Saturday, December 15, 2007

That Time of Year - Top10Albums


TOP10OF2007 :: Alright here's the deal. The following is a list of my top 10 favorite albums from 2007. I have added a few that released late 2006 but since this is [surprisingly] my first top 10 album list, there were a few that I had to add from yesteryear and it corresponds more appropriately with what I actually listened to in 2007 anyhow. Also, this is a personal top 10 - not an attempt at an objective 'best of' list although with my impeccable taste, perhaps they truly are the TOP10 albums of the year. Another note: the top 5 were definitely my top albums so just know that they hold a special place in my heart maybe a little more so than the distance between spots 5 and 6 might indicate. Enough, have fun.



10. Feist - The Reminder :: This Broken Social Scene spin-off can sing and she brings with her a sound reminiscent of an era that contained a style prior to my birth. I was obsessed this summer and am annoyed that I missed her show this fall but hopefully this isn't a one time side project.



9. Anathallo - Floating World :: Perhaps seeing them live twice had something to do with making the top 10 but none can argue that this is one solid album. They bring the complex sounds via vocals, horns, crazy percussion, and an assortment of other instruments that their large group can provide. As Morgan would tell you, the drum intro on track 6 is delightful. Oh, and they also easily win the best album art award (ask me to see it sometime). (Woah, I just found that this album came out early 2006 ... my bad. I lose 10 credibility points.)



8. Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block :: I first heard this album through RELEVANT's tv application. It was their single sometimes referred to as that whistle song. I passed them by as another indie-pop band who made you feel good but didn't really set themselves apart too much. Although they continue to make me feel good, I'm glad I decided to give them some time. The opening track (well, track 2 - Objects of my Affection) makes me love them all over again ... every time.



7. Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter :: This dude has folk. I read a review on this album in which the reviewer commented that most folk music (like Sufjan) was nice and all but just didn't keep him interested - but our man Ritter did. Now I would never blaspheme Sufjan in this way but this Josh Ritter guy sure does bring something interesting to the folk market and I like it. I also feel that although I may have listened to it a number of times, I'm sure to get a lot more listens out of this one.



6. Damien Rice - 9 :: What I first heard about this album was that "Damien has changed and it's not that great" and disappointments about another "single good album artist" seemed inevitable. Thankfully, I checked it myself and am pretty sure I like this go around more than the previous album, O. From the alternating female/male vocals on the opener/single to the more 'stripped down' lyrics of Rootless Tree, I found this album to be a little less commercial friendly and thus, maybe a little more true to his sound.



5. Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog :: So we all know Sam Beam's cover of Such Great Heights is great and we may even know how to play it. We may also know that he has pretty consistently put out great "deep South" (in the Flannery O'Conner sense of 'deep South') guitar picking records. What I was not expecting was for him to expand on this sound to such a large degree. I feel the only way to describe this record is lush. He's been criticized as having abandoned his "roots" and getting carried away varying genres or layering but I find it to be exactly what he needed. I have to admit his last album, although well written and relaxing, occasionally put me to sleep. This was unfortunate because he always found his way to my car stereo. This new record maintains the lyrical prowess while bringing the toe tapping folksy tunes.



4. Radiohead - In Rainbows :: OK, my history with Radiohead has been an interesting one. OK Computer, Radiohead's 1997 record, is commonly referred to as one of the best rock albums of the 90's. A few years back, I tried giving it a try and wasn't finding what all the hoopla was about. Luckily, I discovered Kid A (thanks Ruf) and found a new side of Radiohead in their mixed reviewed, electronically leaning album. When I heard about a new Radiohead album this fall, I was intrigued but wasn't expecting perfection with my mixed enjoyment of their past albums. So with their "pay what you want" download making headlines, I checked it out. Wow. To me, this album has everything I need. I'm not even sure how to explain it. The songs are certainly unique but they find a way to make every song catchy and even listen-able for a broad audience. I give them kudos for being around for such a long time while consistently producing genre-breaking music.



3. Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature :: Jose's last album, Veneer, was my favorite Sophomore year morning album. The songs on that album instantly put me at ease and in many cases, eased me out of sleep. (Oh, and the Sony Bravia commercial with the bouncy balls and his song Heartbeat is life changing. If you haven't seen it, YouTube it now.) Anyways, I hesitantly came into this album half-assuming for it to be another "mood" album (mood being - I'm tired) for me in which more of the same would prove kind of useless. Not so. He keeps his whispering vocals over classical Spanish guitar sound in tack but manages to infuse almost every song with a catchy feeling that I haven't been able to shake for the last month.



2. Manchester Orchestra - Like a Virgin Losing a Child :: Woah. So this rather unknown band released this rather unknown album sometime last year (I couldn't find exactly when on a quick Wikipedia/MySpace search) although I believe they re-released it sometime this year - so I think it can officially be on the 2007 list. This isn't to say they weren't causing a stir. Rolling Stone Magazine named them one of their "10 to watch" and amongst positive reviews elsewhere (i.e. Paste), were even featured on Conan O'Brien this fall. And if my calculations are correct, the lead man, Andy Hull, is a mere 20 years old. Not bad. I initially heard them through Goodrich and vaguely passed them off as another band that so easily gets lost in the plethora of mediocrity. After seeing them open for Brand New in the Spring, I was impressed and thought to myself, "I should give them another try." It wasn't until a few months later until I listened to the album a few times and found them good. And then it wasn't until this summer when I was able to see them play with Colour Revolt at a small venue in Detroit that I realized just how good this band is. Lyrically - amazing. Musically - they can rock AND Hull can bring it down to a few strings for an equally amazing song. Literally every time I listen to this album, I can't get over how good it is. I just hope they keep it up.



1. Brand New - The Devil and God are Ranging Inside Me :: So this one came out in '06 too!? I don't care. It carried into 2007 just as well as any other record and it still gets its fair shares of spins even though it's been a year since it's release. Now this isn't my typical genre of choice. The whole scenester music genre (Taking Back Sunday, early Straylight Run, etc.) doesn't necessarily turn me off but there's generally nothing that captures my attention. That and they often get reviewed as rather uninspired, musically simplistic emos playing their scene. Anyhow, I enjoyed their previous album, Deja Entendu, decently but it most likely wouldn't have made my top 10 from whatever year it came out. With a little hype from Goodrich, I bought the new record and gave it a listen. Practically every song rocks. And I don't mean in a "they're really cool" way. I mean it in a "if you're not screaming with them, you're either over 30 or don't know how to have fun" way. Honestly, how can you not love this album? Oh, and their live show also "rocks."



OK, thanks for reading while I gushed about my fav bands. Up next are just a few honorable mentionable selections that I'm posting at the top of my head:
David Crowder* Band - Remedy :: Good, not great (like usual).
Wilco - Sky Blue Sky :: Slowly but surely getting into this band. I like the new record.
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver :: Think of it as indie, club music. Good for dancin'.
Coldplay - New Album :: Oh wait, it's been freaking 2 and a half years and these tools haven't come out with anything new.
Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank :: Critics say they've returned to their old school sound. I didn't really know them then but I like what I hear.


May 2008 provide more great tunes.

Nearing the End


Yay!
We beached it in Montenita this week (Tuesday-Saturday morning to be precise). Turned out to be 3 solid days at the beach. The trip was suppose to go until Friday ... but then the sun came out Friday morning and since adding another day added about $15 to the overall trip, we decided to go for it. Anyhow, Montenita is a cool little surfer town where lots of backpackers, potheads, surfers, tourists, Taylor University students enjoy visiting. And that we did.

My final days include a couple exams (which we already have the questions for...), farewell dinner which should include a skit by the Gringos, and packing.

I got an email from my Mom saying how they just picked up my sister from the airport - wow, I'm excited to be home.

Oh, I posted some pictures on Facebook - link should be on the side there.

I've probably got 1 or 2 more Ecuador themed blogs in me but I think my blogging rate should be slowing down a little bit. I'm going to try to blog semi-regularly about things that matter but will most likely ease up on the "update" type blogs. You can call/email/visit me if you want into that. My goal is to stop the drivel while maintaining practicing writing.

Friday, December 7, 2007

What?

A couple nights ago I forgot my International Business book in the classroom. Now this little treasure has been my sole teacher for ITB this semester. Our prof enjoys speaking in Spanish and takes every opportunity he can to actually do so ... I understand parts or perhaps the general idea but for the most part, I know general ideas before taking classes. Anyways, most of my learning has come from the book in which I highlight with my pink and yellow highlighters. I kind of aced our last exam and I owe it all to my book so when I realized I left my book in the room, I was upset by the inconvenience of not being able to study my highlighted book.

So I get to the university a few minutes early to check out the classroom to see if it's still there but I'm told to check with the school janitor. He wasn't in his office thing; I decided to wait. Then, Ruf pointed to a lost and found box! What an idea?! A place to put things lost by people dumb enough like me. Anyhow, I did indeed find my book!!

There was a catch though. I forgot to mention that these books are all copies of real books. Ecuador isn't big on copyright laws so they go for it on the copying game. So I find my book alright ... but the spiral binding is not there! My book is strewn about in the box with a bunch of other crap. Thankfully, it was all there and after 5 minutes or so of sorting, I had it all in order.

My question is who needs bindings that much? Surely tearing it from the book was more hassle than it was worth.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ending and Futball

Waa!

I'm home in 2 and a 1/2 weeks. Curazy. This is the last week of internship and classes (besides a few exams and a paper due). Next week, we have plans to go to a beach for a few days and hostel it. Then the final week will be dinners with the host families, packing, chilling in Cuenca. Oddly enough, it will be weird to not be in Ecuador.

Last weekend we went to a pro soccer game here in Cuenca with our friend, Adrien. We were playing a team based out of Guayaquil. So I bought my $5 Cuenca jersey and tried to act like I was a local ... but still got called "grengo loco" ... I think due to my obsessive picture taking habits. Anyways, it was fun. I was expecting mayhem and near death experiences but I came to the conclusion that it was tamer than TU basketball games. Perhaps that was partly due to being in the nice section. The cheap section was filled with people standing up, jumping, lighting hot air balloon-esque things, throwing toilet paper, and a consistent drumming. We were told that section was dangerous. Boo. The game ended up a 0-0 tie ... boring. There were quite a few close ones including a double-header goal for Cuenca that was called back due to offsides. I was happy with my experience though.

Sidenote: I've linked all my albums from Ecuador on the right side here for easier viewing/access.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Upfront apologies and then a lot of talking


Alright, I apologize in advance if this blog comes off as over the top deep or perhaps pretentious in its origins.* At least I recognize my annoying habits.

Yes, I am reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and it is quite good. I just came off reading two other Eastern European writers' books (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn and The Castle by Franz Kafka) which I didn't really enjoy so I was pleased to find I wasn't totally put off by books from that geographic region.

One of the things I most enjoy about the book (as I think should happen with most novels) is the relatability (I've got one of those red lines under that last word but I swear it's a word and dictionary.com is on my side). No, unfortunately I have never fallen into a scandalous affair with a beautiful Russian princess** but there are minute human emotions or experiences that after reading a particular paragraph/chapter/etc, I immediately referred to my own life and felt a kinship to the particular character. Anyhow, way to go Leo! You've impressed me.

Now on to my original thought.*** This one isn't so much relatable**** as it simply just instigated a thought process for me. Levin is one of the main characters of the book. Maybe my favorite character. He doesn't conform very well to the Aristocratic Russian society of which he is a part which is part of the reason, I believe, that he runs a farm. Now don't get me wrong, he's still Aristocracy and the fact that he has hundreds of servants doing the manual labor partly proves this. Near the beginning of the book, he proposes to a girl named Kitty and is rejected due to Kitty being confused with another possible suitor even though she really loves Levin. Regardless, the next x hundred number of pages is a lot to do with Levin trying to distract himself or get over this girl when everyone knows he'll never really get over her. So yes, this is a refined chic flick ... in book form.

Gosh, I'm not even to my thought. OK. Levin's half-brother (who's from the city) comes to visit Levin in the country and they go hunting. The half-brother (I forget his name) has all these refined ideas from a lot of talking with other people just like him***** and Levin doesn't necessarily agree with all that the half-brother spews.

Now we've arrived: as they walk into the country they come across a stream (or some other scenic part) and the half-brother says something about the beauty of nature. Levin's mental response is what I love. Leo lets us into Levin's thought process. Levin loves nature and all things associated with it. He finds that words only soil the perfected nature of ... nature.

And this is what got me thinking.

I have found a lot of enjoyment/pleasure in well written books. So instead of turning on and denying my respect of words, I think the opposite has happened. The importance of words is only magnified. When something incredible is experienced, this only calls for a description (and use of words) that is equally incredible. Surely there is a use of words that can accurately describe and equal in beauty whatever is being described.

Yes, I partly agree with my boy Levin when I say that I don't like it when beautiful things are tainted by words but I think the reason I would say that is because these beautiful things are often given a mediocre description in which little mental effort is put into. Instead of abandoning the effort to try to put life experiences into words, I would strive to improve my skill of describing to match that of what I have felt or thought.

And how do I do that? Reading others' well written material (i.e. Anna Karenina, anything by Elie Wiesel, etc.) and putting forth the effort in speech or writing. I encourage you to do the same.

I'm also fairly sure Leo Tolstoy would agree. I don't think he would be writing books if he thought words ruined the feeling of human emotions.

(Oh, and I realize I talk/write a lot of crap ... I'm working on it ... which I think we're all doing.)

*Classic Russian literature.
**One day maybe.
***I like that I have 3 introductory paragraphs for 1 thought.
**** Ditto on my last discourse on "relatable" (and its various forms) being real words.
*****Pretty much like most discussions at Taylor.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Little Pre-Thanksgiving Blog


Alright, so I've been at work for a while now, have beaten Spider Solitaire 3 times in a row, written 1 of 6 pages for a paper due next Monday, and blogging seems to be the only activity which will be able to keep me from falling into a boredom coma.

Today for lunch, us USofAmericans are meeting up in the middle of town and then finding a restaurant. I believe we're thinking pizza. I had Pizza Hut last night but can always eat (and cherish) more pizza. I asked my host-family if it was alright and of course they said "of course" but I wonder if in some way it's not OK... once I eat a pizza I'll get over any sort of guilty feeling.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Surprise. We're skipping our business class at night and I'm hoping we don't have Spanish class during the day... but we'll see. We're all (including our host families) getting together for a Thanksgiving feast! I'm not totally sure how it'll turn out but I know that I've got five boxes of StoveTop dressing (thanks Heather) that should turn out fairly well. The directions make it look easier than Mac&Cheese so I'm not too worried.

In exactly one month, we'll be leaving Cuenca. I've spent a lot of time missing home but there was a moment last night in which I was talking to my host-parents in Spanish (well... they were doing most of the talking...) and I thought to myself, 'I'm not going to have this again.' I suppose it made me appreciate to a fuller degree the privilege it is of having this experience. I realize this is easy to say when home is within sight (and classes/practicum are even closer) but I don't think it detracts from its truthfulness. (Sorry about the sappiness of this past paragraph.)

OK, I think I'm good. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, say hello to your families for me, and don't do homework.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Experiences.


Hi.

Yesterday brought two new experiences.

1. I received a new iPod. After ordering it online a while ago, having it sent to Jordan's parents, Jordan's parents arriving yesterday, and after stopping by his house to pick it up, I finally have it. It's pretty. It also holds a buttload of music, etc.

2. While trying to download a newer version of iTunes on Ecuador's slightly slower internet connection, I heard a few of the guitars on the wall bumping up against the wall and was wondering what was going on. My sister told me to come downstairs. I then felt shaking. There was a 6.8 sized earthquake! I'm not going to lie, it was awesome.

[The picture is a reenactment of my excitement both after initially getting my iPod and after feeling out the earthquake.]

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tardy Da Vinci


I watched The Da Vinci Code last night. In my efforts to do more than mindlessly take in mass amounts of movies, I thought I would share a few thoughts even if I may be a few years late on this one.

First off, I have not read the book. I can't make any comparisons.

Going into the movie (on a bored Saturday afternoon), I realized a lot of the controversy the book/movie has had with the evangelical church party peeps (mainly, Family Christian Bookstores...). My typical reaction to church reactions like this is simply that it's not that big of a deal. True, it may be errant theology and such but is raising such a stink over it that important? Perhaps I'm too passive but I'd rather be known for encouraging good things as opposed to condemning faulty things.

OK, enough intro. I watched the movie.

While watching, I simply thought of the crappiness of it. Honestly, I felt like the writing/acting was pretty weak. Tom Hanks played this dumb smarty who always knew how to reach the next step. Annoyed me. He would falter for a couple seconds... "wait, maybe its a crypto blah blah blah or no, it's not a cup, it's a person!..." and then he would always figure out what to do next. And that's with me entering the movie liking Tom Hanks.

Next, I felt like it was a slightly blasphemous, less entertaining National Treasure (which I'm not really even a fan of b/c it put a pretty big damper on my senior prom night...). Wasn't really on the edge of my seat and I can't remember ever laughing.

What I do sort of like about the movie (and book, I assume) is that it should get one thinking. It pretty much comes right out and says things that are completely opposite than what historic Christianity has thought/believed since... ever. For me, I hope it would make me think if there actually were differences than what is traditionally thought, does that change my faith? In what ways? (Rob Bell goes into this a little bit in Velvet Elvis... which I need to re-read.) Granted, Da Vinci almost seems to get a little preachy about it (if it were a Christian movie with the opposite message, I may have puked a little) but that's probably why it created such a stir (and so much revenue) in the first place.

I'm pretty sure it didn't change any of my beliefs... for those of which it did alter some beliefs, I'm kind of assuming they haven't really thought about Christianity that much before hand anyways.

Yeah that's pretty much it for now. I want to do other things even though this blog isn't really totally thought out. Oh, I like Jean Reno (the French police officer).

Monday, November 5, 2007

Share

This past week I went to Quito and then the Galapagos Islands. Please share in my little adventure by perusing my photos.
Quito
Galapagos 1
Galapagos 2
[I took a little over 500 pictures... I posted just over 150... I think I downsized decently...]

It's always nice to get away. And things like the equator, cathedrals, exoctic animals, snorkeling, amazing scenery, kayaking, and untouched beaches all add to the "nice-ness" of vacationing. To me, it's just cool to see more of Ecuador. I feel like the more I see, the more I feel accustomed and a part of the country.

The pictures tell a better story than I would.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I don't know 'bout you...

I don't know about you but I'm going to the Galapagos Islands...

Here's some pictures so you can get your Josiah fix.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Gems and Papers

New pics! There's a few gems.

My International Business group had a meeting today (3 hours long...). Turns out I'm suppose to be doing all the writing... which basically means I'm doing the whole thing considering we get very little accomplished at our "meetings" and I feel like no one understands the material... on the upside, this means I have complete control over the paper and it makes me feel like a good business student (a feeling I don't often feel).

Hopefully this gets accomplished before Monday at 4.

Tomorrow I'm going to hit up Ingapirca with the fam. Should be a ball.
(When am I going to write a paper? Well... besides when I skip work on Monday?)

Friday, October 26, 2007

4 Numbers and 3 >>

Here we go gang.

Well today contained quite a few good times.
Number 1: I got to sleep in and then go downtown with Ruf to buy random stuff.
Number 2: I had Spanish class with professor Scott Adams. Awesome would be a good way of describing it.
Number 3: Both Scott and Heather Sommer came to our Marketing class in which the first half was a "field trip" to the mall down the street where we obtained marketing segments from a business there. After we finished that in 5 minutes, we all got ice cream or yogurt or another unhealthy food item and hung out.
Number 4: The whole class had a fondue party afterwards. Good, I guess... as I mentioned at the party, "I don't think we're going to miss a game of Taboo by leaving a little early."

>> Tomorrow the TU profs come to visit us at our work... should be interesting... tomorrow night we have a dinner with everyone... I'm also suppose to have a group meeting with International Business students... but I'd rather go to the dinner... we'll see how I feel... oh and I also think we don't have class tomorrow... this is dumb.

>> Next week we go to Quito and the Galapagos Islands! So Tues-Thurs we'll be in Quito and then Thurs-Sun at the Islands. Excited? Yes. I'm not going to describe it now b/c I will when I get back.

>> I'd like to end this blog with a shout-out to Trudy. Keep it real.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cajas


Well we went to Cajas National Park today. Reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings movies. Check the pictures if you would like. There are some cool places on this earth.

Took a half hour (or so) hike to a lake. Ate food and candy and drank Sprite Zero. Laid on the bed-like mossy grass. Tried to fish. Enjoyed the sun. Scorned the impending clouds.

Once we hiked back to the bus, we ate. We decided to try the fish (trout, I think...) because that's what the locals eat. We definitely got the fish experience. I'm glad I tried it.

We returned (home) tired and I was in a slightly grumpy mood due to a certain item that I could not find.

I showered and watched It. Flipping 3 hours long but good. I respect Stephen King.

And now I sit here typing another dumb blog about nothing. Tomorrow morning I think I'm going to play tennis with my brother, Juan.

[typed Saturday night... posted Sunday afternoon]

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Written at work about my trip to work

As I got on the bus, I scanned the rows for an empty set of two so my longer than average legs do not acquire cramps and so I have a place to put my backpack. A row right in front of the bus’s back doors is open and I claimed my rightful throne. I dig in my pockets to find 25 cents (two dimes and five pennies) and looked around for the collection man. Although he is no where to be seen, a girl of about six or seven caught my attention who is sitting directly in front of me and it appeared that she has a staring problem. This is nothing new.

We made our way down Diez de Agosto* and still no collection man. More people get on the bus and rows fill up. I realized it would be polite of me to move to the inside seat next to the window and hold my backpack on my lap if an oncoming rider wished to sit next to me. We reached Salano**, and an equal number of people get off that get on. One of the newcomers also happened to be the collection man.

The collection men are usually of two kinds***. The first are young guys (early twenties) who simply need a job as they figure things out. I assume this is not their final destination in a career choice. The second are slightly older guys (thirties or forties) who appear to have some sort of physical ailment, slacked off earlier in life, and/or just do not seem to be completely content with life. I believe this one was of the second kind. I gave him my 25 cents and glanced past the girl with the staring problem.

As I continued on the fifteen minute journey on the big blue bus, I realized that I did not get any takers on row buddies. Obviously, girls felt safer sitting next to other girls (it is an urban area) and rows up front usually get filled quicker, but I realized that it may be weird sitting next to a foreigner. Imagine that, I am a foreigner. I am the guy that you kind of point at and wonder where they’re from. Well perhaps my nationality is not the biggest secret (although deep down I hope people are not sure if I’m from America or some cool European country) but I am still foreign. And that is a different feeling.

After a bit more traversing the town, the bus turned onto the road of which my internship is located. Once again I saw the small girl in front of me suffering from her awful staring ailment so I kept my gaze straight ahead. I wonder what type of thoughts must be running through her head. Perhaps she was analyzing my weird facial features or lack of pigment in my skin or something else. Suddenly, I changed my gaze. I did not look down at the girl; I simply looked in another direction. This seemed to startle the girl out of her staring disease. For those few moments where I kept my gaze though, I was some mystical creature that dropped from space. A simple turning of the head brought me back to more human characteristics but it felt good being looked at as another species.

*Diez de Agosto – The road on which I live as well as a major road running West/East along the South side of Cuenca.
**Salano – A major road that runs North/South and ends at the Tomebamba River where the old part of town begins.
*** Two Kinds – And obviously there are exceptions.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Let's Review, Class

Oh, I like this song.

Oh wow. How was my weekend at the South American beach you may ask (and thank-you for asking)? It was quite mediocre I might reply.

Alright so the beach was kind of lame. I've been on nicer ones in Michigan I think. I also don't think we saw the sun (although we did get some of the effects of the sun). Mentally cool to know you're swimming in the Pacific but that was about it. Other than that... it was actually really fun. I always enjoy being with the other TU people and my brothers went! So we had a good time together. Let's see... what were some highlights?...

I ate an entire medium pizza our first night there. I am man.
We saw Rush Hour 3.
Five of us (minus Juan/One) rode an inflatable banana pulled by a speed boat. It was pretty fricking incredible. I don't think we stayed on it for more than 10 seconds. It was so hard to keep upright.
We made an insane amount of Juan/One (Juan being my brother) jokes. You know the pun, "Oh here's Cesar, where's the other One/Juan?" I love my brothers.
Kevin got a tatoo.
We watched a ton of 80's movies and Discovery Channel in our room.
I took some pictures.
--
Enough of that. I have to turn in a paper tomorrow (via email) to my Taylor prof. I've still got a page and a half to write. I'm thinking some graphs may be just the trick.
--
If looking for some random links to peek your interest... please check the following (I stole from RELEVANT slices and Alex Frank) >>
Gore wins a Nobel Peace Prize?
Abortion statistics released... what does this mean?
Wow, The View people should have attended school... of any kind.
--
And that's all for tonight. I'm off to write a paper. You're off to a better website.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ch-Ch-Changes!

Alright. Well we were suppose to go to Salinas. Apparently there are massive strikes going on between Salinas and Guayaquil (in which we would have to traverse... and the strikes may even be at Salinas) and the roads are blocked. Cool South America. Real cool. Anyhow, we're going to another beach (on an island?) that is apparently nice as well. I don't remember the name. It's Spanish sounding.

I believe we will be able to get Taco Bell in Guayaquil. Score.

Went to class tonight (Jordan almost convinced me to skip) and found out there was a teacher's meeting. So none of the other kids were there and we talked with our teacher for about 15 minutes. Off to Mil Plaz for junk food. Probably turned out a more productive time than being in class.

I found out how to download stuff on my computer. Actually, I just decided to start doing it out of pure desperation for new entertainment in a city full of stuff I'm not that interested in. So recent downloads include: Iron&Wine - The Shepherd's Dog, Kanye West - Graduation, Rocky Votolato - The Brag and Cuss, Radiohead - In Rainbows, Instant Karma - The Campaign to Save Darfur. Check 'em.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Upcoming, the Past, and Radios

Hey yo so,

three day weekend coming up. Going to a beach called Salinas with three other TU students (Ruf is going to Quito with his parents) and four guys from the church. I'm thinking it'll be pretty awesome. Relaxation. Fun. Sun. All the above. I do have a 5 pager due on Monday...

Ruf's parents/gf have been here since Saturday. The gf (Christina, enchante) left today due to a test tomorrow. The parents are here til Sunday but will be in Quito til then (as mentioned before). Regardless, I had a great time hanging out with them a couple times. Christina brought me the new DC*B album (thank-you) and Ruf's parents brought an amazing care package of deliciousness. No seriously, ridiculously good cookies. And I would have enjoyed hanging out with them even if they didn't bring gifts.

Also - today Radiohead released a new album that you can download for free. Almost, there's like a 45 cent credit card processing charge. And actually, they say you can name the price. So pay a ton, normal, or 45 cents. I like that Radiohead is doing this and because they're one of the largest bands in the world, they can.

That is all.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Pictures for you.

Here's my rain forest albums. They finally loaded correctly.
The rain forest series:
Ecuador 7.1
Ecuador 7.2
Ecuador 7.3

The weekend will be nice.
Sadly, I have a papes to write.

Monday, October 1, 2007

COLLEGE in Ecuador

I just deleted a blog I just wrote. Suck. Here we go again.

Moved offices today. Moving was the extent of my workday. Not important.

Started business classes tonight (5:15-8:30).

Class 1: "International Marketing" (closer to Marketing taught in Ecuador). The teach was born in Michigan, grew up in and studied in Indiana, and has lived in a Chi-town suburb. He's more stereotypically Taylor than most Taylor students. He's nice and the class will be easy. Unfortunately (or maybe amusingly is a better word) he doesn't know how to control a classroom and 'Dor kids haven't really gotten past the high school thing. So it's a blow off that's fun (how I miss playing Yahoo! Pool with Jordan in accounting). Here's some quotes:

Teacher says something from the syllabus (something like, turn in work on time).
Student replies: "This is not a good idea."

Teacher asks student to stop joking around.
Student: "No, seriously."

More from the syllabus.
Student: "No, please Mike."

Teacher: "Who wants to get an A?"
Student: "I'll be happy with a B."

Student: "We should have a break."
Student 2: "Yes, we should have a break."

My favorite (I was wearing my green track jacket):
"She likes someone and I'm not going to name any names but he's wearing green."

Please realize that these lines spoken in a 'Dor accent makes them 4x as funny.


Class 2: "International Finance" (Realized half-way through that it is actually International Business... it's cool though b/c I could take either.) Great teach. From Ecuador. Studied at Boston College. Knows how to teach. One of those "hard but learn a lot" classes.

OK, studying to do for a cross cultural test tomorrow morning. Should have started before now (10:40pm... a lot later here than at TU).

My Rainforest Experience (in a Nushell)


Ever been on a mission trip and had one of those crazy trips where you felt like you were going to puke 10 minutes in but knew you still had 3 hours to go? I had that experience but different. 1. I'm not on a mission trip. 2. I didn't feel like I was going to puke. Half of the group did [feel like it] though. One did [actually puke] gag style. I was ready to be done an hour in ... or maybe just when we finished watching Office Space. 3. The trip was 10 hours long. 4. The trip was through the night on the way there... which proves awful when you're trying to sleep and it feels like a CP ride. Luckily, the vaca improved.

We stayed at La Casa del Suizo on the Napo river in the Orient region of Ecuador. So rainforest. We had to take a canoe to our hotel. It was jungle legit... but nice. Food was great. Pool was great. Rooms had porches with hammocks that looked out over the river. Relaxing.

What did we do you may ask? Well let me tell you.

We...
visited a butterfly house
hiked in the rainforest with our guide, Clever
lazy rivered the Napo and another river (on both a Huck Finn raft and on inner tubes)
visited an animal reserve island with quite a few monkeys and other animals (although no touching!?)
sat [next to the pool]
read [next to the pool]
visited some locals

All in all, good trip. I would have liked to see a few more exotic animals... but I'll live. The hotel was amazing. Sitting and doing nothing but read was amazing. Encountering a crazy storm on the last day was ... fun? Always fun being with the other TU students. Roomed with a dude from the church named Nelson. Nelson and I made good roommates even though we didn't really talk a lot (at all? ).

I'd rather tell stories threw spoken words or pictures. So talk to me or check my facebook albums.

Oh, there was big group from France there for like, a day. It made me want to speak French a lot... but as I tried to think of things to say... all I thought were Spanish words. Sad. Fact: Living in a culture is the only way to learn a language.

Um, that's it. I missed episode 1 of The Office and I still have not heard the new DC*B album. Studying abroad has its definite drawbacks.

Monday, September 24, 2007

2 Links and a Surprising Note

First, another facebook photo album for those interested.

Secondly, this article pretty well defines my views on the whole Christian/Secular art thing. I've blogged about that enough but thought it was a good article (although I noticed some typos... c'mon editor!)

Note - going to the rain forest this week! Leaving tomorrow night and not returning until Saturday or Sunday or something! I'm psyched. Only found out today... made for a good surprise.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Four sets of Three



I watched the same movie three times today. They had three different titles.
1. Die Hard 4
2. Next
3. Transformers
All contained:
1. Saving the world.
2. Cool brainy computer people that can do impossible things.
3. Great special effects.
Unfortunately, watching these movies did three things:
1. Lowered my IQ.
2. Fulfilled my American stereotype of liking crappy movies.
3. Wasted 5 1/2 hours of my day... actually, I rather enjoyed all of them simply because I miss movies.
I realized the following while movie watching today:
1. 24 is the new Die Hard. Now they must co-exist.
2. If you haven't seen Next don't read this comment - the whole "you just watched a movie about something that didn't happen" thing could be seen while watching the trailer, it's been done [in various forms] too many times, and it's a cheap trick all together.
3. Watching Transformers again only re-emphasized my previous thoughts (3rd point) on the film. I do like Shia LeBouf though.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Only a Link... Not Exciting. Or is it?

OK so apparently today marks the 10-year anniversary of Rich Mullins' death. Now I'm not claiming to have known a lot about him when he was alive although I do remember where I was when my mom told me he had died in a car crash.

Regardless, I read this article/blog thing about him and (although heard he was sweet before) I realized just how cool of a guy this Rich Mullins was. He was authentic cool Christian before it was cool. Way to be.

May we learn from your life without idolizing it, Rich.

My Relationship with Music; a Simple Essay (this has nothing to do w/Ecuador)

I like music. I like music a lot. I like the way it can create a mood. The way that it can give me goose bumps. The way that melodies can get stuck in my head for hours or even days. The way that it can make me feel better. The way that when I listen to an old, favorite album, I will hear something I have never heard before and it will make me like it all over again. Music can do a lot for me.

I currently play zero instruments. This is a sad fact considering the amount of music that I like to listen to. Why wouldn’t I want to create it (or at least re-create it) on my own? Shouldn’t the love of music drive me instinctively to an instrument in which I feel nothing but orgasmic pleasure pulsing through my finger tips or lips or whatever body part the instrument requires? I’m not for sure.

Anyhow, in seventh grade, I decided to take music lessons. Actually, my mother told me I had to take a year of music lessons and I wasn’t opposed. If you don’t remember, the late 90’s and early 2000’s were filled with the tunes of ska music. More specifically for a youth group type kid who’s only friends were from church, the Supertones, Five Iron Frenzy, and Insyderz were quite popular. So I chose trumpet. The thought had crossed my mind that I would learn to play the trumpet, my friends would play the other instruments, and we would form an awesome ska band that would be immensely popular (like the Supertones; because they were huge).

I don’t remember a whole lot about my lessons and when it comes to actually playing the trumpet, I remember even less. I do remember going to Schaffer’s music in downtown Brighton once a week for half an hour. I remember my borrowed trumpet (thank-you Kacie (then) Gentry). I remember my teacher looking older than music itself and carrying an aroma to accompany it. I remember my lips hurting a lot and feeling ashamed when my teacher knew I had not practiced a half an hour every other day of the week. I remember playing Jingle Bells and the theme from Chariots of Fire and feeling pretty good about myself.

As good as it felt to play a few forgotten songs, I quit the trumpet. The end of spring came and I knew my current teacher’s job was heading towards a pink slip. I thought about taking lessons again or at least practicing some more, but it never happened. My ambition (and dreams of ska stardom) dwindled into more important matters such as indoor soccer and talking to girls on the phone.

And there went my musical career. Besides a few stints with the guitar, I never picked up another instrument. This brings me back to the start. To the degree I enjoy music, I should enjoy playing it, no? Is my lack of musical ability simply due to a lazy attitude? Maybe I do not hold the God given skills to play an instrument? Or perhaps there are players and there are listeners. Each equally important roles. Whatever the reason, I’m OK with my relationship with music being on the listening side. One day in the future, I may pick up an instrument, put in the time, and be able to call myself a [insert musical instrument] player. For the time being, I am content with only enjoying music through my ears.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Un otro album

Meant to post this in the last one:

The camp album

Go crazy.

Steve Almighty

Alrighty, so I just watched Evan Almighty with a bunch of peoples who speak Spanish... thankfully they used Spanish subtitles and just watched it in English. It's glorious knowing the dominant language sometimes. I guess I appreciate it a bit more when it's taken away.

My notes on Evan (I didn't actually take notes but perhaps you could call them mental notes):

First off are a few things I liked about the movie....

The cast. For some reason, I just loved seeing so many random actors all together. Wanda Sykes as a secretary? Jonah Hill goes from Evan Almighty to Superbad? That dude (John Michael Higgins) who played the uptight lawyer on Arrested Development as practically the same character? Lorelai (OK, Lauren Graham from Gilmore Girls) as a normal mom? John Goodman playing himself as a jerk (j/k John). Andy from The Office! Molly Shannon thrown in for a few laughs? Morgan Freeman (the only returning main character?) as God. And of course, Steve as Noah. It was all too much for my finite mind.

There were parts that I laughed. A movie entitled "The 40 Year Old Virgin Mary" advertised. Wanda (as annoying as she is) made me laugh a couple times. The sight of Molly Shannon makes me laugh. And honestly, I think the dance clip during the credits was worth the whole thing. Seeing the whole cast (note previous paragraph please) going crazy was incredible.

This movie will get some discussions going. No doubt 'bout 'dat.

With that said, I had a couple complaints...

OK, why'd all the animals have to come if it was a "flood" the size of the city? Unless there's a zoo nearby, I'm pretty sure monkeys, lions, and giraffes don't live in the Virginia/D.C. area. I'm usually not a stickler movies being 100% logical in every area... but c'mon, this didn't even remotely make sense.

This was a family movie. I wish there was some label on it saying so (or maybe the PG rating was the label). I knew this before watching it, but I can just see a bunch of people who loved Bruce Almighty or Steve Carrel and coming out of the theatre (or now, returning their Blockbuster/Net Flix rental) a bit pffd that the "series" switched genres without letting them know.

As for me, I could have done without the cheesy jokes and Sunday School lesson. I'm finding myself to be a fan of movies asking questions. Or perhaps hinting at what is right. The lesson is so blatant that a 6 year old could pick up on it (hence it being a family movie). I think the first movie did a decent job at this. In addition to not sugar coating it, the first film wasn't quite as message-y.

I also see a possible Evangelical TD being made (and the extra point is good!). I'm glad this is made by an almost entirely non-Christian cast and studio (at least not outspoken Christians). Seeing another Passion or (not quite as popular) Nativity Story wouldn't do it for me. I think those movies have merit but I just see it as a "win" for the "Church side." [Now if only we can crank out 5 more "Christian" movies next year then that'll be enough to counteract the "secular" movies.] We gotta be careful making "sides" out of those who call themselves Christians and those who don't. Now I know the director or producer (I'm not for sure and it's too late to check) is a Christian. But the fact that he's working with a cast that's actually known for some raunchier movies (Steve Carrell, Jonah Hill, Molly Shannon) makes me glad. Basically, I'm glad Kirk Cameron didn't star in this one. To sum up this last paragraph, I think we (as Christians) need to see movies for their truthfulness, what is being said (whether it is blatant or subtle), and even their quality in total production (a crappy movie forfeits a lot).

OK, I think I have a couple more things but it's midnight:15 and I have to work tomorrow so out of respect for my mood tomorrow, I'm calling it a night.
G'night and G'luck.
(I also love comments... so feel free to respond)

Friday, September 14, 2007

More pics.

Hi.
I finally got my pictures to load on facebook. That was exciting.
3rd Album
And the Fourth


Ate at Pity's with friends and my ['dor] brother happened to be there (apparently he runs into Ruf a lot in this half-mil sized city...). Food was good, nothing to write home about... even though I'm writing home about it.

Jordan bought Blades of Glory (and then I followed) for $2 and we watched it. I'm happy with my purchase.

Tomorrow's plans include camping on some property out of town. We all know I'm such the rugged type so I should love the whole nature thing. For real though, it'll be good times.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

D-Mil is the man.

In true post modern form, Donald Miller, while talking about his upcoming book and screenplay (yeah, screenplay), made a case for story by using the Bible as an example of a book void of bulletpoints. With this, he said something along the lines of:
when we live great stories [great lives] we are teaching people what is good in life, what is worthy to live for, what is foolish to pursue, what is good to pursue.

I thought it good when he explained that Jesus simply lived and taught (using stories).

Check the short interview here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Work, Lit, & Vacations

Aight so I just finished a little papes papes for my practicum. Approximately 3.5 pages (mostly single spaced too). It feels good to have actually done something. Unfortunately, come this afternoon when I discuss it with my boss and/or person I'm working with, it'll most likely prove useless. I'm going to enjoy the feeling for the moment and eat lunch. (Oh, I also stayed at home so I could 'research' on the internet... this = 10 x better than being at the office.)

Other noteable events: I think I'm going to go for a English Lit minor. Full semesters from here on out but something I enjoy (although I don't have a whole lot of previous knowledge). Figuring out my schedule has been my only interest in the past two days. Oh, it's exciting.

Also, found out today that TU should be financing our trips this fall to wherever we go. For our "big" trip (week tops) we'll be hitting up the Amazon or the Galapagos Islands (either of which would be amazing although I think I prefer the GI option). Other "small" trips (couple days, weekend?) include Quito (Ecuador's capital - 10 hour drive to the North) and/or the beach (yay Pacific Ocean/warmer weather!). In addition to seeing more of S.America, I just like chillin' with the other TU students and trips mean nothing but TU students.

OK, I think we're grilling out today. I don't know what that means. Peace.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Amedex Insurance would cover my seizures

So the most difficult part about being here has definitely been my practicum. There has been a lot of reading Spanish text books about Insurance and feeling lonely while at said practicum's office. Thankfully, my boss gave me a couple policies to read in English this weekend. I love English.

Although, while reading the policy (I need to get familiar with a lot of the policies this particular broker deals with) I realized I will most likely never work in insurance. Maybe I'm being fickle but it seems pretty boring through and through. I do like the broker part of it. (For those of you unaware (like me a week ago), a broker is the middle man between insurance companies and people wanting insurance. The broker picks best plan for person looking for insurance.) There is a lot of human interaction and it is not monotonous. Unfortunately, this part is difficult for me here because I speak 8 words in Spanish (which cuts down on the number of real sentences I can utter).

Basically, I finished reading a policy, was on the verge of breakdown (due to boredom) and decided to blog it instead of relapsing into a series of seizures which 13 page policies sometimes cause (similar to the effect of those strobe like anime cartoons).

Thursday, September 6, 2007

3

I realized a lot of things today and they're all bouncing around my head like electrons go around the nucleus in those atom models they have on tv or chemistry class.

I'm going to number so as to add some structure to my electron-like thoughts.

1. I need to live for the day. Even if I'm not enjoy whatever I'm doing as much as I may enjoy doing something elsewhere, God has me where I'm at for a reason. Well, perhaps God can use where I'm at is a better way of describing it.

2. I rely on relationships a lot. I hadn't realized to the degree this is true until now. I don't find fault in this. I actually think this is good. But I hadn't thought it to be quite such a big deal when leaving.

3. As a person who prescribes to some of the emergent church beliefs, part of which is that of accepting and loving all, I often find myself resorting to disliking people and pursuing already existent friendships. Although I see this is, in part, due to personality (I dig deep with those I know well) I need to look past petty discrepancies I see in people and engage.

Alright so I really like people I can relate to. This happened today between my TU friends and I (especially Ruf). This also happened between my host family and I. Good day.

I believe that's all for now.

(PS. Tom Smillie is being put in the label part of this blog b/c he wanted a shout out. Hey Tom.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Venting?

Here’s a few things I like about living in Ecuador:

  • My host family.
  • Hot chocolate or coffee for breakfast or dinner that is yummy (made with milk).
  • Being here with 4 other Taylor students.
  • Having ties to a strong church which is looking out for me here in Cuenca.
  • The views.
  • My host brother rapping my name.

Here’s a few things I could go without:

  • Being cold 24/7. They said it was cold. I thought they meant cold for a S. American country. No it’s just cold.
  • Lack of really hot water.
  • My practicum. This may come off this list but right now it’s looking difficult.
  • Being away from Taylor. I’ve only got three more semesters at TU (and 1 semester with my older friends). Why is college only four years? I could easily go for 6 or 8 and learn more things and be with people I like. Instead I have to graduate.

I’m so bi-polar on my stay here. Somedays (yesterday) I was ready to come home. Other days (today) I’m loving it. I think it has to do with how much interaction I have with the other Taylor students. They seem to provide an outlet for me to ramble and be dumb and understand me. So I think I’m looking forward to starting business classes in October simply because that means chillin’ wit my homies on a daily basis.

I realize I tend to abuse the blog thing (what is this, like blog 6 in the last week and a half?) but I’ve got nothing better to do with my wireless … so deal.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

hilites

Alright a couple highlights from the past day or two.

Yesterday: my brother's (Cesar Jr.) birthday. Party at the house. Talked to a kid named Justen who is planning on coming to Taylor next year. His parents are Americans (and he himself has American citizenship) but he has lived here his whole life. It was nice to have a conversation in English and talk about Taylor. I almost felt like I was introducing a freshmen onto the wing (something that I have missed this fall).

This afternoon: my sister made a couple pizzas for lunch. Delicious and I had Sprite to drink. I don't mind the food down here but a little Americanization is nice every now and then. I believe I had four pieces.

Later this afternoon: after watching a couple episodes of The Office with my brother and sister (they fell asleep...) we went to play soccer. Sweetest court of all time. Turf floor and gates around and netting ceiling. Took me back to the good old days of indoor soccer (except we were outside). They weren't lying about the altitude thing though. I was gasping for air in seconds (it usually takes minutes). I played keeper for over half the time and did fairly well at the beginning. Later on I let in a few easy goals but I was pleased with my overall performance. Perhaps I'll do some jogging to be able to breathe? Probably not.

OK, I think my family made hot dogs (I think they think I love hot dogs b/c I worked a stand all summer...) Peace out.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Oh, a few things and links to facebook albums

They told me in speech class that starting a speech off with a quote both captivates the audience and adds credibility to your oral essay. I assume the same applies to blogs so...

"Hey Brother" -Buster, Arrested Development.

Today was great and all. Visited a Supermaxi grocery store. Bought new shoes. What else could a gir... er, I mean, a man want?

Ruf and Kevin came over and we watched Ocean's 11 with my brother and sister (from down here). Found out that this is the sweetest house of all time as mi hermano set up a projector in the upstairs living room and we watched George Clooney (in all his handsomeness) big screen style. I also realized that I may be able to hook up my computer (with Season 4 The Office episodes soon to be uploaded). This promises a reason to stay in Ecuador alone.

Tomorrow is my brother's birthday. I got him a Spanish worship CD. I hope he doesn't read my blogs somehow... Anyways, they're big on worship music. They love Hillson United. Yeah, who knew?

Enjoy something today.

Oh, I almost forgot. If you happen to read my blog but are not yet taken up in the Facebook revolution and want to see some of my pictures (the chances of someone meeting all three of those requirements cannot be on the postive side of the number line) then these links should take you there:

Album 1
Album 2

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Casa (same connotation as home?)

Tonight was cool. We (los americanos) went out to a restaurant with about ten other people our age. It made me feel at home. I suppose I am used to doing doing doing when in other countries (i.e. mission trips) but tonight was a night I could just enjoy with others my age. It's going to be good... getting only better I think.

Something sucky I was thinking about today was how I am going to get attached to this place. Perhaps a lot. Which just adds a home for me. And then I'll be missing two homes at all times (my homes being Michigan, Taylor, perhaps Ecuador). It's one of those parts of life that I wish I could do without. Why can't all the people/places be in one place? I'm not sure what I think heaven will be like (b/c I'm seeing Jesus calls us to bring heaven to earth now) but if there are to be some sort of added supernatural things going on, I hope for a closeness of friends.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Two anecdotes from the day

1. Met up with los Americanos in downtown Cuenca. Decided to take a bus home. Found myself up in the hills and had to get off bus. Took another bus down to the city. Opted for a taxi. It’s all good.

2. I wrote the following in my journal while attending the Verbo Church’s youth group meeting following an accident involving the deaths of three of their students:

It’s so amazing to see a group of young people who rely on the Lord so well. Through this incredible loss, they praise God whole heartedly. Humbling to witness. While the teenagers speak through bandages, recounting humorous stories, a sign of healing can be seen on the horizon.

Monday, August 27, 2007

More stuff and general comments

Saturday – Consisted of getting up and hopping on a bus headed for Cuenca (where all our host families, schools/practicum, and church are located). Ridiculously beautiful drive through the Andes Mountains. Being enveloped within clouds. Breaking through. Hitting the tree line. Waking up from a nap cold and in wonder at how I can be cold while practically sitting on the equator. Arrival at the church comes quick and I’m off with my family. Scared? Si. Thankfully, my host family knows quite a bit of English so it’s not a complete drop-of from my English thinking mind. I meet everyone and within a half hour I am invited to a friend’s wedding. “Sure, why not” I say. So later on that night the kids and I get all spiffed up and head to the wedding. Well we’re 45 minutes late but I don’t think it mattered because the wedding was a part of a Saturday evening mass or something and I don’t think we missed much. Regardless, I witnessed a Roman Catholic wedding within a day of arriving to Ecuador. Nice. The reception was off the heezy. Well, I was lost most of the time but it was quite fancy (and I was a bit underdressed) and the food was good. A little bit of dancing and I called it a night.

Sunday – Church was exciting. Worship was very good and the sermon confusing. Taylor gave us these great Spanish/English Bibles which I wasn’t all about at first (more luggage weight?) but am now happy I brought it down. After the service we learned that their youth group was returning to Cuenca from an orphanage they had just been at and there was an accident. Three students died. Oh what an overwhelming event. My brothers and sister are quite affected obviously. I just sit to the side and pray. I’m to take a nap now. It will be good. >> Saw some of the city. As I see more, I like more.

A few general comments:

First, it’s flippin’ cold all over the place. Wore a tee-shirt, polo, and sweater all day today and if anything, was cold. I know I referenced the cool temperatures earlier but it’s still noticeable to me.

Second, they eat a boatload of food. I’ll give you today’s menu –
Breakfast: scrabbled egg, bread, juice, coffee.
Snack before lunch: banana, two small peach things, plantain.
Lunch: potato soup, large plate of rice, meat, veggies, fruit salad.
Dinner: Coffee, sandwich.
Snack: Doritos, strange fruit, hot cocoa.

It’s killing me. I’m a man of small meals and they’re not all about that come lunch time. Perhaps I will become Josiah Gordo Hatfield. Doubtful though with all of their natural foods (I’m thinking I’m going to be craving some good ol’ preservatives in a month or so).

Third, this place is uber trendy. Like, think of the pictures you see in GAP and J. Crew and then make them all Hispanic. Wow, I am humbled. Oh, and the girls are beautiful. Wow, I am humbled. :)

Random: host parents 30th anniversary was on August 20 of this year. My parents 30th anniversary was August 13th of this year. Odd.

Wed - Thurs

Wow so there’s been a lot that has happened. I’ll provide a short itinerary with humorous side notes and then might make a general comment if that’s alright with you.

Wednesday – Leave Brighton, arrive at Taylor, enjoy time with college friends, regret having to leave after half a day with college friends, go to a movie and Wal-Mart, fall asleep in old roommate’s [air-conditioned] house.

Thursday – Wake up and go to a meeting at 10 am for Ecuador. Quick junk, right? Negative. We don’t finish up until 8 pm that night. Of course there were breaks and Subway and Top-It Pizza but wow that was a lot of Ecuador. It was actually all good to hear I just wish I could have met up with the guys more.

Friday – Meet up at the Ayers building at 8 am. Bagels and whipped cream cheese then off to Indy. Ruf, Brittany, Jordan, Kevin, Prof. Adams, and I hop on our dinky plane to Houston and arrive within a couple hours. Five hours of airport greatness awaits us. Start it off right with some Panda Express and then a lot of mindlessly walking. Airport shops are not half bad. No purchases were made but I was impressed. Aside from the exquisite shopping, the Houston Airport highlight had to have been two groups we saw boarding planes at our gate. Group #1: Mexican deportees headed back home. They seemed nice enough. Group #2: Asian traveling group with fluorescent pink hats and shirts. I believe I have a picture. Board the plane half hour late. No biggie. Sit on plane for three hours waiting for a new computer and software to be loaded on the plane. Biggie. Though life goes on. Arrive in Guayaquil around 3 am. Get to bed by 4:30 am while setting the alarm for 7:30. Those are fun ones.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

my previous title was a lie - thoughts on random behavior

[I hesitate to post this essay (?) on this blog. Most of the people who read my myspace blog know my church background and thus know where I'm coming from a little bit more. I think it is clear enough...]

I'm not so sure if I'm keen on the [church?] argument stating "I don't care if I look stupid, God thinks I'm cool" or "I don't care how this looks, God told me to do it."

Let me tell you why.

First, if God were to call me to do something that was ridiculous in nature, I would want to think about whether or not it is drawing people in or creating an erratic image for followers of Christ. In a sense, I want to live by the verse stating "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." Whatever I do, I want it to be relatable to the people I'm surrounded by. I don't want to get too critical so I guess I'm not saying that God does not call us to do odd things now and then; I just don't like the attitude that we can get of priding ourselves in doing things eccentric in nature.

Second, this is easily used as a cover for our own weirdness. Every time we might get ridiculed for anything, we simply see it as our own personal martyrdom brought on by the local heathen. I don't want to criticize our idiosyncrasies, for that is what makes us individuals, but I don't think we should be blaming our Lord and Savior on our more atypical tendencies. Well… perhaps God can be accredited for creating us unique (with our "atypical tendencies") but I don't think he made our own peculiar behaviors requirements of the Christian faith. Basically, I think Christians get noted for their odd-looking practice of their faith, and then automatically think the critic is "anti-Christian"… which I don't think is the case all the time.

Third, (and this may just be my second point rephrased (I'm not sure…)) this argument has the potential to create a lazy attitude. If we're doing things that we are pre-ordaining by God, we're infallible. Regardless of how well we prepare, act, or whatever we are doing, we set ourselves above critique. Personally, I still think we should be acting out of a sense of excellence (excellence being our highest potential – don't peg me as a perfectionist who looks down on anything short of brilliant).

Let me give a brief example. In high school, I had this image of someone walking down the hallways of school, praying out loud (really loudly), and doing the whole hand on the head thing to cause the whole slain in the spirit thing (I was fresh off of a few trips to [Pentecostal] Brownsville). I just thought if at some point in my high school career I get to this point, I will officially be a super-Christian remembered by students to come (you know, like Jacob Gaines or one of those legends that go down in BCC youth group lore). Now I'm not saying that wouldn't have been a good thing if that happened. I just don't know if it is what God really calls us to. I see a high moral character (something lacking in high school – at least when I was there), a caring/accepting attitude, or a defending of the weak as a stronger statement for the kingdom of God then a big show is.

Alright, I think that's it. If you read all of that and it made sense I believe that is a miracle in itself (it's ten til 3am and the ideas floating around in my head probably aren't all that clear). If my thoughts enlightened, confused, offended or challenged you (or had any other type of effect on you), please comment. Also, I realize I'm immature and have irrational thoughts. Everything that I just said could probably be rebutted with a simple phrase and be proven totally wrong... and that's alright.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Final (North American) Post

I head off to Taylor tomorrow. Friday I leave for Ecuador.

I'll do my best to post blogs every now and then but that will probably depend on the level of my internet access.

I'm excited to be in a different country. That always brings new and exciting things. Little worried about having to be there for four months. So far in my life I have taken trips. Four months is a bit more than a trip. There isn't really an expectation of returning. A settling in is expected.... and will probably make the return home just as bad as leaving home.

Well, I guess that's all for now. Happy Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving.
Til Christmas.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Money Makes Me, Me!"

No, this isn't a blog begging for money (although I am accepting donations for the "Josiah's Ecuador Party Money" fund).

As you probably know, I go to a private Christian university known for integrating faith and academics fairly well. This school isn't cheap... so most people attending this school have enough money to live.

I live in a suburban city. I had mulitiple friends in high school who had cars given to them when they turned 16, didn't work during the year, and/or had fairly large houses on one of Michigan's lakes.

Now a pet-peev of mine has always been those kids who have money but don't want to be known as someone with money. Comments like, "C'mon, [insert affluent kid's name], your family is rich, buy me just one burrito." Rich kid replies, "Yeah right! I had to do all the dishes to get this $50 from my Dad!" A disagreement concerning the actual wealth of said family then follows and nothing is really resolved. Let me say this to you, affluent kid, "you have money, deal with it."

But that's not the point of this blog. What I want to address is the kid with not as much as "rich kid." Isn't it funny how we take pride in not having money? I assume this comes from the whole dreamy idea of "rags to riches" where one can claim "I worked my way to where I'm at!" The thought of having any sort of advantage in life is offensive.

I suppose I always put myself in this category because c'mon, I had to pay for movies in high school and chip in for half of my first car! I scrimped and scraped from square one!

The bigger problem I'm seeing here is the financial classification itself. Why do I let myself be defined by how much money I have (or don't have)? What a ridiculous thought it is to believe that the amount of money I have or don't have makes me more or less of a person.

Now I don't want to downplay the words or actions of Jesus. I still think that not only an attitude of dependency on God for material things is required but also a follow-up on that by actually giving and living to/with the poor. It's just dumb how money makes a person in a lot of societies.

For the record, I realize I have money. I live in America - I have money. I go to a private school - I have money. I have a car and am able to put gas in it - I have money.

Where to? Hopefully to a place void of judgement in the monetary sense (or any sense really). Yeah, there's people out there who spend too much (yeah, in the church too). But hey, I mis-spend the bit I have as well. I want to come to the place of being conservative in spending for myself while being extravagant in my spending for others... but I'm not there and even when/if I do get there, I'm sure there'll still be further to go.

I'll end it the same why most of my journal entries have ended recently - Lord, help me.

post -note: (I had all these marvelous thoughts on how this thought would come out so eloquently and make everyone read it go, "wow, that Josiah guy has so many interesting thoughts and puts it so well." Unfortunately, I don't think I've achieved either of those marks. So I apologize for my thoughts being incomplete or totally thought-out and my written word being slightly confusing.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

What is secular?

I heard the term "secular" today. Used in the context that the "secular" world would not change by policies but only by heart change. My question is what is "secular?" Is it that which is "born again?" That which is wholly good?


If we are talking music: When I see Christian music (in the CCM sense), I see cliched lines and generic arrangements that offer glossed over glimpses of life.
If we are talking politics: I see a religious right pushing a select few "moral" issues while ignoring the poor, not taking care of the earth, and yelling rather loudly on Fox News.
If we are talking film: I see low-budget movies with B-level actors giving Sunday School lessons.
If we are talking literature: I see a lot of self-help (nonfiction) and Christians characters solving Full House type problems with a hug at the end (fiction).

When we come to the "secular" community, all these things still remain... but there are a lot more glimpses of hope (in my viewpoint at least). There are innovative musicians pushing the envelope both lyrically and musically, there are politicians with a broad perspective who really want to change for good, there are movies being released that show beauty or real-life in ways that don't hold back, there are authors who aren't afraid to challenge.

Thus far, I would voluteer to be a part of the "secular" community. Being known for sub-par content used to replace the dirty R rated content out there is not something I would like to be known for. Count me out of the "Christian" community.

I know I can't generalize for all of Christian subculture content and I also realize that I am not covering all of culture ... but I think there is some truth to the generalizations made.

David Dark writes in his book The Gospel According to America:

Madeleine L'Engle once helpfully observed that artistic expression is only worthy of the description "Christian" if it's good. And if it is good and therefore truthful, it is, to the believing mind, Christian, unless we believe there's some fragment of truth or beauty that doesn't belong to the Lord. We get to be people who are less concerned with whether or not they're offended, and more concerned with reorienting their sight to behold the good news of truthful storytelling. (pg 124)

What a mind-altering thought.
I suppose in conclusion, I want to be known for the truth. I want to be known for stuff that is good. There is nothing more Christian than that. Regardless of the label on it. Let's go that direction.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"The Cider House Rules" Commentary

I just watched The Cider House Rules. This move was made a few years back. Stars Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine, Charleze Theoren, and a few others.

It's about an orphanage where Caine is a doctor and head guy (along with his wife and another nurse). He sees Maguire as his son and teaches him everything he knows. Maguire is reluctant to take over his position and goes off by himself for a while. There are quite a number of themes that run throughout this movie (I never want to strip a movie down to one issue). One of the main ones is that of abortion.

Now in the past year or two, I have changed my opinion on a lot of things. I would probably consider myself more of a pacifist now. I would be less harsh on homosexuals in this country than most mid-western, conservative Christians. And I would consider other issues besides the biggies (abortion, homosexuality, war, etc.) that the conservative side seems to focus solely on.

With all that said, I can't see any other way on abortion. Regardless of the circumstances, the possible crummy life of the child, or whatever else a pro-choice advocates would give, I can't see how the ending of someone's life could ever be justified. Cider House does a decent job of creating a situation where an abortion seems necessary and OK... but it's not. The baby is still a person. Correcting one wrong with another one is never OK.

The movie didn't necessarily push this too much but the quality of life for the baby is often used as an argument for abortion. To me, using this logic means we should eliminate practically every third world country, every person with a handicapp or disabilitation, or for that matter, old people. All these people are in dire situations in which there will not be a lot of happiness. Life should still be given a chance.

OK, I'm done.
I'm not big on writing opinion-esque blogs that most people (who might read my blog) will agree with but I thought it good to get my thoughts down. If you have any commentary or objections or whatever... comment.

G'night.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

a couple movies you may want to see if you have not already

hey.

couple movie commentaries.

the fountain -
visually stunning.
storyline seemed good but i was tired so i think a re-watch is going to need to happen.
more accessible than aronofsky's other stuff.

jesus camp -
documentary on a rather charismatic church camp for kids.
put together by either non-christians or more liberally thinking christians.
i think it's suppose to be a bit shocking... but the shocking thing to me was that there wasn't a whole lot of shocking stuff to me b/c i'd seen most of it before.
from a non-christian's perspective: the manner these people go about christianity, the extreme fundamentalist views they hold, and other disagreeable things are mixed with christianity and it's hard to see the difference.
i wish christians would be smart. thoughtful. humble. more liberal.
the doc is supported by the christians in it.

junebug -
despite ben mckenzie, i really liked this movie.
an affluent young couple go back to meet the parents (of the man) in the south (or midwest or something).
the man's younger brother has a wife who is very pregnant.
at first, the smalltownness seems outdated, dumb, ridiculous at times.
later, they show a caring side. a deeply spiritual side.
i like that eveyone has multiple sides.
and these signs are seen through family ordeals.