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How to Not Look Like an American Tourist in Europe

My sister on a Belgian parkbench

I don’t really like being a tourist. At least I try to avoid the term, even if I am travelling and taking pictures of commonly visited sights in foreign countries. I guess the main thing is that I want to experience the culture more, speak the language, and get deeper than the superficial experience enjoyed by most other tourists. So when I went to Europe, I naturally wanted to try to blend in as much as I could. I did some preparation before the trip, but much of what I now know I discovered in my travels. If you are planning to go to Europe and you too want to avoid looking like a tourist, this post is for you! Here are some things that I’ve learned: Read More

Bucket List

A while back, I made a list of things I would like to do or accomplish before I kick the bucket. I don’t know how long ago this list was made, but today I happened upon it again, and was pleased to find that I could cross some things off. Here are the things I have done:

  • Go to Europe
  • Make deviled eggs
  • Learn to cook other things besides dessert and breakfast

Evidently this list predates my time at university, since I did all three of these during that time. And what about the rest of the list, you ask? Here it is, with a few additions I just made:

  • Make peanut butter
  • Play a harpsichord
  • Buy land
  • Translate the Bible into Nahuatl
  • Have a pet firebelly newt
  • Spend more than a week in Mexico
  • Go back to Texas (apparently a more recent addition)
  • Publish one or more books of poetry
  • Record another album of music (you can hear the first one here)
  • Attend an international Esperanto congress
  • Visit the Kennedy Space Center
  • Ride in a blimp

So there you go! I accomplished the first three in my first twenty years of existence, so if I continue at that rate, I should be done by the time I hit 100. An exciting life, eh? What sort of things are on your bucket list? Leave a comment!

Talented Presents

I had never thought about Amazon’s products being talented, but a couple of days ago I got an e-mail that proudly proclaimed

Kindle Fire HD: The #1 most gifted product on Amazon

That sounds a bit presumptuous to me. Of course they’re proud of their own creation, this electronic device with a name that sounds like it might burn down your house, but #1 most gifted? That’s even redundant. Take for example, this Swiss army knife. You may not be able to check Facebook with it, but if this isn’t a gifted product, I don’t know what is. Look at that thing: it has a ruler, scissors, saw, magnifying glass, screwdriver–that is one gifted product.

OK, enough of that. I come out from under my rock often enough to know that the Anglosphere has verbed the noun “gift,” and while I’m not against language change in the least, this one seems a wee bit absurd. There’s not even a lexical gap there! On Christmas Day, I’ll have you know, I do not gift presents, I give them. And believe it or not, this handy verb comes with a past participle, so I could even say that the Kindle Fire is the most given product on Amazon.

So if you want a gifted gift to gift for Christmas, just ask Amazon.

When Pigs Fly

I found this in one of my memo pads today. No context, no explanation, just this enigmatic sentence:

And hearkening the call of Xukuchotíren, the swine of Xukúxelen mounted up on their great wings, and were borne aloft on the wind to the succour of Dízefen.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of flying pigs, and it seems I worked them into the mythology of one of my fictional nations. Maybe I’ll finish the story someday!

Embarking on a New Adventure

It was almost unreal. The semester ended as usual: finishing finals and preparing papers, packing up my possessions. But the weird thing was that this time was the last. I found myself surrounded by friends congratulating and blessing me, and the next thing I knew was that I had donned a polyester gown and an indescribable hat, and was shaking the university president’s hand as he handed me a soon-not-to-be empty folder. Four years of formation had come and had gone, opportunities had been both lost and found, and all those moments were now frozen in immutable past.

But, as usual, there is still a future—that is to say, I must plan for one, since the possibility of its coming exists. And as I said goodbye to my native homeland in the rear-view mirror, it really hit me how much life is changing. I am now almost 700 miles away from the place I call home, beginning my first full-time job. I am living with a Christian family, and trying to accept their hospitality whilst not burdening them or being in the way. And while I have some friends here, I am faced with the daunting prospect of forming new relationships and getting to know the people here.

I still remember when I first went to college. I was young and unsure, with few pre-made friends, and it took me all of the first semester before I felt comfortable and “at home” (though I wouldn’t have admitted the latter). Now I am still young and unsure, again with few pre-made friends, and I do not expect to fit in immediately. I have been here all of three days, after all! But even though I be slightly discombobulated by a new routine, I feel an overwhelming sense of God’s love and providence in my life. It’s to do the Lord’s work that I moved here, and even though I don’t know the people here very well yet, they have been so hospitable and loving to me. It is such a blessing to have Christian family in this far-off place (especially in the workplace), and I suspect I will settle in much more rapidly than I did last time I was in this position. It’s a new adventure, to be sure!