Friday, April 29, 2005

The Pacific Northwest!!

The Pacific Northwest is beautiful. Granted, the San Francisco Bay Area is no slouch, either, especially with the Sierra Nevada just a few hours away. But being nearly surrounded by mountains, both Seattle and Vancouver are absolutely gorgeous and the wilderness afforded by the mountains is easily accessible.

I just returned from a week-long trip up there, visiting friends and just enjoying time away from work. I had no agenda, something that I've come to appreciate about my vacations--it used to be that I'd pack as much stuff as possible into the trip. Now, I've learned (from experiences coming back even more exhausted than when I left) that it's good to have a shell of a plan, and just go on instinct and the Spirit.

Another vacation "strategy" that I've picked up is to avoid doing all the main touristy things, and get out to see the "real" city. That comes largely from working for CSM--my job is to show our students all aspects to the city: good and bad, touristy and scary, rich and poor, etc. So when in Seattle, I spent some time just wandering around different neighborhoods that a tourist had no business being in. I walked a lot, took the bus a little (always an adventure in an unfamiliar city), found a couple ultimate games to pick up with, and helped to paint my friends' coffee shop which is about to open.

I used to think that taking a nap on a vacation was a waste of time--one should be out exploring everything! Not so anymore. I napped when I got in to Seattle, in a park downtown on the water. I napped on my first day in Vancouver--on the most uncomfortable futon, I believe, in the world. I napped on a plane, on a train, on a bus. And I slept long and hard most nights. Waste of time? I think not! For once, I came back from vacation well-rested. I suppose that's the purpose, right?

Many thanks to all my friends in the Northwest who hosted me in some way: Brian and Jamela, for VIP treatment at the A's-Mariners game on Thursday and a bed to sleep in; Hayden and friends, for allowing me to hang out and sleep on a couch; Paul for the mini-tour of Seattle and floor space; Julia, for a brief moment of catch-up time; and Erin and Christina for bringing me into the Regent community (and Tut's roommates for allowing me to crash on a couch)!

If there's one thing I can say about the Pacfic Northwest, it's this: I'll be back. (To steal a line from our governor.)

Monday, April 18, 2005


I spent six hours yesterday, running around in gorgeous weather (we were in Sacramento, not San Francisco, hence the nice weather) playing ultimate, the sport I love. We had a fun time and I played fairly well, so surely ultimate was the highlight of my day, right? Nope. It was a cool little story that happened shortly after I got to the fields.

After I checked in at the registration table, I was checking out brackets and schedules for the day when a woman came up and said, "You're Chris Winkler, aren't you?" I was kind of taken aback, but I affirmed that she was correct. "You sent us a thank you note last're the best ever." Though that's probably not verbatim, it conveys the gist of our conversation and what I'm getting at. Let me explain...

I was at this same tournament, Hat in the Sac, last year as well. It was a first-year event, but was very well organized and a lot of fun, so when I got back to SF, I sent the organizers a thank you note for putting on such a great tourney. It wasn't much, just an e-mail expressing my congratulations for a successful tournament and appreciation for making it happen (tournaments are not easy things to pull off).

This woman, Megan, was one of the organizers and the effect of that thank you note was obvious! She sought me out of the other hundred participants and thanked me for my thank you note! There is a bit of irony in this, but it brought out something that is absent in our society, and that is gratitude. As a missionary, it has been drilled into me from books, my supervisors, and experience that thank you notes are important in support raising. But what about in thanking our parents for things they did for us growing up? What about our coaches for volunteering time to hang out with us as teenagers? What about our friends for simply being there? One of the things that we hear over and over from the groups that serve with us--most of whom come from affluent backgrounds--is that they will no longer take for granted what they have. They tend to thank God for his provision in their lives, and often then choose to live more simply.

And I'm not just talking about expression of gratitude, but simply feeling it. If you start to feel gratitude toward those around you--and those who came before us, such as Martin Luther King, Jr.--then our lives will change. And when that feeling comes, expressions of it will come. It might be in the form of an e-mail, a phone call, or (imagine this) a snail-mail letter, but it will mean a lot no matter its form. It's a lesson I'm still learning, and will probably never fully learn in this lifetime.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Leaving...on a jet plane...again

Tomorrow morning at 7:35 a.m., I'll board a plane for Houston. I'm travelling there for a one-day workshop for all the CSM people who do what I do (which equates to one person in each of our eight cities). It will be my second trip I'll have made since getting back from the Midwest in January, and a week after I get back on Wednesday, I'll be flying again...this time to Seattle for vacation.

When I took my first flight, to England as a high school junior in 1997, everything about it enthralled me. Since I wasn't afraid of flying and don't get motion sickness, I loved every minute of it. People-watching in the airport, seeing the ground below from so high up, trying not to say the wrong things to the security people (this was back when they still asked you if you packed your own bag, and the like). I was a wide-eyed kid from rural Michigan, and I soaked up every minute of it.

The following year I flew to Mexico...then it was Honduras...then Vienna...then, shortly after graduating from college, I was flying several times a year. Here is a brief outline:
2002: Chicago-Houston (RT), Chicago-San Francisco (RT)
2003: Chicago-SF, SF-Houston, Houston-Chicago, Grand Rapids-Minneapolis, Minneapolis-SF, SF-Chicago
2004: Chicago-SF, SF-Nashville (RT), SF-West Virginia (RT), SF-Cameroon (RT), SF-Chicago
2005: Chicago-SF, SF-Los Angeles (RT)

All this travelling gets a little ridiculous after a while! (Note that I understand many others fly much more than me!) Sometimes, I feel like it's a sign of prestige, because I'm a "business traveller" with an important job or something. But really, I'm sick of it. Though it's often the quickest and cheapest way to get from Point A to Point B, it's a hassle and has gotten to be boring. Granted, the people-watching aspect is still somewhat exciting, and following along from the air with my atlas still holds a special place in my wandering heart, but I'll take a train trip over the airport/airline/airplane inconveniences any day!

The thing that keeps me going is the people that I know I'll see when I get to the destination, whether I'm on the way to or from somewhere. I love our CSM staff (I'm so excited to see so many of them tomorrow!), and of course vacations are always something to look forward to, whether it's friends or family. If there was only a way to see them without all this flying!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

"Do you have a fever?"

Wynter, my boss, leaned over today and felt my forehead, asking, "Do you have a fever?" No, I wasn't looking sickly, or saying I felt warm. It was something I said in the course of normal conversation.

What could I say that would prompt Wynter to make that comment (jokingly, of course)? I had said that I wouldn't mind going to see the new movie "Fever Pitch" in the theater. The key to this comment is "in the theater." Since I've lived in San Francisco, I have paid--with my own money--to see a movie in the theather a total of four times. That works out to an average of a little more than one per year. Wynter knows this, as whenever the topic of movies comes up, I get on my soapbox about how much movies cost these days, I'll just get it when it comes out on video, etc.

Growing up in rural northern Michigan, I could go see a movie for something like $5. Granted, the movie theater in my hometown, in an effort to show more than one movie at a time and bring in more revenue, decided to "add" a screen by simply building a wall down the middle of the one existing theater! But still, it was a movie on the "big" screen, and even going to the neighboring town that had a little more modern theater still only cost $6 or $7.

Then I left for college. The local theater was something like $8 or $9, so I almost never went there, especially when the college showed movies (fairly recent releases) for $2 on the weekends. During those four years, I think my total of movies (in a real theater) reached somewhere in the vacinity of three. (Two of those were historical dramas that I saw with a history prof and/or fellow history nerds.)

So that's my soapbox. Movies cost a lot. But what's the importance of this well-known fact to this blog? It's to demonstrate my love for the game of baseball. The aforementioned movie "Fever Pitch" is built around the dating life of a hard-core Red Sox fan. I love the game and though I only rooted for the Red Sox for a few weeks last year, would love to see a movie about baseball--especially since it was shaped around the incredible run the Sox had in 2004. Even if it means shelling out $10 for two hours of sitting in an uncomfortable seat behind noisy teenagers and having to smuggle food in...oops, there's my soapbox again!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

democracy in action...

"Now this is democracy in action," said my friend Ben (and fellow Michigander). We were being herded into room #416 at San Francisco's City Hall, along with about 80 other people wearing matching t-shirts. What were we doing? What San Francisco does best! Grassroots lobbying. Let me explain:

I am an ultimate player. Ultimate, in this sense, is a noun not an adjective. Better known as ultimate frisbee or sometimes frisbee football, ultimate has been my exercise outlet for the last seven years, but especially in the last three here in SF. One of the things that makes ultimate special is the "Spirit of the Game," which in short says, "Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of the bond of mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed-upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play." This means helping another player up after knocking them down (accidentally), admitting to a rules violation, and having fun. Unlike any other sport I've seen, there is true camaraderie in ultimate, which is what brought me to City Hall this afternoon.

Not only do ultimate players have a bond with each other, but also with other players of disc sports, like disc golf (AKA Frisbee golf). So when the call went out from the SF Disc Golf Club to attend a meeting of the Recreation and Parks Commission, who was debating whether or not to extend the temporary permit for the disc golf course in Golden Gate Park, the ultimate community showed up in force to support the golfers.

The committee voted to extend the permit by 60 days to allow for further investigation into the impact on the park by the course, but just having 80 disc golfers and other supporters overflowing the hearing room--in the middle of a weekday--was quite a sight and surely made an impact on the commissioners.

And through it all, hippies and coporate folks alike being herded into that small room, this was truly a case of democracy in action.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

finally caving in...

It seems as though everyone and their brother (except mine, at least that I'm aware of) has a blog, so I'll jump on this bandwagon. What helps this is my recent purchase of an Apple iBook G4, allowing me to have Internet access at my home.

A bit of an intro, although I'll reveal more as this blog develops:

I grew up in Michigan and moved to San Francisco during the fall of '02, shortly after graduating college. I am serving with a ministry called Center for Student Missions, working with suburban and rural youth who come to the City to serve in various soup kitchens, homeless shelters, afterschool programs, etc.

I will be leaving SF at the end of the summer to join Wycliffe Bible Translators, moving overseas to one of their many branches in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, or Central/South America.

Happy blogging!