Geneva

I was in Geneva (and a few neighboring French villages) for some meetings earlier this week. After the work was done, we had time to wander around this infamous city of neutrality and bureaucracy.

Our wanderings included a climb to the top of St. Pierre Cathedral, where the Protestant reformer John Calvin preached for nearly 30 years back in the 1500s. Calvin’s followers left their mark on the cathedral, stripping it of virtually all things aesthetic (with the exception of the stained glass windows), but it’s still an amazing sight today.

A good part of my faith journey was influenced by the lawyer-turned-theologian who preached in this cathedral, even if I’m no longer persuaded by the “five points of Calvinism” that were canonized by his followers at the Synod of Dort in the early 1600s. (I think the Calvinist notion of predestination depends on a far too individualistic reading of the scriptures.) But regardless, the older I get the more comfort I find in being part of a heritage that’s so much bigger than myself — John Calvin and all.

Anyway, here are some pictures.

Calvin’s cathedral

View of Geneva from the top of the cathedral

View of Geneva from the top of the cathedral

the Jet d’Eau and Mont Blanc

walking from Switzerland to France (ok, it wasn’t a long walk…)

By the way… should you ever find yourself in a restaurant where the menu is entirely in French, remember… just because the item “blah blah blah prosciutto blah blah blah” appears in the list of salads doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a salad with prosciutto on top. It may just be a giant plate full of nothing but… prosciutto.

Kabul from 30,000 feet (and a bangkok downpour)

This is why you don’t go outside and wander around before checking the weather.

Yesterday I was flying to Bangkok (where the picture was taken) when, just as our flight path was about to cross Afghanistan, I watched The Kite Runner. Great film. (Mind you, this is the sentiment of someone watching on a noisy 747 at two in the morning, but still.)

Having read the book, what surprised me was how closely the film followed the original story and, even more, how well it worked. The gist of both is that Amir, a young boy growing up in 1970s Afghanistan, betrays his best friend, only to be given a chance at redemption years later when he receives a phone call asking him to return to his homeland to rescue his friend’s son. (The fact that the Taliban is wreaking havoc at the time tends to complicate things.)

The cirumstances of Amir’s opportunity for redemption bear striking parallels to the circumstances of his earlier betrayal. The big choice the movie presents — the one Amir must make, not once but twice — is between standing up for the oppressed and looking the other way to save our own skin.

I don’t recall exactly what my mental picture of Afghanistan was before the book and the film. Still, both seem to capture really well the country that was zooming past 30,000 feet below. (Not much of a surprise, I suppose, since the author was born in Kabul.)

Also saw another film worth watching, called Lars and the Real Girl. It’s about how a tight-knit, mostly Christian community responds when Lars, who develops a crippling shyness after the death of his parents, begins introducing everyone to his girlfriend Bianca, who in reality is a life-sized doll. The town’s reaction is ultimately shaped by a simple question that can easily sound like a worn-out cliche (especially when it’s turned into a fashion commodity): “What would Jesus do?” The question is asked by the pastor of the tiny Methodist church that Lars attends (with Bianca, obviously). And it’s the community’s response that shapes the trajectory of Lars’ growth or healing or whatever you want to call it.

So… two films and 12 hours later, I was in Bangkok. Haven’t seen too much of the city yet. One of my few ventures outside the hotel was cut short by a storm that led me to spend most of the time under a shelter in a nearby park, standing next to a very bored looking security guard.

Some of the sights here can be disturbing… like pot-bellied, middle-aged Western men everywhere you look, arms draped around Thai girls barely in their twenties (if that). Or the homeless boy taking shelter from the rain, curled up on a sidewalk. He couldn’t have been more than twelve.

Maybe the most jarring thing is seeing it in a towering city that, if it weren’t for the obvious language barrier, could just as easily be Houston or LA. There’s never a shortage of good reasons to fight for a better world. (Assuming we choose not to look the other way, that is. Hang on, I think I watched a movie about that somewhere.)

On a semi-related note, I discovered the perfect antedote to jet lag. It’s called staying awake on the plane and sleeping for 15 hours the next day. Side effects include being awake at 12:30 the following morning and typing out random thoughts on your blog because you’re not the least bit tired.

boxes, boxes, and more . . . snow

Today was “drive to a sketchy warehouse on the east side of London and pick up our stuff” day. This involved sitting for two hours on the parking lot otherwise known as the London Orbital (aka the M25—not nearly as cool or spacey as it sounds), driving round and round an industrial complex looking for the only business not bothering to put its name on the front, and asking for directions at a place called the Rumbling Belly Cafe. (I didn’t eat there.)

But I drove away with 16 boxes of pots, pans, books, clothes, etc., so all turned out well. Who knew a few pieces of silverware and some familiar decorations could make a place feel more like home.

One more photo for now . . . and no, this is not a repeat from the last post. This is yesterday. What is going on??

easter sunday in the UK

I don’t think Easter is normally supposed to look like this here (this is our backyard—I mean, garden) . . .

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And this is the church we went to on Easter Sunday (it was once pastored by John Newton) . . .

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And this is one of the sights we saw in London over the weekend (a pub—still in operation—once frequented by the likes of William Shakespeare and, later, Charles Dickens).

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We are a long way from home . . .

I suppose it’s time I posted something . . .

Gone a long time without posting anything, but I figure gearing up for a transatlantic move is as good an excuse as any. As of this month, our new address ends with “UK” instead of “USA.”

Suffice it to say it’s been an eventful few weeks, starting with a cross-country drive from Seattle to Michigan before flying across the pond . . .

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They like snow in Snoqualmie . . .

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Snake River in Idaho

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One hundred miles of ice in Wyoming . . .

Then there were Nebraska and Iowa, but there’s not much to take a picture of there (unless you like corn).