Out of the Box

Getting creative with Christianity, crafting, cooking, copious usage of alliteration, and the rest of my life

Thoughts on this summer August 2, 2010

Filed under: Adventures in Toronto — Grace @ 1:14 pm

Quick summary:

  • Four weeks – absolutely nothing.
  • Fifth week – Monday and Wednesday, taught ESL and was very excited. Later that week, found out that the CNBC was going to make me stop and transfer to a sports camp.
  • Sixth week – worked at the sports camp. That weekend, got the news. Came home the following Tuesday.

Of course there was more than that. So, lessons learned:

  • 24 is an awesome show.
  • Real Chinese food is (mostly) quite good.
  • Air conditioning is unnecessary.
  • You can find some pretty weird creatures in your basement.
  • Real maple syrup is a lot different from the gross flavored corn syrup we buy at the grocery store.
  • Horseback riding is fun.
  • You can never have enough watermelon.
  • Jiaozi dough doesn’t keep long.
  • There’s nothing like a theological argument to make things awkward.
  • I’m hopeless with a camera.
  • I’m a walrus?
  • Exercise is a good idea.
  • Seagulls can have an attitude.
  • I have no self-motivation. At all.
  • Having a good attitude makes things much better.

There are a lot of lists today. Oh well.

Despite all of the… difficulties… my six weeks in Toronto weren’t too bad. I met lots of great people and got to experience independent life (to some extent). I also gained a few pounds and lost a few marbles, but hey, you win some, you lose some.

Now that I’ve gotten burned, would I do anything through the Sojourners program or NAMB again? Maybe. At least, I might be willing to, but I doubt I will. Next summer will be my last summer before college, so I might stay closer to home to get ready and everything. And if I end up as a missionary, I would prefer to work with a nondenominational organization.

But anyway, to any of you who are considering doing something through Sojourners or a similar program – learn from my experience. Contact the places you’re going request; make sure nothing has changed since they wrote the job description; make sure they aren’t going to spring any last-minute costs on you. If it takes them over a week to get you doing something, complain. And if whatever convention you’re working for decides to mess with what you’re doing with no consideration for how you might feel about that – well, tough, because there’s nothing you can do about it short of going home. Or maybe you’ll be lucky enough to be under a convention that A) cares or B) listens, or hopefully both.

(If someone’s about to accuse me of having a bad attitude, well, maybe so, but there’s a different between making the best of things and saying that the people who put you in that situation aren’t at fault in any way.)

Knowing how things turned out, would I do it over again? That’s a hard question. The surprise fundraising I had to do gave me experience in baking, entrepreneurship, and sneakiness, the last of which will be useful if I end up as a missionary to a closed country. 😛 I got to experience international travel; I got to live on my own; I got to experience a different culture. I made a lot of friends. And I did get a small taste of teaching ESL, which was fun. So yes, I guess I would do it again. And maybe it was worth it after all.


Home again, home again August 1, 2010

Filed under: Adventures at Home,Adventures in Toronto — Grace @ 11:38 pm

This is belated, since I got home on Tuesday. But oh well.

This seems to have been the summer of transportation issues. First the subway incidents, and then my plane ticket sends me to the wrong gate (or, more likely, the gate changed and I should have been watching the TV screen, but hey, I’m new to this) and I finally realize what’s happening and get to the right gate five minutes before the plane is supposed to leave. It was a really close call. But it all worked out.

As the plane got close to Raleigh and started descending, I was struck by the contrast. The view of Toronto from the plane had been almost all buildings (and Lake Ontario). The view of Raleigh from the plane had so many trees. It looked much more like home. 😛

That was Tuesday afternoon. Visitation Tuesday night. Funeral Wednesday afternoon. After that, not much.

I have nothing else to write that won’t depress me and you.

To come eventually: Maybe some thoughts on camp. Maybe some thoughts on the summer in general. Maybe just some depressed rambling after all, as if I can’t do enough of that inside my head.


Thinking positive July 18, 2010

Filed under: Adventures in Toronto — Grace @ 10:23 pm

Hooray for well-timed conversations with a particularly insightful housemate. Anyway, a new realization: Having a bad attitude about this… situation… isn’t going to help. So I’ll try not to.

Who knows? Maybe this sports camp thing will actually turn out to be a good thing. If nothing else, I’ll give 125 kids some entertainment as I attempt to be athletic. 😛

And I may be able to reschedule the ESL for weekends. We’ll see.

No, it’s not okay that the CNBC is acting like jerks, but I’m not going to help anything by acting like a jerk too.

Maybe I should still contact them and ask that they show people a little more consideration, but ironically, now that I finally feel calm enough to do so without being extremely rude, I don’t feel such a desire to.

It’ll be okay. It may just look a little different than I expected.


I spoke too soon July 15, 2010

Filed under: Adventures in Toronto — Grace @ 10:21 pm

So, you know how excited I was about finally getting to teach ESL?

Well, that won’t be happening anymore.

Yesterday night, Pastor Shawn and his wife came over to the house to discuss a possible transfer with Anna and me. There’s a church in another town that needs help with children’s camps. We wouldn’t have to move. Anna was thrilled to hear about the opportunity, and rightly so. She decided to agree to be transferred. Since I’m actually teaching now, and since I didn’t want to leave our current church with no help at all, I decided to stay. It seemed like the ideal solution.

No such luck.

This morning I received an email from the national convention saying that we could either transfer or go home. Staying was not an option.

I emailed them and told them that things had changed. I wasn’t unoccupied anymore. I was teaching, and it looked like there were still more people who could use help.

How silly of me to expect them to care.

No, they offered some convoluted reasons why both of us had to transfer or neither. They didn’t want either of us to travel alone – which I had already been doing. They didn’t want to split us up by having one of us live at a different location – when they had already told us that transferring wouldn’t require us to move. It was important for us to function as a team – when we had had different jobs from the beginning and had accepted this assignment with that understanding. None of it made much sense, but hey, they don’t have to make sense. People in positions of authority are apparently exempted from that kind of obligation.

Is this really supposed to be a choice? I can go to this other church or go home. If I go home, Anna probably has to as well. Either way I have to give up what I was just beginning to be able to do. I mean, after chasing a bunch of kids around all day, how much energy am I going to have to make an hour-and-a-half trip, teach a lesson, and go back home? That’s five hours, or four if I shorten the lesson. Could I teach on the weekend? Maybe. Even if that somehow works out – even if I’m not too tired and people are willing to give up their weekends to come listen to me – it ticks me off that CNBC thinks they can mess around with my life regardless of how I feel about it. It ticks me off that they helped to set ESL stuff in motion, and now they’re trying their hardest to take it away from me.

In case you’re curious about my decision, I’m staying in Toronto and accepting the transfer. I’m not going to ruin this for Anna, and I’m not going to give up the slightest possibility of doing anything useful. But that doesn’t mean I’m happy about this. Quite the reverse. Not that there’s a single thing I can do about it.

Whatever. Let’s just hurry up and get this over with so I can go home.


Life is better (and yummier)

Filed under: Adventures in Toronto,Culinary Stuff — Grace @ 12:17 am

Things are starting to look up.

I’m finally teaching ESL. My “class” consists of a mother and daughter. Both of them are much better at English than had been implied. The mother needs practice with listening and speaking, while her daughter needs practice with reading and writing, so it’ll be interesting figuring out how to help them both. Monday afternoon I met with them for the first time, accompanied by Gloria (the pastor’s daughter), who translated as needed. We went to a mall near their house and, when the library was too crowded (yes, there was a library inside a mall), we found a table in the food court. It worked just fine. I spent most of that time conversing with the mother; she seemed to do fine, and I’m not exactly sure how to help her further. The daughter spent most of her time with Gloria working with her on writing. I met them again Wednesday, same time and place, this time without Gloria. Thank goodness for Google. It’s helping me a lot with ideas.

Taking the subway home after Monday’s ESL lesson, I had some adventures. I hadn’t slept the night before because I was trying to figure out what to teach (or that was my original intention, but never mind), so naturally I was tired. There were quite a few stations between my current location and my destination, so I thought, “I’ll just nap for a while. I’m sure I’ll wake up on time.” I woke up to hear the name of a station I had never heard of. Turns out I went much farther than planned. 😛

I got on the subway heading the opposite direction and went back to where I was supposed to be, no problem, but somehow managed to take a different exit from the one I normally took. I came out with no idea where I was. I knew I was on the right street, but not which direction to go or how far away from the house I was. Eventually I realized that I was right across the street from where I normally exit, so you can imagine how intelligent I felt. Remind me to look at landmarks across the street every now and then so I won’t get confused and panic. 😛

For Wednesday’s lesson, the adventure was in getting there. I got to the right subway station, but all of the signs directing us to the buses talked about buses going along the wrong street. So I thought, “Okay, I’ll just go out onto the right street and find a bus stop.”

I walked for half an hour before I found one.

I then got off the bus a little earlier than I was supposed to because I was worried about going too far by mistake, but that worked out all right because I met a man who needed directions. From me? Well, I guess he was desperate. I actually knew what to tell him, because he was headed for the same street I was. Anyway, that’s one positive thing that came from the craziness. I arrived at my destination much later than I had planned. 😛

Oh – bread. As regular readers probably know, I tried baking sourdough bread before with limited success. (I found out that it might have been because my starter was too new, but that’s another story.) Discouraged, I decided to try regular yeast bread. Crazy girl that I am, I refuse to use any white flour if I can avoid it, but rather than substitute whole wheat flour into a regular recipe, or use a “whole wheat” recipe that called for a mixture of white and whole wheat, I got smart and looked for a recipe designed specifically for all whole wheat flour. I found one.

My first attempt went pretty well, but after baking I decided to ensure it was done by cutting one of the loaves in half. I was disappointed to see that part of it looked uncooked, so I baked it a while longer. And longer. And longer. When nothing changed after about an hour of additional baking, I finally gave up. What the heck. I’ll eat it like it is, I thought. Much to my surprise, after cooling for a while, it looked completely normal. I found out that bread cooks for a while after it’s out of the oven, so the appearance of the center was probably normal. The bread was good; it was somewhat dry, and needed something spread on it to make it really good, but people liked it anyway.

Anyway, I tried again Tuesday, this time trusting that it was done after the recommended baking time. I wrapped it in a damp cloth to keep the crust soft and left it alone for a while. After resisting the temptation for a while, I finally gave in and ate a slice.

It was soooo good. Not dry at all, but moist and chewy and delicious. It didn’t need anything on it. Neither did the next slice. 😛 I don’t know if the better quality was due to not being horrendously overdone, or because I substituted the molasses in the original recipe with honey instead of just leaving it out, or both, but whatever. It was good. Very good. And now I’m fighting the urge to eat more.

ALSO. Last Thursday, Gloria, Anna and I went to a mall (not the one where I’m teaching ESL). And there I saw…

A WalMart sign

This is the first WalMart I’ve seen since coming to Canada. And it was part of a mall. Wow.

Life is interesting. 🙂


A Mixed Bag July 6, 2010

Filed under: Adventures in Toronto — Grace @ 3:13 pm

It’s been quite a while – again. This time it’s not entirely my fault. Our house had no internet for a while, and I only recently discovered that there’s another wireless network available. Now I don’t have to go to the main building every time I want to use the Internet, which is a definite improvement.

Well, life has been… interesting. A positive thing: Saturday afternoon I went with Kemi to Chinatown and bought some groceries. I discovered that the Lucky Moose supermarket (don’t ask) has very delicious grapes and oranges. Also, it has Pocky. If you have not experienced the chocolatey goodness of Pocky, let me know and I will find some for you.

Another positive thing: Monday evening Pastor Shawn took Gloria, Anna and me to an event that included foods from around the world (mmm, flan) and a concert. A not-so-positive thing: my dad sent a strongly worded email to NAMB about the fact that after three weeks here I haven’t done a thing. Anyway, instead of going to the concert, I met with Pastor Shawn and two men in charge of the organization and we discussed things. We brainstormed various things that I could do. To sum it up, there are at least two people who could use help with English (although if that’s the case, I don’t know why nothing has happened yet), Pastor Shawn is going to ask leaders of other church plants if they need help with anything, and there might be some form of outreach in the future.

But honestly, it looks like a lose-lose situation. I’ve got less than four weeks left, and judging by how things have gone so far, I don’t have much hope that I’ll actually end up with something to do. At this point, my best bet is probably to quickly learn some more Chinese and walk around inviting Chinese people to the church I’m with, but I’ll have little to say other than “There might be something ESL-ish available, but only for a few weeks.” If it’s ESL they’re looking for, I’d be better off referring them to another Chinese church here that I know of, but I doubt that would go over too well.

On the other hand, if I go home, what happens? The chances of being able to do something productive with my summer are still pretty slim. Is there a right thing to do in this situation?

Oh well. Something might turn up this week, so I guess it’s a little soon to worry.

Who am I kidding? It’s been over three weeks. The time for worrying arrived long ago…

Well, whatever happens, I’ll survive.


After a long silence… June 22, 2010

Filed under: Adventures in Toronto — Grace @ 5:32 pm

Sorry about that. I should probably post more often… It’s not like I have too much else to do, although that should and probably will change. More about that later.

Well, so far nothing has been mentioned about me teaching ESL. I need to talk to Pastor Shawn and find out for sure. If I’m not going to be able to do that through the church, I’ve found a few other opportunities within Toronto that will make my summer look more productive on a college application if they work. That might appease my dad and convince him not to pressure me to come home. (For the record, I’m not leaving. No way. Case closed.)

Oh, I walked to The Purple Purl, accompanied by Anna. And it did, in fact, take an hour to get there. And another hour to walk back. I felt bad for making my roommate suffer, but on the plus side, we found a Dollarama close to the seminary on our way back, which made Anna happy. But next time I think I’ll take a streetcar.

I still haven’t started my summer service requirement for school. This is not good. Someone make me stop procrastinating!

I traveled alone by bus/subway for the first time… and survived. That can only be a good thing, especially the part about surviving.

I want to do something for the homeless people I’ve seen, but I don’t know what or how.

And I’m in charge of the youth’s lesson for next Sunday. Yikes. Any ideas?

Yep, life is interesting here in Toronto. I’m still not sure why God sent me here, but… maybe it’ll come with time. After all, I still have six weeks.

Coming soon (I hope): Sourdough stuff, more exploration, SOMETHING TO DO WITH ESL!