Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Ends of the Earth.

Last week I was so far north in Sweden the sun never set.  It was warmer there than it is here, in Uganda, where I am nearly sitting on the equator.

I’ve been extremely blessed to be able to travel to the ends of the earth; I’ve seen and experienced a vast array of cultures and landscapes and cities and deserts and mountains.  No one will argue with me when I say that northern Sweden and southwestern Uganda are very different, and yet… beauty.
Sweden was one of the most naturally and geographically beautiful places I’ve ever been.  In Uganda it’s not quite so obvious, but it is there. It’s in the smiles, it’s in the sunrise, it’s in the giant storks that stand as sentinels in the trees surrounding our compound, in the fluttering of drying laundry in the breeze, and in the hearts of those who seek to bring hope and healing to the sick and injured. 
It is such an honor to get to do this.
~~

A few photos from the end of my time in Sweden. 
 
Sunset behind the bridge in Gothenburg
 
Gothenburg from the moat that surrounds the old city
 
The dahla horse factory
 
Where we stopped on the drive up to stick our feet in the Baltic Sea
 
At the end of the earth in north Sweden
 
This place was just stunning.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On American Hospitality

The French aren’t the most warm, welcoming people in the world; I don’t believe anyone would argue with that gross generalization, even the French themselves.  They just aren’t, and I knew that going there, but it was still a little bit surprising for this American who has lived in the more-than-welcoming and extremely warm climate (not just in temperature!) of Africa for the last five years.

The place I felt the most welcome? Among foreigners, of course. This is not surprising, but at the same time, it was a similar experience to that of short-term volunteers on the Africa Mercy - who often say they feel they can’t connect, that there’s an attitude among long-term crew that if you’re only here a short time, you’re not worth the investment of my time in relationship. 

Anyhow, one of my favorite memories of my time in France? The crazy Americans I found myself saying Yes to one day on a park bench and in the process made two lovely friends and sweet memories filled with laughter and joy.

Back to the beginning.

I was sitting on a park bench overlooking the beach one afternoon after class, studying my French notebook, when these two guys came and sat down next to me.  I smiled but returned to my book, when they started talking and it was obvious one of them was an American.  After a few minutes, he turned to me and asked in broken French if I would take their picture – to which I replied, in English, yes of course, where are you from? They were from New York and we chatted for a solid ten minutes when they asked if I wanted to go out to dinner with them that night. 

So here I interject – I’m not accustomed to saying yes to strange men in a foreign country, but these guys seemed really great, and I sensed the need to just say yes and not worry about silly things like sleep.  And really, if truth be told, I could probably take them both out if needed.  So I said yes.

And we went out to dinner that night and had So. Much. Fun.   
 
First we wandered around Bayone, which is beautiful.  We were headed to a restaurant that the guys knew the owner. We were not disappointed!
 
 
The wine they gave us was Antonio Banderas's label, and he gave us a picture, too. 
 
 
The guys (in the jean jacket and the aqua sweatshirt) can make friends with anyone at anytime, I think.  The others in this photo were random people at a different table that joined in the conversation and picture taking.  
 
 
 
Guy was really excited about the Antonio Banderas photo :) 
 
 
 
The food was incredible and so was the atmosphere.  I think just about every person that was in the restaurant was a part of our conversation at some time or another.
 
 
A couple days later we went out for ice cream together just before the guys left.  You can just see the park bench on the right of this photo where we met :) Thanks guys for being awesome, warm, welcoming Americans.  Also, let me know when you plan your next international travel adventure so I can insert myself on a park bench in the middle of it somewhere.  :)

It's interesting that in the days since then I've experienced the overwhelming graciousness of many foreigners, mostly Americans.  In talking with some non-American friends, one of the things they always say about visiting America is that the people are so great.  I'm glad we're known for that.

In other news, I'm heading off on the next adventure today; driving up to the north of Sweden, where the sun literally never sets, and will explore this gorgeous country a few more days. On Saturday I fly to England and Sunday I fly with a group of English doctors to Uganda to help with a pediatric anesthesia course for Mercy Ships. Will write more about that later - but expect quiet on the blog again for awhile. Thanks for your support, dear friends and family, couldn't do this without you!

~K

Monday, July 7, 2014

Pilgrim

Pilgrim: (n)

1. a person who journeys, especially a long distance, to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion.
2. a traveler or wanderer, especially in a foreign place.
3. an original settler in a region.
4. ( initial capital letter ) one of the band of Puritans who founded the colony of Plymouth, Mass., in 1620.


Okay, I’ll admit, when I think of pilgrim I think of this:

 

You know, Thanksgiving and Plymouth Rock and that age-old joke of If April showers bring May flowers what do Mayflowers bring?

Of course somewhere along the way I’ve learned about other types of pilgrims, such as those of the Muslim faith who participate in the pilgrimage to Mecca, and I guess I knew there were other pilgrimages as well… but I never gave it much thought.

Until a couple of weeks ago when I went to Lourdes – a catholic pilgrimage site in the Pyrenees of southwestern France, which I had never heard of, that hosts approximately six million pilgrims per year.
 
Six million pilgrims.

About 150 years ago an apparition (appearance, vision) of Mary, (the mother of Jesus) appeared to a young girl named Bernadette and was accompanied by some healings.  I won’t butcher the story so if you want to know more, visit Wikipedia: Lourdes or Official Site of Lourdes.

The church atop the cave.
What captured me was not the story.  Whether or not the story is true is not the point, at least of this particular blog post.  What captured me was the six million people who traverse the globe to come to this place and see, what is quite literally, rock and water. 

The cave
Six million people!  That’s ten times the population of Seattle, or more than the entire state of Minnesota.  That’s a lot of people coming to this tiny little town (15,000 residents) to see a cave.

Why??

I stood there, surrounded by thousands of people from all tribes and tongues and nations, and could feel within me the collective longing and desire of the human race represented there that day.  I wanted to climb into their heads, to understand, to ask about a million questions.  I wanted to understand. I still do.

Why would you travel thousands of miles and spend a life’s savings to walk past a cave?  What is it you believe? What is it that brought you here? What do you believe about this water – that it will heal you? Why? Why? Why?

I just don’t understand it.  At all.  And I don’t mean any disrespect to Catholics or those who participate in a pilgrimage.  Let the record show I love the people and appreciate and respect the faith even if I don’t always agree with it.  I just don’t understand.

What captured me was the longing I felt there, the genuine desire for a divine encounter, the astounding faith of the multitudes surrounding that place, filling the sanctuary, streaming out of the train station and through the shops selling candles and water jugs and crucifixes and rosaries.  I think they came from every corner because they believed they would encounter God there, in some way or another.  

And that is what makes tears pool in my eyes and my heart ache for those six million pilgrims – those who journey, especially a long distance, to some sacred place what they are searching for is Emmanuel, which means God With Us.

You don’t have to go anywhere to meet with God.  He is already with us.
 
~~
I didn’t visit Lourdes as a pilgrim in the sense of the first definition, rather we were more like religious tourists.   However, something in me really likes the second definition of pilgrim: a traveler or wanderer, especially in a foreign place.  That definition fits me perfectly. 

The beauty of Sweden

Greetings!

My time in France drew quickly to a close and the next page of the story began in Sweden! I've very much enjoyed my first visit (hopefully not the last!) to the country of many of my ancestors, enjoy a glimpse into the beauty of this country...

Hopefully more blogs to come today!

And, as Blogger tends to do, the photos loaded in completely a different order than I wanted them, but won't move easily... so they aren't in chronological order. sorry.

And as a final note - I think I've established that my dream location would look like Sweden, sound like France, feel like Hawaii, and be filled with the people of Africa. 

:)Krissy


The center of Jonkoping, the city in south central Sweden where my great great grandfather was born.

Jonkoping from atop the city park - wonder how different it looked in 1861 when my great great grandfather left here to go to America....

Gorgeous sunset over Lake Vatten.  It never gets totally dark here, either.

Just in case my heart needed some Africa... I found it in the middle of Sweden!

Pretty church in Jonkoping

in Stockholm, I love how this crane was painted like a giraffe! 

Stockholm is really beautiful. The buildings are simple and elegant, and the entire city sits on several islands with lots of boats and water.  Beautiful.

on Sunday we went to Hillsong Church Stockholm - my first Hillsong church experience, I certainly hope not my last as it was wonderful... while we were waiting we enjoyed peeks of sun in this park just across the street

I just love coffee.

we went to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm where they have this super old (think pirates of the Caribbean looking) ship in  great condition. It was fascinating, but the lighting was really dim so I didn't get very many good pictures...

The Nobel Museum

Stockholm from a boat tour