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Monday, December 10, 2012

How To Not Crash In Snow (Manual Transmission)

More than 13 inches of snow have fallen in the Twin Cities in the past 24 hours. As the driver of a manual-transmission automobile and as a seasoned veteran of catastrophe, I assembled this simple guide to the physics of snow driving as a gift to my fellow man. May it teach you the way.

I'll try to start from basics to be thorough, but I will also try to cover the topic rather quickly, without a million words.

There are three pedals on your manual-transmission vehicle.
When pressed, the furthest right pedal increases the speed of your engine.
When pressed, the middle pedal slows, limits, stops, or prevents the rotation of your wheels.
When pressed, the left pedal disengages the connection between engine speed and tire speed. If this pedal is released, the engine and the wheels will attempt to move in unison according to whichever gear is selected, or they will continue to move independently if your stick is in neutral.

To maintain traction, you want the speed at which your wheels are rotating to match the speed at which you are covering ground. If your car is moving more speedily than your wheels are rotating, you are skidding or sliding. If your car is moving more slowly than your wheels are rotating, you are spinning your tires. While it's obvious in either case that you have bad traction, both of these things actually make your traction worse; in other words, they prevent you from regaining traction and control of your vehicle. The best way to maintain or regain traction is by having your wheels rotate at the speed at which you are covering ground.

Rule 1: (If you don't have Anti-lock brakes) Your brake should be used less in the winter. More accurately, your brake should only be used gently and at low speeds in the winter. This sounds like weird advice, but I'll explain why: the brake's only function is to slow or stop the rotation of the tires. Abruptly stopping the rotation of the tires, or even slowing it beyond a certain amount on a slippery surface, will change you from rolling to skidding. You have less traction and less control. Slowly decreasing the rotation speed of your tires will slow you down more quickly than quickly decreasing the rotation speed of your tires. NOTE: If your car has ABS (anti-lock braking system), which started coming standard on cars that are too new for college students to drive, this does not apply, because the ABS is designed exactly to keep your wheels rolling while you are slowing down rather than locking them in place when you slam on the pedal. Pumping the brake on older cars is a way to do the same thing, and I would recommend that in cases where your instinct tells you to slam on the brakes.

Rule 2: The clutch should only be used when shifting gears or when shifting into and out of gear. This is sort of a rule year-round, but it can be broken during the warm months when I like to take it out of gear and coast at times.
If you worry about the clutch less, it maintains the correlation between your engine speed and your wheel speed. If you noticed before, I mentioned that your accelerator controls your engine speed, but then all I've mentioned so far as being important to skidding is your wheel speed. Avoiding needlessly taking it out of gear or coasting down hills, for example, maintains the accelerator pedal's relevance to the problem at hand.

Rule 3: Use your accelerator to decelerate. Or, perhaps, decelerate by un-using your accelerator.
For the wheels and engine to move together, one of them has to be controlling the speed of the other. When you're not causing the engine to run at a certain speed with your foot on the accelerator, the momentum of your car and the rotation speed of your wheels gets transferred back into the engine rotation through the same mechanism (in reverse) that causes the engine to increase your wheel speed. If your car is in gear and moving and you let off the gas pedal, the car will slow down.
Now, letting off the gas pedal slows your wheels down much less abruptly than a tap of the brakes, and therefore avoids losing traction by going into a skid. This is good, but if you actually want to stop anytime soon, you may tell me that it is simply too much less abruptly.

Rule 4/Life Skill: Downshifting
Downshifting is intentionally using the momentum of your car, rather than pressure on the accelerator pedal, to increase the RPM of your engine, with the goal of draining some of your wheels' momentum in order to achieve a skidless deceleration.
Very simply, each gear will make your car travel at a different speed, even if you keep pressure on the accelerator exactly constant. As an example, if I run my engine at 2000 RPM, I will be going about 6 MPH in 1st gear, 16 MPH in 2nd, 26 MPH in 3rd, 36 MPH in 4th, and 46 MPH in 5th. Regardless of the mechanics or details of this, I'm sure you have to be familiar with this occurrence in order to even drive a manual, so I'll stop elaborating on this specific aspect of it.
If your foot is off the accelerator, your engine speed naturally wants to drop to below 1000 RPM. (Mine usually idles at 700-800.) However, you usually want to drive in the range between 1800 and 2500 RPM for maximum efficiency.
So here's an example: I'm travelling at 26 MPH in 3rd gear, with my engine at 2000 RPM. I'm 100 feet or so from a Stop sign. Rather than beginning to brake, I shift downward into second and let off the accelerator. As I release the clutch after my shift, all of a sudden, I'm going 26 MPH in second gear, and my engine, which wants to drop to 700 RPM, is instead forced up to 3200 RPM. Suction is generated in the combustion chambers in the engine (very relevant to the process, but not necessarily important to understand), and the engine speed drops fairly quickly, slowing the wheels along with it because their fates are bound until I hit the clutch again. By the time the engine drops to 1500 RPM, which has only taken a couple of seconds, I'm down to 12 MPH and I'm not skidding. Then I can try my luck at downshifting to 1st or I can just calmly pump my brakes to a smooth stop. Heck, at that point, I could even slam them and probably stop before much of my car slid slightly askew into the intersection.

Pointers:
1. Only shift down one at a time. If you're going 50 in 5th gear and you drop to 3rd and your engine is uncomfortably and unexpectedly forced up to 4000 RPM, that's too much and you will skid.
2. As a general precaution against abruptness, always re-engage the clutch with gentleness and tact. Make sure all parties are comfortable with what you are about to do before dropping the full weight on them.
3. Decelerate before turns, not in the midst of them. Try to gently accelerate out of turns, so that your front wheels are pulling you through the end of the turn and toward your destination. NOTE: Do not do this with a rear-wheel-drive car.
4. Down hills are easier to navigate than up hills. Roll down steep ones in 2nd or 1st gear and with your foot gently holding or pumping the brake, being sure that your wheels are indeed rolling, but only ever so slowly. NOTE: Do not use this strategy for rear-wheel-drive cars. It is not advised to drive on snowy hills at all with RWD.
5. In the unfortunate instance that you may be required to stop on an up-facing hill, use your hand brake in place of your foot brake to avoid the slight roll-back experienced at take-off. Put the shifter in 1st, bring the clutch right up to the point of engagement, coax the accelerator downward with only one toe, and then release the hand brake so that the first movement you make is forward and upward. NOTE: Please don't do this if your car is rear-wheel-drive. Seriously, just drive backwards in the winter if that's your only option.

I hope that these tips improve your road safety. Failing that, I hope that a cute girl offers to help push you out of the snow bank in which you find yourself.

Best wishes (with specifics mentioned immediately above),

Stephen

P.S. I haven't blogged consistently since 10th grade, and I've felt rusty every time that I've written on here thus far. Oh well.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Right to left

Well, here's something I didn't expect: I'm typing from right to left in English. The internet in Egypt is obnoxious because it automatically gives you the arabic version of the site based on the location of your ISP. As a result, I'm typing this in an Arabic-arrangement window, so my cursor is lingering before the beginning of my sentences even though my words are going on the end. I just wonder what will happen to my final punctuation.

So, I've been able to type with both hands since about 5 minutes after my last post, but I'll try to think of another excuse for not updating in a second. Oh yeah; it's cuz I never get time to think. It's a vicious cycle: I think I would have more of a handle on things if I blogged more, but I also don't feel like I have enough of a handle on things to really have anything to update everyone on. I guess I do, though, and I think I might get to it once I give up on this paragraph.

Hey, try to guess the two most common names in Egypt. If you guessed Mohammed and Ahmed, you're right. However, among Coptic Christians, there are two names with incomparable ubiquity: Mina and Abanoub. At the boys' orphanage we visited last week, I thought a kid was playing a game where he says "babanoubabanoubabanoubabanoubabanouba", apparently because all the Abanoubs wanted to introduce themselves together, except for one. While a solid 80% of the children went by that name, I've yet to meet an adult male whose name isn't Mina. There were a few who introduced themselves otherwise, but I assume they're all nicknames so that people can differentiate a bit. One guy was named Camel.

Today marks the third full Tuesday since we arrived in Egypt. Three weeks- almost half our trip- seems to have gone by way too quickly. Our first 5 days were spent exploring and shopping and stuff, so today marks the beginning of our third week of ministry. Tuesdays, we visit a center for street kids that is an hour-and-a-half drive away, kinda near the Pyramids of Giza on the other side of Cairo. We prepare different skits based on our recollections of Aesop's fables, the parables of Jesus, or sometimes original compositions designed to teach them the values that they need to know in order to live in society. Previously, we'd do a short program and then just play with the kids, but because one of their default settings is play-fighting, we've been asked to create longer programs and discourage the free play idea. I think that Tuesdays are some of our favorite days, as a team. The girls on our team are a very creative and somewhat crafty group, so putting together paper masks and other props for all the skits is really facilitated by that.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, we visit the homes of Sudanese refugees and share with them words of encouragement and different things we've been learning in our personal readings of the Bible. I really enjoy this ministry because it's encouraging to me when I can encourage others, and having to draw themes out of the scriptures really helps me to understand the nature and teachings of Jesus more than I have before.
 Since Easter is scheduled differently for the Eastern church and the Western church, this past Thursday was Maundy Thursday. Partly because the schools were closed, and partly because it was Martina's 23rd birthday, we had a slightly modified schedule from our usual Thursday school and gender-divided orphanage visits.

Man, I have a meeting soon, because I'm co-in charge today, so I guess I'll have to fill you in on the other interesting stuff later. This is a great place to stop, right? Yeah.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy Monday

I know it's already March, but to be fair, February is a short month. On a related note, I like the Gregorian Calendar; it keeps things exciting.

I wish to tell you all the sweet details of what's been happening these past weeks, but my weekend typing proficiency was ruined by snowboarding. Saturday morning, I managed to spin out of control, catch my front edge, and slam down hard right on my left shoulder.
I lay there for a few minutes before my friends caught up to me and sprayed me with snow. I said "Thanks. Hey, can one of you pop my shoulder back in?" but they couldn't. I was able to get up and hold my arm weirdly long enough to ride, accompanied by Jon, to the ski patrol shack, where I learned the French word for "dislocation." They couldn't do much on the hill besides wrap my arm in a makeshift sling and give me a snowmobile ride to the top of the gondola, which would transport me the rest of the way down to where I would be shuttled to the clinic. I was assured that they see this all the time and that common procedure is to give me a hallucinogen and push it back into proper positioning, and then I can go have a glass of wine atop the mountain.
Upon arrival at the clinic, they took some X-Rays in order to determine whether or not to follow that pleasant-sounding treatment plan. What they revealed was unfortunate: the top of my humerus was right where it was supposed to be, but everything still hurt, and my arm was getting heavy.
They ended up not giving me any drugs at all.
The issue I've now encountered is something about which I'd never heard previously: the distal end of my collarbone is supposed to touch the upper winglet of my shoulder blade, but it doesn't anymore. This is because I tore at least a couple of the ligaments that are supposed to manage the tension there. According to Wikipedia, the Acromioclavicular joint contains a meniscus in some individuals but not in others. I assume that it is pulverized if I ever had one there.
They gave me a fancy, elaborate sling that holds my arm snugly to my body and makes me feel like I'm receiving a hug all day, and a prescription for anti-inflammatory pills. In addition to this, I'm trying to eat lots of chocolate in order to get the most antioxidants possible. Overall, I'm feeling alright as long as I take it easy.

This morning, I went to the University hospital in Lausanne that specializes in shoulder and hand surgeries, accompanied by Martina, and we had a consultation with a doctor there. He considers it to be about a third-and-a-half degree Acromioclavicular (which is easier to pronounce in French) dislocation, whereas degree four requires surgery. I have pretty good mobility and relatively little pain for that type and severity of injury, which is good, but I have to go to Egypt for 7 weeks on March 27th, which means I probably want my clavicle secured by then. Tomorrow morning, he is presenting my case and x-rays to the shoulder specialist department head, and I should know by the afternoon if they want to bring me in and operate. Thursday or Friday would be ideal to allow me maximum recovery time before outreach.

All this is to say that I've been typing this whole thing with one hand, and that it's getting tiring. As much as I'm enjoying discovering what isn't as easy without two hands, I look forward to being in full form again, so that I can type more substantial things in fewer hours.

See you next time!

Monday, February 20, 2012

February

I accidentally went to France on Saturday.
Portes du Soleil is the largest contiguous skiing area in mainland Europe, with mountains falling on both sides of the French-Swiss border. When I was young, I took ski lessons in Morzine, the largest town in the area. I always remember the area being referred to as Morzine-Avoriaz, named after the two mountains on either side of the valley. In our 4 years visiting the area, I only remember one time my parents took me up to ski on Avoriaz, and on a snowy slope, I saw a flag indicating we were at the Swiss border.
As it seems, that flag is only a short drive past Lake Geneva. In fact, from the base of Crosets, it takes only a single ride on the chairlift to reach a seemingly disputed peak; I suppose that's why they bother to sell a two-zone ski pass there. After an 8-minute, 1600-meter ride on the lift, we reached this peak and promptly took a southwesterly bearing. On our way down, we only saw one unbelievably long lift that would take us back up, so we tried kind of hopped trails in an attempt to keep things interesting and to actually reach our only hope for return. Our expedition led straight down into a large, deep valley. When I arrived at the bottom, I noticed that another lift, further off to the right, bore signage indicating that it led to the peak of Avoriaz. Suspiciously, the lift right in front of me also bore the name of the French mountain, and my Swiss-only pass wouldn't allow me access to the chairs that would return me to Helvetica. Fortunately, it seems that whoever was supposed to be attending the lift wasn't paying much attention, because I followed the lead of the Swiss delinquent in front of me who removed his skis and hopped the turnstile. Fortunately for the rest of my group, since they were at least 15 minutes behind me, Kevin had accidentally bought a two-zone pass, and could scan it every couple minutes to let all 6 of the guys through.
So, that was the first run of the day.
Crosets is an amazing place, and the name Portes du Soleil is not a misnomer. It was sunny spring conditions in mid-February, there were 80-centimeter crevasses forming in the snow higher up, and I got sunburned. Luckily, I wasn't wearing goggles. Unluckily, I was wearing my mustache.
I spent all day with Luke, Kevin, Logan, Will, and Matt, plus a 15-year-old Swiss German named Luca who is on base taking an English class. We found a terrain park with manageably-sized-but-still-exciting jumps and a snowcross course that emptied out into a natural halfpipe, and we spent the hours before and after lunch going through it about 6 times. Jordan (Martina's husband) joined up with us after lunch, and he showed us a cool powdery tree run that culminates with a 20-foot drop off of a cliff into masses of soft powder. Every time we got to that part, we paused, regrouped, and went over the drop one-by-one. It was intimidating, but the landing was so thickly padded that I'm uncertain whether there is any possible way to get hurt there. On Will's first attempt, he and I were the only ones remaining. He had never skied in powder before and was slightly hesitant about the jump, and he wisely asked me to wait and go after him. On impact, he lost his right ski, and it seemed fortunate that I could just drop down right next to it, dig it out, and hand it over. Of course, it didn't work out that simply: as I pulled the ski out by its end, the snow on my gloves allowed its metal edges to slide frictionlessly out of my grasp, and it promptly took off down the hill. I took off after it on my snowboard, splashing powder everywhere in a way that made me afraid I might accidentally bury it, and Will removed his other ski and started bodysurfing in pursuit of his footgear. Long story short, we achieved victory. Also, it's hard to put skis back on in deep powder.
It's tough to say that Crosets is my favorite mountain so far, but that's mostly because Villars was so good. Indisputably, the terrain park was the best I've ever enjoyed and the many ravines and lightly-used powder runs through the trees were excellent. The only downside was that the sheer number of people going through there were really packing down the snow and creating some congestion on the more groomed runs, but the off-trail skiing at Portes du Soleil is so expansive that you barely need to stay on the actual trails.

Tuesday last week was Valentine's Day, and it was actually the best Valentine's Day I've had since elementary school. Our topic for Week 5 was, of course, Relationships, but it can more accurately be said that the teacher mostly joked about romantic relationships while covering more fundamental issues relating primarily to how Jesus summed up "all the Law and the Prophets" (i.e. the whole Bible) with "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." In between going through 1 Corinthians 13 backwards, along with other select verses about God's love, nature, and character (which are all love) and mentions of how Christians should be more socially conscious because God cares about all people, Troy Sherman mercilessly mocked Leah and Kevin for sitting at the same table on the first day when they knew it was Relationships Week and promised that, with our "perfect" 1:1 gender ratio, we'd all be hooked up by the end of the week. In opposition to this intentionally absurd "prophetic word" lies the much cooler de jure sexual climate here: one page on the school application included a signature-required clause that we would not pursue "exclusive relationships" during the course of these 5 months. Of course, everyone is being good and abiding by the codes of conduct to which we've agreed in the interest of community living, but we're also all in a certain age group, and my classmates are therefore only pursuing inclusive relationships, meaning all being good-natured, generous, and somewhat snarky towards the entirety of the opposite sex in a manner that at least appears equitable.
Now that the atmosphere has been described, back to Valentine's Day. Upon getting wind that the female folk were plotting something, we men wrested control of our classroom on Monday evening and occupied it for a few hours, working on cards for our classmates. Of course, none of us were going to make a specific card for a specific girl, so we each just illustrated the exteriors and then decided arbitrarily which one was going to whom. Then, we filled the interiors of the cards with a single message for each of them, drawn from all our collective genius and wordsmithery, and with carefully-selected verses from Song of Solomon (because Martina suggested it as a joke, and the best thing we could do was to apply it). We then pooled our resources to procure 7 red roses, which we presented in the morning to each of the ladies and to Martina along with the cards that we had hand-made. They graciously received the pathetic messes we'd scribbled and made a big show of smelling all their flowers and then apologized that they hadn't gotten us anything, and then they told us that they were lying. They told us to meet in the classroom after lunch, and Matt confidently declared that they had made dessert for us. When we entered, we found a riddle posted on the board; Matt immediately said "It's just gonna lead us to the middle room upstairs, guys." After three minutes of following clues to the Annex basement and the garage, we indeed found ourselves in the middle room upstairs with paper cards in the shape of hearts (each containing writing from all 6 girls), squares of homemade fudge, and little origami boxes full of confections, decorated with bunches of hearts and such phrases as "YWAM: Young Women After Men," "Marry Me," a lipstick print with a phone number (one not belonging to any of the girls in our class, of course), and, on the box Matt obtained, "You're a tease." Magdy asked "What is 'tease'?" and quickly reprimanded Matt when we explained it to him (on a side note, the girls later told me that they randomized which box went to whom, as we had done with cards). Magdy's other comment on the matter was "You know what, guys? Seriously, you are lucky. You guys are very lucky that these girls do this for you." I agree. I'm actually really impressed. Hats off, ladies.

It seems that, yet again, I've managed a reasonably-sized update while still not summarizing anything that I've been learning. I have some thoughts on bilingualism, service, and identity, but it's 1 a.m. here and I need some more time to compose my ideas on those topics.

Ciao!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

G'Day

Hey, I wonder what I've been up to lately.

When I last posted, I was already trying to go back and cover an entire week's worth of meaningful events during which I'd neglected to post. Now, I have an incomprehensible amount of material to go back through and filter out into what is the most important and entertaining to mention.

Actually, attempting to maintain a blog and to produce meaningful and relevant content has made me realize that sorting through all the mess that I create in my head is complicated. This past week, I've saved two documents in Microsoft Word that are the beginning of posts on Love and Politics, respectively. They both contain the word "today" in the first sentence, but I will have to revise that, because I could not come near the end of even thinking anything on the matter in a single day. So, if it's any comfort, I wasn't ignoring you guys; I was simply having difficulty carving out the time to produce adequately mind-blowing content for you, readers.

Speaking of carving, I've experienced some excellent Swiss snowboarding so far. The Saturday following the first week of class, a majority of my class and some base staff traveled to Verbier, a large, touristy resort mountain past the end of Lake Geneva. Kevin, the ex-military kite-surfer from Florida, had come to Switzerland before the New Year and spent the week preceding the start of class on this very mountain, so I followed his lead up to the highest point we could reach. We strapped our feet into our boards at 3005 meters of elevation and rode down through a submerged boulder field. Luke and Logan rode with us, and a Swiss German student from the Leadership Training School named Nathanael made us a five-man band carving up the back of the mountain. Of that group, I'm probably the worst snowboarder, and I covered about 200 vertical feet in a long, continuous tumble partly caused by my continuing attempts to steady myself. Instead of managing to get back up and resume riding, I set the world record for most consecutive cartwheels. After some difficulties and some ups-and-downs, we finished the whole run and met up with the others for lunch. All our excited chatter convinced our less experienced comrades to come with us on the same run. When we reached the top, Will, Leah, and Matt immediately began protesting. We told them it wasn't as bad as it looked and that they should just follow us, and after we got down the really steep part at the beginning, everything went pretty well for everyone. It was only Matt's 3rd time snowboarding ever, and Luke insisted that "the way to get better is to snowboard with people who are better than you." It seems to have worked. Near the end, though, our group got so big that it was hard to keep together, and I accidentally got separated from the group downslope right when they shut off all the lifts. Consequently, I had to ride all the way down to the village halfway down the mountain and have no way to meet up with my group anywhere. Long story short, we left about 2 hours later than we'd originally planned, and we had to call ahead back to base so that they'd set aside 15 plates of dinner.
The following week, we took a trip to Villars-Gryon. That area is much more frequented by locals rather than tourists, and they seemed to be having ski races that weekend. There was much less traffic there than at Verbier, and the snow conditions were the epitome of perfection, with the previous day's fresh snow supplemented by the snow that fell as we rode. Jordan and Alex, staff from the base, each spent half the day showing us the best tree runs and back ways off of the main slopes and through the thick powder. Kevin compared the experience to surfing, Luke said it was like floating, and I felt like I was gliding over marshmallow spread. The big white blanket was so soft and inviting that I had new snow on me every time I caught up to the group. Villars-Gryon has most definitely taken its place in my Top 3 favorite snowboarding locations ever.
On February 18th, we're going to drive over to Chamonix in France to experience what is reputed to be the best hors-piste in Europe. I'm excited.

Life here in Lausanne is pretty fun and very full. While my class contains 12 students and 4 staff, the building also hosts a 30-student YWAM Leadership Training School, 3 students learning English for Missions, and somewhere around 20 more base staff, plus bedrooms for all those people. The main building is still the same as the defunct hotel purchased by Loren and Darlene Cunningham, the founders of YWAM, in 1968, though its interior went through an overhaul in the mid-'90s. In any case, it is now what I would best characterize as a 4 1/2-story building set on a hill between a golf club and a forest, with the world's premiere hotel school directly across the street. At capacity, it could probably accommodate no more than 100 people. The base also owns a few other buildings in which to hold meetings, store materials, run a preschool, take care of administrative concerns, and host additional guests, while some of the married staff members own condos in the complex right next door.

On week days, we have breakfast at 6:45 and lunch at 12:30, spending a majority of the betweentime in class learning from a guest speaker about the topic of the week. (Thus far, we've covered Hearing God's Voice, Discipleship, The Nature and Character of God, The Holy Spirit, and Relationships.) Three mornings a week, we have 20-minute-long student-led class devotions. Before class on Mondays, we have an hour of worship time with all the students and staff on base, and during the same time on Thursdays, we have Community-wide Intercessory Prayer on a changing list of topics, which has so far included things like the abuse of women and the political instability across parts of the Middle East.
After lunch, we divide up into teams to do "Practical Ministry," which means chores with a good attitude. I'm on the Maintenance Team with Matt and Jon and we take orders from a cool Norwegian guy named Sindre and a British administrative juggernaut named Astra. Most of the other teams execute daily necessities like meal preparation and clean up or vacuuming and cleaning of all public spaces, so I consider myself fortunate to be on the Varied Responsibilities team. We fix things when they need to be fixed, mount things when they need to be mounted, clean filters and any other cleanable non-surface or moving part, make sure the cars are gassed up, move televisions and tables, and change lightbulbs, as well as making sure walkways are clear of hazardous snow and ice. The running joke is using "Swiss" to describe whether or not our enacted solutions are satisfactory (not by our own standards, but by those of the locals).
After Practical Ministry, we engage in a variety of activities. My class spends two hours a week in the language lab using Rosetta Stone Classroom Edition. Everyone else is working on French, but since I was allowed to elect another language, I chose Arabic. Magdy's first language is Arabic, and he told me that we can practice together once I've learned 100 words. To make it more fun, I've been trying to demonstrate my proficiency by piecing together such phrases as "the big egg" or "the dog runs" and to describe words I haven't learned in terms of words I have learned (such as "a yellow apple" to describe an orange). This becomes less amusing as I realize that dialectic differences in pronunciation between Standard Arabic and Egyptian Arabic ruin my comedic timing, because the window closes as he tries to decipher what I've said. But, hey, I'm learning a new alphabet, so that's cool.
On Wednesday afternoons, we go down to the town square and talk to people, pray for them, and give them free hot chocolate. The first day, we played soccer with an Afghani and some Syrians in a cobblestone rectangle by the fountain, using public benches as goal posts. You know who is terrible at soccer? Me. I'm even worse than the Canadians.
On Thursdays, we have Community Meetings where we welcome in people from the surrounding area and discuss some of the goals and visions that YWAM has and then eat some delicious dessert of some kind. One of the Brazilian staff here made amazing rice pudding a few weeks ago, and we've also enjoyed Swiss traditions like Fasnachtsch├╝echli (which Tabea taught me how to pronounce, but not how to spell). Apparently, I do really well with Swiss German words over 3 syllables, but I can't pronounce "Zucker" properly.
In between classes, we've taken trips down to the main area of town and bought Swiss chocolate and whatever we could find that we considered at all reasonably priced, which is not that much. We've gotten small, expensive pizzas; small, expensive coffees; and small, expensive candy bars. One day, we took a little field trip over to Montreux and hung out by the Freddy Mercury statue on that side of the lake. Also, we have occasional dance parties.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I'm Still Alive

Local time: 22:49
I only have 11 minutes until the internet cuts out for the night, which seems to be about the time I get ready to start updating this thing on any given night. I'm just going to write as much of an update as I can in that time.

We've had two full weeks of class already, and I have pages and pages and pages of notes to peruse and distill and compile. I do intend to pass on a little of what I learn here to my remote audience, but that will not happen in the next few minutes.

We have two hours a week of language study included in our class schedule, but we had to fill the first couple weeks of allotted language time with improvised lesson plans while we waited to get licensing to use Rosetta Stone for our whole class. The first Monday, Martina taught an hour lesson, basically going over uses, spellings, and pronunciations of key words and phrases in French. On Thursday, the plan was for her to expand on that for another hour. Unfortunately, she'd also committed to taking a few students into town to buy some essentials during the time preceding class, and she called Magdy to tell him she wouldn't be back in time to teach. So I found myself 5 minutes before class in front of all my peers preparing to teach them to speak French. I had no lesson plan, and no clear ideas for what would be a helpful curriculum, so I asked everyone what they would like to learn how to say.

By the time Martina entered the classroom, the center of the board featured the ever-useful language-learning staple question "Where is your cow?" along with the many possible answers: "here," "there," and "everywhere." Over the course of the lesson, my students filled their notebooks with the phrases "chocolate bear," "wooden rabbit," "rabbit in the woods/in the forest," "unicorn," "unicorn of the sea" (because Kevin asked how to say narwhal in French, and I didn't know), the numbers from one to ten as well as sixteen, the colors in masculine and feminine, both the French and the Swiss manners of saying "one-hundred and eighty," and "Do you think you could, perchance, possibly repeat that, if you please?"
I really tried to work with everyone on their pronunciation. I had everyone clear the phlegm out of their throats for 3 full seconds to practice the french R sound. The numbers five through ten, I told them, were pronounced "sank, cease, set, wheat, 'nuff, and like cease but with a d." Then, I explained that the end of the word "quatre" was suppose to sound like skidding your bike tires on a gravel road. Martina was horrified at what I was doing to her language.

Some of my classmates mentioned later that my French lesson was a highlight of week 1 at YWAM. I felt that way, too. I doubt the effectiveness of my methods in that particular instance, as I was basically translating unordered and thematically unrelated tripe of which it would be impossible to remember much, but I found that I really enjoy teaching. Having enthusiastic students who asked me to translate useless phrases was certainly helpful to the experience, but I think I've discovered a legitimate passion.

On our first Tuesday night here, we had Swiss Night, which meant that dinner was cheese fondue and dessert was chocolate fondue. This was to be the first of many meals that Matt thought was lacking in meat. The following week, we had cheese soup, served with bread. It's not the same as fondue; it's way more delicious, according to no one but me. All the food here has been delicious, down to the sandwiches inside our backpacks that get smashed when we snowboard.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why I came to YWAM Lausanne

            School wasn’t ever too great for me. For most of my teenage years, I held firmly to the belief that school wouldn’t ever help me to get anywhere. When I was 13, I started playing bass guitar because I wanted to be a rock star, and I didn’t need school for that. When I was 14, I started playing rugby, and I decided that here was a second thing I’d like to do professionally that didn’t require an education. When I was 15, I thought maybe I’d just buy a chemistry set and screw around with it for a living. Once I started my junior year of high school, it seemed equally plausible that I’d like to just think and talk about formative events in human history for the rest of my life.
            There was a girl I dated through most of high school, and her view was that I was too smart not to go to college. As it happens, we broke up in the spring of my senior year, about when I needed to finalize all of my college applications. Firstly, this made moot the point of looking at schools where we could be near each other, which included all the schools I’d bothered to visit. Secondly, it put me in an emotional state where I didn’t really have interest in pushing through the mundane and stressful portions of the application process. Thirdly, I was concurrently enrolled through PSEO in a college literature course during my final semester of high school classes, and suffice it to say that I wasn’t faring well. This all came together as a pretty strong case for not bothering to complete any of my applications.
            Once June rolled around, I was free at last from the tyranny of compulsory education, but was also far from realizing any of my above-education dreams. I hadn’t been disciplined in practicing my instruments to anywhere near virtuosity and had only had short stints in a couple musical collaborations without writing an original song. Since the beginning of my rugby career, I had sprained both ankles pretty seriously as well as one knee, and I didn’t even play the sport during my final year. I was nowhere close to becoming a mad scientist, and Historian is the biggest, most daunting archive binge of a career conceivable. So, I kept working at Davanni’s Pizza and Hot Hoagies and went Frisbee golfing in my spare time, as well as occasionally sledding down a ski hill at 3 a.m.
            By the Fall of 2008, I was jobless and ready to maybe try school again because working in pizza shops sucks. I enrolled at the local community college and took Music Theory and Jazz History classes. I was late to class pretty much every day and didn’t do half the homework. I didn’t take any classes in the spring. In the summer of ’09, I thought I’d take a whack at a full-semester-in-5-weeks Spanish course, and that went alright, so I shifted my focus of study and took Spanish in the Fall along with choir, logic, and a class about mythology and world religions. At some point, I took Middle East Politics, which was essentially a class about the history of the Arab-Israeli Conflict and turned out to be much more intensive and less oriented towards political theory than I’d either anticipated or desired. Finally, I spent most of one semester on 3 different Psychology classes at once before deciding that school still wasn’t the way for me to do anything interesting or useful in the world.
            That second Fall semester, when I was studying Spanish, logic, and mythology, I attended the Missions Festival at Grace Church in Eden Prairie. There, I met a couple of people whose names and faces I forget who were, at the time, staff at YWAM Lausanne. When they told me about the Snowboarding DTS in French-speaking Switzerland, I was immediately on board… except that I was already committed to a short-term missions trip to Kenya the second and third weeks of January. A year later, as I was giving up on the case study I was supposed to be writing for Psychology of Lifespan Development, I again thought of how nice it would be to go to Switzerland in January, and then I thought about how much money was not in my bank account. Nope.
            However, I did go somewhere in January: Minneapolis. I had negotiated a somewhat reliable stream of income for myself working as a valet the last few months of 2010, and felt confident enough to move out of my parents’ house to live in a house full of guys in January 2011. I made a budget and stuck to it. I was paying rent and buying food and setting aside a pile of savings for future expenses.
            During my residency there, I once again changed employers. The transitional period and an impromptu Spring Break snowboard trip left me having to rebuild my savings pile near the middle of the year. Comparing income to expenses and checking the skyrocketing midyear CHF exchange rates, it seemed completely out of the question that I could finance the trip this year, either. I stopped thinking about it, and thought maybe in my new place with my new job and my new church, I could just settle in for a while until I decide what to do next.
            A few months later, I got a raise. Following not too far behind that, the Central Bank of Switzerland made a decision to link their currency’s value to that of the plummeting Euro in order to maintain a semblance of order in international trade. Suddenly, a much smaller stretch was needed to have all the money required by January.
            It still required a stretch, though, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go for it. There’s always next year, right? After all, if I had an extra year to save, I could set aside a much bigger pile of cash to have some left over at the end of my trip. I could add some value to my Roth IRA for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 instead of spending all my available investment capital. I could get more job experience learning useful things about home repair and have more time to settle in to my new relationships with my new church community.
            I sat on the fence for months. It seemed more prudent to wait. Proverbs is all about being prudent, isn’t it? It was hard to be sure, but I didn’t think God would want me to lunge recklessly towards something I’d wanted for a few years just because I was getting impatient with the “perfect timing.” I could handle waiting and saving for another year; life was going well. Well, it was going alright. I mean, it was good until I started thinking about too many obligations and responsibilities at one time and became petrified in anxiety.
            I intend to fully engage things. I’m not always good at it, and sometimes there are too many things competing for my full engagement, but I am always theoretically in favor of fully engaging worthy pursuits. Here’s the thing, though: “worthy pursuit” has to be narrowed down further every time I have two competing interests. It’s natural selection applied to life decisions, with the end result hopefully yielding a perfect set of criteria so that I’m sure that I’m making the perfect set of decisions. After all, the word “decision” is just the word “incision” with a different prefix: it means “to cut off” rather than “to cut in.” Fully severing possibilities is like amputating body parts: you’d better be sure, ‘cuz they don’t grow back.
            So, Jesus is a worthy pursuit. Jesus and wisdom and maturity and security. Yeah, that’s a good list. So what else needs to be cut out? Everything. Feeding myself and going to bed on time and enjoying friendships and being invited to things and having to be ready to work the next day. Remaining functional was taking up all the time I wanted to spend on being alive.
Remaining functional isn’t something I would call a worthy pursuit, but I would call it necessary. Therein lies the problem. Do I decise my own means of providing for myself because it prevents me from relying on provision from above, or do I consider that the means I’ve been given to attend to myself are in fact my provision from above? Do I do what is necessary or what is essential?
I think the essential holds more weight than the necessary. The essential is a need, while the necessary is a comfort. Thirst kills a lot more quickly than hunger.
At the end of it, I don’t think I was prudent about my decision. I was frustrated, and I wanted to abandon everything ineffective and distracting and time-consuming and just leave. I didn’t evaluate a perfect set of criteria as such when I decided to come to Switzerland; I just acted out of desperation and suffocation. I wasn’t sure if my malcontentness and the seeming exact response to it on the YWAM Lausanne brochure was significant or not, so I prayed that Jesus wouldn’t let me come here if I was being stupid. But He did.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Evening

Local time: 22:54

The days here are long and full. I'm really surprised that it's only been 5 days at the YWAM base here, and only 10 hours past a week since I left Minnesota.

Thursday was arrival day, and the following three days were introduction and orientation. There are 12 students and 4 staff in my Discipleship Training School, representing 9 different nationalities. Magdy, the school leader, is from Egypt, and apparently well known and highly regarded throughout YWAM's many locations. He looks like a young Saddam Hussein. He's made multiple allusions to having spent "the past 50 years" doing things, but I think that's counting from birth, not from the start of his time with YWAM.
Viktoria, from Sweden, was going to attend a completely different YWAM school in Finland, but that program was rather suddenly cancelled due to lack of enrollment. I think she signed up to come here on January 1st, 4 days before arrival day. Her coworker just happened to have an extra snowboard she could take for 5 months.
Kevin is from Florida. He enlisted in the Army at 19, and spent two and a half years in South Korea followed by a year training Iraqi police. He bought a GoPro video camera and wants to edit together a bunch of awesome snowboarding footage. He showed me a video he shot of himself kite-surfing, and I'll probably be really excited about kite sports for at least a week.
Tabea is from the German-speaking part of Switzerland. She's 16, making her the youngest person in our class and the second-youngest person enrolled in the classes on our base. Apparently, because most of Europe's educational systems are much more focused on specialization, finishing secondary education at 15 and taking a gap year to learn a language or whatever is pretty common.
Luke is from Canada. Everyone else thinks his speech sounds the same as us Americans (the way the grammar collides in this sentence makes me cringe), but I know he doesn't. His speech is a wealth of tally-markable words. He'll finish (or interject) a sentence with a "Right?" that is not a question more often than the expected "Eh," but will at times change it up with a random and unnecessary "Yo." He used to play guitar and sing in a hardcore band, but left partly to come here and partly because he wanted to do more ambient stuff. Back home, he works for a community program to integrate mentally- and behaviorally-challenged teenagers with the rest of their peers, and currently holds the top spot on my Amusing Anecdotes list:
"I work with kids that have all sorts of behavioral issues, and sometimes we'll be in the swimming pool and a guy will decide 'Hey, I think it would be a good idea to drop my trunks and run to the library right now' and they're like 15, and I have to say 'No, it would not be.' When I applied for the job, I was sort of thinking about when Jesus said 'Whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for me,' but then I find myself wrestling a naked kid in the library and wondering how this possibly relates."
Leah is from the UK. She calls grenadine "squash" and refers to pickled cucumbers as "gurkens." No one thinks she sounds like the Americans, except when she puts on a phony accent, at which point she is quickly accosted by five apparently torturous British accents. Previous to coming here, she worked five different jobs concurrently "extremely part time," though she later amended her statement to specify that she worked 6 at once for two weeks during that period. She doesn't like tea, even though she's British. Apparently, I was the last one to point that out to her.
Logan is from Forest Lake, MN. He's tall enough that he looks tall from far away when there's no one next to him, but not tall enough that I have to look into the sky to hold a conversation. I'm gonna guess 6'4" and ask him tomorrow. He took a gap year after high school, applied to the U of M for this past fall, and then deferred his application for another year. He might hate school as much as I do.
Nienke is Dutch and sounds like a Dutch person trying to speak with a British accent. She's at least as proficient in English as everyone in the Amsterdam airport. She's been studying architecture in hopes of entering the burgeoning field of unemployment. She takes notes feverishly and engages a lot in class, which I'm guessing comes from a "real school" mindset. She told me that you can't get Gouda cheese in the Netherlands if you pronounce it like that.
William is from the former British Commonwealth. I guess he went to school in Melbourne for an unspecified number of years, but he has said he's from Canada, and Skyping with his parents is easy because they're only one time zone away, in England. When he arrived, a Kiwi staffperson told him he didn't have a normal Aussie accent. He really holds a high regard for waking up in time for "brekkie," even though there are no gurkens involved. He turned 18 in December, and he wants to fly helicopters in the Australian Air Force, I think, but he "got nervous" during one of the interview phases and was told to go out and get life experience and reapply in a year. He's been generous with the chocolate he bought at the Swiss grocery store down the street.
Rachael is the only female Canadian. She lived in a couple of places growing up, so her only distinguishable accent is mumble and she doesn't say any weird things except stuff like "from A to Zed." She's family friends with one of the people on permanent staff here, but it's her first time working with YWAM.
Matt is the third Minnesotan, from Plymouth. He's played hockey all his life and went to the University of Nebraska for three semesters before coming here. He and some of the other guys have spent free time lifting weights. I might join them some day.
Ah Young is from South Korea. If you've been keeping track, that means that all the girls are of different nationalities and all the guys are native English speakers. Ah Young wanted to come to DTS at the Kona, Hawaii base a year ago, but for whatever reason wasn't able to, so she ended up being here now. Her home church back in Korea actually doesn't believe in parachurch organizations, or whatever you wanna call YWAM, and she was discouraged from enrolling. However, she spent the last semester studying in Toulouse, so she was only a train ride away from here and planes away from criticism.
Thomas is Swiss German, born near Zurich. He has torn the ACL in his right knee twice (though technically it wasn't his ACL the second time). And of course I kicked him in that knee the other day because I was pretending to be a kangaroo. I mean, I didn't kick him super hard, but he only had surgery like 2 months ago. He was a good sport about it. He's a very interactive and talkative guy, and it's cool to have him on staff.
Martina is the cousin of Thomas and the daughter of Markus, the base leader. She reminds me of Katrina because she loves Jesus and is good at everything. She is the only female staffperson for our class, and speaks Swiss German, High German, French, and English. Magdy has said that English is her worst language, and yet she's still good enough to discuss deep spiritual matters with people and to be married to a Canadian.
Jon is the other guy on staff for our class. He is from British Columbia and likes the Vancouver Canucks, which is a point of contention between him and Matt. I met him and Martina's husband Jordan on arrival day and thought they were brothers because they were both from "near Vancouver," both mentioned the Canucks playing the Wild, and are both tall and lanky, with similar teeth. Jon is the leader of the Maintenance Team with myself and Matt and stays in the room across the hall from our three-bunkbed hovel.

Since all my experiences for the next 5 months will include these people, you may want to read over this post repeatedly, to get to know them. Form a picture in your minds.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Missed Two Trains and Bought a Dude Lunch

First Day, Part 2:
When I arrived in Paris, I was carrying appreciable quantities in four different currencies. When I left, I had $5 and 0 Euros.

It's curious. I went to a membership class for The Rock a few months ago. I grabbed the reading materials they offered, intending to really delve into the philosophy of the GCC movement and The Rock in particular, and hoping to become convinced of its Biblical basis, before pledging to become a member. Like all things I grab and intend to read, they ended up in the living room, in the kitchen, on my desk, in my car, on the floor, next to my bed, in my backpack that spent equal time in all these places, and generally distributed about my residence in a similar fashion to everything else I own, unread.
I really do intend to read things. If I believed it to be possible, I would read just about every book I've ever heard of. As it stands, my list of "half-reads to finish sometime" has stopped growing, because I'm focusing on building up my "grab hard copies at garage sales and never read" list. I guess I have trouble getting started on things, but only because I realized that I have trouble finishing things, and so I don't want to make the commitment. I digress. I feel like every paragraph should end with "I digress," every time I speak.
For convenience and economy, my guitar became my one carry-on item. This meant, therefore, that I had to find away to stuff all my traveling reading materials and snacks into the pockets of my jacket and the narrow front pouch on my guitar case. It so happens that, among the free reading materials I received at the membership class, there was one rather small and narrow book, just under 100 pages, which was exactly the right size to squeeze in on top of my guitar. So, I ended up with Randy Alcorn's "The Treasure Principle" among my only reading material for my travels.

Needless to say, I have read it in its entirety (though I admit I skimmed over the "31 Questions to Ask Yourself" without considering them all in depth, because that seemed like too many questions to answer right in a row.) It is different. It's interesting. It's inspiring. It makes sense in the perfect way. Like the way where I'm sure I'll be ridiculed if someone finds out I believe it.

There are too many good points in this little book for me to adequately sum it all up. One of them concerns the meaning of Matthew 6:21: "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Where you put your money shows what you consider important, but it is also the case that when you put money into something, it becomes important to you. We want to protect our investment and to see something come of it.
Another principle is "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems." The author shares the story of a man rushing to find John Wesley with distressing news: Wesley's house had burned down. His response, paraphrased, is "That wasn't mine anyway; God granted me its use. Now, it's one less thing for me to worry about."

Anyway, this book really made an impression on me, and then I got off the plane.
Weeks ago, I found the cheapest ticket I could find for a bullet train to take me from Paris to Geneva and ordered it online. There was another train on the same itinerary an hour earlier and an hour later, but for some reason the 11:11 train was a better deal, so I booked it. Today, as my plane landed at 9:30 at the other end of an hour-long bus ride from the train station, I was left with very little time to get off and clear customs. Arriving at Gare de Lyon at 11:40 and having to wait in line for an open booth, I asked if I could change my expired ticket to the next one at 12:11 (this was expressly in the terms of my reservation.) Of course, the already-more-expensive midday train also seemed to not have a youth ticket pricing option, meaning I had to put a balance on my credit card that took it from "Hm, I though European rail transport was supposed to be relatively inexpensive..." to "Uh, can I just get a 200-mile taxi ride?" prices. At 12:09, with a fresh ticket in hand, I attempt to put on my backpack, pick up my snowboard, guitar, and unreasonably-heavy jacket with books in its pockets, and run out onto the platform to find my train.
I learned something: 2 minutes is not enough time to both waddle around carrying too much stuff and be unsure of where exactly you're even headed. I never even saw my train on the platform. It left without me.
So I waddled back to the booth, swung my snowboard through the elaborate maze they use to keep people orderly, and asked to exchange my ticket for the next one, in three hours. Great, I miss a train, pay more to miss a second train, and now my trip is delayed by 4 hours, I have no way to contact the person who is supposed to pick me up and shelter me for the night, and I have to carry all this crap around Paris.

As I'm walking towards the entrance of the station with my new ticket in hand, wondering what I'm gonna do until 3:11, a man approaches me. I'm cautious but polite. He needs money to buy baby formula for his daughter. That seems like a reasonably achievable thing to do with God's money to bless someone in need. "Sure," I say, "I was going to try to find somewhere to eat out here, anyway. Let's grab some lunch and then we'll get the formula."
"Oh, thank you, brother! May God bless you, brother! Here, let me carry those for you. You're tired."
You know, he's right. I am tired. I just met this guy and he's trying to get money from me; I don't know how honest he is... but my snowboard and guitar are too heavy and awkward to carry for him to able to steal them.

We set my stuff down outside a little Greek deli or whatever and go in to order. Again, my stuff is too heavy for someone to just run by and grab it, and it's within my line of sight. I'll only be inside for 30 seconds, anyway. We pick a table out front on the sidewalk and sit down. When our food gets brought out, he runs inside to wash his hands before the meal, then comes back out to ask me if I'd like to do the same. We've been together for almost 10 minutes now, so I feel confident enough to leave my stuff with him because it will take me less time the wash my hands than it would take him to put on my backpack. Plus, I'm buying him lunch. I wouldn't steal a guy's stuff until after lunch.

As we eat, I find out a lot about this guy. He's from Serbia in the former Yugoslavia. He's 23 years old and has been married 5 years. He and his wife have 2 daughters: Angelica, age 3, and Alexandra, nearly 1, who needs the formula. When he told me "God Bless you," he meant it: Yugoslavia is a strongly Catholic country, and this guy has what seems to be genuine reverence and faith for Jesus. He told me about his siblings, about his mother that died when he was 13, about his alcoholic father who never took care of his kids. He came to France four years ago to try to make better money for the family he was starting. He's worked in landscaping and got some sort of certification or license to do that kind of work, but he's been unemployed for 6 months and he has to beg for money in the frequented places of Paris. I ask him his name, and I don't quite get it. He repeats it. It sounds like halfway between "John" and "Dio." It's just a one-syllable word with three diphthongs in it. I ask him to spell it for me. He says he's illiterate.
I tell him about myself, too. It was -5 Celsius where I'm from when I left. I have three siblings. I'm going to Switzerland to study evangelism. I'm in the middle of a book about stewardship of God's money. I tell him I've missed two trains in a row this morning so that I could buy him lunch, and now I'm here until 3 o'clock. He says that God set it up that way. I agree.

We were done eating, but it wasn't even 1. I had some time to kill. We walked over to a courtyard made of cobblestones and sat down and talked. We grabbed some coffee. He told me about some other needs he had besides the formula. He told me he lives in a trailer park at the end of the D line of the RER. His trailer is heated by gas, and he was almost out. He said it cost 50 euros for 2 weeks' worth.

Every time I start to trust someone who is drastically less privileged than I am, I wonder if I'm naif. Every time I give someone money, I wonder if they're taking advantage of me. Cynically, I could analyze the strategy that lines up with what he is doing, and that is everything that he should do.
Step 1: Go up to people at random and ask them for a small charity for a family in need.
Step 2: If they are charitable, try to build a rapport with them so that they trust and like you. Take as much time as they'll give you.
Step 3: Ask them to help you out with more substantial sums of money. Get as much as they will give you.

My father taught me something while I was growing up that I always thought was somewhere in the Bible. I did a search, and found Matthew 5:42: "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you."
Not wanting to take it out of context, I looked at the verses preceding it as well as the notes on that passage in my study Bible.
"But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you."
I don't know what to make of this verse and this passage. There aren't quantifiers. Give to him who asks of you... All that he asks? All you can afford? Up to a set amount? Whatever number you see first when you close your eyes and spin and look up?
The theme connecting these verses seems to be "People are going to wrong you and take advantage of you, and if you are my servants, you will let them."
This is heavy.

I gave this guy money. I gave this guy all the money I felt like I could spare, but I stopped giving before he stopped asking.

Doctrinally (which means that it's supposed to be what's true but it doesn't make sense to me), I believe that God will provide for my needs, despite and above my naive, good-hearted mistakes. He put me in that situation when He could just as easily made my plane land early so I wouldn't have run into Djoh at all. Also, I happened to have a wad of cash on me that I had designated several months ago as "to be used for God's purposes" without knowing what that was supposed to be. And, of course the book I was reading. If I wasn't supposed to give this guy money, I don't know what I was supposed to learn in this circumstance.

Randy Alcorn's book makes the point that when we give money away (and this applies to anything,) we relinquish control of it. It's humility to give money to someone out of obedience to God when you have no idea if they're telling you the truth. But really, it's God's problem, if it's His money you're giving to the "wrong person," and it's His concern if that money leaves His child (you) in need, and He's big enough to handle both. We're small enough to trust and obey Him without questioning, arguing, justifying, or worrying. I believe God rewards faith and faithfulness in this.

I'm sure there are people who will read this who will call me an idiot and a fool. And, in some ways, I'm the worst kind.

Fool Type 1: Reckless, Thoughtless, Undisciplined Fool
I said above that I gave him as much as I felt I could afford. I use the word "felt" intentionally to indicate that I didn't really calculate what I could afford. This entire trip's budget is a little fuzzy, actually. In hard numbers with regular math, I could probably not have afforded to buy myself lunch in Paris, let alone lunch for this guy along with his groceries and utilities. I should have just eaten the stuff I had in my jacket pockets. I was already set up to rely on God's provision a little bit just to make it all come together, anyway. Now, my insufficient funds are even more not-$10,000. But that's what you're supposed to do: you're supposed to give. Not only have I heard countless stories of mysterious funds appearing for people who were faithful in giving, but it's in Malachi 3:10 "put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need."

Fool Type 2: Selfish, Faithless, Disobedient Fool
As I sort of left unresolved up there, when do I stop giving? I was willing to give a little. Baby formula; whatever. I was willing to buy him lunch, too. Yeah, that's not too bad. And, well, I had some Euros that weren't going to be useful to me once I entered Switzerland, so he would get better use out of them than I would. Also, the aforementioned wad of God cash. I would've felt guilty if I'd kept that with me and ended up spending it on myself. Yeah, so that should be enough for the gas to heat his home.
It felt good to unload some of the cash in my wallet. Then, he asked for something else, and I started to feel the sacrifice a little bit. I started to go "Hey, this is kinda a lot of money." I started to get a little more nervous. I went to the exchange booth and traded Dollars for Euros. Then I was out of cash besides Swiss Francs and Pounds, and he asked again. Well, I got the Swiss Francs for Switzerland. I'm gonna need those for me. And  I probably wasn't going to cross the Channel just so I could get my money's worth out of 40 Pounds... oh, but they're old pounds, so the french currency changer doesn't want them. Oh, well, here are a few more dollars, cuz you can trade those in. But these Swiss Francs are mine.
He asked me to just get some more Euros out of the ATM. He knew I could; I knew I could. I didn't want to. I was nervous about getting surcharges, and I didn't want to deplete my store anymore.
What I currently have in my wallet, in Swiss Francs, is probably more than the total amount of money I gave him. I could have given it to him, and it would have been enough for him to get groceries for the week and fix (or upgrade) his trailer, he thought. But no. I'd decided that I'd helped him enough for one day at the beginning of 5 months of me not earning any money.
Sure, the rest of what I'd had was in currencies that aren't pertinent to my situation, but it's still money. I still could have traded it just like he did or saved it for when I went to the respective countries. Why did I trust God enough that he would be faithful to replenish the half of my cash that was less immediately useful to me but not the other half? I didn't really give til it hurt and then give some more. I more gave til it was uncomfortable and then got nervous and said "Ok, this has to stop some time, and it's about now."

At the end of every streak of success, there's a failure. At both ends. I have a tendency to focus on failures, both my own and others. But then I forget about the successes!
Djoh's daughter can have formula to drink tonight. That's awesome! He got lunch today. Honestly, I don't know if he bought a tank of gas to heat his trailer. If he did, Praise Jesus for putting that together! If he didn't, I was at least able to be unselfish for a while.

I have his phone number, so we can meet up at the end of May when I'm on my way back through Paris. In the meantime, pray for him and his family.

Beginning

Part 1:
Local time: 20:51

I've been in the same clothes for 34.5 hours. During that time I've slept for a total of what can't be more than 4 hours on 3 different vehicles. One thing I learned on my trans-Atlantic flight is that you're never going to find a comfortable sleeping position. You have to fall asleep first, and then your body will relax and fall into the best way to slump or lay or lean in your seat. I woke up in positions that I didn't realize were ideal until I moved, at which time I immediately regretted it.

There is much to be said, but first, I am going to shower.