Monday, December 11, 2006

Why vegitarians can hate animals too...

So I found this article in the Indipendent (from that talke about how a UN report says that the world 1.5 billion cattle are responsible (either directly or indirectly) for more environment damaging emmissions than all forms of transportation (car, plane, ship) combined.

It serves as a pretty good example for why some of my friends are vegetearians. They aren't motivated necessarily by some extra love of the cute and cuddely, but more for a love of the earth and for proper uses of resources. I think they have a case. So I'm slowly trying to reduce my dependence on meat. I'm not an "all or nothing" type of guy, and I generally think the best policy is "everything in moderation" but I think we could all do with decreasing our dependence on meat for protein. I'm aiming for trying to have only two meat meals a week, I'm not there yet, but it's an aim...and on the upside it's healthier anyway.

Here's the article:

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Just a side note...

I always find it difficult in this blog between posting my philisophical wonderings, convictions and dreams, but then also my day to day going ons as a socially active med student. The transition from one post to the next isn't usually smooth and often may seem in tension with one another. I guess that's the stuff of life though, the so many different speheres that we live in, so many different world views, practices and happenings. So I think I'll keep putting it all in, even if it doesn't fit just right.

Just a couple pics from our christmas ball...

So last weekend was our course's first annual Christmas ball. It was a 4 course meal with wine and champagne on arrival. Quite a fancy affair apparently (good thing I had brought my thrift-store tux with me....although I've been chided by Tim -in the bottom picture- for not calling a tux a "dinner jacket"....heaven forbid). It was a good time to get together with the entire year and just have some fun, the two years ahead of us in the graduate course were also there, so that was good too. Anyway, here's just a couple of the more decent shots that were taken during the night.

So this shot was probably my favourite of most of all the pics i've seen of the night. It shows reality, Emma Brandish, (dubbed the unofficial social secretary of our course) in the middle with her posee of guys around her, each one ready to do her bidding, just as she'd like it.

This is most of my year towards the end of the night, I actually think we look pretty good considering the litres of sweat that has come off of us, and the litres of alcohol that have gone into us. It was a good times though, definitely had my "bonding" time with coursemates now.

Tim and I on the coach ride back to campus. There ended up being two after-parties.... I decided to skip both so that i could get up in time to do work the next morning (didn't happen though, despite my best intentions). I found out however from Doug and Netty that the first after-party they decided to go to, everyone had fallen asleep within 15 minutes of getting back, so they left and phoned the other party to see how it was going. The people there said they were all just sitting around drinking cups of tea. Dissapointed and disheartened Doug and Netty decided they too would just go to home bed then. Wow, we must be getting older.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


(So, being back home for the week was great. I really enjoyed it and got almost no work done, so I'm really going to have to lose my social butterfly mentality and get some work done these last 3 weeks before Christmas. By the way my brother is still in hospital, healing extremely slowly, and pretty much would do anything to get out of there, so keep him in your thoughts and prayers. )

So I've only been in the U.K. for a little over 2 months now but there's something that I've been noticing, and even though I'm not here that long yet, I still want to begin commenting on it.

Over the past 4 years when I was studying at Wheaton, I found myself involved with Christians who had a particular understanding of what Jesus' message was all about, it was my interaction with these people, communities, and ideas, along with God's incredible grace that kept me from throwing away my faith altogether. There's lots of ways people use to describe these Christians; some involve big theological definitions, some other terms are more derogatory, but the one (which I still don't like, but which I think most people understand) is basically these were "social justice" christians or maybe a better one is "wholistic" Christians. These people were trying to understand and live out the message of Jesus which involves both word and deed, basically speaking love and showing love.

Anyway, naturally being in a new place I've been trying to connect myself with these types of christians here, and I have found some really good groups of people. It's interesting though, but I'm finding that although these people hold sort of the same understanding of Christianity as my friends back at Wheaton did, their approach and ideals are quite a bit different. And I think that's a really good thing, the more i look into it the more i think we have to learn from one another.

Christians I've met in the UK are passionately concerned with structural, societal and environmental justice. They campaign for issues such as Fair Trade, and buying Organic food. They advocate what people call "Ethical" living. What I've come to understand by that term is that it means, trying to live a life where your purchases were produced fairly and safely, where you're day to day life has as little negative impact on the environment as possible and where even the money in your bank account savings is not being invested in unethical activities (such as the arms-trade).

These Christians wouldn't wear Gap (probably close to a sin), or buy "super cheap" things (at places like Primark- like a K-Mart), because if something is super cheap it has most likely exploited someone.

There is the understanding here that if you spend just that bit extra you are ensuring justice for the person you've bought it from (of course it's not that simple, but that's the general gist).

Churches hold Fair Trade Sales, and at my church a woman sells ecologically friendly cleaning supplies everyweek at the back by the information table. The last church I visited had successfully campaigned to have Southampton become a Fair Trade city.

In America however, although SJ christians are aware of these issues(Fair Trade, organic, non-GM modified food) they are not the focus, and usually less effort is put into them (I think i'd make an exception for Shane Claiborne though...who makes his own clothes). More effort/intention goes into the personal and relational side of justice issues. More common issues such as: where you live (whether in the subarbs - a seemingly cardinal sin- or in shafted areas -i.e. 'where Jesus would live......'), Racial Reconciliation, Who you spend you're time with, and Learning not Teaching become primary.

The mantra of some of the American SJ christians might be as Viv Grigg said (I think quoting someone else) "Earn as much as you can, Spend as little as you can and Give generously." People frequent the shops that UK SJ christians would think sinful, they buy the super cheap foods, they buy the super cheap clothes (well in fairness few clothes are bought at all, holes are a matter of spiritual maturity wherever you go). But they do this for the greater value of "identifying" with others, with the outcast and the shafted. The way of life is rather called "Simple Living" on that side of the pond.

I have to admit I'm not here long enough to even begin trying to understand UK multi-ethnic relations, from what little i've talked to people, I keep getting different opinions, and all I can tell so far is that the situation here is VASTLY different from the US and also from Ireland, who untill recently had never seen any sort of economic immigrants from other parts of the world. So with that in mind I won't even venture to see the Church deals with "racial-reconciliation" if that phrase even makes sense here.

Anyway, my point is that we need to learn from each other as we all have potential pitfalls. We need to be acutely aware of how we (wherever we are in the world) are part of intertwined webs of connection that mean what I buy in my local Tesco has an effect on someone living in Peru, or Spain. And that the clothes I wear, may be the handywork of exploited children and other economic slaves. Taking care of the environment is not an "add-on" for Christian faith, but is central to Christain doctrine from the very begining..... (try to answer the question of "what humans were originally meant to do?" without thinking about this).

At the same time, we must never forget that what is just as important is how we live our lives locally. As Shane Claiborne puts it (the poor don't need your money, they need your time, your relationship -). If we truly believe that the roots of "poverty" come from broken, perverted, and misused relationships, then it is only through relationship that "poverty" will be alieviated.

One of the quotes on my facebook page is by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, "It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start." That quote always cuts me deep..... how can I so be concerned about others far away when I treat my family so badly?

Our living out Christ's love must both be local and global, as we in a globalized world are very much connected to both levels. However, we must remember that one thing that separates Christian social action from it's secular or governmental cousins is that if something is Christian (i.e. following the example of Christ) it must be necessarily personal and relational for this is how Christ shows himself to us.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I've got the chance to go home this next week, which I'm really looking forward to, especially since I'm spending all of Chrsitmas in America, and won't have much time at home then. It's called reading week, so i'll need to be doing a good amount of work as well, but it will just be good to get to go home. My mother is leaving for America with Hailey and the kids on Wednesday, this will be a chance for Hailey to show off the kids to the relatives who haven't seen Moia yet, and will be a welcome break for my mother to see her family. They arrive just in time for American Thanksgiving, so I'm sure they're all looking forward to that.

My brother's still in hospital, and they were told that if they had waited another day to bring him in they would have had to amputate! He's doing okay, but his body is going through a battering with all the medication and anti-biotics that he's on, and who likes being in hospital this much? Hopefully he'll be out in a few days (just in time to have his wife and kids leave...ah well....great timing right?).

Still, I'm really looking forward to the week. If any of you are around and want to meet up let me know.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Film night, life expectancy...and depravity

So I had fun tonight. Back when I was at wheaton, during my Sophmore year, we had a few months where every week (or so) we would have "trippy movie night." Where a few of us would get together and watch a movie that you definitely had to be awake to understand... American History X, Magnolia, Adaptation, were some to name a few of the ones we saw. Here at Southampton it seems that trend is reviving slightly. A couple weeks ago I organized for a group of us to see the South African film Tsotsi, and then tonight a few of us went to see the Palestinian film Paradise Now.

It's a film i'd seen before, but was still powerfull. The part I enjoy most about seeing a film is often the conversation afterwards. Getting what other people thought of the film and the themes and issues they pull out of it, makes it so that it feels like you've seen 3 or 4 different films for the price and time of 1. Tonight i was definitely moved by what a friend of mine thought of the film and how she related to some of the characters personally (I won't go more into that though for privacy's sake), but it really did give me a perspective on the film, which I hadn't seen before, which i probably wouldn't have seen because of my background. Again that film just brings back how complex, difficult, heart wrenching, terrible, injust, peaceful, violent and current, the situation in the Middle East is. If this film does one positive thing, it's that it forces the viewer to accept these terrorists as humans, it deletes the option of demonisation, and that has to be a good thing.

In other news, this week we've been studying obesity. This morning we had a symposium, or a series of short lectures on obesity and public health issues, and I found it fascinating, as well as challenging. In an off handed comment of one of the presenters, he said that even in Britian the health inequalites can be very different from different populations. He said that if you are born in some parts of Glasgow, you're life expectancy is only 50, while if you're born in parts of Devon, you're life expectancy (male) is in the late 70s. How can that huge of a difference exist in such a small country where its free, equal, health system is known around the world? It's amazing to me how much we as a society have failed eachother. We have divided ourselves regionally, by class, and by background. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but we've split the village up, and only some of the kids, living in the right areas, get the village's attention and guidance and opportunities it seems. This is just the case of inequality in Britain, one of the richest countries in the world. Compare us to Cambodia, Sierra Leone, India's or Kenya's mega slums.... Our global village seems to do an even worse job at this.

I get this far in the post, and I realize, I don't know what else to say. I hate writing posts like this, and i do it too often.... what's the point? We all know the world is a messed up place, just as much here in Southampton as it is in Bolivia or DRC. Why is it messed up? It's cause I'm messed up and you're messed up. The Christian doctrine of human depravity seems to me to be one of the religion's strongest arguments (along side the understanding that the depravity was not the original design or intent nor the end point of the human narrative). We talked today in class a bit about why leaving market forces to themselves in issues such as self-regulation of the advertising industry won't work for maintaining good public health policy, since advertisers, like most human agents, will naturally work from the values of greed and profit, rather than looking out for the public at large. This is why we still have coercive junk-food advertising aimed at children, the most vulnerable of our society.

I know total depravity is probably not that popular of an idea. And it's true, most of us aren't murderers, compulsive liers, or extorionists, but what we are is probably something worse, apathetic. We don't care that we are part of global systems that are designed to keep our countries richer and others poorer. We don't care that the clothes we buy were often made in horrendous conditions, or that the coltan in our mobile phones is part of what fueled the war in DRC where more than 3 million people died in the last 5 years. This subtle side of our depravity is perhaps worse than the easily identifiable and visible sides, and probably the hardest part to change.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A necessary read...just think of Haggard's Kids...

Hey, I just stumbled across this post on Andrew Jones's blog. He shares some of his past story and really puts this whole situation into a light that I needed to see. It's powerful, and such a reminder of what shame can do to an individual and a family. If you get a chance pray for Ted Haggards wife and kids, and I guess even for him too, although that seems a bit harder.

Here's the link to the post.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

He's in pain and he's my brother...

Hey everyone, I heard news from my Dad today (by way of text message) that my brother, Matt, was taken into Accident and Emergency at St. Vincents Hospital today and wasn't doing well. It all started last week when my brother went in for a "routine" procedure to deal with some ingrown toenails... I know not nice. Anyway, they had to remove the nail, and subsequently the wound has got really badly infected (if you want to know more about the background to this, and see a REALLY unseemly picture then click here for Matt's Blog).

Anyway, he's been a bit up and down with pain and feeling sick, but today got really bad and his surgeon recomended that they take him right away into the A&E, so now Matt is in a bed at Vincent's with a severe case of cellulitis and probably not having much fun. Please include Matt in your prayers (if you normally pray and even if you don' can't hurt), I know he'd really appreciate it.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Another Momentous Day...

So today (okay truly it was yesterday, but does it matter?), I finished reading the book Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Why did I read it? Cause I felt like it was required reading for those of us in "post-evangelicalism." And in a way it is. It's funny talking to people who have strong ideologies (about whatever), and instead of normal small talk about what do you like to do, people tend to ask "have you read this book, or what do you think of this author." We really do relate to each other by a shared "discourse" which has shaped us and our understanding of reality. This isn't just Christians (or emmergent type people) who do this but lots of other people too. I've met people in Southampton, who we keep asking each other if we've read something, or seen a particular thoughtful film or whatever, and finally find something of common ground... it's mad how good it feels when you find someone likes the same text that you do.... it binds you together in a unique way.... i don't know what it is.

Blue Like Jazz was good. Not life changing, but it did make me think- not a paradigm shift- I feel that we're probably in similar paradigms, but none the less, I feel that the way he put things, was fresh and made me reflect. I guess the next book in the similar genre I need to read is Velvet Elvis, right? I dunno if I will, we'll have to see, even though I'm sure it's good, and am sure I agree with everything he says even before I've flipped open a page.

The hard part about reading these types of books and thinking these types of things about christianity, is that we feel we've found something that others don't have... and whenever you feel like that arrogance is hard to fight off. I struggle with feeling "enlightened" compared to other evangelicals, even though I know, that this isn't true and that there truly is "nothing new under the sun." I was just thinking the other day as I was talking with god and using all my social theory jargin, that God must be bemused by all of us who think we are having new ideas about faith, but truly just changing our vocabulary.... or maybe there really is something new about it.

A small example of this ..... I found myself praying the other day somthing like this "Lord you know how my habitus is messed up and has brought me to this place, cut me with your discourse and shape my understandings of reality in the way you'd want to" nothing's new about that, but that was naturally how my spirit wanted to state things, it's how they made sense to me.

I wish I could relate to other Christians, but I guess that's the catch. In truth, I wish other Christians could relate to me. So many are happy to just devote their lives to their worship services and after church coffee, seminars, cell groups, Christian Unions. The problem lies in that I used to be just like that and relate to that, but I got burnt out very early. I don't want to go back to that place (although sometimes I truly am tempted), but I'm also tempted to think other Christians should come to where I am, but I'm sure that wouldn't be a good thing either. I just keep needing to worry about God transforming me and pray that he would do the same for others I guess.

Again, I'm going to finish here, because it's half two in the morning, I'm a bit wired and am probably not making much sense...

Peace on you all.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A "Momentous" Day...

So today 2 things happened important for my future life as a doctor (inshahlah).

1. I officially became a member of the British Medical Association They even gave me a membership card..... don't necessarily know how I feel belonging to a "professional" organization like that....

2. I purchased my first Stethoscope.- again something about that even doesn't sit well with me, I think it's too much a symbol of power....or something....

So yeah, I've always had issues to the "position" side of becoming a doctor. I don't like wearing a tie, and I don't like being called by a title. Is it necessary? I'm trying to keep an open mind, to learn from people who've been doing this thing longer than I've been around, but at the same time, avoid unnecessary indoctrination. How much detachment is necessary? How much "professional" demeanor? I know those can be useful things..... but then again, are they just symbols of power and position trying to reinforce the fallacy that the doctor is special in some way more than just having a particular education and vocation? I'm having to deal with things, lets just say the anti establishment side of me doesn't like being part of the establishment too much....

So, at least I had one good piece of news in this whole regard. I won't have to wear a white coat, at least while I'm working in Britain. They've been identified as an infection control risk (i.e. they don't get washed as much as they should and are floppy anyway, so not good at keeping clean). That's one age old symbol of the old ways that's gone at least.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Quotes of the day:

"Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy."

"We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. . . We must recover the sense of the majesty of the creation and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it."

-Wendell Berry

So we spent most of the afternoon today watching videos of women giving birth. I should just take this moment to thank you once again Mom for what you did those 22 years ago.

Something you don't want to hear when you're trying to push during your delivery: "you've just had a grade 3 tear" me.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What we actually do....

I think i'm really going to enjoy the relaxed informal atmosphere of this course. The teaching team are pretty much all still excited about teaching this course (this is only it's 3rd year) and work really well together. Let me try and explain how an average week is goign to go for me.

Monday morning at 9:00 we meet in "facilitated graduate groups" of about 9 people to be presented with and discuss this weeks topic (i.e. pregnancy) and learning outcomes (what we need to learn about it by the end of the week).... we then go about trying to decide together how best to learn those outcomes. Monday afternoon we go out on G.P. Visits, in groups of 4 to the same G.P. for the Semester, where we will meet patients (who have agreed to come in) who are good examples of the case we are studying. Here we will also learn clinical skills of history taking and examination.

Tuesday, we go to Winchester Hospital, and are taught more by the teaching team there, through lectures, having patients come in, visiting patients in wards, practicing clinical skills such as veinipuncture, examination techniques and other sorts of things.....,

Wednesday there are "optional lectures" i.e. lectures to focus our learning such as anatomy, immunology, pharmacology, and loads of other words that end in "ology". Wednesday afternoon we have a dissection room tutorial (but we are free to use the room and the "specimens" any time during the week).

Thursday morning is again optional lectures (I'm guessing I'm going to attend all of these as I don't have a Phd in BioChemistry of Physiology like many of my classmates). And then Thursday afternoons is independent study with optional post-mortem demonstrations.

Friday, is a shortened day, at 11:00 we meet again in our "facilitated graduate groups" and discuss what we've learned and then in the afternoon we have a plenary session with an expert in the field we've been studying.

And that's a typical week. Basically the idea of the course is that the early clinical experience and the constant attention to the same issue, will enable us to learn a lot more effectively than just having disjointed lectures. We'll have to see how that all works out though.

1 Week down...

So I've officially been through my first week of Medical School. At least they haven't kicked me out yet, which is a good sign. Like most other first years here in Southampton I've also officially been given "Freshers Flu" which isn't the most fun thing in the world but should be gone in a few days.

I'm begining to realize how much work is going to be involved and so I'm going to have to stop going out as much as I have been, (my budget is going to thank me for that). That said, I have been meeting some really interesting people here and so is always a good thing, I still hate being at the stage of such "superficial" relationships with everyone, small talk isn't my strong point....but that's not something you can or should rush.

That said though, it's really nice to have an old friend from home here too. Emma Caffrey-Osvald, who I went to St. Andrews with is studying medicine here too, she's in her 4 year but is intercalating to do a bachelors of science before she goes and finishes her final 2 years. She had me over to dinner in her house on Wednesday and we just talked about mutual friends and life for really long time, it was great. It's really good to have a familiar face, even if she has seen me at some quite 'memorable' times (....i.e. she's been addressing emails to me as "King Herod"...... don't ask..).

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Southampton Mid Week 1-

So, it's post time again. I'm not sure whether this post will be and update or something deep....probably something deep, I'll do an update some other time...not much all that interesting to tell has happened anyway.

Whenever I enter into a new place I'm full of emotions. Each time is also quite different, yet some things remain the same. I've done transition a good bit now, so I sort of know what to expect. I know not to despair now about not having "deep" friends yet cause that will come in due course, I'm learning to be open, to love. To not befriend people seeking friendship, but to befriend people to show them love, and friendship comes if it comes. Anyway..... i won't go on about all that.

What I really want to post about is that I've been cleaning up the desktop on my computer (trying to get the old beast to run faster) and found this. What follows are a segment taken from a relfection I wrote during the first few days after being back from Cambodia, as I was going through intense but rapid culture shock and adjustment. I started this after sitting down to play the piano for the first time in 6-months. I couldn't do it. Who in my community could afford a was sort of the straw that broke the camels back.....

"My fingerst cry out,
Don't make me touch the keys, the sound of my expression is stolen
Don't make me touch the keys, the words that I'm writing come with a cost to a broken mother who has sold her child.
As I rise to take up my gold plated, wireless cross, complete with cushioned carrying straps and made from a new alloy that retains strength but eliminates weight, I'm struck.

As I look at the one month's salary hanging on the wall, or the shirts I forgot I had.

I've cut myself off from humanity and called it life. I have thought I had something important to give."

I know that sounds really melodramatic, and it is... I was going through some rough emotions....but it was really how I felt. And I wish I could still feel that way right now, but it's too far removed. When God looks at humanity, he sees us richest 10% of the world who have freedom to do what we want when we want, to buy what we want "guzzling and gulping" the finest, cleanest food and drink. He does see us, but only after, and in the context of, the mass of humanity who are for one reason or another the shafted of our world. Those for whom life is physically, emotionally, and spiritually demanding, all the time. For the couple days that I was just recently back from Cambodia, that at least was the context of how I saw my western life....

But even though I'd like to give us all a big guilt trip about being wealthy or educated (or heaven forbid both), I don't think God works that way (as much as I feel he should). I think he rather move us with this knowledge to seek justice or what people refer to as "Shalom" -that dynamic giving of each other, restoration of all relationships between humans, and between humans and the rest of creation. How difficult it is for the rich to live in this way (Jesus said it), but he said it is possible. How do we start, or continue? (1st things's not about the money....that's really secondary stop bringing it up too much). There's two (not-so-easy) steps....

1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength (and any other category your society includes....i.e. maybe your liver too or your psychie)

2) Love your neighbour as yourself.

The key.... you can't do one without the other. I'm stopping now.....cause I wouldn't have read this far.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Coventry Cathedral

For those who do not know, Coventry Cathedral is quite an amazing place. I'd visited there many years ago when I was either 8 or 11, and I still remember it quite vividly. The Cathedral is quite famous because of it's efforts of reconciliation. In 1940 the cathedral was completely demolished by bombing during the World War. The leader of the cathedral at that time quite publicly declared not to seek any revenge but rather reconciliation with Britains enemies at the time. Over the years the cathedral has become home to the International Centre for Reconciliation which has strong links to Wheaton and has been involved in trying to broker many important peace deals around the world, and also to the Community of the Cross of Nails, which is one of many christian communities accross the world trying to actively promote peace and reconciliation in their communitites.

It's powerful to go the the cathedral (pobably only if you're inthe right mood though, which I was) and ponder the history and the power of Christ's work of reconciliation. When you stand there you see so vividly the empty shell that remains of the old church building and the vibrant new building built adjacent to it, with the cross, joining the two buildings together. I stood inside the new building and looked at the stained glass wall, in contemporary style, it was one of the most moving pieces of church art that I've ever seen, displaying the glory of good, the light made it look as if the wall was made of water and was moving in front of you, it was crazy, and drew you to worship.

Anyway, above are a couple pictures I took.

A couple of days in Coventry with some servants

So I've known for a while that Craig and Nay Greenfield (who served as my mentors and adopted me into their family in Cambodia) were going to be in England this Autumn. And it just so worked out that last this past weekend Craig was begining to lead a 2 week orientation for new workers with Servants, 3 of whom are leaving soon to live and work in Calcutta, India. They said I could join them for the weekend so these past 2 days, I took the train up north a little more than 2 hours away to Coventry where the International Administrator for SERVANTS, Helen, and her family live. It was a great time of seeing both old and new faces, and again focusing our hearts and minds on God's unquenching heart for the poor. It was good for my sould especially as I'm in a new place, to be with these christians, and refocusing myself to the lives that God has called us to, to live his kingdom, to seek justice and reconciliation of all relationships (shalom).

Along with the great spiritual side of things, on Saturday night I got in a great game of Settlers of Kattan with Craig and Jenny on the great board that Craig made and which we'd used many times in his slum house in Cambodia....good memories.

Here's a copule pictures from my trip....

Sitting (left to right): Sylvia (Swiss), Kate (English, raised in India), Jenny (US American), Thomas (Swiss), Ashleen (originally from California but now living in Switzerland married to Thomas), Craig (New Zealander -and has lived everywhere else) then on the floor is Helen (who is English). Sylvia, Kate and Jenny are all heading soon (within the next couple of months to India to work with the existing Servants workers in Calcutta.

We had our meetings in the church centre of Holy Trinity Coventry, which had a beautiful building and was adjacent to the famous Coventry Cathedral. Above is a picture out from the dining room and in the near distance you can see the new part of Coventry Cathedral. Below is on the left side of the picture is the church centre we met in, quite nice I have to admit.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Okay a couple quick pictures..

I'm running out the door to go buy some quick essentials (if I can find them.... I'm not exactly sure where to go in England to buy things like hangers.....I'll figure it out i guess)... but here's a couple pictures to give you an idea of things that i see here.... as in where I live.

This is the view out my window. I'm in old terrace which overlooks NEW terrace. They look very nice, ours don't (I'll post a picture later).

This is my room (still not un packed, hence the need for hangers).... it's about 11ft by 12 ft so it's not too small, in the right top corner of the room there's a small sink and mirror that you can't see, so that's handy.... anyway.. I need to run cause the day's getting away from me, will post more interesting pictures later. If I see anything that's more interesting that is......

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Okay finally here...

So for the past month and a half or so I've been receiving a flood of emails from people asking about how medical school is going and what it's like living in England. Well, today is the first day I can even attempt to form an answer. I arrived in Southampton yesterday at about 10:30 am. This is actually quite early, cause I'm attending the international induction, I didn't have to, but thought it would be good to catch my bearings and get used to the place before class begins. So as most of my Wheaotn pre-med friends have already been through at least 1 month if not 2 of medical school I am still yet to officially start....but "all in it's good time" as they say. I'm sure I'll be missing the days of not having class and things to study soon enough. I'm living in university halls, yet it doesn't seem much like the dorm life I knew at wheaton. I'm in a converted terraced house where there are 10 single rooms with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. It seems much like a normal small house, but with not living room and where everyone locks their bedroom doors.

In some ways I feel like a bit of a fraud attending international induction, several other international students have already said they thought I was English, and it is true I don't have as much of the language barrier. but all the same, I do feel very alien here, I don't know anyone, have never been here before, and there's all usual differences of figuring out public transport, new currency, new prices, and the like... Southampton seems to be a very different place from Dublin. So far the city seems diverse enough, a bit more than the wheaton area and it's diverse in a different sense from dublin, as most non ethnically english people that you'd meet were born and raised here, where in Dublin that's still a rarity. Still, it's very non urban, the university is in the subarban sprawl of a not very large city, so we'll see how I like after I've been here longer.

So all things considered I'm doing well. Next week when all the new UK students arrive is called Freshers week and will be quite crazy. Induction here has been very different from orientation at Wheaton, mainly I think just cause of the size of the student population. The student body is over 20,000 for the university, and in just the international induction there's over 750 students, which doesn't help in making friends, cause chances are if you meet someone you won't meet them again. I'm waiting for term time to start when I can meet my entering class of 45 people in the Graduate Medicine programme, that's a much more managable group.

Alright, I'll try and post some pictures later.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Okay, random quote of the day, I literally heard it less than a minute ago on the psalters myspace website... it's "when people learn to love each other, capitalism won't be possible and marxism won't be necessary"...... i have a love hate relationship with phrases like that, they're too 'cute' but speak what need to be said.....

So today is an international day of action on the Darfur crisis. I admit I did nothing special today for Darfur, I deleted most of the Darfur junk emails in my inbox without even opening them today... I was reminded again that today was special to try and raise attention about Darfur, when on the radio I heard the director of GOAL (an Irish Aid Agency) in Sudan calling for unilateral military action to take place immediately and to be lead by the USA and Britain. He said they should bypass the UN as China and Russia will most likely never agree to sending UN troops without Khartoom's permission.... it just hit me.... the futility of all our efforts, yet again. We place our responsibility for humanity's well being in the hands of impersonal super-powers and yet take little meaningful action ourselves. Thinking of what he called for (I wish i could remember the GOAL man's name), brought loads of thoughts to my head, like "how could he be calling for unilateral action when the US and Britain have been condemned so much recently FOR their unilateral action in Iraq? Then I thought of the alternative, present, right-now, reality, I would want someone to help protect me and my family from genocide by my own government. My Christian faith would lead me to pacifism, but like so many things in my faith, it only works if I'm willing to go completely. Pacifism only works if pacifists are willing to join victims and offer themselves as the biblical "living sacrifices" in the modern-day tradition of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. I'm not there, maybe I would be if I was physically there, if I had to choose, but it's too easy to sit here in a nice big comfortable house, well full from that pizza and ice cream I just ate, and dream of escaping the nets of a comfortable life. Christianity doesn't do well with comfort, just like it doesn't do well with power. It makes a little more sense how Jesus talked about just how unbelievably difficult it is for a rich man to live out his kingdom...

.......but there I go again making Darfur about me, I've learned something very simple in my life of travelling from place to place.... in the many times that something happens where I can't be there to help make it right (not like I could do anything about Darfur even if I was there except probably make things worse), prayer is something I can do. It's something God has given us so that we can act on the hearts he has given us for the doesn't relinquish our responsibility for physical efforts to relieve the suffering (although it probably does give us stamina and focus for it), but it helps ward off the despair that I'm so prone to when I think of the world how it is. Let's just pray, and pray that we would pray more, because I probably will be thinking about it tonight, but it won't be on the radio again tomorrow to remind us.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm finally accepted.....

So these are apparently the type of students I will be joining at SOTON (I guess that's some sort of short hand for the University of Southampton...don't ask me). Today I got an email from UCAS to say that my offer and requirements have been officially confirmed, which means I technically and officially and in spirit have a place in Medicine at SOTON this Autumn. Although I knew that I would meet the requirements of the offer, they couldn't confirm my place until they had done a criminal background check (don't know how I passed that) and declared me physically fit (i.e. most importantly I don't have the dreaded hepatitis B). So today they were able finally to confirm this. So I'm going. Now all I have to do is go, study, pass some exams and ....oh yeah, pay for it all...... sounds pretty "easy" right?

In other news my cousin Liz is leaving early tomorrow (thursday) morning to go back to America and figure out what she's going to do with her life. This finally ends a summer of non-stop travel accross most of western Europe. Pray for her that God will let her know what it is that God has for her in this life. Stuff much more complicated when you haven't a clue what you want/are supposed to do.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Life right now? Glad you asked...

A few random shorts:

-work is good, so far I’ve only had to clean up on really nasty toilet….that will be etched in my memory for a long time to come….although funny enough I’m getting a lot better about that type of stuff, I don’t know if it’s a good thing.

-I’ve become absolutely paranoid about washing my hands and arms and anything else I can in the tiny sink.

-Now that I’ve gotten to know my co-workers a bit better, I’ve found that most of them are really sound people. Sure we argue about who has to take down the slop bucket, or deliver that extra-pot of coffee to that irritating patient (or do both at the same time….). But all in all sometimes they’ll get an extra cup of milk for you, or even take down the mop heads to be washed…. isn’t life good.

-By the way, I know you’ve all been thinking about asking it but didn’t want to sound stupid. Yes, my job is just like the janitor in Scrubs, and yes there is a newly qualified doctor who I torment (but he just doesn’t know it yet).

-We’ve been doing a course in food hygiene practices over the past few weeks and my boss came and told my that I did really well in the exam….one of my good pre-med friends from Wheaton, Chika, spent last week in Med. School learn

ing and practicing putting in I.V.’s…

-It’s strange the reactions I get when I tell people th

at I studied Anthropology in college. The most common response is usually a blank look, or a statement like “so what type of jobs can that get you?” On occasion I get the random person who when they hear “Anthropology” say “OH! That’s Fantastic!” which sort of catches me off guard, the sad thing is that all the Anthropology stuff that they actually like and know I haven’t a clue about, so I sort of nod and smile when they mention all these names of people and theories that they love and that I’ve never heard of….

-I got paid for the first time last week, that’s a great part of the job. It’s especially nice cause I don’t really have any expenses at the moment.

-This is the biggest picture of my workplace that I could find. Notice the contrasting architecture from the old country house/1900s convent/60's mixup periods... the way I really do like my job, but it's just easy to make fun of.......

-We had a Fire Extinguisher class today. It’s really fun, I can’t believe that I was actually getting paid for an hour of a man lighting stuff on fire and having us put it out.

-Last but not least, on September 1st, there is rumour there will be a Benjamin Washam appearance, here in Dublin. For those of you who don’t know, Benjamin is my 1st and 2nd year roommate and one of my best friends…. he’ll be staying for 2 weeks, get excited!.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

She's finally here...

So I was up at 6:00 o'clock yesterday morning, getting ready for work, and I have to admit I got a sick pleasure when the phone rang, so that my parents had to get up as well. Of course the only person who would call at this time would be a pregnant family member. Hailey was in labour and they were heading into the hospital and needed someone to come get Eoin. Only a little over an hour later at 7:45 Moia Jaelle Kingsley (pronounced Moya) was born to us at 8lbs 4 ounces. I was able to go in and visit my niece after work last night and then again today. Hailey looks really well, and should be going home tomorrow if all Moia's blood tests are okay. It was really peaceful in the hospital. Moia is so small, delicate and everything else you'd expect from a new born. I wasn't able to be there for Eoin's birth so this is a new and cool experience for me.

Here's a picture or two:

Thursday, July 27, 2006


So the past few weeks I've joined the Discovery Gospel Choir. What is it? Let me tell you. When I was back in Ireland for Christmas after coming back from Cambodia, I went to a special youth oriented Christmas service in Christchurch Cathedral (the oldest and biggest Cathedral in Dublin...I think). There was a small gospel choir there called "Discovery Gospel Choir." It was an integrated gospel choir about 60% african and 40% Irish from appearances. And ages we were told ranged from 7 years old to mid 80s. The music was good, not spectacular, but respectable- the thing that caught me about the choir though wasn't their sound, it was the what their leader, Philip said, to introduce them, he mentioned words like "gospel" "Christ's Kingdom" and "Racial Reconciliation" all in the same breath. After having been back from HNGR for a month already these words hit me like cold water on parched lips. It was like blowing oxygen on a burning ember, the flame started to burn again. Till this point, I didn't know of any "kingdom, or Shalom" oriented Christian expression in Ireland till that point, who understood these terms in ways that I had come to fall in love with. Philip was the first other Irish Christian who by his vocab seemed to understand.

Before I came back for this summer I searched the internet found a few email addresses and finally got put in touch with the choir. I first spent a day with the choir on an outing day where they were just taking a fun day trip down country. It was great just to sit, sing, and talk about God's heart for this land. I joined the choir and last week we sang in the Point Depot. The Point is a really famous concert venue, it's where all the West-end shows come when they're on tour and where most of the big bands come to play when they're in Dublin. We weren't there for some big concert or choir fest but for something better. It was the annual gathering of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). The RCCG is a denomination that began in Nigeria in the 1950s and is now one of the world's largest African denominations. This is the first time they had such a gathering in Ireland. People from all overh the world were there and a choir of 80+ people was there from the UK leading some great gospel worship. I've never been surrounded by so many Nigerians in my life, it was a great thing, and makes me want to visit Nigeria. It was the largest gathering of Africans ever in Irish history, with over 6,000 people there.

We were asked to perform and Philip was asked to give a short message. He did a great job. He tried to encourage the Nigerians living in Ireland to see themselves as missionaries here, as sent by God to revitalize the Irish church and reach out to those who do not know Christ. And as like any good missionaries he encouraged them to love the people and their culture. He encouraged them to be involved with life here, to read the newspaper, to learn the Irish language to start thinking of here as home, and then he also encouraged the irish people in attendance to WELCOME people to make them feel more at home. It's a two way street. He was really well received and it set up well for our choir to sing, as we're trying to be an expression of that diversity, with Irish and African (mainly Nigerian) coming together in community and worship. Our first song, which was written by the members of the choir is called discovery, and it is half in English and half in Yoruba (a Nigerian language). When Solomon, our musical director broke into the first Yoruba solo, you should have seen the house shake, people cheered and I was overwhelmed it was amazing. I wasn't singing that night as I was put on playing piano for the group. Thankfully everything seemed to go well.

On a side note, it's kind of nice being back in the music thing. When I was at Wheaton, where everyone is seemingly extremely talented with everything, my piano playing and singing didn't really set me apart, everyone could do that, but now being back here music is becoming a lot more of my identity again, and I think I like that. I got to play one of my own songs at an open mic session and was asked to do a song at a creative church service the other night. It's just nice to have a side of me re-opened that had been closed for so long.

This picture is of the choir when they sang for Desmond Tutu.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

So about the new job...

Hey All, I guess i should post about stuff that isn't italy. Again, I don't know what's wrong with me I don't have a lot of deep thoughts to publish about issues that I'm pondering at the moment. I know I do, but now I'm working I think I come home too tired to locate my thoughts and put them down. I of course have loads of feelings about the middle east situation at the moment, but again, it almost seems pointless saying anything except for that it is a travesty that Lebanon and the Lebanese population are being targeted so much. Lebanon had made some great moves towards greater freedom and democracy, separation from Syria and just a better situation all round, now Israel is effectively destroying a stabalizing state and future potential friend, it's just a tradgic decision. What's worse is the countless lives that have been displaced, and also the 140 something Lebanese civilians that had been killed as of yesterday (by a regime that supposedly doesn't target civilians) and the 20 something Israeli civilians that had been killed (by Hizbollah terrorists). Anyway, I have no answers, we all want peace, we all disagree on how to get there, I'm idealistic but I don't believe peace is most effectively (if ever) achieved through repaying violence with violence.

So now about the job... On the overpriced bus into brussels (21euro return) from the Airport, I got a text from my dad, saying that Loughlinstown Hospital had called saying they had work for me. I'd applied there at the begining of the summer, they gave me the whole line saying that I was top of the list but that at the moment there was no current work available. After getting laid off from Amnesty, I phoned back and left a message saying I was still available for work. So on getting that text, I immediatley called dad and got the woman's number. I phoned her and was told to come into work Thursday morning, and that they were perfectly fine with the fact that i'm leaving in the end of September. God couldn't have scheduled things in any better time. I had a day to recover from my trip then was straight into work. I seriously knew nothing about my job, I hadn't a clue what I'd be doing or how much I'd get paid, but when I went in I found out quickly enough that I was going to be a "ward assistant" which means that half of my time is devoted to cleaning rooms and things (i.e. counters, sinks everything except people really -thank God-). The rest of my time is devoted to getting food from the kitchen and serving it to patients during meal times. I also do different things during that time, like get things for patients (serve LOADS of cups of tea), help move some patients around and just whatever else people ask me to do. It's a good job. It's great experience of a hospital, it's sort of lowest on the pecking order of the great big hospital hierarchy, so that's invaluable experience for me, it'll help me a lot rather than starting in close to the top as a doctor.

It's local and I even walk to work (it takes a half hour each way). Again it's great pay, it's the same as my Amnesty job, with double that rate on Sundays. And with a lot more hours (8:00 - 5:30) than I'd been working at Amnesty I'll be making a good bit more. I've been working in Accident and Emergency over the past two days and really love it. I just like being around the hospital environment and seeing how differnet doctors, nurses, workers do things differently. Anyway, that's the job. We'll see how it goes and I'll post more if anything changes. Peace.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A couple of more pictures...

The famous Ponte Vechio in Florence (i won't even begin to defend my italian spelling...sorry danny).
The big Duomo in Florence, the outside is spectacular as you can see, but the inside isn't anything incredibly special.

So let's just be thankful no one decided to invade Italy during the World Cup final, although it probably would have been the best time to do so.....

Back from Italy..

Finally, a picture of the three of us. We WERE ACTUALLY all there at one time. We're here at the Trevi Fountain.

The Circus Massimus during the 1st half of the Final.

Alyssa and myself at the Colloseum. Liz is also there, taking the picture.

So after Siena, we went to Rome. We arrived sunday afternoon, just in time for all the festivities surrounding the World Cup final. We walked all around the Roman Forum and the Colloseum, and then went to the Circus Maximus where they were busy setting up for the thousands of people who would come to watch the match that night. We found a great pizza place to eat at, who speedily rushed us through our meal so they could close down to watch the game. We saw the first half in the circus maximus with the huge crowds, but then decided to watch the second half in the comfort of our own hotel, as who knew what the crowd would do if the won or lost....and especially since we were all a bit wrecked from walking non-stop the previous 3 days we didn't wait around to find out. We watched the second half and extra-time with our hotel's receptionist who I think was happy for the company. The second Italy won (in penaltys at the end) the streets outside started going crazy. Fireworks went off just a few feet from our 3rd floor window, and the restaurant outside was busy opening champagne bottles and giving sips (and bottles!) to random pedestrians passing by. Didn't get much sleep that night, but we were all a bit caught up in the moment, and having fun with them, yelling Italia! out the window and stuff like that.....the next day was the Vatican....a slight change in mood.

it was great, we had a good time going through St. Peter's and the museums and Sistine Chapel, it was cool to see all the paintings I'd just studied in my senior semester Gen Ed. Intro to Art. Of course we found one of the best gelato places in rome, just beside the Vatican, it was gorgeous and they gave you loads....a nice combination. Walked around, had some iced baileys coffee, and then found a place to rest by the river. It was beautiful, we must have been there for over an hour, just talking, journaling, and lying down under the shade of trees from the hot beating sun. After that it was over to the pantheon, then we waited around for one of Liz's favourite restaurants to open that she had been to in May when she was in Rome before. The food was really good and worth the wait.

That night we made our way up to the Trevi Fountain (again had more gelato) and then over to the spanish steps (had to go to the traditional tourist sights, but really i just had more fun just soaking in the atmosphere). I really love the way that Italy is such a meeting of worlds, you can really tell your in the mediteranian, lots of north africans and arabs around, not to mention people from every corner of the world. I could have even sworn I saw a Cambodian woman selling scarves in the Campo Nuovo. Anyway, as I'm sure you can tell I really enjoyed it.

I left early the next morning for a plane to brussels where I had a good 6 hour lay over, for some reason I had originally thought it was longer and so decided to go into the main city centre and almost got sick on belgian waffles and chocolate, it was crazy good, but besides that there's not much to talk about there, I had a terrible time there navigating the public transport system, and so almost missed my bus back to the airport. But, it was all good in the end. I'd definitely go to Italy again, but I think I'd just spend most of it in the smaller towns and try to avoid other foreign tourists (every tourists dream...I know) but in my case the highlights weren't seeing the Michelangelo's or the Da Vinci's it was just the italian approach to life that got me to want to come back.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ah Siena.....

We woke up early on our last morning which was a good thing since we would have been woken up anyway by the crazy loud drumming that these guys were doing. I don't know much about it but aparently Siena has loads of different sections which have their own history, colours and traditions and all compete in the big horse races that take place twice a year and draw tourists from all over. This must have been a practice or something....I don't know but they were dressed up in full garb and parading around town at around 8:00 a.m. on a sunday morning.

This is me and my cousin liz in the big town centre where they hold the big city horse races twice a year.

Hey, so if any of you plans on coming to Italy, don"t forget to see Siena. This is a beautiful city. Wow, it"s a wonder to think that so many italians ever leave this country, and that they"re not all clinially obese. The food here is really good, italian restaurants back home really don"t do it justice. Anyway, I got to go, cause i really shouldn"t be inside an internet cafe. We just stopped to book our hostel in rome. I"ll post more later.

Okay so here's some pictures of Siena above.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

So guess where I am now?

So don"t ask why, but right now I"m in florence, italy waiting to meet up with my cousin Liz and her Roommate Alyssa who are arriving on a train from southern France. Florence is so beautiful! even though it"s hard to see through ll the tourists, ah well, that"s life when half a million people have the same idea all at once. So why am I here? well in light of me becoming recenlty fired, and the fact that there were cheap enough plane tickets as well as people to travel with, i thought, why not?

We"re staying here till sunday then take the train down to rome for a couple of days. I leave on tuesday to go back to real life and work at a tem agency. I might get a job as a copy typist in a hospital, not much fun, but I"ll learn medical vocab and get paid great so we"ll have to see.

I"ll update more when we get back.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

New Beginings

Well I guess all good things (or bad things...depending on your point of view have to come to an end.) A few of my friends (meaning mainly Aprile), decided to christen me Wormwood because of my role with Amnesty as a "chugger" (Charity-Mugger).

This past friday they asked 3 of the four of us new people and two of the ones who had been there longer to come into the main office for a meeting. My team leader assured me that they just like having the new people in after their first week to see how things are going and to enourage us to keep getting more members. I had just got another member before the meeting started so I was feeling pretty good. The two days before had been quite good for me as well, after the begining of the week which I was finding slow. One of the team leaders said he was going to recomend me for the job of team-leader myself because he saw how good I was doing with the job. So needless to say I was a bit shocked when our manager said "I'd usually like to give you much more notice than this, but this will be your last day working with us." Apparantely they had had to really convince the board that our group should be hired, and so they had released some cash for our positions to be put in place. We hadn't though been getting enough members to really earn our keep and normally they would keep us on another few days to see if we would improve (which I felt I was really doing) and to give us a better chance, but because funding was so bad at the moment they had to let us go right away. i'm not too angry, in reality the job is about numbers of members and I don't want to become a financial burden on Amnesty if I'm supposed to be fundraising for them. A guy I met in the pub when we went out for drinks afterwards (who himself had been fired from Amnesty the week before) said that Amnesty was starting to realize they were paying us too much money but couldn't reduce our pay untill next year when they start hiring again.

So I'm back on the job hunt. You could pray that if God wants me to get a job, so that I can earn money, that he would open the doors that need to be opened and would give me the patience, perseverence, and peace to find the right one (-do you like that alliteration there?...).

Saturday, June 24, 2006

99's in Dingle

So my cousin Liz and Alyssa (her roommate) have started their two month treck across Europe. They began with a week to adjust and have fun in Ireland with me and my family. Liz and I have been close, more like siblings than cousins since we have lived with their family for 3 years of my life and many summers, so it was great to have her here. One of those summers Alyssa lived in the house as well, so we know her pretty well too.

It's been interesting playing tour guide a bit this past year, with Rachel Dorr over at Thanksgiving, Jon Knoche and David Michael here a few weeks ago and now Liz and Alyssa last week. Each seems to care about different things. Rachel cared a ton about the culture and how it was different/similar to England, Jon and David were interested in James Joyce, the history and of course the pubs, and Alyssa and Liz were really easy going, just enjoyed hanging out and whatever came their way (although we did hit both the Guinness Brewery and the Jameson Whiskey Distillery) we watched the entire 1st season of Arrested Development while they were here.

Anyway the picture is off us eating 99's in Dingle, on the West coast. 99's are basically a normal soft ice cream cone with a Cadbury's Flake stuck in it, but they were one of Liz's favourite memories from when she had been in Ireland as a kid, so we had them a few times. (Liz is in the middle).

Amnesty Debate....just an update

On the street the past few days many workers have been hearing comments where people believe that Amnesty has begun supporting abortion rights in its campaigns. This doesn't come as much of a surprise as there have been many recent media reports about such a change and my dad even mentioned a Focus on the Family Article about it, so I know many in America must know about that.

We were briefed on the situation during orientation and this is what we were told. Basically, there has been no change to Amnesty's current position, which has always been "not to have a position on Abortion." There is however a debate going on at the moment, with some advocating for the inclusion of abortion rights in the situation of rape and incest. Basically, it's a very sensitive issue, and one that Amnesty is taking very seriously, as both sides feel very strongly. It's something that could definitely split the organization completely in two, so I imagine that the position will stay the same, as in having no position. If I hear anything else though I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A last!

So I've finally found a summer job. It's not glamorous and it's very tiring, but it's a job I can believe in, feel good about and really learn from. I'm working for the Irish Section of Amnesty International as a member recruiter. Basically this means that I go out with a team of people each day on the streets of Dublin and we ask people if they want to become members (which of course requires a monthly or yearly donation). It's a tiring job (even though I've only done one day so far), but I think I'll like it, especially as I get more experienced in getting people to talk to me. If you don't know much about Amnesty you can click HERE for more info.

Here's a few things briefly.

  • Amnesty is the world's largest and oldest human rights organization.
  • It's not a development group but instead campaigns for the adherence to international law and rights for people based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • It's 4 main current international campaigns are 1) Combating Torture, 2) Stopping Violence Against Women, 3) Stricter Controls on the International Arms Trade, and 4) Ending the Death Penalty.

I strongly support these 4 campaigns. There are 3 other Domestic campaigns particular to Ireland: 1) Stopping Domestic Violence 2) Ensuring the Rights of the Mentally Ill 3) Anti-Racism

It's interesting learning about the Human Rights approach to tackling these issues. I don't necessarily see myself working with Amnesty in the future, as I'd like to work with people involved in more wholistic work, but I'm learning a lot by focusing on the rights angle.

Besides what I'm learning, the hours of the job are great 11:00-6:00 monday-friday and the pay is good too, 13 euro per hour.

Thanks those of you who have been praying that I'd find a job. I really think this is one of the best things I could have found in my situation (short time period to both find and do the job). Pray now that I'll have perseverance and success in this new job and that I'd continue to learn and get to know my co-workers.


Monday, June 05, 2006

An interesting survey...and...what do I do with nationalism as a Christian?

So as I'm still in sort of culture analysis mode as I'm only back at home for 3 weeks so far. One thing that I found made me uncomfortable more than the average person when I was in America was the nationalism. I'm unsure of why it wore on me the wrong way so much, but it did. What's been making me think about this recently is a poll that an RTE programme "Prime Time" did that compared Irish attitudes in 1986 and now again in 2006.

If anyone doesn't know about the situation in modern Ireland, but life, culture, social reality.....I guess everything has changed since the 1980s. The economy has gone from having 20% unemployment when I was a child to now one of the strongest in Europe, from being seen as close to a third world country with emigration (both legal and illegal) to America and Britain extremely high, to now being one of the 10 richest in the world. Social life in Ireland has undergone huge changes too. People are becoming extremely disillusioned with the Catholic Church as sexual abuse scandals seem to appear with startling regularity. Many people have described the change in Irish culture as transforming from a pre-modern culture to a post-modern while not really experiencing the modernistic world view that has been present in other Western European cultures.

One comparison that the pole made struck me as I'm sure something like this would never happen in the US. In 1986 the poll said, "If Ireland was attacked would you be willing to fight for your country?" In 1986 50% of those responding said they would, while 30% said they would not, 20% were unsure. By 2006 however things have changed drastically. Now 50% said they would not fight for their country, 30% said they would and 20% said they didn't know.

This may seem hard to believe as if you're in Ireland people are definitely proud to be Irish and love their country. I think one difference between Ireland and America in this aspect is that the Irish pride and love for country is not rooted in the State. People, no matter who they voted for tend to distrust the government and politicians much more than their American counterparts. When the Taoiseach (the prime minister) appears in public people don't wave Irish flags, like they do for the American president. When you see the football team playing an international, or if Ireland's in the World Cup you'll see flags flying from every car and pub in the country. I don't necessarily think either type of nationalism is better or worse than the other, but I had to think about why I had a visceral reaction to the form of nationalism that I found in the US.

I'm sure there's plenty of factors that play into the difference in nationalisms (i.e. such as the age of the two societies, America being a young country that has only experienced one form of government while Ireland having a civilization for thousands of years and experiencing several different forms of state including foreign dominance has much more history under its belt and perhaps a healthy level of skepticism about the particular state and politicians that happen to be ruling).

As I'm a Wheaton grad, let me put a Christian twist on this. A few months ago during the Center for Applied Christian Ethics' annual symposium, I heard a young man named Josh Casteel, who recently received his status as a conscientious objector and was discharged from the US Army. He served as an interrogator for 6 months in a prison that has gained quite a reputation over the past while, and rightly so, Abu Ghraib. He spoke to us about many things, but one was about the place of nationalism. He discussed about how our allegiance to Christ and his order for our world (some call it his kingdom) should be our most important allegiance, much higher than country, and also before family. We should realize that we have more of a commitment to our fellow Christians around the world than our fellow citizen down the road. What does this mean? I'm not sure how to practically think out all the ramifications of that, but I know there are many. I know we may hear that a lot, but it is something we need to do more than hear. We need to listen to it. What would happen if all the Christians in the western world cared more about the fortunes of their fellow Christians, most who live in the developing world, instead of the economic gain of their own countries?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Adjusted Again

Hey Everyone,

I guess it's time for an update again. Sorry for those of you who haven't heard from me in a while, I hope to get writing soon enough.

So I've been back a couple weeks now and still no prospect of employment in sight. I'm doing my last round of job hunting tomorrow, so if you could pray that I'd get something that will challenge me, cause me to learn and also earn a bit of money, I' d appreciate it.

It's been good being back. I'm sort of fully here now. That doesn't mean I'm not missing people cause I am, but I'm slowly finding my feet here again. The challenge is to learn how to live here with all the changes that have happened in my life and my world view over the past 4 years. Probably the hardest part of it is realizing that I'm very insulated by where I live. The immigrant communities and traditionally "poorer" areas are on the complete other side of the city. That doesn't mean there isn't brokenness in my own area but that it just won't be as visible and is harder to find. Pray that I'll come into relationships where I can serve and be served, where I can be challenged to walk deeper in my faith. Most of all please pray that I'll be following Christ were he's leading me this summer.

About a week ago, I was fortunate enough to have a visit from two friends from Wheaton. David Michael, and Jon Knoche (strangely enough both are half European, David half Swedish and Jon half German....didn't know that till they came), anyway they're both over in Oxford studying for the summer under Dr. David Cook who teaches the rest of the year at Wheaton. They wanted a break from the Oxford life for a few days (can you blame them?) and so they came over to visit me in Dublin. We spent the time seeing the sights (many of which I'd never been to before). We stopped by the James Joyce Museum, a tower where he lived and which inspired the opening scene of his book Ulysses. Then we went off to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College (thanks Aprile for getting us in for free!). This is an ancient Celtic illustrated manuscript of the Bible. It's amazing because of the detail in the artwork, some of the detail is only visible at a micro-scopic level. Next we went to the Chester Beaty Library, which is a museum set up by this rich American, who got his money in pretty atrocious ways (i.e. diamond mining in Sierra Leone), and then spent it all attaining some amazing historical artifacts, including some of the earliest copies of new testament manuscripts.

We ended that day with a trip to the Guinness Factory. they only let you in the old part, and so don't see it actually getting made, but the tour ends with a free pint and incredible 360 degree views of the city from a pub in a giant tower. It was great having the two of them over. My parents really liked them too.... which is always a bonus.

Here's one of us at the Guinness Brewery at St. James's Gate (my first time here).

Monday, May 15, 2006

Well, another update.

Alright, there's been loads of things I've wanted to talk about recently on this thing, such as the immigration marches that went down in Chicago and across America recently supporting strong immigration reform that will be more fair to the people that America exploits to keep our economy running.....I also just got back from a weekend with Servants to Asia's Urban Poor. That's the group I went to Cambodia with. My mentor in Cambodia, Craig Greenfield, was there along with Helen (who is UK coordinator) meeting with anyone in the US who was interested in their vision and the principles they live/work by. It was a great weekend of remembering God's calling on our lives. I went with two of my good friends from here, Matt and Sam. Josh, Dan and Stina, came up for the saturday sessions. I think we were really challenged by the discussions and really appreciated the insights that Servants has with 30 years of ministry under its belt as an organization. Servants' five principles that we believe Jesus modeled are (in case you're wondering):

Incarnation (living with the poor),
Simplicity (setting aside affluence and comfort),
Community (working with people not just for them, receiving from them in turn as well), Servanthood (empowering not overpowering),
Wholism (preaching grace and promoting justice).

One of the great quotes I heard this weekend was from a guy who also was interested in Servants but currently works in urban poor ministry in Los Angeles while attending Fuller Theological Seminary.

"You say that you care about the poor, tell me their names."

What a challenging statement for us who say that we desire to follow Jesus. I fear that as Christians we often believe the secular lie that Money can solve most of life's problems, and we do sacrificially give of our economic resources, but that's not all Jesus called us to do. If we are to follow him, that means to count the poor as our friends (our ACTUAL friends...that's doesn't mean just in some metaphorical or mystical way). It means that we are to follow him to the 'bad' parts of town and to embrace people that we don't want to touch. This is hard for me, it's hard for all of us, but isn't it what Christ demands of us. If you're not so sure I encourage you to read through the gospel of Mark with an eye on who Jesus touches, embraces and spends time with. Or look through Luke with an eye out for the poor and the economic principles that Christ teaches. You may see things that aren't preached in our Western churches.

Okay, I could probably talk more and more about that, but talk is cheap, the truth is that my life is painfully far from that, so please encourage/challenge me and go with me in this life that Christ desires of us.

Tonight, at 7:00, my flight takes off back for Dublin. It's a bitter sweet feeling (more bitter than sweet at the moment). I've already had to say goodbye to some of the best friends I've ever had. People who have been with me through hard times, who truly have shown love to me, who know all the worst things about me yet stay with me, people who challenge me to follow Christ more. It's also sweet because I know I'm going where God wants me to be. He brought me to Wheaton, and I remember four years ago being very afraid, not knowing what God had in store for me. He has been more than faithful and right now he wants me back at home, even if only for a few months.

Please pray for me in these transitions, culture shock still hits me as I cross the Atlantic both ways, and pray that I would hear God's leading for this summer as I discern where to invest my life and which communities to be involved in.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Future...

Well, I really should get around to talking about what's going to be happening to me in the next coming weeks and months, as I'm sure you're all bursting with anticipation....

A few weeks ago you know I posted about the lack of possibilities of me going to med school in the UK, well I seem to have spoken too soon. 3 weeks ago, I received an offer from Southampoton to study in their 4 year medical course. that was my first choice. So, God willing, I'll be heading over to England in late September. Crazy.

Before that though, I'm going back home for the summer. I'll be arriving back in Dublin on May 16th. So first order of business, I need a job. If any one knows of any jobs that you think i'd like/could do PLEASE! let me know. I'll need money if I want to stay in England.

So yeah, I guess that 's it. I've got a week left till I officially graduate, and I'm running around mad trying to get everything finished and done before I can officially get my degree. I need that so that I can turn it in to Southampton as a condition of my offer. Anyway, prayer would be greatly welcomed over the next few weeks.

That's it

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Anthro Musings

So every semseter Wheaton has "Department Chapels." This is when each academic department (in my case the Sociology/Anthropology Dept.) gets together to worship and share together during chapel time. Each spring in the Soc/Anthro chapel we hear from two graduating seniors, one sociology major and one anthropology major. For some odd reason or another I was chosen to speak this year as the anthro major. I got a really positive reception and a lot of people told me they appreciated what I said, so I thought I might use my speech as a blog post, since I haven' posted in a good while. (Let's see what non-soc/anthro people think of it...).

So when I was originally asked to speak in chapel, I was a bit surprised. When I think of all the graduating seniors, I have to ask, why did they ask me? I’m not really someone who I would like to listen to. But as I thought about it more, I realized, “Oh yeah! I’m the token Male."

So why are there so few Male Anthropology majors? Maybe what puts us off is when all the freshman women Anthropology majors who, when asked what they study, reply, “I study men.” I’d rather think it has more to do with Dr. Howell’s explanation of the situation, that most men just mature later than women, so that I’m one of the select few “early bloomers,” but I guess we all have to admit that it probably is mainly to do with the fact that our Anthro faculty is staffed by two stunningly attractive men. No, honestly I think the reason can be found in the bio-evolutionary instinct of self-preservation. The truth is simple, “Anthropology messes you up”, and that’s not something most of us, especially men, feel comfortable with. So let me tell you why I would have chosen such a path, and maybe why that might not be such a bad thing at all.

I remember sitting at my kitchen table, at home in Ireland, with this confusing list of freshman semester courses and a shiny brand new 02-03 catalogue, trying to figure out how to be a pre-med without having to be a science major. I randomly saw a course called Biculturalism. “Bicultural” happened to be my Ebay screen name. I’d always felt that term (which I actually thought I had coined) described me pretty well. I was culturally very Irish, and also very American. Not knowing how college courses worked, I assumed I needed to take Intro if I wanted to take a “big upper division course” like Biculturalism. That then led me to my first day of college sitting in Armerding waiting for our Intro to Anthroplogy prof to come. When Dr. Howell first started class, I have to say I was sort of taken aback. This man was bizarre. I’d never met anyone like him before. The way he talked, and acted, the things he said. I have to admit, I almost reconsidered taking the class, but I’m glad that soon enough, I fell under the spell of his discourse and within a few weeks I made my first forum wall post at Wheaton, campaigning to end the death penalty in Illinois. Dr. Howell unashamedly encouraged us to go to his church, Bridgeway, where I have attended since my third week of College. Dr. Howell always encouraged us to be involved in experiences and relationships that made us uncomfortable. This led me to volunteer with Emmaus Ministries freshman year. This experience drastically changed the course of my life. I learned about and encountered first hand the things we were learning about in class: systemic sin, racism, poverty and the complexities of sexuality and gender. I guess I was just starting to get messed up.

In biculturalism Dr. Arnold taught me how to put into words a lot of what I had felt in my life growing up. He also taught me how to approach the new uncomfortable experiences I was becoming involved in. One of the most helpful and enduring principles that I learned from him was “postponing judgment.” When I came across an idea or practice that I viscerally reacted to as wrong, I should learn instead to rest in the ambiguity for a while as I try to develop a richer, deeper and more nuanced understanding of the situation, before I come down with a judgment or decision. I’ve found this principle invaluable for many occasions in my life like trying to understand those I roomed with, or the constant everyday misunderstandings in Cambodia on HNGR and definitely even today’s Soul Force visit. Anthropology teaches us how to approach and begin thinking about ideas, that Dr. Howell’s “males who haven’t matured yet” still want to see in terms of black and white, with all the complexity and nuance and greyness that they deserve. This is important especially for the Christian life, where we can too often be so quick to judge without much consideration and even less compassion. Oh how we are so messed up.

One of the hard parts about being an Anthro major is that when someone asks you “what do you actually study?” you have to give them an awkward look for a few seconds as you try and formulate how to reply that “I really don’t have the foggiest idea” but in a way that sounds like you’re really intelligent and still belong at Wheaton. Sometimes it may be hard to find something to point to that we actually learned during our four years in the department. Anthropology at Wheaton though, is not as much about learning a certain body of material, as it is more about being shaped as a person. One of the major ways I’ve been shaped by Anthropology is in my need too keep questioning and rethinking, to never accept the way that we do things as normative, to always be looking for other perspectives and trying to learn from them the best that I can. It’s to see how culturally formed we all are and then to question how that relates to our lived out lives and our faith.

Vincent Donovan a catholic priest who ministered among the Masai wrote (about ministry) “Never accept or be content with unanalyzed assumptions, assumptions about the work, about the people, about the church or Christianity. Never be afraid to ask questions about the work we have inherited or the work we are doing. There is no question that should not be asked or that is outlawed. The day we are completely satisfied with what we have been doing; the day we have found the perfect, unchangeable system of work, the perfect answer, never in need of being corrected again, on that day we will know that we are wrong, that we have made the greatest mistake of all.”

I know sometimes, as majors, we can make the mistake of talking about Anthropology as if it were a source of salvation, or “the enlightened path.” Strangely, this is something I don’t see the Math department struggling with. But even though Anthropology in itself is (I know) shockingly useless for redemption, it can help us to recognize the true way. It can help us to recognize that we don’t have to flatly believe what our societies tell us about reality. It helps us to get out of sync with what we’d previously thought was true. Sometimes I wish Introduction to Anthropology had come with a similar disclaimer to the one Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael (in the book of the same name) gives his student, “This is just to preface our work. I wanted you to hear it because I wanted you to have at least a vague idea of what you’re getting into here. Once you learn to discern the voice of Mother Culture humming in the background, telling her story over and over again, to the people of your culture, you’ll never stop being conscious of it. Wherever you go for the rest of your life, you’ll be tempted to say to the people around you, “How can you listen to this stuff and not recognize it for what it is?” And if you do this, people will look at you oddly and wonder what the devil you’re talking about. In other words, if you take this educational journey with me, you’re going to find yourself alienated from the people around you- friends, family, past associates, and so on.”

The truth is simple, Anthropology messes you up, but probably in the best possible way. It encourages you, even if just for a moment, to question the long standing rhythm of this world, to be able to hear a different melody. Maybe in this moment then we can listen for the sound of God’s Kingdom, and as we hear its soft but unshakable tune, we can join in, messed up as we are, and contribute to its disturbing, invigorating, beauty.