Photos from Germany and England

I took a trip recently, occasioned by dirt-cheap airfare and the fact that my parents were going already, to Germany and England. Awesomely, Jessica was also able to come! We spent a few days in Edelsfeld, Germany, the tiny town where my sister and her husband live. Then it was off to Cambridge, England, for a night with our friends Eric and Nicki. Eric is a student there, and we were able to have an inside look at some of Cambridge’s colleges. We spent the bulk of our time, however, in Oxford, where I’ve been accepted to read for a Linguistics degree this Autumn. We had the good fortune to stay with some friends from Schloss Mittersill who live in Oxford, and spent the days cruising around town, visiting colleges and pubs! Finally, we had a fun two days in London at the end of the trip before heading home. Here are two photo sets with pictures from the trip! As you can tell, on this trip I focused a lot on architecture, and enhancing the ancient buildings using HDR techniques. Enjoy!

Germany 3-2009

England 3-2009

Sabbatical Photos

It’s 3am in Orlando, and my brother David and I are getting in the car to drive it cross-country. We’re blasting a trail across in order to transport my parents’ vehicle and things to the new place in San Francisco. Before I go, I wanted to post some links to pictures from the last 5 months! They’re unedited, but enjoyable nonetheless, I hope.

In each case, simply click on the picture to access the photo set!

On tour with the New Frontiers (Dec 26 – Jan 12)

Schloss Mittersill, Austria (Jan 16 – Mar 4)

Oxford, UK (Mar 4 – Mar 8)

Tumaini Children’s Center, Nyeri, Kenya (Mar 8 – May 1)

Sabbatical’s End

Four and a half months after I stopped work and planned to engage in a sabbatical of sorts, I’m back. I flew in from Kenya a day ago, and am now in Orlando as I prepare to help my parents move cross-country to San Francisco.

In many ways, I’m still recovering from Kenya, and cannot yet distill that complex and amazing experience into a weblog entry. In the coming days, I hope to write a thematic series of articles on the various aspects of my time there, which might be a better way of doing justice to it. For now, it’s just hard to adjust to life in the US, and life away from my friends old and new at Tumaini.

I certainly have a lot to think about and process. Between 3 weeks of touring with the New Frontiers, spending 6 weeks at Schloss Mittersill in Austria, and now living 8 weeks in rural Kenya, I’ve had a number of new experiences, and noticed a lot of things about the world and myself which call for introspection, integration, and response.

As I look forward to my future both near and far, I find that I’m more confused about what I can and should do, not less! In that sense, the sabbatical did not live up to my hopes! But I’m beginning to see that this place is probably right where I should be, despite my desires for easy clarity. I think God and other people gave me so many unlooked-for gifts during this time away, albeit sometimes through hard circumstances, so it has been a slow process of gaining the eyes to see their goodness! I’m sure that process will continue in the next weeks and months.

Now, I must focus on re-inserting myself into the matrix of life here, finding work, and pondering next steps. There’s an exciting freedom in not knowing where I will be in a year, let alone two months! But I hope that the right path, if there is such a thing, will present itself to me in enough time to follow it. It usually does, I guess.

So that’s all for now–please stay tuned for the Kenya series, pictures, and other announcements during the next few weeks!

Geneva 2006 (Video Addendum)

Near to the end of my trip in Geneva, I remembered that I had a video option on my digital camera, and randomly decided to take a short video at one of our dinners. It’s below.

The question of whether or not to post this video was somewhat difficult, mostly due to the sudden rampage of videos hosted on my friends’ blog, TrippingOnWords. Claire and Lara recently started adding one or more video spots to most blog entries, and I challenged this decision, for the following reasons:

  • Video can be more stimulating, but less evocative, than text
  • Video snippets are representative of pop culture at large and therefore should be avoided
  • Once you go video, you can never go back–readers will be shocked at text and drop like flies
  • Putting up videos of yourselves (especially as two young, attractive, American, globe-trotting females) seems a cheap way to boost a readership

The only problem is, the reasons I really felt bad about their videos were:

  • Their blog is more interesting than mine
  • They are globe-trotting, and I am not (apart from a week here in Geneva)
  • Their blog has many times the readership of mine
  • The content of their videos, while not “good” in any technical sense, are the kind of things that people will find cool. They’re quirky, funny, and the poor quality and awkward dialogue just makes them that much more endearing

In short: jealousy. I couldn’t watch those videos without feeling that somehow it should be me making hilarious comments while sucking coffee from a bag. Alas, the life I have chosen to write about on this weblog, while exciting, is not likely to make me reality TV’s next star. While that rankles my underlying and cynically-hidden desire for popularity, I guess I don’t need this weblog to be my vehicle to fame. Truly: I’d settle for its covert functioning as a singles ad! (Only that doesn’t seem to be going too well either)

So, the decision to post a video was hard, because (a) I wondered if I am just doing it out of jealousy, which seems bad, and (b) I have no intention of posting more videos, so I don’t want you to get accustomed to it. Remember, you didn’t come here for fancy, flashy visuals! You came here to hear me whine about myself…oh…

But in the end I was bored enough tonight to edit this together, and here it is for your viewing pleasure. Flaming Desserts: (for those using Bloglines, it may not show–click here)

Now a message for those girls over at TrippingOnWords: consider the fine polish of video workmanship (which causes this jewel of cinema to glimmer with the sheen of greatness) to be a gauntlet thrown down to the ground before you, challenging you to come forth with the best you can summon. It’s a duel! (And no help from outside experts allowed)

Geneva 2006

If you want to skip right to the pictures, click here

I just returned from Geneva, Switzerland–a trip I decided to take a mere 3 weeks ago. Every year, my parents have a business trip in late September to some international location (for legal reasons, these meetings have to take place outside the US). Since I graduated high school in 2000 and chose to attend Stanford (a quarter school), I’ve had the good fortune to not be in class during these trips, and thus was able to tag along with my folks. We’ve been to some great places–London (twice), Dublin, Lisbon, and Barcelona (after I graduated). I didn’t go on the 2005 trip, but since my work schedule permitted this year, I was able to go to Geneva. (For a few older blogs of such trips, see here for Lisbon 2002 and here for Barcelona 2004).

These trips are always fun, not least because I’ve gotten to know many of the other attendees, all great people. At times there have even been sons or daughters there like myself, and so there are often young people to hang out with, in addition to spending great time with my parents. My friend Laura was there, of this January’s Bahamas trip fame.

The group dinners are generally quite nice, and so it’s also fun to bring “dress-up” clothes to wear consistently. (I wore my suit this week for the first time since last December, I think). This trip was particularly special for me, however, because it happened that my 24th birthday was during the trip, and I had a wonderful time celebrating it with my parents and some friends, both at a spectacular dinner and later at our pub of choice, over fine cuban cigars and cognac. I certainly couldn’t ask for a better birthday experience, though I did miss my friends from home. As an extra special gift, my parents also let me use some of their airline upgrade coupons, so we all traveled to and from Geneva in business / first class. What luxury!

I spent most of my time in Geneva sleeping, hanging out in our great hotel (the Hotel d’Angleterre), working out or using the sauna, catching up on my reading, or wandering around taking pictures and buying sandwiches using poor French. One tourist highlight was definitely the Patek Philippe museum, which had on exhibit some of the oldest and most complicated watches in the world. The sheer amount of time, love, and skill put into these objects by their craftsmen was literally awing. One complicated mechanical watch we saw had over 1800 unique parts, individually designed and produced and assembled. This watch, like some others in the exhibit, kept track of the time, of course, but also such measurements as the day, the week, the month, the year, the lunar phases, sidereal time, the location of certain stars in the sky, etc… (taking into account leap years, etc..–it’s guaranteed to be accurate for something like 500 years if kept wound).

Life in Geneva appears to be very expensive, and the same was true of souvenirs. Accordingly, the only things I brought back were two beer glasses (one a .5L stein (Cardinal), and the other a Belgian snifter (Leffe)), both procured by my dad, free for the asking from bars. Incidentally, the beer of the trip was hands-down the Belgian Leffe (the blonde variety). It had a light color, a creamy texture, and a strong, sweet taste. It was not overpowering, though, and had a very strong spruce hops aroma which kept the whole thing dynamic and interesting. It probably now ranks in my top 5 beer list.

Well, check out the pictures, and let me know what you think!

Futurebeer, NT Wright, and Frisbee Hype

Some random notes:

First, in trying to assist Nyffy with his desire to one day become the Brewmaster of Heaven, a contingent of my friends spent some time this last weekend brewing a batch of Futurebeer:

The current state of Futurebeer

Futurebeer is beer, after a while. It is not yet, however. It’s that same mysterious “already but not yet” we find with the kingdom of God. Anyway, it was fun to go through a process involving (mostly) natural ingredients that will culminate in pure enjoyment after a period of care and waiting. Being a creative person who works mostly with digital or musical media, I was very glad to work with actual substances to create a product. It’s sort of like the joy I have found in cooking nice meals, only greater due to the extended period of time involved in the process.

Second, I received in the mail from Amazon the first three books in NT Wright’s massive “Question of God” undertaking, beginning with The New Testament and the People of God. After hearing much about these works and reading some other stuff of Wright’s, I’m very excited to go on an extended journey of engagement with history, theology, and literary criticism on issues surrounding the origins of Christianity. Thankfully, I’ve finished Alister McGrath’s likewise-authoritative critical-realism-inspired trilogy on scientific theology, so I now have room for another expedition. You will no doubt be hearing various thoughts on the books here, which is why I thought I’d give forewarning. As a bit of a taste, here’s a paragraph from the introduction:

The New Testament has not been around as long as the land of Israel, but in other ways there are remarkable parallels. It is a small book, smaller than anybody else’s holy book, small enough to be read through in a day or two. But it has had an importance belied by its slim appearance. It has again and again been a battleground for warring armies. Sometimes they have come to plunder its streasures for their own use, or to annex bits of its territory as part of a larger empire in need of a few extra strategic mountains, especially holy ones. Somestimes they have come to fight their private battles on neutral territory, finding in the debates about a book or a passage a convenient place to stage a war which is really between two worldviews or philosophies, themselves comparatively unrelated to the New Testament and its concerns. There are many places whose fragile beauty has been trampled by heavy-footed exegetes in search of a Greek root, a quick sermon, or a political slogan. And yet it has remained a powerful and evocative book, full of delicacy and majesty, tears and laughter.

What ought one to do with the New Testament? We may take it for granted that it will be no good trying to prevent its still being used as a battleground. No border fences would be strong enough to keep out the philosophers, the philologists, the politicians and the casual tourists; nor should we erect them if they were. There are many who have come to pilfer and have stayed to be pilgrims. To place all or part of this book within a sacred enclosure would be to invite a dominical rebuke: my house is to be a house of prayer for all the nations. Past attempts to keep it for one group only–the take-over bids by the scholars and the pietists, the fundamentalists and the armchair social workers–have ended with unseemly battles, the equivalent of the sad struggle for the control of Holy Places in the land of israel. This book is a book of wisdom for all peoples, but we have made it a den of scholarship, or of a narrow, hard and exclusive piety.

Inspiring, no?

Third, I am going to Switzerland next week. I would like to get a good digital SLR camera before then. Anyone have one they want to sell? Or any recommendations?

Fourth, I wanted to upload something to YouTube, but only have 3 or 4 home videos on my computer. Only one happened to be appropriately flattering of myself, and since the purpose of the Internet is for people to upload flattering things, I chose to throw it in to the churning mill. It’s from last year in Costa Rica when Justin turned on the camera and told me to go catch a frisbee in the ocean. You can see the video here. After uploading I found many videos of real ultimate frisbee layouts, which were much more impressive. So watch those too.

Until next time, this has been your beer, academic theology, travel, and sports update. Cheers.

Things That Are True

As I noted in my Greece / Prague travelogue, I kept a list on my recent trip to Europe, which I named “Things That Are True”. Disappointingly, the content of the list had little to do with philosophical truths or anything which would be of interest to your average human; instead, this was a list of things that were true mostly concerning myself (with the occasional random observation). It was a special list more because of the concise nature of the statements, the self-perception achieved, and the relatively high degree of honesty. So what follows is a very incomplete but nonetheless good summary of, actually, my identity as it currently stands, phrased in terms of struggles, loves, hopes, observations, and more.

Here it is, exactly as I wrote it out over the 10-day adventure (any editorial additions or comments will be italicized and in brackets):

Continue reading “Things That Are True”

Greece / Prague Travelogue, Part VI

(this is part VI of my recent European trip journal. If you haven’t seen them yet, you should read part I, part II, part III, part IV, and part V)

4-9, 11:30 AM, Somewhere over the Atlantic

Wow, has it really been 5 days [since I last wrote]? Shamefully, I did not write at all during the visit to Prague. Now, I’m sitting on the plane from LHR to JFK, so I have time to wrap up this trip journal. (That is, if the worst flight attendant in the world will stop being a jerk about my bags on the floor). [She had given me this really pathetic, patronizing lecture about exit row protocol, using a voice that I would only use with a 2-year-old, wearing a smile that was oozing smug sarcasm. Ugh.]

Well, the morning after I last wrote, my sister and I had some amazing breakfast crepes in Fira–the best I’ve ever had. After that, I did end up finding a greek Orthodox bookstore, where the proprietors did not speak very much English, but I hung out with them for a while, and eventually picked up a wonderful New Testament, with one page of each pair being the ancient Greek, and the other being modern (though I learned they still use the polytonic accents in the modern translation, out of reverence for the text). With that, our time in Santorini was more or less over, and we dutifully endured the long ferry ride back to Peiraias. It was quite a bit more crowded than before, and of course the one screaming child in our cabin was seated right next to me. I don’t understand obnoxious screaming kids. Don’t they get bored or tired after a while? Guess not. I hope to God mine aren’t like that! We got to port just a few minutes after the metro stopped running, so we had to hire a cab for the ride back to our hotstel on Kydathineon street downtown–and of course the cabbie tried to up the price on us when we left. Ridiculous!

The next day was one of traveling. Rachel and I left our hostel mid-morning, taking leave of our traveling companion Victor; we made it to the airport OK, then took a Swiss Air flight to Zurich (before which, we were able to get into the British Airways club for an hour and have sandwiches, beer, and internet–thank you AA Platinum!). Zurich was a well-designed airport, but very hot. Our layover was not long, however, and soon we were on our rather small regional jet over to Prague!

When we arrived in Prague, the weather was cool and very refreshing–I was glad to be able to break out my jacket, finally. We took a crowded bus (it was 6 PM) to the crowded metro [to Namesti Miru], then another crowded above-ground tram to our hostel, the Czech Inn. It was by far the cleanest and nicest hostel I’ve stayed in, and cheap too! It’s brand new, and done in a very elegant modern decor, all sans-serify. Moreover, the bar was excellent, with equally excellent Czech beer on tap, at about $2 a liter. My sister rushed off just as soon as we arrived to go to a dance with a friend of hers from Capernwray, Peter, who’s from Prague. While she was busy being the belle of the ball, I entertained myself with beer and some Czech snacks [consisting of clumps of cheese, oil, onions, and rye bread; it looked and sounded disgusting, but went perfectly with the beer]. After a while, Rachel’s traveling buddy from Capernwray, Vince [who’d been traveling with Rachel in the UK earlier], showed up. He was to join her and my mom and brother (due to arrive the next day) for the next few weeks. I went to bed exhausted and pleasantly full.

The next day (Friday), Rachel, Vince, and I were met early by Petr and his friend, also Petr. The two of them acted as tour guides for us pretty much the entire day, taking us to some of the main spots in Prague, but more often to out-of-the-way places where there weren’t as many tourists. It was wonderful to have people who were knowledgeable about the city, and who could translate for us! [This was particularly important at lunch, when we wouldn’t have been able to tell the (important) difference between, say, pork and tripe] We visited the national park otuside the city, walked through the center, then went to Vysehrad where we had lunch at a very local pub-type place and ate some traditional Czech food.

In the afternoon, I learned that some of Petr’s other friends were going rock climbing, so I asked if I could go with them. Around 4;30, I met up with them at Dejvicka station and we were off to the gym (though they didn’t really speak English, except for one guy, and I never really figured out their names). The gym was pretty far out of town, and it was insane–all top-rope, and all lead–so even the first-timers were being taught how to lead-climb at the same time as they were learning how to tie in! Crazy. I climbed OK–I was dehydrated from too much beer at lunch and no water subsequently, but had a good time nonetheless. [In fact, after a couple hours of climbing, I experienced some strange temporary blindness, until I drank 1.5 liters of water in about 5 minutes] Anyways, I thought we were going to be there about 3 hours, then meet back up with Petr and Rachel and Vince (and hopefully my mom and brother, who were scheduled to arrive then) for tea and dinner. Instead, we were at the climbing gym for about 6 hours–until it closed at 10:30. Ahh culture differences! Well, it was great to climb, and fun to do something, some activity, with all-local people, where we didn’t even really need to speak the same language–climbing was universal! It was fun to have that connection.

Anyway, by the time I finally made it back to the hostel, David and my mom had already arrived and gone out to diner with everyone (they wisely brought back leftovers for me!) and it was great to see them, since it’d been a really long time. We were all exhausted, so I had one more beer for the day, and we all went to bed.

Saturday was our “be a tourist in Prague” day. We went to all the major sites, took pictures, browsed shops, etc… I was surprised at how touristy Prague was for what was, in my opinion, not a whole lot of really remarkable things. Or maybe I just didn’t care as much about statues as those people. Anyway, we had a great and long day, walking, cafeing, talking, etc. That night (last night), since I was leaving this morning, just us Lipps went out to dinner at a really excellent cellar pub, again with excellent and cheap beer. We talked about all sorts of stuff and it felt good to reconnect as a family–we haven’t really all seen each other in a long time.

Back at the hostel, we said our goodbyes and packed up. I was to leave in about 4 hours, and the rest were to be off mid-morning, starting the long train journey around Europe. We each had a shot of Absinthe to commemorate the adventure, and that was it! I woke up on time, made it through the extremely-crowded 5:30 AM bus trip to the airport, and made my flight to LHR. There was some security trouble or emergency there, so I almost missed my connection to JFK, but here I am on the flight!

It really was an incredible trip, and one I will remember forever. I was glad to see new places, to hang out with my sister, to start learning Greek, and to have lots of good transcendental plane/boat rides. Hopefully the fruit of these times will be evident soon–already I’m glad to have been working on my “Things that are true” list, since I believe there are a number of valuable insights there, pertaining to the issues I mentioned in the first entry of this journal. So there we have it! Thanks to God for a safe and awesome trip. Amen.

There we have it, indeed. Not a super-exciting trip journal, but I hope it was at least moderately enjoyable. I think I gained the most benefit from just setting aside time periodically to write, and with pen and paper–no computer glare or anything else to do. As I mentioned, though, most of the more intense and focused writing centered around a certain list, which I very simply titled “Things that are true”. I’ll reproduce that here soon, as the preface to a question I want your help in answering, but first I wanted to get pictures up for you all to look at, which will provide a break from all this text. So stay tuned, pictures coming up!