Monday, September 26, 2005

Orlando, FL

For the first time in the last month, I was able take all of the clothes out of my backpack and put them into a dresser. I also unpacked my toiletries to put in a cabinet in the bathroom, set up a mini-office in my room, and have a refrigerator to call my own. I will be stationary for two whole weeks! That seems like forever after spending no more than four nights in one state since I left SF on August 30.

Orlando is home to the Wycliffe USA headquarters, and where they host Training Camp for new members such as myself. Lots of intensive classes, and getting to know others who will also be serving with Wycliffe in the near future. No funny stories yet, but I'll be sure to pass them along as they occur. When you get 40 people wacky enough to live the rest of their lives in developing countries, crazy things are bound to happen!!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

New Friends at Yankee Stadium

Here's a story that I absolutely had to post...I only wish I had been able to do it sooner. This is one of the craziest "small world" stories of my life, and if you know me, you know there's been many!

I went to Yankee Stadium only to see the stadium. I can't stand the Yankees, and was not really a Baltimore fan (although I was on Monday!). After being thoroughly unimpressed with the park itself, and settling in to watch two teams that I didn't care about, by myself, I was thinking it was going to be a very long game.

Then, a couple sitting behind me had to move down to my row, after they realized they were in the wrong seats. Amazingly enough, they were Baltimore fans--now I had someone to root with! I began talking with them, and the topic turned to our jobs. When I told the husband about CSM and what they did, he said, "Oh, a friend of mine is trying to start that here in New York."

He didn't have to say anymore. I knew that his friend was Cindy, whom I worked for in Chicago and has been in NY for a year attempting to start our site there. They knew all about CSM, and the wife had even had breakfast with Cindy that morning. (And I was having breakfast with her the following morning!)

10 million people or whatever live in NYC, I know two (a friend from college also lives there), and I wind up sitting next to a close friend of a co-worker! What are the chances? The three of us had a great time cheering on Baltimore together for the rest of the game, although were disappointed when the Yanks won on a walk-off homer...which landed only three seats away from us.

Monday, September 19, 2005

New York, New York

Wow...I've been in many of the world's major cities, including a few in the past couple days, but there's just something about New York. I've been here for all of one hour, and I'm in awe. Not really anything I can describe, but maybe it's just the knowledge that I'm in one of the most "important" places on earth. More to come...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Richmond, Virginia

What a nice treat I got tonight. I’m in Richmond, VA, for the wedding of a CSM staffer (and good friend) from DC, and I was supposed to stay at the house of the boyfriend of a bridesmaid (or some other random connection like that). But when I got here, the VP of staff for CSM, Greg, offered me a space on the couch in his hotel room. So...after a couple weeks of travelling, I’m spending my first of all those nights in a hotel. There's just something about a hotel that's different than friends' houses and CSM housing sites. The icing on the cake is that I’m able to watch the A’s game, something I’ve only done a few times this season. Thanks to GP the VP for the offer!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Look that Says, "Ask Me!"

I must have a look about me that says, "I'm not a tourist, ask me for directions." Perhaps it comes from years of working in the inner-city, where I know that the best way to not get mugged or anything else is to make it look like you know where you're going (walk with a purpose, go into a store if you need to look at a map, etc.). Like I mentioned two nights ago, it happens a lot in Chicago, and I'm able to help people. In DC, a guy asked me on Tuesday for directions, and amazingly I was able to give them to him. (It helped that the street he couldn't find also happened to be the one we were standing on.)

But in Philadelphia? Here I was yesterday, dragging three bags through downtown, looking just about as touristy as one can get...and I still get asked for directions. Finally, I had to turn down someone's request, based primarily on the fact was that I had been in Philly for all of two minutes. Maybe today I'll strap on a fanny pack and wear an "I Love Philly" t-shirt and see if people still think I'm a local.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Brief Lapse in My Sense of Direction

I like to think that my sense of direction is above average. Three or four times when I was in Chicago, people asked for directions and I was able to help them. It helps that Chicago is an easy city to figure out, and I'm there so much that it's like taking refresher courses every year. On the other hand, DC got the better of me tonight.

The streets here are funny. There are east-west letter streets (e.g. K Street, where all the lawyers are), the diagonal state avenues (e.g. Colorado Avenue, where I'm staying now), the north-south numbered streets (e.g. 16th Street, which runs into the White House), and all sorts of other random things, like another set of alphabetical order and such. But those don't always stay true, and I got turned around big time on a little stroll through the neighborhood I took tonight. It was several blocks too late when I realized that the house numbers were going up instead of down.

But in any case, I found a thrift store to replenish my reading material and saw some of DC that I wouldn't have seen otherwise. Helpful, since I'll be living here next year.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

From Chicago to Charleston to Washington

My time in Chicago was just as I wanted it to be: relaxing and full of memories. Three days of wandering around the city, primarily visiting my old stomping grounds. I stayed at CSM, where I worked during the summer of 2002, on the campus of North Park University. Uptown Baptist Church, a favorite place of mine during my seven months living in Chicago, was just as diverse and lively as I remember it. Oak Street Beach, Canterbury Court Apartments, ultimate at Montrose and Western, Chicago Semester, the museum campus, and Lou Malnati's pizza also all found my favor once again.

Tuesday night, I threw myself a party at Leona's, my favorite Chicago restaurant. People from many different parts of my life converged, all of whom it was great to see again and who all had some sort of connection with one another, as well. It was cool to see the networking and reuniting take place! Thanks to all who came and made it a special night.

Wednesday morning, I was back on a plane (I'm flying as little as possible on this trip) to Charleston, South Carolina to meet up with other CSM staff from around North America for staff retreat. This was a major blessing, as normally I wouldn't have been allowed to go (considering that I no longer work for CSM!), but they invited me to join them for half the week and it was great. Four days in a beach house on the Atlantic Ocean...not too shabby! (See my previous posting for a picture and more comments.)

I've been in Washington, DC, for the last couple days, hanging out with my friend Justin (who works for CSM here). Another great church service that spoke right to me at a time I needed to hear it, and another baseball game (Justin, also a big baseball fan, lives literally two blocks from the stadium). This morning, I met up with the Wycliffe people here in DC--this was important, because I'll start out my time with Wycliffe here next year, possibly for up to a year and so it was a time of meeting with my future co-workers and learning much more about what I'll be doing.

Next stop will be Philadelphia, on Wednesday.

State Game Update (Total--45 states, 2 provinces, and DC):

Rhode Island
New York
South Dakota
North Carolina
New Jersey
New Mexico
South Carolina
District of Columbia
West Virginia

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston Sunrise
Originally uploaded by Chris Winkler.
For the last few days, I've been able to hang out with all of the full-time nationwide staff of CSM in Charleston, South Carolina. On Wednesday morning, I flew from Chicago (more on that later) to Charleston. It was a time of closure with many of my best friends from the past several years, with quality time spent in two ocean-front beach houses, great food and of course, the games which I always look forward to at staff gatherings.

Right now, I am staying with a friend in Washington, DC, and am safely away from Hurricane Ophelia, which is now threatening the very city we slept in last night. It's late and I'm tired, but will try to update more later this weekend.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Here's an interesting column from the BBC about the media's attack on the federal government's response, or lack thereof, to the hurricane. I very much appreciate the fact that people are speaking out, especially as it was New Orleans' most vulnerable citizens who were herded into the Superdome--with full knowledge that it could turn real ugly, real fast.

The reports coming out of the Gulf Coast have urged me to do something. This is a time in my life--these next few months--where I don't have a job, and it dawned on me that I am in a perfect position to volunteer down there for a few weeks. After making some phone calls to both the Salvation Army and Red Cross, I'll probably go with the Army after I get back from my travels in the middle of October. I was ready to drop everything and leave today, but I need to go through a brief training and have to go down with a scheduled group...which wouldn't be for another six days or so. This makes October the best option. If any of you friends of mine are interested in going with me, or knows anyone, please let me know! It'd be great to go with a friend or two.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Getting Close

Chicago is so close now, I can almost smell it. We’re still in farm country, but are on track to be at Union Station by 8 hour from now. The first ring of suburbs isn’t too far off and it’s familiar ground from then on. The sun, about to set, is gleaming off the corn stalks right now, and it’s a cool view--about as interesting as miles of corn fields can be. Though I’m not on a tight schedule (others around are being rerouted onto different trains or having to get put up in a hotel for the night), I’m still anxious to get to a bed and settle in for more than a night or two. Plus, the fresh air will be welcomed. One good thing about arriving in Chicago in the evening instead of the afternoon is that it won’t be nearly as hot! I got off for a minute at a stop in Iowa, and it was so blazing hot that I had to get back on right away. Welcome back to summer in the Midwest, eh?

State Game Update (17 total):

Baseball, Sunset and the Mountains

We’re just leaving Omaha now, something like four or five hours behind schedule. The cool thing is that I don’t really care. No one is waiting for me in Chicago, and I’ve got plenty of things to do, not the least of which is watch the scenery go by...even if it is the flat land of Iowa.

Last night in Denver, I had a slight schedule change for the better! I knew there would be about an hour and a half layover in Denver, so I asked the station attendant in Grand Junction if she knew if the train station in Denver was near anything worth seeing, or at least a cafe to check e-mail, upload blog postings, etc. Her first reply was that Coors Field, where the baseball Rockies play, was only two blocks from the station; I didn’t hear another word she said. I had heard good things about Coors and with all of the other stadiums I was visiting on this trip, a quick peek at the outside of the field would fit right in.

When we were pulling into Denver, I could see flocks of people walking with baseball mitts and decked out in Rockies gear, a sure sign that there was a game that night. Even better--I’d be around the stadium in a real baseball atmosphere. The climax was when I went up to the station attendant in Denver and he answered my three questions: when would my train be departing (about two and a half hours late), what time did the Rockies game start (7 p.m., which also happened to be the current time), and could I still get cheap tickets (they had an abundance of $4 tickets released just before game time). Perfect. Now I just needed to figure out what to do with my bags. Thankfully, I had already befriended a mother-daughter pair that were traveling to Iowa and they had brought up the idea of one of us staying with all of our stuff while the other two went out to find dinner. I asked if they would be willing to stay with my stuff (at least one of them couldn’t go anywhere anyway) while I went to the game. They agreed, and I was off to Coors.

I got there just in time to see the sun set over the Rockies--from inside the stadium! It’s a beautiful park, with views of the mountains and downtown. After walking around for a half-hour taking pictures and getting dinner, I finally made it to my seat to watch the game. Four home runs, just in my five innings there--typical at Coors Field, where the outgoing winds and high elevation (my seats were almost exactly one mile above sea level) make it the most hitter-friendly park in the majors.

After the fifth inning, I ran back to the train station, only to find out that our train was delayed for another hour. But, the Iowa couple and I continued to chat and then wound up on the train next to each other. That’s one of the great things about train travel--meeting new people and carrying on conversations, something that just doesn’t happen on planes.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The State Game

Some people asked before I left if I had plenty of reading material. The truth is that I only brought an atlas and the latest issue of Reader’s Digest. I’m fascinated by the scenery in this beautiful country of ours, and wasn’t really planning on doing a whole lot of reading. Since leaving Grand Junction (on a bus, since they were working on the train tracks between there and Denver), I’ve marveled at the Colorado River, the canyons that it has formed, and the mighty Rockies off in the distance.
The bulk of the Rockies is yet to come, and we have significant elevation to gain. The bummer right now is that the bus driver is a fan of country music, and has had it playing for a while. Thank goodness for my laptop and headphones, which have rescued me from those wretched songs.

One note: After fond memories of playing the license plate game as a kid on road trips, I’ve decided to do the same for this trip. So...I’ll keep you posted on all the different states’ and provinces’ license plates that I pass. Here’s the list (13) thus far:


Grand Junction, Colorado

For the past two days, I've been enjoying western Colorado with my friends Carol and Katie Miller in Grand Junction. Carol is a good friend from Hope and Katie is her mom, whom I got to know well in Michigan, as well as Thanksgivings in California.

After arriving around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, we dropped my stuff at their house (complete with a golf course as a backyard) and set out on a hike to Liberty Cap in the Colorado National Monument. Gorgeous. I loved how different it was from the landscape in both the Sierra and Utah. Loose sandstone, unique in color, with horizontal layers showing the eras of the past. And of course, a fabulous view from the top!

Thursday brought a longer and even more spectacular hike (Liberty Cap was only about five miles). Crag Crest Trail on the Grand Mesa was a 10-mile stunner, with steep dropoffs on both sides of the trail, 360-degree views and a variety in the scenery. (More photos are available at my Flickr site.)

For dinner, we hit the farmer's market in downtown Grand Junction, followed by tennis and a long session of throwing the disc (AKA frisbee). A tiring day, but worth every moment. Now it's off to the train station, where I'll take a bus to Denver and get back on the train for Chicago. Another entry should follow once I make it through the Rockies.