Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Canterury Tales: Reflection #2

You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
-Levitcus 19:34

I arrived in Canterbury greeted by the heavy rain at 5am Friday morning. The bus from Paris departed at 11pm and included a ferry ride into Dover (if you know me then you know how freakin exciting that was). First stop and first one off the bus, it was Paris all over again: I had no idea where I was or where I was going. Luckily the Youth Hostel wasn't too far up the rode. I arrived and sat for an hour in the rain under my umbrella (the picture was straight out of a movie...) until a staff person let me in the warm up. After I checked in, I crashed till the afternoon.

Now, mind you, I was supposed to be in Taize and had gotten to Canterbury three days early. The week earlier, Mark (my current CouchSurfing Host) sent me a message seeing I was going to be in Canterbury and said I could stay with him. Knowing this was a possibility I only booked one night at the Hostel. So I basically spent the day doing laundry and getting organized. Mark and I got intouch with eachother and I've been staying in his flat since Saturday night.

Mark is an Anglican priest here in Canterbury. He is the Priest-in-Charge for three different churches. In Canterbury, there is pretty much an Anglican church every few blocks not including the Cathedral. So, he keeps pretty busy. Despite this, he and I did go see a community production of "Bernarda Alba" and enjoyed good conversation just tonight. Mark is also gay so as far as personal stories and the church goes we could relate to eachother. He's got a really, really, great flat. I've had a room and bed to myself right in the center of the City Centre. He also gave me a key to his place!

Canterbury was originally a two day stop, but I'm glad I've spent the five days here. Walking the grounds of St. Augustine's Abbey was amzaing, if just for the fact that an audio tour was included in the admission. Canterbury Cathedral was all that I imagined it would be. When Henry VIII abolished the monastaries and overly Catholic buildings in England, the Abbey was destroyed. However, since the Cathedral was the established Seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury it was spared. I think the best prize in Canterbury though is St. Martin's. A section of it's wall dates back to the forth century being built by the Romans. It was here that St. Augustine and his men set up there base with the permission of the King and made efforts to re-evangelize Britain. Without a doubt this is the epicenter of where Anglicanism started. Other highlights include seeing Canterbury Castle which was built by the Normans, the Royal Museum, and the Masonic Museum.

Canterbury has definitley been an expected highlight of this trip so far. Just being in the center of where it all started has been just amazing. Canterbury is very small and is very walkable. It's picturesque with its ancient streets and buildings from the 1500s. It's freaking adorbale, really.

Once again God watched out for me. I got to Canterbury earlier than explected and had a place to stay, and when my CouchSurfing host for Monday through Wednesday never fell threw in contacting me I was able to stay with Mark. So I write this on my last night in this town. Mind you, I've caught a bit of a head cold and I spent most of the day doing laundry and preparing to leave tomorrow and just resting in general. It's two weeks since I left the States. This is the longest I've ever been from home and to be honest I am starting to feel a bit homesick. Granted, Canterbury runs at a much slower pace than frantic Paris allowing me to have mor time to process my thoughts and let my mind wanter. I've grown attached to this place, really. And just like when I left Paris I now have this anxiety of leaving for London in the morning starting over in a new place. My pilgrimage in Canterbury is coming to an end and I resume the trip tomorrow. But like the Canon told me at my Pilgrimage blessing today, the Pilgrimage onward both back home and to that Heavenly country have also began.

Things of Interest
-This past Rememberance Sunday I went to St. Mildred's (the Anglo-Catholic parish in Canterbury). The numbers were low as most people went to the Cathedral for this sort of Holiday. Mark remarked that most people seem to be more loyal to the Cathedral than there home congregation in that regard
-Archbishop Justin Welby was just in the area a few days before I got here.
-I was taking a break by the Castle wall when a peice of flint stone broke off when I sat by it. Coolest souvenier ever.

Monday, November 10, 2014

An American in Paris: Reflection #1

Well, I had intended to do this every few days. But, time flies. Right?
So allow me to recap Paris and since tomorrow is my last day in Canterbury I'll probably do another summary.

I arrived in Paris the Wednesday before last. After my connecting flight from Dublin I was instructed that my best bet to get to where I was going was just to take the airport tram to Gare du Nord Now, no one told me that Gare du Nord is the biggest train station in Europe...so once I got there I was stuck staring at a map tryin to figure out where exactly I was and how I was going to get to where I needed to go with a thousand people walking around me. Luckily, an israeli man came to my refuge. Though I was scared at first (you know...never talk to strangers) my gut instinct said the guy was trying to be helpful. He showed me how to purchase fare and which stop I should get off on (later did I find that I could have gotten off a few stops later, oh well). In the best French and improve sign language I could muster I pointed the directions on my phone to a bystander and asked for help. Having got good direction I walked to my hostel an hour later, booked my bed and then passed out.

I remained in Le D'Artagnan for five nights. During my stay here I saw Pere Lachaise, the super huge cementary with folks like Oscar Wilde, Bizet, Chopin, Morrison..), the Eiffle Tower, Notre Damn, Sainte Chappelle, and the Louvres. Now, I stayed an extra night at this hostel because over the weekend I had a dental emergency (I didn't post anything about it on Facebook because I didn't want to make a scene and distract from all the cool stuff I was doing). I cracked a tooth, and my better judgement said to stay in Paris and have it looked at, which meant skipping my trip to Taize because I knew this could get costly).

Saturday night when the crack happened, I was mostly freaking out. Pain, in another country, no insurrance. Where would I find a dentist? So i actually called my travel insurance and they made some calls and got some referrals. In the meantime, I was praying oh so hard. I barely slept that night. At this point the pain wasn't as bad as my overall demenor was. In the morning I went to the serivce at the American Cathedral. I went feeling oh so vulnerable in not knowing what to do. After serice I was talking to a man named Jeb and explained my situation, and what happened next was a God send: he referred me to his American dentist. I left the Cathedral over joyed knowing that I had a plan. The next day I saw the dentist. He took x-rays and turns out I need a root canal and a crown (joy...). I'm still on antibiotics, but there is just no way I'm going to be able to pull off that surgey while I'm here, so I'm chancing it till I get home. I have the x-rays with me just in case something does happen.

So having the "dent" in my Euro's and turned to CouchSurfing. I posted in the emergency group for Paris and got a response from a woman named Marie, who was from the South of France, and worked as an interior designer. She lived in a very small flat near the Eiffle Tower. My first night with her I went to a CouchSurfing party with her friends. While I was staying with Marie I actually went in and spent the day at the Louvres, and bought my bus ticket to Canterbury. She and drank tea and talked about life and travels. I loved hearing about growing up in South France in the Basque Country. She, a good Catholic, like hearing my rants about the church in America. She also was very interested and supportive of gays serving and being involved in the church. Apparently in France its still frowned upon to talk about religion with people you don't know too well, so she welcomed the opprotunity as it never comes by for her. On my last night she treated me well and cooked me a basque dish called Perserved Duck, and it was so freaking delishious.  We had a conversation about how Muslims were changing how they interacted with wider society, but it was cut short as I had to get to the bus station to get to Canterbury.  She is a wonderful person and I would love to stay with her or even host her someday.

A few things about Paris:
-The street signs arn't on poles like back home. You have to look at the buildings that are on corners, and they displayed there (most of the time....)
-Every single street starts with "Rue", very confusing when looking at a map
-The currency (this goes for the rest of Europe). One and Two Euro/Pound coins. The hell? I have a make ship coin purse to carry all this change. How do people do it?
-Don't stand and smoke, 5 people will stop and ask you for a cig.
-The Metro is absolutley amazing. Hands down. Easy to navigate and you can get everywhere you need to go within half an hour.
-Almost everyone speaks English to some degree.
-Everyone I met was super friendly! It really defeated the American steriotype that the French are rude (Granted, most people I got to talk to and know where not from Paris, and most of the friends I made were at a Bear Bar).
-French Law states that there must be one Pharmacy for every 500 people in each city. Paris literally has on every other corner.

Besides Maire I made friends with a guy from Northern Austrailia. Poor guy, he stood out pretty bad in his cut off heans, flip-flops, hoodie, towering over everyone at 6'5. He and I had some pretty good laughs over European culture.  He was in Paris waiting for his girlfriend who had just decided to travel for a month and told him to meet him there (too cool).

Highlights: eating fresh crepes and baugettes off the street, sitting in for a serive on All Saints in Notre Damn, hearing the choir at the American Cathedral for All Souls Day.

Paris taught me quite a bit about letting go and reaffirmed my belief/experiance that God is very present in the most vulnerable of situations. Its easier said than done to "let go and let God" but watching God take care of me from my dental emergency to getting  a place to stay to save money has thus far been incredible.