Saturday, July 12, 2008

extension (bis)

I'm being allowed to stay at the Peace House until Monday morning. Incredible. Perhaps I should thank my BlackBerry, whose death is the primary reason for my current delay. (I'm still thinking of staying in Portland a few days more, though, to get some major projects done.)

One of the best things about hanging in one place is that it gives you a chance to get to know your hosts a lot better. I often regretted the fact that I was moving so quickly from place to place before now, because I've been lucky to have met a series of very good people along the way, all of whom I'd have liked to hang and chat with. Luckily, some of those people have kept in contact with me via comments and/or email.

Today is Saturday, and I plan on returning to Lewis and Clark College to use their computer. If I can, I'm going to try and get most or all of the Genjo dialogue up. Keep the fingers and tentacles crossed. Note to self: don't wait until too late to take the 35 bus back into town, or you'll be stuck on the road for an hour or more, like last time.


transcription and other prep

It occurs to me that the next leg of my trip isn't going to allow me much time to do any major projects, like transcription of my audio recordings, so I'm seriously considering hanging in Portland until those projects are done, perhaps even looking into some way to earn money (there've been no contributions for a while, and only a few sales off CafePress) before I truly find myself in a hole. That would suck: to find myself penniless with winter on the way. Ick.

Along with transcription, I need to comb over Alan's itinerary and start generating maps, making calls, and doing whatever else I can to prepare for a trip that, as Alan said in his email, will leave little margin for error. Shipping unnecessary items home, then filling that empty backpack volume with food and water, will be a high priority in the next few days. I might need to hit REI again for food and-- since I forgot it this time around-- a cloth hat to protect my head and neck from the sun.

Did I mention how badly my ears are peeling? No? Maybe that's because I hadn't noticed the damage to my skin until just a couple days ago, when I was moved to scratch an earlobe. I scratched... and was startled when it felt as though a tiny dead insect had come off in my fingers. Given the stinging sensation that followed, I actually assumed it was an insect-- that is, until I looked in a mirror. No: what had come off was a huge mass of peeling skin and dried lymph, a horrible, chitinous crust that felt like a small cicada. Nasty. I felt my left ear and noticed almost the same problem, though not quite as bad.

So, yes: getting a hat is a high priority.

Such are my plans. But enough about me-- what're you up to these days?


not arriving until Monday?

I got word that my new BlackBerry (yep-- Dad convinced the warranty folks simply to replace the thing; I'll have to mail back the old one) won't be arriving in Portland until Monday. I won't be staying at Metanoia Peace Community that long, though I have accepted Pastor John's kind invitation to stay until Sunday morning (I think that makes three or four extensions at this point; I'm very grateful, but also feeling very guilty).

There's an EconoLodge motel on Broadway, not far down the street from Metanoia; I'll probably move there for a few days before heading east. My knee still doesn't feel right, which isn't a good sign. I've kept my walks around town pretty much under ten miles, and have learned a tiny bit about Portland's public transportation system, but it seems my knee simply needs me not to put any weight on it for a few days. Of course, if I try the bedridden lifestyle, I'll basically have to stop eating: I've gotten into the habit of gobbling carbs like nobody's business, and I'm still losing weight: another notch will be going into the belt soon.

I went to the Portland REI today; it's about two miles from Metanoia. For those looking at Portland, Oregon via Google Maps, Metanoia is located on the corner of 18th and Tillamook; the REI is across the Willamette River: cross the Broadway Bridge, go onto Lovejoy, turn left onto 14th, and it's on the corner of 14th and NW Johnson St. I haven't calculated the actual distance, but I'm pretty sure two miles, give or take a few tenths of a mile, is a decent guess (just did the calculation; it's almost exactly 2.25 miles). A very nice staffer whose name I never learned (sorry, Mademoiselle, but I do appreciate the sage advice and great sense of humor!) helped me pick out a solar charger; I'm pretty sure it's the same charger that Rico had pointed out to me when he and I visited the REI flagship store in Seattle. I also bought new "convertible" pants (long pants with legs that zip off to make short pants) and-- finally-- a pair of shorts to wear as pajamas. Will be sending back my heavy jeans pretty soon, along with a mess of paperwork, and possibly some of the bulky bottles in my traveling medicine cabinet. I got a water purification/filtration system at a different store the other day; that may come in handy when I'm in the boonies.

Speaking of the boonies: my manager Alan (everybody along my path praises your commitment, by the way, Alan) has planned out my route all the way through to Lewiston, Idaho; he's got me doing the trek in 19 days, which may be optimistic, especially if my knee continues to be a problem. Assuming I start this leg of the journey-- which involves a ton of camping, some of which might even be illegal-- around July 15, this would put me in Idaho around July 34th, i.e., August 3rd (15 + 19 = 34, 3 days past 31... ever calculated calendar dates this way?). Let's move that to August 10th or 15th to accommodate the inevitable down time. Heck, let's just say that I'll hit Idaho in mid-August. (Then again, it doesn't seem that I'll actually be meeting anyone during this part of the journey, so I might be more motivated simply to trudge onward without taking long pauses to rest.)

If this is the case, I may be in trouble. The timing is very poor for entering the Rockies, and it's enough to make me wonder whether other people were right about heading south instead of following the cold, as I had originally wanted to do (send your opinions to Alan at the Kevin's Walk Central address: kevinswalkcentral [at] gmail [dot] com). I don't mind cold, but I do mind danger. Then again, just how dangerous would the Rockies be for someone not actually climbing the mountains? I realize many of the roads will lead to higher altitudes, but how many go that high, and how long do they stay that high? I see myself following valleys, not mountain arêtes.

Met a dude on the bus last night-- shout-out to Eric!-- who warned me about the perils of northern and southern Wyoming, respectively. It's humbling to realize how much sheer distance I have yet to cross. Eric also mentioned humidity in the Plains states, which sucks. Here's hoping I travel through those regions when it's much cooler.

A word about yesterday's bus rides: to get to and from Lewis and Clark College, I took three rides-- one was on a Number 35 bus just past Riverside Park (if you're going southward on Naito); I had wanted to walk the full distance to the college along Route 43, but the exit onto 43 had absolutely no shoulder, and the cars just kept coming and coming. When going back to Metanoia from L&C, I walked the long bike path that led to the southern entrance/exit to the campus (close to Lake Oswego) and waited from about 8:10 to 9:10PM or so for a 35 bus, which I had been told would be there-- the girl staffing the law library's front desk had told me so. I took the 35 back into town (Lewis and Clark College is actually slightly outside of Portland proper), then took the 77 to 17th Avenue.

I mention all this, not because I'm a wizard at navigation, but because in all three cases I got navigational help not only from the three bus drivers but also from various passengers who happened to overhear my conversations with the drivers. I was impressed with, for lack of a better term, the citizen involvement. It would have been hard to get the same sort of help in Korea; my conversation would almost certainly have remained exclusively between me and the driver, with strangers not wanting to involve themselves unless asked a direct question.

This issue came up, after a fashion, during the interreligious discussion of a couple nights ago, when Karl (who often has sharp insights into things) asked me a comparative question re: Koreans' "communitarian" nature. In my response, I tried to convey this notion that Koreans don't generally involve themselves with strangers-- that they have definite circles of loyalty thanks to Confucianism and the overall cultural history of the peninsula (nuclear family, relatives, friends, coworkers, classmates, etc.), but don't treat with those who fail to "fit into the picture," so to speak. This is one reason why Koreans (in Korea, I mean) aren't predisposed to greeting strangers on the street, and believe me, I've tried many times to say hello.* Otherness is hard for Koreans to handle, so in many cases they simply don't handle it.

Well, I've zigzagged over several topics when all I had wanted to do was give an update on my BlackBerry, so perhaps I'll stop here before I zig or zag again.

*This may be an unfair generalization based on my experience, which is largely confined to Seoul. However, one out of four Koreans lives in Seoul, so this claim might not be that unfair.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

people of the cloth never use foul language!


Folks really need to relax about the clergy. They're human, too. In my experience, they'll laugh at (and even tell) dirty jokes; some will swear like General Patton; many have a crude and salty sense of humor-- just like yours truly (and this blog shows me at my most restrained).

I don't mind that ol' Jesse muttered that he wants to cut Barack Obama's nuts off. I do hope that people can move beyond the supposed vulgarity of Jackson's utterance to the more important issue of the content of his sentiment: what does it say about the relationship between the two men? What does it imply for the country's future? Far more important issues than mere tone or style. Get over it, folks.


a word about Metanoia's morning prayer service

Pastor John of Metanoia Peace Community holds morning prayer services Monday through Saturday at 7:20AM. While the services follow a more or less standard liturgy, one that would be familiar to a Presbyterian despite the Methodist tenor of the services, one striking (and to my mind pleasing) difference is how the community has chosen to handle the part of the liturgy normally reserved for sermons.

In a spirit that is somewhat similar to many of the dharma talks I've heard in Korean Buddhist temples in Korea and the US, Pastor John runs his "reflections" on scripture as more of a Q&A session or dialogue (the latter more than the former, in fact; come to think of if, John doesn't talk all that much during this liturgical moment). The result is reminiscent of Bill Moyer's TV miniseries about the book of Genesis, in which people of various backgrounds-- not just theologians-- were invited to converse about the meanings they teased from scripture in a manner that calls to mind a conversational version of the Jewish midrash (thus Moyers writes, I think quoting a rabbi, in the preface to the book version of the TV series). From what I've seen, conversation about the scripture reading is usually animated but polite, with people contributing their thoughts in different ways according to their personalities-- verbosely, with thoughtful deliberation, and with humor. Even after only two such sessions, I've seen plenty of disagreements, but these are handled maturely by all participants. It's obvious the group members are comfortable with each other; I'm glad.

While discussion of scripture is not in itself special, replacing a sermon with such a discussion is, at least for me, rather novel and a great change of pace. While I doubt such a format could be used with large numbers of people (the morning group seems to be around ten people, with minor fluctuations), it's not a bad idea for pastors looking to conduct smaller-scale services.

UPDATE: Pastor John tells me he doesn't deserve this much credit. I understand why he says this, and have added this update so that his objection, so to speak, will be on record, but I appreciate his project and think he and his wife deserve a great deal of credit for the good they're doing here.


pics of Metanoia Peace Community

[NB: The photos in this post may appear to be cut off because of the text column width settings for this blog (the column width is set at about 650 pixels, while the pics themselves are often about 800 pixels wide). Simply hover your cursor over a given image, right-click, then select "view picture" or "view image" (or however it's phrased for your browser), and the entire image will come up. When done, hit the "back" arrow on your browser, scroll to the next pic, and repeat the process.]

Here's my gargantuan bedroom, which I wasn't expecting at all:

My first night in that bedroom, I had a strange dream. I don't normally tell people about my dreams, and I don't normally remember my dreams, anyway, but I do remember some of this one and find it too weird not to talk about.

While I've forgotten many of the particulars of this dream, I do remember that it was about multiplication-- not necessarily in the mathematical sense, though I suppose it necessarily had that aspect to it, but more in the visual sense of watching things multiply. I can't explain what I saw in the dream except to say it felt like events that were multiplying all around me, like new universes sprouting. Visually, the effect was like watching a thick soup as it was building to a rolling boil: a lump appears on the surface, then breaks into smaller lumps; other lumps appear, and so on. Instead of soup, imagine looking at events. That's what I was seeing. I don't know how else to explain it. Stuff was happening, then more stuff, and exponentially more stuff, and my mind's eye panned across the whole roiling mess.

Many sci-fi authors have tackled this sort of thing, so my dream could have come from that source, but what was different here was that, unlike the way it usually goes in those sci-fi scenarios, the events weren't the offspring of my choices-- the splitting was occurring for no discernible reason. The emotion that accompanied this vision was also strange, now that I think about it: I was serene in the face of this boiling, fulsome, ramifying reality.

Below: a shot toward the front door I took while sitting in front of the fireplace yesterday evening (Wednesday, July 9). It was around 7PM and I was waiting for folks to show up for our talk on interreligious issues.

Then the time for our talk rolled around, Pastor John suggested we move out to the front porch, which immediately reminded me of my talk with Genjo, which also took place on the front porch of his zendo. The following pic shows all the discussants but one, who I didn't realize had been cut off in the photo when I took it.

From left to right, we've got Steve (knee brace cap on knee); he's an avid biker and has done a trans-America bike trip), his wife Laurie, Pastor John, Jim (who spent part of the talk snoring; he'd been working on the house all day, so I certainly don't blame him for conking out), Karl (who contributes a ton of great content to the various discussions), Bruce (who adopted a Korean son who is now 30-something), Trudy (I hope I'm spelling that right; she's a yoga practitioner), Jo (I think that's her name; Jo is very sweet and very quiet); and Bruce's wife (Ann, unfortunately cut off in this picture).

The discussion was fantastic, and yielded over 90 minutes of audio. Oy. More and more transcription to be done!

Next pic: flags at the front of the house. It's a huge house, by the way; it has innumerable bedrooms and all sorts of nooks and crannies. I now think of it as America's answer to Hogwarts Castle: every time you turn a corner, there's a new room or a new set of stairs. Amazing.

Below: the front door.

A closer look at the front door's windows (1):

A closer look at the front door's windows (2):

This following pic was taken from the front steps earlier today; it shows the front garden and the stone path, which is laid out as a meditative labyrinth.

One feature of the front garden is this compelling piece of artwork done, I'm told, in a Native American tradition: a precariously balanced stone. I couldn't stop staring.

Even at a distance, the house is too big to capture entirely:

Off to the side is more greenery, along with this "Peace Pole":

In this shot, I've backed up a bit and shown off the pole's other two sides:

While walking to the public library again today, I took this shot of the Willamette River while standing on Broadway Bridge:

And last of all, here's a shot of the bridge I was on:

Portland is, like so many of the cities I visited in Washington, worth a longer visit than I'm giving it.


at Lewis and Clark College's law library

I got to the law library (lawbrary?) of Lewis and Clark College, which is a few miles south of downtown Portland and a couple miles off Route 43 if you take the bike trail from the college's main entrance near Lake Oswego. The 'brary is open to the general public until 7PM, which gives me a bit of time to work on some things (I'll likely come back here tomorrow).

A few notes:

1. The knee brace-- and I've never worn one before-- makes a significant difference in how my right knee feels.

2. I got a haircut in Vancouver-- my last major act in the state of Washington. It wasn't that great: the barber and I suffered a communication breakdown. You see, I have Korean hair, which behaves in a typically Korean fashion, so Korean stylists and barbers know what to do with it. When I go to a salon in Seoul and ask for a regular cut, I simply tell the stylist to cut my hair "the normal way." That's usually all I need to say, even if it's a stylist I don't know; it's rare to hear someone ask for clarification. Here in the States, where everything is PERSONALIZED TO SUIT INDIVIDUAL TASTES, it would seem that stylists (I went to a salon, not to a men's barbershop) assume nothing and ask everything. But the language they use goes over my head: "So you're saying it's OK for me to use a Number Two on you?" I got a couple questions like that from my cutter, and even after asking for clarification (a Number Two is a type of razor), I still didn't get anything like the cut I would have gotten in Korea.

In America, a normal haircut would seem to be far more expensive than one in Korea.* The base charge for my cut in Vancouver was $15, plus tip, with no shampooing included; in Korea, the same cut (done better) would have cost me $8-10, and would have included not only a full shampooing but also a full wipe-down of all the clippings from my ears and neck and shirt collar (in Korea, no hair would ever have reached my shirt collar). I came away from my Vancouver experience wondering whether my stylist was a rank beginner, or whether I really didn't understand the salon/barbershop culture in the States. The latter is possible: whenever I'm home, it's usually my mother who takes care of my hair.

3. I'm thankful that, in Portland, the intersections are marked with two street signs instead of just one, as was often the case in many Washington cities. In Washington, if you're traveling on a main road, what often happens is that there'll be a sign that names the road at your entry point (assuming you've entered the road at a large intersection), but after that, you'll only see signs for the smaller cross streets. This was a navigational pain on many occasions, especially since I wasn't always sure at what point a given road changed names.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm suddenly dissing Washington now that I'm out of it-- Lord, no. Come to DC, the other Washington, and you'll see plenty of road-related irrationality! I don't make my street sign critiques from a position of superiority; I'm simply a walker noting what works and what doesn't. Knowing nothing more about Oregon than what I've learned of Portland, it'd be out of bounds for me to make sweeping Washington/Oregon comparisons, but Portland's well-marked streets are a relief.

4. Today I stopped and talked with a homeless dude named Jesus. The guy was a gringo, so he pronounced his name "JEE-zuss," not "hey, Zeus!" Jesus comes from the East Coast (North Carolina) and recently broke up with his girlfriend; he's been in Portland for the past eight years. I didn't ask what he was doing there. The fourth and fifth fingers of his right hand appear to be in some sort of arthritic spasm; I don't know whether it hurt him to shake my hand. After I talked with him, it suddenly occurred to me that I should have pointed him to the Metanoia Peace Community; welcoming folks is their entire purpose! If I see Jesus on the street tomorrow, perhaps I'll tell him about the place.

5. No go on the BlackBerry today. I went to the AT&T store on Broadway and Grand; I spoke with the warranty people (16-minute wait when I made the call from the AT&T office; yesterday, a similar call was preceded by a 13-minute hold due to "unusually high call volume"); the warranty folks repeated that I should try to do the software update myself, but the problem is that, to do the update, I need Dad's AT&T registration information (login ID, password, etc.), which I don't have. Am thinking of just sending the BlackBerry back home and letting the family deal with it; they can send it back to me when it's behaving well. It peeves me to no end that this problem occurred barely six weeks into the walk. Could weather have been the cause of the problem? My sweat (I tried very hard not to sweat on the BlackBerry, but kept it in its case, and in my chest pocket when it wasn't raining)? Isn't the thing designed to take a beating? I never dropped it, never lost it-- the handheld was working fine right up until the crash... what the hell happened?

OK-- I've uploaded some photos of the 18th Street Peace House (Metanoia's base of operations) and am about to blog them. Stay tuned.

*I know there are exceptions. I had a $5 cut in northern Virginia... but get this: the place was run by Koreans.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

the BlackBerry has died (at least for now)

I took a mess of photos on my BlackBerry while crossing the massive Route 205 bridge that straddles the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon, but I may lose them all because the BlackBerry chose that afternoon to die. I tried calling up the pics to look at them, got the "Rotating Hourglass of Death" icon, then... nothing. So, following proper procedure, I removed the BlackBerry's battery and popped it back in, which resulted in another RHD icon, and a strange "JVM 102 Error-- Reset" message. I tried several hundred times to reset the BlackBerry by pressing either the return key or the trackball (both can be used to reset the handheld), but the BlackBerry insisted on giving me the same "JVM 102 Error" message.

Thanks to my current hosts at the Metanoia Peace Community in downtown Portland, I was able to find a nearby AT&T store, but this didn't prove very helpful: the staffers told me that that sort of error was untreatable at the store, and that I might either have to get a "warranty replacement" (which would mean waiting a while in Portland) or I could try a do-it-yourself solution. One staffer dialed the AT&T help line; I waited 13 minutes for a person to answer my call, and he ended up telling me I'd either need to do the repair myself or have an AT&T staffer talk me through the procedure. The phone was purchased by my father, and I didn't have the last four digits of his social security number handy, so the talk-you-through-it option was out.

So I find myself at the Portland Central Library with less than 30 minutes left on my computer time; Portland State University's library doesn't allow people who aren't members of the university community to use their computers (a bizarre difference with other universities I've been to on this trip), so I'm going to look up phone numbers for other universities in the city, call them up, and see whether they have better computer policies.

Pastor John Schwiebert of Metanoia, who runs his "house church" (it's a Methodist establishment) with his wife Pat, has been very gracious: he is allowing me to stay at the house until Saturday morning, which gives me time to do a slew of things that need doing, including:

1. visiting the local REI to get a water purification/filtration system (thanks, Rico, for the recommendation),

2. mailing off more non-essential items, including the accumulated paperwork that comes of staying at hotels/motels and using ATMs,

3. doing laundry (always crucial for the survival of those I meet),

4. re-walking the border crossing with my digicam so that you can see what the walk was like (pretty amazing-- the bike path, when it meets the I-205 bridge, goes between the northbound and southbound lanes, making it fairly noisy), as I'm probably going to lose most or all stored data when I finally get around to doing the software repair for the BlackBerry,

5. consulting further with Alan about the route ahead, and

6. continuing (or perhaps re-starting, given the possibility of data deletion) transcription of the Genjo Marinello and Brother Luke dialogues.

I'm excited that I'll be talking with the Metanoia group this evening about interreligious issues, but I don't know whether I'll be permitted to record the conversation. We'll see.

Portland is a fine city; not long after the bridge crossing, I hit Sandy Boulevard and noticed right away that there was a profusion of Viet-Thai restos, and also that the city seems to be divided into distinct districts. I passed through the Hollywood district at one point, and many of the shops and restos in that part of town had a Hollywood theme to them; other districts were more history-themed.

As was often true in the cities of Washington, Portland has plenty of bikers, including a large number of gorgeous women on bikes (hey, I'm human). The Pacific Northwest is, I gather, biker-friendly in general, though I do wish that some more effort would go into making roads walker-friendly. This isn't a complaint specifically about Washington and Oregon; based on what I know of my home state of Virginia, we could use help in that area as well. The country as a whole isn't pilgrim-friendly: you're either on private property or public property most of the time, and in neither case should you feel free to flop down on the roadside (or in the woods) knowing that you do so legally. A shame, that. Maybe I should lobby for a change.

Anyway, my ability to post routinely (and to receive calls and emails) is compromised until I get the BlackBerry issue resolved, which won't happen before tomorrow when I will-- we hope-- have access to a computer for more than a single hour. Wish me luck as I hunt down a friendlier university. (NB: Metanoia Peace Community has computers, but I feel guilty about spending hours and hours on them when they're needed by the house's residents.)


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

speed racer

Best wishes to my brother David, who will be participating in his very first mountain bike race tomorrow.

Good luck, big boy. Rest up, stay focused, and ride hard.


presented without comment

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

equipment failure or handkerchief mitosis?

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

not exactly goodbye

Tomorrow morning, I'll be crossing the border into the great state of Oregon, where one of my college friends (who married another of my college friends) is from.

I'll be following, more or less, the Washington/Oregon border, and might find myself occasionally straying back to the Washington side, so this isn't exactly the end of my weeks-long association with Washington, a state I'd highly recommend to anyone not familiar with it. No: I won't truly say goodbye to Washington until I've gone beyond (gate, gate, paragate) its southeastern corner.

What's significant about tomorrow's border crossing is that it marks my turn eastward: from here on, I hope to be making my way more directly for the Atlantic coast. As always, keep those fingers and tentacles crossed. Things are going to get hilly.


Monday, July 7, 2008

brace yourself

I elected to stay an extra night at my current hotel, which has done my sore muscles and blisters some good. My right knee, however, feels as though it might need a bit more time to heal. Unfortunately, I'm leaving the hotel tomorrow morning, so today, I'm going to test out one of the knee braces my dad had the foresight to pack in my first aid kit. Hope it helps. I've never worn a brace before; ought to be interesting.

UPDATE: Did I mention that I may have bruised a rib when I fell? While I don't normally lie on my front when sleeping, I do like to do so when reading, and it was while trying to position myself on my bed to read news on the BlackBerry that I felt a strange pain right around the rib cage/diaphragm area. At first, I thought it was a cramp or something muscular, but I've become increasingly convinced that the pain is bone-related. I couldn't imagine how I might have done such a thing to myself, but then I began to suspect my sternum strap, which must have tightened-- yanked, more like-- against my chest. The day I fell, my knee buckled and I sat down hard before rolling backward thanks to the weight of my pack; I know I didn't fall on my chest, and I haven't suffered any impacts to the chest to speak of. So the cause of my bruise has to be related to my fall somehow. I didn't even notice the problem until that first attempt to lie on my stomach, so I'm pretty sure nothing's broken.


some proper thank-yous

I never wrote a proper public thank-you to Ralph and Gay, my gracious hosts in Longview. Gay elected to pick me up when I was about four miles from her home. She and her hubby live in an amazing neighborhood, and their house sits atop a low mountain, affording them a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. Gay is a true techie; she built the computer she uses. Her slide show of a trip to Europe, which I watched while laundry was percolating, was set to music and was something to behold. I love Europe and hope to get back there again before too long. Thank you, Ralph and Gay, for your kindness and care!

My next hosts were Eric and DeAnna in Woodland (I do hope I'm spelling "DeAnna" right). I felt very guilty about the number of times I revised my arrival time-- always later and later. By the time I flopped, exhausted, into that plastic chair at the gas station, it was well after 9PM, and I'm pretty sure it was closer to 10PM when we all sat down to dinner, because E and D had elected to wait for me. Some chef or chefs had worked very hard to prepare barbecued chicken, salad, chips, potato salad, and cake, along with an irresistible lemonade; I appreciated all the effort that had gone into prepping such a fine meal, and inwardly cringed at how my delays had thrown the meal's timing off.

The couple lives out in the farming area of Woodland, away from the town proper, in a quiet, wooded area that resonates with the nighttime belches and croaks of the local frog population. Like my previous hosts, Eric and DeAnna have a marvelous house. They also have two daughters, whom I didn't have a chance to meet, though I did meet two of the family cats.

E and D describe themselves as nondenominational Christians; during dinner, we covered topics ranging from hypocrisy to interreligious dialogue. There was one part of the conversation that I wish we had had more time to cover, and that was when we were discussing the question of mission and whether Christians have (or should have) ulterior motives when engaging in formal or informal dialogue. It's a shame, sometimes, to move from house to house so quickly; I'd often love to talk for hours about these topics.

Perhaps most impressive to me about my brief stay with Eric and DeAnna was when they dropped a bombshell: they told me that I was their very first CouchSurfing guest. I was floored: they had handled my many schedule changes and various needs (laundry, computer time, etc.) with such grace and aplomb that I simply assumed they were old pros at hosting. Their roll-with-it attitude and basic cheerfulness (something I also felt while at Ralph and Gay's place) made my stay extremely comfortable. I wish I had been a better guest!

One final thank-you goes out to the awesome team at U-Neek RV at 2625 Old Pacific Highway in Kelso, where I had stopped to ask for better directions to Woodland. The entire staff was very helpful and made sure I was on the right track. I was able to spot particular landmarks and other navigational points with no problem thanks to their kind assistance.

A walk like the one I'm on can only happen with help from others. This blog serves as a kind of notepad for the journey; it's where I hope to list all the people who, singly or collectively, have helped speed me on my way. Entries like today's thank-you post are an essential part of what this blog is about.

So once again: Thanks, everyone!


Sunday, July 6, 2008

dead for a day

Sorry for the complete lack of blogging yesterday, but I spent the entire day pretty much dead, lying in a Vancouver hotel room bed (Extended Stay America again, but much cheaper than the one in Bothell, for some reason). I'm here for at least one more night before moving on. One big disappointment is that my room's TV doesn't get the Food Network. A shame.

Self-maintenance while at the hotel has involved peeling and scrubbing dead skin off my face and forearms, peeling and clipping calluses off my feet, and taking care of blisters on my pinky toes. Oh, and showering, shaving, and clipping my nails.

Saturday was all about rest. When I arrived at the hotel on Friday, I was too exhausted to think about doing anything other than flopping into bed and getting all that weight off my feet, so as you can imagine, my Fourth was spent watching the fireworks on TV. Whenever I got up from the bed, I moved about the room like an old man, and noticed that it wasn't just my feet that needed relief from the constant pressure of the backpack: my knees and lower back also began complaining once I had shed the pack and stretched out on the bed. They complained for most of Saturday, so I finally took four aspirin a few hours ago.

On Friday, I met not only Julie and Ralph-- I also met an avian assailant: a bird crapped on my head. Birds and I have a long history, so this wasn't entirely surprising. I managed to wipe most of the guano away and rinse both my hair and my wiping hand with a few mouthfuls of water from the Camelbak. No harm done, but I still marvel at how birds are able to hit what must be, from their perspective, such small moving targets. I'm not just talking about human skulls, either: the rearview mirrors of cars are another favorite target of birdy buttholes.

Got yelled at by another teen in a car on Friday. Caught something about "I hate..." and "...asshole," but didn't hear the person clearly enough to get the whole message. Part of the problem is that these people are too cowardly to pull up alongside me, say what they have to say, and wait for a response. No: the preferred M.O. seems to be a drive-by style. Very gangsta. Or maybe they think they're Special Ops, doing a strike-and-fade. Very heroic, in that case; I should admire them.


Right-- off to bed. Again. Believe me, the legs and back need it.