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JenObokata

Looking back and stepping forward

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

I started writing this blog entry over a week ago. At the time I was writing about how hard it is to have all of my memories and experiences from the trip bottled up with no real outlet to share them. But I have decided to scrap that and just share one of these memories instead of complaining about how I can’t.

I had almost forgotten about our visit to the Pantheon. So many things had happened almost every day on our European tour, our days in Rome were no different. We saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican, Trevi Fountain; you name it we saw it on our Roman Holiday. There was, however, something a little different about our visit to the Pantheon. The Pantheon was once a temple to the many Roman deities but was later re-appropriated as a Christian Church. Today it is a spectacular architectural landmark and stop on every Roman tourists’ agenda but I would not say it is a particularly spiritual place. In keeping with a bit of a St. Stephen’s University tradition we changed that.

Standing in a circle in the middle of the magnificently domed room we started to sing the doxology, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” In the noisy din of a huge space filled with people we made a little holy space, a “thin place”. It felt rebellious and right at the same time. We stopped being tourists for a moment and we were pilgrims, we were on a journey to somewhere. The journey I took through Europe was both physical and personal. This is a memory I will treasure and I am so glad to have shared it with others. I look forward to more memories, like this one, popping up in my mind and I look forward to unpacking in the months to come how I have been impacted by what I have seen and experienced.

Jen

Art history from the beginning

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

From the beginning of this trip it has been pretty obvious to me that my focus would be drawn toward all of the amazing art that I knew  I would be seeing. Having studied art history on and off throughout my education, and completed extensive pre-Europe work, I had laid a firm foundation for the art pieces I would encounter. Since mid-May I have been privileged to see so many of The Greats of art history. Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Chagall’s Biblical Series. Michelangelo’s David and the Sistine Chapel. Raphael’s School of Athens. Boticelli’s Primavera and the Birth of Venus. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Klimt’s Kiss. Monet’s waterlilies. Van Gogh’s self portrait. There are so many more masterpieces and artists that this whole blog could be one long list, but I digress.
Despite all of The Greats it has bees some of the lesser known artists that have moved me the most. The unexpected surprises that really stopped me in my tracks. One such moment was in the Museum of Natural History in Vienna. It was there that I found a four inch tall curvaceous little fertility icon. Her name was the Venus of Willendorf and she dates back to the Paleolithic times. The Venus is essentially the beginning of art history as we know it. I was so struck by this little figure’s intricate details, still visible many thousand years later.

I am working out my relationship with art everyday, juggling feelings about it’s value or materialism or elitism, one thing is becoming more and more clear to me through self examination and interaction with the masters. We are creators, made to replicate or interpret the world around us as we see it. This is in everyone in some way, I think. And for those who impacted us the most either because we love them or hate them, think they are full of it, or we see ourselves or our culture through their work, thank you.

Jen

Museums, Churches, & Museum Churches

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

After several escapades in Asia visiting temple ruins, shrines, and encountering many other sacred sites, I find myself the tourist in my own religion. Here in the heartland of the church, as I know it in Canada, Europe is proving to be an interesting challenge. With every new cathedral, chapel, basilica, or church I visit I find myself negotiating reverence for a holy place with academic and artistic curiosity. Does a basilica filled with tourists snapping photos and buying tokens of their visit cease being God’s house? Is it really just another museum? If I buy a postcard here or take a picture of a sculpture there, would I become one of those who Jesus shunned out of His Father’s house? And lets face it, at the end of the day I am essentially just another tourist. These are a few of the questions I find myself asking as I enter the magnificent places of history, craftsmanship, and faith here in Spain, in France, and in Italy. Perhaps my questions are not that far off from Luther’s own over 500 years ago. Now it is my turn to chose how to respond.

Jen

Lots to see, nothing to say

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

Kuala Lumpur is giving me writer’s block. It could be that my creative juices aren’t flowing because I’m dehydrated. This city is hot; hot from the swarms of people on their way to or from somewhere, hot from all the traffic moving those same people, hot because of its proximity to the equator and therefore the scorching sun. Maybe I’m having a hard time finding words because I’m tired; this city never sleeps. Instead of the roaring wind, crashing waves, or the night time song of small creatures I fall asleep to the lullaby of trains and traffic and the techno beats of nearby street vendors. Every morning I wake up to the same symphony renewed with added honks and voices. Maybe words are slow to come because I’m in a country that makes communication confusing. Everywhere I go I hear English, Chinese, Malay and a variety of Indian dialects. When I asked someone how to predict which language to speak when talking to someone they replied, “look at their face” but everyone speaks a little of everyone else’s language too. In the end I think that my writer’s block comes from the understanding that my words will never be able to capture the essence or heart of this city in all of its complexity, diversity, and contradiction. When roaming around this city I feel unaffected by it (and its penchant for shopping malls) but I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t be until after I leave KL that I will realize how affected I have been by it…and that will be when the words will come.

Typical mall in KL

Typical mall in KL

Smiling… A New Pastime.

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments
Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao - The boxing pride of the Philippines

More than anything else in the Philippines I think I will remember rolling past streets and streets lined with faces of people happy to see and be seen by others. Sure I am a foreign face in a pack of roaming misfits but the smiles that I have received daily, and by the dozens, have been warm and generous. They are the types of smiles that make me want to stop walking or jump off the bus and chat a while. This is a place where people are not too busy to look others in the face and engage with them. This is a place where humanity is valued if for no other reason than that we are all children of the same Creator. I have found myself no longer responding to the smiles of others but initiating them and trusting that I will receive a sincere and honest return; whether it be a smile, a wave, a raise of the eyebrows, or children running to hide behind their mothers. I think that my disposition has changed since being here, I have a little less of my North American aloofness; my Ontarian desire to get from point A to point B without being distracted or interrupted is being worn down. I have gone to bed with cheeks hurting from smiling so much. So yeah, I think you could safely say that I have a new pastime.

Jen