christian;” a compromise between denying God (which is THE WORST) and preaching a sermon (which seems…. a little overboard.)  So yes, sometimes I am overwhelmed by the mystery of salvation, and even more so that it somehow makes sense.  Logically people, a man who dies and comes back to life shouldn’t have this much affect on my life.  But the fact is, He does.  It does.  Every. Single. Day.

So what if we were as brave as that Celtic missionary?  Look at the impact that group of individuals had on our lives.  Each and every one of us who can connect our family heritage to that group of people in Switzerland (now, if you’re part of a long-time culture of Mennonites, I feel like you probably feel a connection here) has that missionary to thank.

Just think about it.  Even if you aren’t connected to this missionary story, you do have a story. (side note: I am aware that not everyone in the world, and not everyone who reads this, is a follower of Christ.  But I’m going to be honest here and say, I hope you are.  For you’re sake, not mine.  If you don’t know what I mean by that, please ask.) Now back to my previous rant: Basically, what I’m saying here is: IF you are seeking Christ you will be compelled to share Him with others, so please act on that compulsion!  I’m glad Mr. Celtic Missionary did and I know others will be glad if you do too!

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Be brave enough to cut right at the lies others believe.  How else will they be able to see the Truth?

A Rough Day on the Train

Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2012.  When I started out the day I wondered what it would be like to be in THE New York City on this anniversary.  And, I’d have to say, it turned out differently than I thought it would.

First, I did not hear a single person mention 9/11.  At home everyone mentions the events of 9/11.  We talk about where we were, what we were doing.  The fact that it affected so little of our lives at that time.  We try to imagine the impact it made on the people affected.

But here in NYC?  We don’t talk about it.  Or if we do, no one talks about it with me.  Perhaps because it did affect so many people?  Perhaps because the people who were there don’t want to share something so sacred with those who were not.  Perhaps those who weren’t there don’t want to infringe on those who were?  Perhaps?  I don’t know.

But I do know that today was still an untypical day.

On my way to school my train was late.  I waited a long time.  And when it finally arrived it moved at a crawling speed (for an express train, this is annoying).  We were then informed over the loud speakers that the train would not be stopping at 14th street as the police department has closed it off to any trains.  Now, my friends, this is not typical.  The girl I was standing next to was telling her friend about hearing about a 2 train delay and they assumed the rerouting had something to do with that.  When we finally crawled by the station there was police tape and cops all around.  But we kept moving and I eventually made it to school.  When I finally excited the subway system and had internet access I searched the news for reports of the 14th street closing.  I found nothing.  But when I looked later in the day I found this nondescript article: http://www.cbs6albany.com/template/inews_wire/wires.regional.ny/3b49b859-www.cbs6albany.com.shtml

It stated that some random lady somehow was hit on the tracks by a train and killed.

Then I came home and found another article. http://gothamist.com/2012/09/11/person_killed_by_train_at_14_street.php

This article explains that the woman jumped in front of the train.

But that was this morning.  That was not my train.  And I was not in danger.

Let me start out part three of this blog by saying that I was not in danger. But this event did take place on my train, on my way home.  And I’m sure it will not make the papers, although it shook me up even more than the previous event.

So… the girl standing in front of me had a seizure. On the A train. One minute I saw her chatting with a friend and chewing gum.  The next, her body was stiff from her knees to her neck, she had fallen into the arms of her friend, and her eyes were rolled back in her head.

Naturally, everyone reacted.  And less than a minute later, she blinked and said, “oh, I’m sorry, I just got really tired for a minute there.”  To which the about 5 women said, “TIRED? You just totally passed out!”  (You know someone has passed out for a long time when you have the time to establish there are no medical personnel on a crowded train.)

The girl (correction, this girl was in her mid-twenties) blinked oddly and continued talking, which didn’t last long until she ‘blacked out’ again.  By this point we were at a stop and it was decided she needed immediate medical help.  A path was cleared to the door and her friend, in the midst of her rigid, seizure-like stance, tried to lift her.  At this point she miraculously “came to” again and blinked in confusion as she processed the anxious faces around her, I’m sure wondering why her friend, a male, was holding her so closely.  Despite her confusion the sea off people lead her out the doors and towards the exit, each of our car’s passengers relieved the situation was being passed off the appropriate medical staff.  But we could all see her as the train pulled away, with her hero of a friend holding her body and strangers bending to her aid.  She had passed out again.  One vocal woman on our train responded, “we need more medical people here!  AT LEAST a CNA!”

Now, if any of you know me, you know that at this point I considered passing out myself.  I hate all things relating to the area of pain, death, blood, medicine, out of my control situations where people’s eyes roll back in their head, etc.  This would not be the first time, nor I’m sure the last, that another’s pain reduces me to a limp rag of spastic glucose levels.  However, I decided that in light of the fact that I had no friend to drag me home and I didn’t think the crowd could handle another such incident, I decided not to faint after all.

But I must say, this made for a very untypical day.

And here are some pictures of train stations, just in case you don’t know what they look like.

My New Home

I have been officially living in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, New York City, New York for one week now.  I guess it’s time for the customary ‘this is where I live” pictures.  Enjoy!

Let’s start at the front door. 254 Ridgewood!

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Up to the third floor…

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Into the living room/ dining room.Image

follow that door into the kitchen

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the oven is to the right and the fridge is to the left

Here’s the view from my kitchen window:

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And the view from my window:

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Obviously- I don’t look out my own window as often as I look out the kitchen window.

And when I leave my house?

This is my street:

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And my neighborhood- as seen from my subway train stop:

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And here comes my train!

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There. Now you know where I live. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to visit!

How long does it take to become a New Yawker?

It may be too soon to tell.

This morning as I obliviously watched my train pull out of the station, waiting in anticipation for the wrong train on the wrong side of the platform, I thought two things: 1. I wonder what TC’s (Teachers College- you know- a branch of Columbia University, where I attend) policy is for tardiness? and 2. Will I ever figure this out?

And then I brought the train home, and in my travels I thought to myself, am I already THAT person?

The first time I visited NYC I was not even 20 and my trip was about 72 hours long.  But I did ride the train then (even at 2 in the morning, but that’s a different story) and I saw those people rushing to their train.  I saw those people talking to their friends.  I saw them ignore musicians and artists alike in their frenzy.  I thought these people were 1. possibly rude 2. possibly so accustomed to their surroundings they no longer felt the need to appreciate them 3. poor planners- if they don’t want to run to the train they should start out earlier- clearly. But regardless, I wondered what it would be like to be one of those people, for all these sights and sounds to be normal.

Fast forward to today. Today I frenzied for a train.  Not because I was late, but because I didn’t want to wait another 10 minutes for the next one. Timing is everything.  I’m even learning which car to sit in to expedite my commuting process. (You can’t blame me. At best it’s an hour.)

Today I also sat smirking at my text of the Scarlet Pimpernel, avoiding the eye contact of aspiring musicians on my train.  Despite their beautiful rendition of “Grenade” I decided to keep my change- least I be forced to their equal lot of street performances to pay for school.  Unlike them, I have not the skill, nor the courage, to make any sustainable amount of money.  But looking up I saw others, also smiling at their various forms of text and finally understood the rudeness.  It’s not that it’s not appreciated.  It’s that we are selective in who we express that appreciation to.

Today I also boarded and rode and exited the train with college friends. (new ones)

And my favorite story of all:

a frenzied young adult leaned in the door of our train car at one stop and said in desperation, “What train is this?!?”

We all blinked at her, wondering what exactly she was asking.

“Is this the ‘J’?” she said, a bit more frantically as the platform was clearing behind her.

A chorus of “NO, it’s the ‘A’!” came from our mouths as the door dinged shut.

We all looked at each other and smiled knowingly.  Then one person said with a chuckle, “There are signs.”

And another, “But their are soo many letters, it’s confusing! There are 26 you know!” and we all laughed again.

And I thought to myself. I’ve been commuting for 2 days now. Am I already one of ‘these’ people?

The LONG Post about Moving.

I have officially moved.  The 14 hours have been driven, the entire contents of my room were sprinted up to my 3rd floor apartment, and then, ceremoniously unpacked.  There were a few minor inconveniences along the way: waiting 45 minutes for a accident to be cleaned up in Ohio so we could progress to NY, those a fore mentioned flights of stairs to my apartment that made emptying the van tiring, and the fact that the frame of my bed was broken in the moving process and we had to make an unscheduled visit to a man in the church to get it welded back together.  However, having my 16 year old sister along made all the moving easier as she was always willing to do the extra running about that needed to be done.  Plus, my dad greatly enjoyed his visit to the welder, so it’s good we had a reason to go.  And, I can’t really complain about the accident as I was not the one who suffered most in the situation.

So this all happened on Friday and Saturday.  But the days leading up to this event were a whirlwind of “lasts for a longtime.”

I had my last visit to the grandparent’s

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last visit from the grandparents (this set I won’t see until next spring as they will soon be heading to Florida)

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then, of course, the last family dinner, complete with family portraits, chatting on the deck, and piggy-back rides.

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and then- one final fro-yo visit with stephie.

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and then I was gone. and now I’m here.

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I’ve already been to: church, the laundry mat, times square, the brooklyn bridge, china town, and grand central station.  I’ve already eaten: my share of ice cream, some great local pizza, and bagels. And I’ve spent more than my fair share of time on the MTA (subway).

So.. I’m moved. and I’m in the process of becoming a “New Yawker.”  I’ll have to get back with you on how that’s going. Speaking of which- orientation is tomorrow. and Wednesday- starts class.

Sometimes I forget that I’m here for school- not just the ‘city experience,’ but then I read my syllabus and remember.