30 November 2004

Morning Watch

This is the last one before I head home. There will be more once I sleep for a week or so.


It rained yesterday afternoon, which is one of the only ways the streets get cleaned in the barrio. The jeeps have trouble making it up the hills, but the kids love it.

29 November 2004

Getting Close In

I think I understand: Sometimes it's worth it to take a risk.

There And Back Again

We spent today in San Pablito, the grandmother of barrios in Caracas. According to the conventional wisdom, San Pablito is number two on the list of roughest neighborhoods in Caracas, which is no small accomplishment. It is, after all, Caracas we're talking about.

The rain poured for awhile and the milandros (baddies) stayed inside. We spent time with the kids and then went on a quick walkaround. Fortunately for us, we had someone from the inside to show us around. I'm convinced that it was the grace of God and our friend Arturo that got us in and out safely.

And the best part is that I've got a pocketful of exposed film to bring home with me.

28 November 2004

Locked In/Locked Out

Everyone's got bars. Every house is, in essence, a prison. Metal doors with locks. Bars on every window. I carry my keys with me at all time. Just to go to the bathroom, which is on the open air patio on top of the house, I have to unlock the deadbolt.

27 November 2004

Early To Market

We got up early to walk down the hill (all the jeeps tried to stop and pick us up -- 'why are the gringos walking?'). We spent an hour and a half in the market, taking pictures and eating empanadas.

Up The Hill

We are living for the week about halfway up a steep hill. Of course, you can walk the hill if you want, but everyone takes the jeeps (500 bolivares a ride, or about US$ 0.23). They roar right past our door, just a few feet from where we're sleeping. Takes some getting used to. In the mornings, they are filled to overflowing with grade school students in their uniforms. They run until late in the evening carrying workers and commuters coming home to the barrio.

Making Friends

His wheels were coming off. A few cranks with a pliers and he was a happy skater.

25 November 2004

South American Thanksgiving

The Venezuelans seemed slightly confused when we talked about the Day of the Turkey, but we had a good time together anyway. Feeling thankful is universal, I guess.

Where I Am Today: Night View

The same view in the evening. This is from my bedroom window, by the way.

24 November 2004

Where I Am Today

Here's my view from this afternoon -- the outskirts of Caracas, Venezuela. The adventure begins.

17 November 2004

Quote Of The Day: Martin Luther

"Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to." -Martin Luther

You gotta love that guy.

[brought to you courtesy of michaelspencer.us along with a good discussion on the subject]

15 November 2004


I'm leaving for Venezuela next Tuesday. I've been thinking quite a bit about the trip, so I'll likely be talking about it here some too. I'll be there for eight days, staying in a barrio on the edge of Caracas, with my coworker and friend Andy the Video Boy. Of course, I'll have a camera or two with me.

The organization I work with has a staff family who lives right there in the middle of everything -- John and Birgit and their three kids -- who we will be staying with. I have been doing some advance preparation for the trip and I talked with John last week about what they do in the barrios. I asked him to describe the purpose of their work. He paused for only a second before answering. "It's pretty simple, I guess," he said. "We are trying to be practical; we ask ourselves questions like 'how can we live out the gospel of Christ here so that the murder rate in our community goes down?'" It's a rough place and I'll admit that there is a part of me that is a bit nervous about our time on the street, but that tingling at my fingertips and in my gut is serving a few better purposes as well.

First, it challenges me to observe intently while I'm there, to put away my tendency to be absorbed in my own affairs. If my job description is to be a communicator, how can I communicate this?

Like my friend Patrick reminded me this weekend, it also challenges me to pray. In the long term, it won't be me that changes the world. Transformation will need to come from someone greater than I.

And it also challenges me to make an effort to participate in the reality of life in the barrio. If I am nervous to spend one week there, what must it be like to live there day in and day out?

As a general rule, I tend to get a little anxious sometimes. I've found this to be the case especially when I venture out to foreign places, outside of my circle of safety, away from the known. I've decided, for one thing, that this is just how the game goes and, for another, that if I give in to that rule, the world will somehow be diminished. Hiding the lamp when you're out on a dark night doesn't do anyone any good. So I am pushing myself to be open and receptive, compassionate, generous -- in other words, to live in the real world, rather than in some cocoon I've woven around myself. Like I said, this can be frightening. I think that's a good thing.

12 November 2004

Good News For All Of Us

I completely support this. I hope he follows through on it.

From the people I've talked to in the Middle East: if GWB keeps his word on this, it will do more to bring peace in the region than any externally-imposed democracy ever could.

09 November 2004

The Godfather, part 4

Dobson calls out a hit on Specter: "He is a problem, and he must be derailed." How much do you want to bet Senator Specter gets a horse head in his bed before the end of the month?

And then there's that pesky Paul with his completely irrelevant bit of advice: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." [1 Timothy 2]

But my guess is that Dobson doesn't mean 'derail' in the intercessional sense.

Maybe Dobson thinks he is merely standing up for what's right. I don't know the man, so I can't guess at his real motives. But it has always been true that when the Church has stopped transforming society from the inside, the temptation to political power and influence becomes great. It can't be a good sign when religious affiliation becomes just another political demographic.

Remind me again...what was that passage about "in the world but not of the world..."?

Real Men (and Women)

The race started on Sunday. Single-handed around the world with no stops as fast as you can sail. They should be bringing it home around late February. Then, I expect, they will sleep until May.

Here's the course: Start in France, Cape of Good Hope to port (to the left), Cape Leeuwin in southern Australia to port, Cape Horn to port, back home to France. Sounds simple, right?

07 November 2004

A Few Words About The Night

i like to stay up late
and sometimes I do
like last night with some friends of mine
who are gregarious and charming
who laugh at my small jokes

i like to stay in bed
and sometimes i do
like this morning
with the clocks turned back
once again i am rising in the light
something of a latecomer to the day
thankfully they've held a place for me
among the ranks of the living and breathing

people of my town

are so distractable

i like the stillness
or better yet the sound of singing
and even better the whingdingbangup world of engines and hammers
and the rabble of neon along the street
in the old part of town
i like them all every one
i really like them

see i told you so

sometimes in the morning
the alarm will ring and it will be
the closing bell for all those dreams i dreamt in vain
perpetually parting is what we are
who can stand it
and i roll away and groan

but then the light of day will gleam
and you will whisper in my ear
i hear you saying
roll the dice
we've come around again

03 November 2004

Outgoing Mail: Nov 3

To the poor: Better luck next time. At least you've got your health care. Oh, you don't? Too bad. Well, there's always Social Security. And maybe you can cash out your 401k to get you through until 2008. And if the government won't help you, there's always the Church. There isn't? You have none? It won't? Oh, that's right. I forgot. Being poor is a sign that you are lazy and sinful. Which means you automatically qualify for Invisibility Status to the rest of us who deserve everything we have. Well, like I said, better luck next time. Hope that rent money comes in.

To the people who were planning to breathe the air and drink the water and take walks in the woods: Better do it quick.

To Colin Powell: Please please please don't leave. I am afraid of what will happen to the world in the hands of the witless Armchair Generals.

To Ken Lay: Cheney's on the phone. Wants to have lunch.

To Ohio and Florida: What were you thinking?

To the unwanted unborn: For all of our sake, and for yours most of all, I hope the man puts his money where his mouth is this time.

To the rest of the world: I am so very sorry. Please believe that this election was about social values within our borders and not about arrogance and cluelessness overseas. At least I hope it was.

01 November 2004

Well, I Guess This Pretty Much Settles It

Now I can sleep in tomorrow!

Voting on Abortion

This is a difficult one for me. I believe without question that abortion is wrong. I have said before in this blog that I consider the pro-abortion plank in the Democratic platform to be immoral and inconsistent. Strange how a party that claims to stand up for the weak and the powerless can miss the weakest and most powerless among us...

It bothers me that Kerry apparently holds no questions about his support for abortion. Bill Clinton made it clear that while the right to have an abortion was currently the law of the land, it was his goal that it should be made more and more rare. I appreciated this. If nothing else, it was moving things in the right direction.

Without reserve, I respect Bush's commitment to life.

But here's the way I see it. For one thing, abortion law can scarcely get any worse. The potential damage Kerry can cause in this area will be minimal. As far as Supreme court justices, Kerry will be facing a much more conservative, probably Republican Congress. Any justices he tries to appoint will have to run a gauntlet that will weed out all but the moderates. Weighing all the other things at stake, I prefer the risk of electing Kerry.

Voting on the Environment

The differences between the candidates here are so extreme, it's hardly worth arguing. I'll just say this: caring for the environment is an ethical and moral issue, not just the zone of tree-huggers and wacky lefties. We show our compassion for others and our worship for the Creator by caring for this place we live in. I believe this is a holy responsibility.

If you have any questions, take a look at Bush's record. The League Of Conservation Voters have endorsed Kerry [Note: LCV website has been slow today].