Thursday, October 25, 2012

Feeling Home

This is long, so kick your shoes off, grab a drink, and enjoy.

If you have been following my blog, you probably know that I have been missing home a bit. Well in the last few weeks, I would say that I can finally say that I have been seeing small glimpses of home and it has made it easier.  I suppose you just have to appreciate the small things in life. For instance last Saturday I went over to the Brothers house and played Uno with one of my roommates and a few of the De La Salle Brothers. It was really nice just because it was relaxing and kind of a homey feeling. It was simple, but I think thats what I needed.

Then a few days later I was fortunate enough to teach my family about Google+ Hangouts. I have decided that even though the quality is worse than Skype the benefits are far better. It really made me happy to see all of my family at once and get to talk to them at the same time. And the kids were in bed so it was just like old times. My family is growing and it made me realize that I am too. Two of my sisters have two young kids, my other sister is in the process of buying a house and is in a serious relationship, my mom is looking to retire while my father recently started a new job. And me, young and full of hope, sits in San Francisco hoping that one day I will know what I should be doing. My family is busy at home and everyone seems to go to bed before 11pm anymore and yet, everyone was up hanging out with me until 11:30pm their time, it really made my day. Thanks family :)

Just this last week I had the opportunity to hang out with a previous coworker here on business and it was great. We were able to catch up and talk to each which was really good. I would say previously we were pretty good coworker friends, but after getting to hang out with him for 4 days, we became a lot closer. We talked about our lives and where they were headed; we talked about our short comings and our worries with life, but we also talked about our joys and passions in this world too. Neither of us ever stay up past midnight and I think 3 of the 4 nights we stayed up until 2 or 3am talking. It was just really good to have someone here that was and is apart of my life. With so much new in my life it was really good to have that. We talked about family, relationships, work, technology, scotch, and hard times in our lives. It was a good conversation that I feel like I have been lacking here in SF.

If you have known me for the last 4 years a recent passion of mine has been running and biking. One of the things I have been lacking here in SF is long bike rides and just running in general. Since long bike rides out on the open road isn't really possible in San Francisco I must resort to running. If I'm lucky I run once a week right now and that just cannot do anymore. Running is my release, it is my stress reliever, it gives me time by myself, it allows me to think... or not think. I'm starting to realize that running is not only my passion, but also my sense of home, the one thing I can always take with me. So pondering over this the last few days, I bought new running shoes (because my last ones were literally falling apart) on Sunday. Since then, I have yet to get out and run. So, today is the day, and I'm excited.

I always talk about home being in Iowa, but feeling home, sometimes you have to realize, can be right where you are, with the people you are now sharing experiences with. I had this realization on Monday. Two of my roommates were in a car accident going to work. Before I continue, yes, everyone is alright, just sore. My roommate fell asleep at the wheel while driving himself and another roommate to work. The car hit the median and flipped. If you know my story at all, this hits home very much for me. I'm so happy that they are only bruised and battered and nothing else. It is definitely weird being on the sidelines, rather than the one in the car. You really realize how much you care for them. Thank God. Thank God. It's allowed me to look into my past and rethink my whole experience of my car accident. Surprisingly its still hard to talk about and I'm not sure if I will ever be able to tell the full story, but hopefully my roommates will be able to start to see why life is so important to me. I really appreciate all of them. They are just like my sisters, I'm annoyed when I'm around them all the time, but would miss them way too much if they weren't there. So I will appreciate the time I have with them and share and enjoy the lives we have begun together out here.

Lastly, this morning I had a great text message from my mother. She is coming for Thanksgiving! I'm pretty excited about it. So it will be good to see her in a month!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My LA Experience

Well this last weekend I had the opportunity to go to Los Angeles. The school I volunteer for took the teachers to a Vincentian Symposium in LA.  They were flying us down so I took the opportunity and stayed in LA for the whole weekend (including Monday because there was no school on Columbus day). The best part is VSC West has another Volunteer house in LA, so I was able to stay with they and do a bit of exploring with them for free. So we left on Thursday evening and I am now flying back Monday night.

The Symposium
On Friday our keynote speaker was a lady (leave me alone I'm not good with names) that was currently in the process of transcribing these books of letters between Vincent De Paul and Luis De Marillac. The letters are in French because of their origins and she is making them available in English so that they can be translated into other languages, never really knew how important English is I guess. Nevertheless, there is a surprisingly large amount of letters between the two. They had worked together for 35 years before email, so I suppose it makes sense. The interesting part about this lady though is that she truly had a personal connection with St. Vincent and was able to really tell us about him and his interactions with De Marillac. 

He had such a strong love for the poor, but he wasn't always that way, in fact not until his 30s, almost 10 years after being ordained, did he find his true calling to the poor. Originally, Vincent wanted to be important, powerful, and be able to support his family at home. In his time, the easiest way to do all of this was to get into a solid career of the priesthood. Ironically though, during this time is when he first met Luis De Marillac.

Throughout the talk this lady pointed out that Vincent was the spiritual driving force and Luis was the one who would keep the hospital, shelter, or school running after it started. They truly were an unstoppable team that truly changed the face of poverty in France in the 1600s. Talk to me sometime about this awesome couple and their vision....because there is just too much to include in this blog tonight!

The LA House
At the Vincentian LA Volunteer house there are 10 volunteers. They are in the exact same program as me and we go on retreats with them every other month. The last time I saw them was when I first had retreat back in August. To say the least it was good to see them again and experience LA! While I was there I was able to talk to the LA house about their community, very different than mine. It was interesting though to talk to them and learn about the uniqueness of their community. 

Saturday they took me to Venice beach, the ironic part is the area actually had water canals! It was really cool to see.  At the beach we had a bonfire and roasted hot dogs and had s'mores. We then watched the sun set on the ocean, awesome. Once the sun went down we talked a bit more and then I went to play in the ocean. Since the tide was low I was running out and then back in with the waves, so much fun! 

Sunday we went to another beach and I ran a few miles on the beach which was great. Then we went to a street fair and listened to some live dubstep (currently one of my favorite genres). We also got free drink tickets for a bar so we decided to stop by (what do you expect we are volunteers!). The coupon was very vague... so I made a smart decision, asked for Gold Label Johnny Walker scotch... aged 18 years. That had to be the best glass of scotch I have ever had. After our drink, we went to the Hollywood sign. There is a path that you can hike to see the sign on the mountain. It was getting dark at that point so we climbed it n the pitch black.  This was by far my favorite moment in LA. Why? SILENCE! All you could hear on the mountain going up the trail was crickets. Crickets! I haven't had that type of silence since I was in Iowa, I truly loved it. It was also really cool to see all of LA on top of the mountain at night... there are sooooooooo many people in this world. Only one phrase could explain that sight, "beautifully organized chaos". The city's design was so beautifully organized, truly a work of art in a sense... but the second you get off the mountain and try and live/drive in it, it becomes the most chaotic feeling in the whole world. But I suppose you could say that about any micro vs. macro scaling.

Monday was a lazy day. I was able to chill out at the LA house and recharge my batteries a bit. I then left for "home" to San Francisco that night. 

On this trip, I learned one valuable lesson, I like my community here. No matter how much I struggle with it or feel like just being on my own, in its own weird way, it all works. I am grateful for my community and wouldn't trade them for anything right now. I guess sometimes it just takes time away from something to realize how much you really care for it. I won't forget that.

As always, pictures are below:
Two of my coworkers dancin' the night away!

Me and Snoopy having breakfast together, no big deal.
Beautiful beach day in LA!

This is what my students call me now.

Fire on the beach.. not quite Iowa but close... sorta.

Roasting weenies on the fire. mmm.

Watching a great sunset that seemed to last forever

Even in LA you can find Cycling events! 

Another nice day at the beach.

Look how the sun shines on the ocean. Awesome.

One of my VSC friends was wearing this hat and I figured it probably looks just as good on me too! right?

A free glass of scotch, aged 18 years. Yummy.

I know you can't see it but this is the Hollywood sign up on the mountain I'm about to climb
See! This is proof I saw the Hollywood sign! And yes I went right and not left!

LA with all it's light polution

The grid. This type of stuff you can only see in the movies.

Flying home... The sunsets are so beautiful in the sky!

Monday, October 1, 2012

What a Bike Week

What has been on your mind Kevin? Well let me tell you. This last week revolved around bikes, both the good and the bad. Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to Tour De Fat, which is a huge biker (cyclist) event in Golden Gate Park and see many different things with bikes. I saw a Velodrome,  unique mechanical bikes, machines made from bikes, bikers, bike clubs, valet bike parking, music and comedy about bikes, just everything was focused on the cycling community. I was like a kid in a candy store with all the different bikes and riders there. It was crazy awesome.

Another adventure I was able to partake in this last week was Critical Mass. Critical Mass is a huge cyclist event that happens the last Friday of every month all over the country. San Francisco had probably 5,000 riders on the streets when I was there. From what I understand is it starts at the same place every time, but then no one really knows where it will go and for how long. People jump in at anytime (like me) and jump out anytime, but for the most part it lasts about 2 hours. Now, imagine 5,000 bikers randomly coming together to take over the streets of downtown San Francisco. Chaos! Cars were backed up for blocks, everyone was honking, bikers were smiling while riding down the middle of the street in crazy cloths in a huge mob of cyclists, just absolutely ridiculous. It is cool though to see how many bikers are out there.

My last story is mostly a sad one, but one that is testing me day after day still. On Wednesday one of my coworkers took myself and the other volunteers I work with out to eat. That day I had road my tri bike (my nice bike) to work that day. Fortunately I had my lock with me, so I figured it would be no big deal. First mistake.  When I got there I decided that I could just lock it up outside because I didn't want to bother the manager at the restaurant about bringing my bike in. Second mistake. I locked up my frame and both my wheels because I have a cable lock that stretches through all of them. Third mistake. We got a table right next to the window so I could see my bike easily. One of my coworkers though, sat in my view of my bike, I was facing the window. So every so often I would move about a half a foot and look to see if I could still see my bike, yep still there. Then at one moment I decided to look up, and it wasn't there.... it wasn't there. I got up from my spot, went outside, looked around and it wasn't there... That. was hard for me. I came back in and thanked my coworker for dinner and  turned down the cab ride she wanted to give me. I just needed to be alone. I walked 2.5 miles back to my place, in bike shoes. It gave me a lot of time to think, but obviously thinking really wasn't going to help.

After a restless night, I started to question what the heck I'm even doing in San Francisco. I feel like I'm doing mediocre work, everyone I love is at home, I am missing great moments with my family, integrity does not seem to be present in this city, relationships here are superficial, I mean, am I even supposed to be here? Is this just a boys messed up dream? 

To say the least it has been a rough last few days. To me, and I know this sounds pathetic to most people but, it felt like that bike, what it stood for and what it reminded me of, kept me grounded. It was my home. It was the one thing I brought from home that I truly cared about, it reminded me of who I was and the great things I have done on my own, but also with my friends and family. That bike was my release. It was my escape to whatever crap life threw at me, I could get on and ride away, think, pray, and just release any emotion I had. But now that is gone and I have had to try and refocus myself.

Though it is extremely hard for me to think about all of this, I move forward. I continue on. Not because I don't care, but because I have to. There are much worse things in life than getting a bike stolen, no matter how sentimental. I still have my friends, I still have my family. I have a great life and I live extremely comfortably. Those I am helping here in San Francisco need me. As much as I think I am useless many days, I am needed and because of that I cannot give up.  I am learning quickly that sacrifices are required for anything worth pursuing. And as much as it pains me to say it, loosing my bike might be just the push I need to really start focusing out here. Because I still have no idea what I want to do. I think people are interested in me, but quickly loose interest when they realize I don't have a focus. They are right, I need to find focus. 

As always, here's my life as a pictorial:
Just a great picture. We need one of these for Iowa. Maybe of  the bridge connecting  Iowa and Wisconsin and Dubuque?

I saw this tent being set up. Openworld is this week and I expect you will hear about it in my next post!

The first day that I went to the beach in San Francisco and it wasn't foggy.  If you look close enough though, you can see it rolling in.
This first set is from Tour De Fat. Many crazy bikes there.

Look at all the bikes!

This is is from Critical Mass. There were bikers everywhere! Music and mass chaos, what more could you want from a evening in San Francisco?