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Archive for May, 2009

Today, I spent a lot of the day speaking to the French… in English! The family and I ended up going to visit some more relatives. The uncle who is staying here for a couple of weeks have children who live in Paris. I was finally able to meet two of my cousins and their significant others. The male cousin is kind of an artsy type and so is his girlfriend. They live in a very modern apartment complex. It basically looks like a room in a warehouse. Concrete slabs, open, steel stairs, no distinguishable “bedroom” or “livingroom” area, etc. It probably wouldn’t be my first choice for a place to live, though one very nice thing about it is that, surprisingly, the complex has a mass of vegetation around it… almost overgrown by them. That does make the place pretty.

My girl cousin, Kim Trang, is only a couple of years older than I am. She seemed very nice and tried hard to speak in English so we could talk. She really wasn’t too bad at it. Her boyfriend was also very friendly, and he could in fact, speak a good deal of English. It was nice talking to him a bit and he seems to have traveled to many places as well. He’s been in Turkey, so I’m a little jealous. 😛 It’s nice to speak to a French person… instead of a relative. ha!

Unfortnately, I was not able to explore Paris. Instead, my dad decided to take me around with him… which basically means going to his friends’ houses. I’m going to admit that I was a bit annoyed by this. The last thing I really want is to sit out and do nothing while my dad hangs out with people I’ve never met. But it turned out to be a good night after a little while. One of the houses we went to had people my age who spoke English, and I ended up spending most of the night talking to them. One was in a school of applied arts and I was able to talk about my major with him. Apparently, in France it is strange to be studying religion in general unless one is wanting to be a pastor or priest. Talking about it gave me some sense of satisfaction, because at the end of it, he was able to understand the complexity of studying in religion whereas he had just thought it as purposeless before.

So, I don’t feel bad about not being able to speak French. People here who want to practice English get a kick out of me. 🙂 Anyway, there is so much more to tell, but this computer keyboard is frustrating to use. I’m sure some of you will hear more about it in person. Love you all!

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I’m still getting adjusted to the time difference. Today, I didn’t do too badly. I woke up at 8am then went back to bed to wake up later at 10. For some reason, I’ve had a slight headache today and yesterday evening, and I’m not quite sure if that’s due to adjusting to the time change or if that’s a product of dehydration. Maybe it’s both.

I spent a couple of hours finishing off Sense and Sensibility. I had started the book earlier this year but never had a chance to finish until now. Overall, I would say that compared to Pride and Prejudice, I wasn’t completely amazed by the book, It was harder to get into, the characters were not as memorable or lovable, and the storyline was far less interesting. It focuses on the relationship between the two eldest sisters, which was an different perspective to read than Pride and Prejudice, so at least that was good. But, honestly, the sister-sister relationship isn’t as relatable or as exciting to me, perhaps since I have no experience in that area. Mostly, I’m not terribly fond of the sibling relationships I see among people my age. Something about the constant bickering and the sibling rivalry just doesn’t really appeal to me. It irritates me, in fact. And my case against people who think that being an only child is “strange” or “bad” is that sibling relationships just aren’t that much better from an only child perspective. Sometimes, they are good and sometimes they are bad, not all too different fro, the life of an only child. But that’s neither here nor there… I plan to finish up Emma now, another one of Austen’s that I never completed.

Anyway, as I sat down with the family for lunch, I found out that my father had left this morning to visit some friends. Only he negelected to tell me. haha. I understand because he probably hasn’t seen the, for a long time, but this meant that I needed to speak to family without him… and it makes me wish I knew Vietnamese better so I could communicate with them. We managed, of course, and had fun stumbling to communicate during dinner. We also ended up going to a large mall in the area. Looking over things helped give me some ideas for presents that I’d like to bring back, though the only person I ended up buying something for was my mother. Oh yes, I did buy a hair clip for myself but that doesn’t count. 😛 I’ll see what’s in Paris, but today was primarily an exploration day to see what the stores carried. A lot of it were things that could be found in America, certainly, but that’s to be expected. I’m excited to go to the city tomorrow.

By the way, the French eat a lot of cheese, bread, and wine. In case you didn’t know. 😛

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It was an eight hour flight to Paris from Chicago. For the most part, the trip itself was uneventful. I was not able to sleep as much on the flight as I would have liked, but there were no delays and no problems encountered. When we arrived, it was nine o’clock am local time in Paris (about two pm Chicago time). I’m experiencing more jet lag than I thought I would, but for now, I’m okay.

Getting off the plane itself was an experience. Contrary to expectation, the international airport in Paris is small. Instead of docking next to the terminal, we got off the plane near the runway (via a set of stairs they set up), and we were shuttled by bus to the terminal (it was fun and different from what I’m accustomed to). The airport was small in comparison to the O’Hare Airport, which was probably for the best for us since neither my father nor I speak French, and not quite as fastidiously clean and “sterile” as those found in America. I realized that despite the small size of the airport, it seemed to be much more “international” than its American counterpart: signs for various different languages were set up and many of the people who worked there seem to have some knowledge of English. They were able to help us locate our baggage. 🙂 It’s such a contrast to America where you basically need to know English to function.

It wasn’t just the airport; everything in France seem smaller, running at a slower pace. It’s as if time has slozed down three steps. This is actually quite nice for a vacation. The cars are smaller and fewer (less traffic jams!), the roads are more narrow and have less lanes (presumably because they do not need it otherwise), there are hardly any traffic lights (they employ a system of roundabouts, which is infinitely superior to our traffic lights in my opinion… we hardly had to stop), and the streets in general seem to have less bustle from people. Some of the countryside I saw in our “detour” seems quaint in comparison to America in a old world, rustic sort of way. If it wasn’t for some of the amazing old architecture they have here, you might have mistaken much of the countryside for American rural areas. Lush green vegetation, crops just beginning to grow, not many hills and valleys in this part of France. It really is beautiful: The exception to the smallness seems to be their traffic signs, which are large, diverse and colorful. 🙂

Mind you, I have yet to explore Paris; we are currently residing in a village outside of Paris, so I’ll see how things change in a day or so when we visit the city. 😛

And of course, I can’t forget to mention the family that we are staying with. We are currently residing in my uncle’s house (from my mother’s side), so I’ve got to meet him, his wife, and his son, Remy. Also visiting is another uncle, the second eldest in the family on my mother’s side) who lives in a different part of France. He can speak a bit of English, so naturally, I’ve spoken to him the most. He and I took a walk around this village so I could see the houses and some of the small shops.

Anyway, that’s it for now. The French keyboard is different from the qwerty keyboard, and it’s been difficult to type. You don’t realize how often you use the letters “a,” “m,” and “w” (as well as various punctuation) until you keep hitting the wrong button. -_- I’ll hopefully write some more on my adventures tomorrow.

P.S. – I love it here already. I had a minor “panic attack” when I realized that this is the first time I’ve been in a different country where I haven’t been able to understand the language at all (with the exception of a few cognate words)… but I’m over that now, and I’m taking in all I can. Being in a new place makes me want to laugh with joy: To think that so many who could experience this would not want to…crazy.

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I don’t know when it started. I never used to be the type much to want to go to different places when I was younger. I never really thought much of it, in fact. Of course that’s changed quite a bit, for now I greatly want to see other cultures and lands. I kind of like the idea of being a sojourner, a nomad, one who is not rooted to any one place. It makes me appreciate the differences, both big and small, as well as the the similarities, both big and small. And, if there is one thing that I do believe from personal experience, it is that things that are “different” to us are scary until we get to know and sympathize with them. Those things then become normal, and our fears foolish.

The thing about traveling is that it helps me to see that my loyalties belong elsewhere, not of one particular location. This loyalty and desire to improve the human condition surely goes beyond national borders. Despite the fact that our devotion would naturally go to the station that we are placed in, the local community, that does not mean that we should ignore the rest of the world, particularly since God has given us ways to help those far from us. We are able to reach them, perhaps, in ways that we were not able to before in history, and I think that makes it a unique time. Think of the opportunities that we could have…

And let us remember our true home and citizenship is in heaven:
“These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been remembering that land they came from, they would have had opportunity to return. But they now aspire to a better land—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” -Hebrews 11:13-16

To conclude, I’ll be in France for about two weeks. I do not know how often I’ll be able to update. I’ll be sure to write when I get back. Wish me good luck! 😀

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What do you believe when you say:
“I believe in God the Father, Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth”?

That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who out of nothing created heaven and earth
and everything in them,
who still upholds and rules them
by his eternal counsel and providence,
is my God and Father
because of Christ his Son.

I trust him so much that I do not doubt
he will provide
whatever I need
for body and soul,
and he will turn to my good
whatever adversity he sends me
in this sad world.

He is able to do this because he is almighty God,
he desires to do it because he is a faithful Father.

-Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 26

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to live is to hope

Hope.

What a marvelous word.  It is a small word, only four letters in length.  Mankind in all its stages of development understand it: Does the child not hope for his favorite toy on his birthday?  Does the college graduate not hope for a job and a future career?  Does not the elderly hope for a surprise visit from dear family and friends?  This hope, though apparent in different forms, are part of the human experience.  We do not exist without it, we are dejected when our hopes are not met, and we find it very difficult to live when all hope is smothered.

It may seem strange that this concept is such a big deal.  On the one hand, this hope is frail.  It defies logical to place our trust on that which we cannot see, that may not ever be fully realized (and if able to be realized, the nature of it is so perplexing that it may not be as we expected).    And yet, not many would say that hope is a completely foolish thing to have.  When we have it, we believe that we can do great things.  We are willing to do great things, perhaps risking ourselves in ways that we are not normally want to do if the only things we acted upon were purely objective data.

Hope is distinctly forward-looking.  In our faith, we look forward to the fulfillment, the realization in full, of our salvation.  We have salvation now, of course,  but that does not mean that our faith ends there.  It would be foolish, in fact, to think that “salvation” in our lives is limited to the “saving moment” that occurs.  The good is not that we have solely been redeemed from our sin at a certain point, but that the completion of our salvation would be met in the eschaton.  The redemption of our flesh… the envelopment into God’s presence… the obliteration of evil… and the partaking of worship with others who also love the Lord… what little we see now is a dim shadow of what is to come.  At least, I hope.  😛

In light of those things, it would be ridiculous to say that hope means nothing.  Even if foolish sometimes, it is a powerful force.  And it may just get you through the hardest life experiences…

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – Romans 5:1-5 (Holman)

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the old and the new

I am blessed.  God provides for me and loves me far beyond what any person is capable of doing.  And for that I am grateful.  I do not know where he will lead me still.  There are many uncertain variables.  But I am thankful that he has opened up some doors for me, even if part-way.  Yesterday, I received a letter from Andover Newton about my acceptance (I had previously found out that I had been when I called them, but it was nice to get the official letter).  In the packet were some forms which I hope to fill out sometime in the near future. I’m still waiting to hear about financial aid.  And I’m waiting to see if anything turns up with Gordon-Conwell, but I think that Andover is the better choice.

Oh, the bittersweet nature of graduation time.  Certain events have brought up painful memories.  At the same time, those memories were good and I do not wish to divest myself of them, and when it comes down to it, those things that happened have made me completely and utterly what I am.  I did not think events would have that effect on me, but strangely enough, they have.  I accept it as that.  They are things of old, but they are also part of the new, part of who I am becoming.

Our faith journey follows a similar path.  On the cross, a past event, we find a point of change, a catalyst.  From that profound and unique event, we embark on a journey.  A quest for our self in the vast scope of what it means to be human, and more importantly, what it means to be a child born of God.  Do we give up the pain of what it means to be Christian simply because it is painful?  Do we not accept the good and the bad and realize that God will use both for the best?  My God is certainly not limited by events, be it positive or negative, and I feel no reason to restrict him.  The God who has made from the same clay vessels both for honorable and dishonorable uses can certainly make from certain events good and bad results according to his purpose.   I choose to think that in these cases, he will use them for good, and in that, my hope rests that my God, the justifier and the just, will protect and vindicate his own.

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