Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Food Post

Ottawa has some GREAT places to buy food. In the market, there are stands full of fresh berries and vegetables grown on local farms. There are tables full of all things maple. There are adorable French bakeries and shops devoted to nothing but cheese.

However, none of these compare to the Italian grocery store I found yesterday. Imagine -- a store with nothing but floor to ceiling pastas, pasta sauces, olives, cheeses, desserts, espresso beans, aaaahhh!! It was sensory overload. I walked through every aisle. I bought fresh fettucini, roasted red pepper sauce, a wedge of fresh parmesean, a tub of hand-selected olives from the olive bar (squeal!), a six-pack of Pelligrino, and, best of all, a box of mini chocolate chip biscotti. After I came home and cooked the food, I brewed some coffee and indulged in about half the box.


I am already hungry for dinner. I think I will stop at the hot dog stand on my way home. This isn't just any hot dog stand. The lady grills them while you wait, and she has about 7 jars full of different toppings. My new fave topping: dill pickles.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Busy Weekend

My first full weekend in Ottawa consisted of the following:

A bike ride that accidentally went too far and ended up being about 20k long. Ouch. All I wanted to do was bike along the canal. I got to a stopping point, decided I wasn't tired and made the fateful decision to take another trail along the Ottawa River. By the time I decided I was tired -- I had to bike all the way back. Uphill. God bless the person who decided to open up a hamburger stand on the bike trail. It made a nice stopping point about 3/4 of the way through.

A 2k walk to the Museum of Civilization on Saturday after the 3 hour bike ride, then a tour of the Canadian history exhibits from Vikings to Pierre Trudeau.

A worship service at the First Baptist Church across the street from my hotel where I unexpectedly ran into someone I knew -- a friend from work who was part of the Stanley Cup watching party last week.

A walk to the War Museum and a tour through Canadian conflicts from the Boer War to the trenches of WWI (I actually walked in a trench--Ottawa museums are so interactive!!), WWII, Korea, the Cold War and peacekeeping missions of the 90s and present.

An unexpected walk through the Aboriginal People's festival in front of the War Museum. Native Canadians are known here as Aboriginals, First Peoples, and sometimes Mohawks. They were wearing some of the biggest feathered headdresses I have ever seen and I got to see part of a dance and hear the drums.

Groundhog sightings: 2
Chipmunk sightings: 1

Thank you Gator for asking follow-up questions. This blog is intended to be interactive. To answer your question about the weather, it's been sunny and very refreshingly temperate with highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s. In other words, the weather is ideal.

I LOVE Ottawa and am looking forward to showing my visitors around in the next two weeks!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Things I Like in Ottawa: The National Gallery

This was my view last night from the beautiful National Gallery of Canada.  I loved the museum. It was a very interestingly-designed building containing all different types of art - modern, classic, experimental, and with a special collection of Italian art on loan. But the best part was sitting outside at the museum's cafe with this view of the river and the back of the Parliament building. The weather was perfect, the birds were chirping, and the atmosphere was so peaceful.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I've Landed


Day 1:

I've arrived in Ottawa. Day 1 of new travels is always the hardest because you're in a completely new place and don't know where anything is, don't know a single person, and basically feel like a fish out of water. I spent the afternoon trying to get settled in my hotel and learning my new surroundings.

The flight was NOT what I was expecting as far as transit from one major capital city to that of its closest ally. There wasn't even a jet bridge to get on the plane so we had to walk down metal steps then back up more steps to actually get on board. The plane was the same size as the ones that fly from Dallas to San Angelo. The flight took about as long too -- a little under 2 hours.

The Ottawa airport was tiny too! Very clean and modern looking, but definitely small. I got new Canadian money from an ATM then got a taxi to take me to the hotel.

The drive from the airport to my hotel was really pretty. We drove along the Rideau Canal and I saw lots of people out on bikes and kayaks. I unpacked all my things then went for a walk. I found the national art museum (love!! I can't wait to go through) and the Beaux Arts neighborhood where there were a LOT of really neat, different restaurants with sidewalk seating. I found one that looked good and had a sandwich, fries and raspberry wheat beer.

Now I'm about to walk to the grocery store and will probably have an early night.

Bye from Canada!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wild and Precious is Going International!

We'll be brining you blog postings from our neighbor to the north! And I don't mean Oklahoma!

Scarlett is going to be in the land of maple leaves and Mounties for 5 weeks and there's no WAY she would leave Scout behind on a trip this major. They have big plans for the Ottawa Invasion.

Watch this space for more on the Canadian adventures of Scarlett and Scout.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Of China and Church - Easter Reflections

{Scarlett here}

Yesterday I read this article in the New York Times. It's about how members of a Christian church in China were detained for trying to hold an Easter service in a public square.

This breaks my heart. I can't imagine not being able to go to church on Easter Sunday, the most special of all Sundays, and I am humbled and worried to know that Christians on the other side of the world are probably still in jail for exercising a right that I often take for granted. It takes a lot of courage to believe in your Savior so much that you will willingly risk jail time to worship Him.

After reading this, I started to think of how lucky I am to be able to worship freely, and how sad I would be if I would ever have to miss worship on Easter Sunday. Then I remembered that one year I had. It was the Easter I spent in China.

For most people around me that day, it was an ordinary Sunday, and a work day for me. The season had changed; they always seemed to change so quickly and abruptly in China. One day it was bleak and cold, and the next day winds swept through bringing lots of pollen and dirt flying through the air and all of a sudden, lime green leaves began to sprout on the trees. I was teaching English at a private language school and the weekends were my busiest days.  The school administrator marked the occasion by bringing in a box of hot cross buns from the bakery to put in the teacher's lounge. I appreciated the gesture, but was really bummed that I was the only one out of all of my coworkers and friends who attached any religious significance to the day, and who mourned not being able to be in church. I heard that there was actually a Christian church in the Chinese city where I lived, but it was controlled by the Communist party. Even if I had Sundays off, I don't think I would have been comfortable worshiping there. (The reason Christianity is suppressed in China is because nothing is supposed to be higher than the Party.)

I was in China for 7 months, which is the longest stretch I've ever gone without ever going to church. It's interesting to try to figure out what being a Christian means in an environment like that when for all of your life, being a Christian has meant, if nothing else, going to church on Sunday. I'd like to say that I figured out, in the absence of my usual Sunday morning ritual, how to extend extra compassion, grace and love to my fellow man to make up for not being able to worship as usual. That I filled that empty cup with other good things.

The truth is, throughout the latter months of my time in China, it was all I could do to hang on to any sense of inner peace for myself, much less try to extend it to others. I read my Daily Guideposts nightly, which I think was my saving grace. In some way, that book made me feel connected to my Christian brothers and sisters even if they were a world away. As far as being able to discuss religion with anyone, when my coworkers--the only ones in that whole country of 1.3 billion I could speak English with--asked me about my faith, if I prayed, if I went to church, I answered them honestly, and my responses were usually met with derision. They made fun of me for so many things, for being from Texas ("small-town redneck" and "backwards"), for being an American ("sheltered know nothings who try to run the whole world but don't know anything about it"), for refusing to disrespect George W. Bush even though I have no love lost for that man but will not insult my own president in a foreign country, for not denouncing the Iraq war because my friends were fighting in it ("imperialist"), for trying to acknowledge the 4th of July (they tore down the red white and blue sign I put on my door). For all of those insults, they really hurt my feelings. But when they tried to make fun of me for being a Christian, it didn't hurt my feelings in the slightest bit. It just made me pity them. I suppose that's something.

When you get right down to it, the blessing of going to church isn't so much in the polished pews, the dress clothes, or even the beautiful music and thought-provoking sermons, though I love all of that. It's getting to be around people who believe what you do, who support you in struggles and who share in your joys and who understand the deep peace of knowing that God still speaks. Not having that in China made something inside my heart shrivel just a little bit. My faith didn't dwindle, but my joy did. (Thankfully whatever shrank has since been repaired.)

Back to those brave people who only wanted the joy of worshiping freely with other Christians on Easter morning. They have my respect, my sympathy and my prayers. I hope that if they're in jail they will soon be released. I hope that the day will come soon when they can worship freely and in peace.

Blessings to you,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the soul

My friend Work Girl sent me this gem today. She wrote it awhile back and was generous enough to share it with us. I hope it will lift your spirits like it did mine.

"the soul" by Work Girl

There are some very simple things to understand about the soul.  It is the one thing that never perishes, it does not run along the same course as the body but has the freedom to grow younger and lighter as the body gets older.  Its spirits can rise even as physical form is assaulted, beaten down.  It is not fettered to common sense, physicality, fatigue, time.  The soul actually maneuvers, lives, breathes, acts outside of time.
Talk about a miracle.
Conversely, the soul can wither and fade even at a person's peak of physical health.  It can crack as the body gets stronger, break as the mind learns more and ages experientially.  The soul can be the transient opposite to any situation.
The soul proves God more than anything in nature ever will because it proves His image outside of time, space, culture, matter, tangible forces, scientific absolutes.  And yet it is an absolute and can be proved everytime someone smiles peacefully and contentedly as they lay dying of cancer or as an Olympic athlete fights depression and inadequacy after winning a gold medal.  There is nothing scientific to prove about that.  It is simply labeled something aloof and indeterminable like 'the human condition' and set aside as a silent component of life not to understand but certainly to marvel at abstractedly upon hearing a story of someone gaining hope as they begin to starve stranded in an imploded mine.
The soul lies completely unseen, intangible, and yet its form is known and felt every moment as though it were a ponderous giant sitting on our head, filling a room... or as though it were a panther, strong and stealthy, stalking the situation with intentional force.  Sometimes the soul behaves as a fairy fluttering through the forest shedding rainbow glitters, dusting everything with evanescent brilliance.
But here, we have to give visual, physical image to the soul in order to communicate it.  Because the actual soul is unseen.
But it is not unknown.
Even though neither the strongest microscope nor largest telescope could distinguish it under the most focused scrutiny.  Could you imagine if a scientist one day expounded the startling declaration that he had captured a soul and taken a picture of it? How much do you think that image would sell for?
A soul is beautiful without being seen.