Sunday, November 24, 2013

Something to Share

For this blog, I have nothing profound to share.  

Instead, I’m just going to tell you something that happened.  

After all, that's what this blog is for.

This past weekend I was at a friend’s family party for a first communion.  

An elderly woman was dancing when she collapsed.  

Her heart had stopped.  

It did not start again.  

May her soul rest in peace.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Reality Chef, Quantum Physics, and Holocaust Germany

 On ‘Dinner: Impossible’ chef Robert Irvine walks into a situation where he is expected to prepare a meal from scratch.  He’s given one hour, a few ingredients, and little to no help.  Yet somehow, episode after episode, he manages to create exquisite cuisine out of what seems like nothing.  Sometimes, this is how I feel in English class.

After two months of practice, I’ve pretty much got down how to teach English class with nothing more than a chalkboard and a used textbook.  Alright alright, I have a few other resources like the Internet, some other used textbooks, and five years of university training on how to be a teacher (albeit for music, but hey, minor detail).

So when someone brought up Mayan history today and mentioned the scientific advances they made, it came to me how much I have in terms of knowledge.  In the United States, I’m not viewed this way.  To adults, I’m 23 and just a ‘yuppie.’  To employers, I have no experience.  Even in the world of education where I’ve spent 18 years of my life, the most I can talk about is my undergraduate degree.  And yet somehow when I talk to people here, I’m an expert on everything.  I know world history, I know math, I know science, I know politics, I know religion, I know how to read, I know how to write, I speak (nearly) two languages – one of them being English.  English!  I speak English!  It’s as if the world is at my fingertips.  I know computers, I know technology, I know how to cook, and I even know what ‘quantum physics’ means.  (I said know, not understand).

The world has been designed in my favor.  Before I was even conceived, it was set up to work for me.  I speak a universal language.  My passport lets me go virtually anywhere I can dream of without question.  I’m white – and if you think that isn’t still a thing in today’s world, visit any third world country and take a look at the color of the skin you see.  The deck was stacked long before I came to play and I was dealt a loaded hand. 

Which puts me in a very awkward position.  I never asked for any of this.  I didn’t choose this.  I never said, “God, give me privilege.”  None of that ever happened.  But here I am in Mexico feeling guilty because of fate.  Dorothy Soelle, a German theologian once said, “I am responsible for the house I did not build but in which I live.”  As a Christian living in Holocaust-era Germany I doubt she was thinking about globalization, but she has a good point.  I am responsible for taking what I have and using it justly.  I am responsible for calling out those who unfairly stack the deck or take advantage of it.  Today I am responsible for being a celebrity chef. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wrong Way

“Wrong way!  That’s the wrong way.” a voice called out to me last Saturday as I made my way through the train station in San Rafael on my way to the city.  Hearing English in a diverse place like Mexico City isn’t all that uncommon (I’ve been “interviewed” at least three times at random by someone doing a school English project) but in San Rafael, still a good ways from the city center, hearing fluent English is a bit of a rarity.  “That’s the wrong way,” he said again, “you have to go over there.”  I looked ahead and realized that I was headed for the ‘exit’ turn-styles rather than the ‘enter’ ones.

“Thanks,” I said, “you speak English.” 

“Yes, I lived in Los Angeles for seven years,” came the reply.

“Where are you going today?” I asked.

“To D.F. (Mexico City).  I’m meeting a friend.  He has some money and we’re going to the U.S.  On the ‘Bestia.’”

Surprise turned into shock.  Not only was someone was openly telling me their plans to enter the United States illegally, but on the Bestia too – a freight train that runs the whole length of Mexico south to north.  Many people are often killed trying to board or experience terrible violence along the way.

As we continued our journey on the train, he told me about his life.  “I’m from Guatemala, not Mexico.  I have family both there and in the U.S.  A daughter who is 14-years-old.”

We continued on, talking about everyday things like music, sports, life.  At one point I lost track of which station we had just been through.  “This one is Fortuna – the next one is where we get off.”  He hadn’t forgotten for an instant.  We transferred to the Metro once we reached the last station.  At the stop where I had to get off, we said goodbye.  I had known the man for maybe half an hour but he will always be a friend to me.

As this weekend comes to a close, I think it is important to realize that God always sends us the right guidance when we are going the wrong way.  All we have to do is see it.