Europe 2008 Archives - St. Stephen's University

hanging out with saints

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I took 6 International Studies students to a soup kitchen in downtown Barcelona run by the sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta to help serve a lunch for people whose situation forces them to turn to places like soup kitchens for support. Mostly men from 25-45, most of them were immigrant workers from other countries trying for a better life in Barcelona. We served and cleaned up lunch for over 300 people, which was a privilege to help out with.

The best part of the day for me was being able to spend time with the sisters and other volunteers. I talked with a man named Francisco for a while, who comes regularly to serve at the soup kitchen. He spoke of how he felt a deep sense of satisfaction in coming here, knowing that he was contributing to something purposeful and meaningful beyond himself. He spoke of the sisters and how he was constantly amazed at their ability to give and receive nothing in return. He was almost emotional as he conveyed to me his deep sense of respect for these women.

The last thing we spoke of was how proud he was to see our group of young people coming to serve alongside him and the other volunteers. He related to me that far too often the only messages he received regarding youth spoke to him of how they were disrespectful and selfish. The sisters and other volunteers accentuated his observation with their expressions of “moi bien” and the smiles on their faces as the students participated with them in the serving and cleaning the soup, fruit and bread.


to share or not to share…? – Lindsey Roszell

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We’re home! The work of reflecting and writing papers is a little gruelling….alright a lot gruelling. Nonetheless as champions we wrestle on because we know that there is value in the exercise of academically fleshing out all of these experiences we’ve just had. Like concrete when it has just been poured needs time to set before you can walk on it, so must our new found experiences and academic learning be mixed, stirred and set so that we won’t be passive to how they have changed us.Returning home and sharing all that I’ve experienced has been exciting, but at the same time not always easy. In the midst of sharing, I find myself caught in frustration knowing how inadequate my descriptions are of what I’ve seen and done, and sad when my listeners jokingly disregard my education for a vacation. I understand their perspective, because the education I’m receiving is a highlighted dream compared to other Universities. However, even though they joke, I can’t deny that it spurs my spirit to want to defend the intensity of the last two months to be more than just a vacation. For anyone who was apart of this travel term knows how much work went into the everyday academic learning, living communally, being attentive to learning and teaching, discovering, reading, and wrestling. There were incredible times of laughter and fun, but this trip was anything but a vacation. (Please forgive my passionate spirit and intensity, sometimes it gets the better of me.) I realize lots of people can just strug this off. Perhaps I’m not mature enough yet to be able to do that.  Definition of a Vacation: a period of suspension from work, study or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday.On the other hand, since I’ve returned there have been times while sharing stories and memories of my time away when I can tell my listeners are saddened by their own inability to do what I’ve done (and at such a young age). Around the time that I sense this, I’ll trail my stories off so as to not cause my listener anymore heartache over what they may not ever get to experience.The truth is, I’m struggling with all that I’ve just learned and encountered and how to share that with those around me. How to share my experiences in a way where I don’t feel like I’m rubbing them in another listener’s face, but at the same time wanting there to be more recognition that my education is not a joke. I’m incredibly in love with all that Europe had to offer, and I know that what I’ve seen and tasted will positively affect who I am becoming and how I will live my life in the future. At the same time, I’m challenged by all there is to know in this world. Learning and reflecting on artistic geniuses has left me wondering what I have to show for in my life, and reflecting on whether or not I’m okay with being just mediocre.  The reality is that mediocrity is not my battle. I’ve already made the decision to live my life to be the best that I can be, and that it’s not about comparing myself to those around me, or those who came before me. I believe wholeheartedly that God has designed each of us to do great things in small ways, and it’s through our attitude of heart that sets us apart from being mediocre.At some point, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, I will settle within myself that I may be the only one that understands how much my education means to me, and that it’s not a joke, but it’s okay if others don’t fully understand how unique this experience has been. For so many of us on the trip, great levels of maturity began to take form: maturity of life, maturity of heart, maturity of academic understanding. Education was taking place much further beyond the outlined curriculum.After finishing the book, The Once and Future King by T.H. White, I can’t help but relate to and reflect on the education Wart received from Merlin the Magician. The contemporary world would likely see Warts training as a form of “information education” because it did not take place inside of the traditional academic facilities designed for learning today. This is kind of how I feel about my travel term experiences. However, in reflection to the legend of The Sword in the Stone, Henry Canby writes that “education is an understanding of life.” Formal education must be varied with experience if it is going to create human beings who are not just “educated specialists” but men and women who are wholly educated about the world they live in, where they’ve come from, and honorable enough to lead the future.Question: to share or not to share? Will I continue to share my travel experiences…..yes. Even though I’ve been struggling with how to do this, I’m learning that these experiences are too valuable not share with those around me. So, the next time someone jokes about my education being a vacation, I will laugh and go along, but deep inside, I know there is more to life than taking offence to something others may not understand. I’m still learning on how to respond to those to get the glazed look in their eyes. Perhaps just preceding with caution in the uniqueness of every situation is all I can do (if you have any further suggestions I would gladly welcome them). This life is so rich of experiences no matter where we do or do not travel. Those who have not yet travelled, do not lose heart. There is still time and if it is truly a desire of your heart, continue to present it before God. He does hear those prayers. I speak from experience. To those who have endured this rant, thanks for reading. I’m sorry if anything I said offended anyone in anyway. These are but the mere ramblings of a young woman who is still learning.

We all have a story (The Poopy Princess)

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We all have a story that is unfolding with each breath we take. The wind, the earth, the waters, the trees, the people in our lives – they are all apart of it, they witness it, and we are apart of and witness their story as it unfolds. Music, art, literature, architecture, people, history books – they all preserve story and retell it so that the story of a nation or culture is not forgotten, and sometimes just one person’s story is grand enough to be retold, whether their story is one of good or evil. As I reflect on the last few months I consider how my own story, and the story of those that I traveled with has changed because of the experiences we have shared and how our journals and photos have recorded our stories.  And the ongoing change that occurred within each of us continues to be revealed in our relationships with friends and family, with God, and with our approach to life.As I strive to complete my assignments, particularly my journal, I am consistently amazed by the transformation my mind has taken since the beginning of the trip. I find that I know myself so much more; his is evidence of how the character and personalities of the amazing bunch of people that I traveled with has affected me. And how they have all become an important part of my story. Though I walked through numbers of galleries displaying works of art that express the story of a generation, a nation and the artist, and I have walked through the ruins of a city that was destroyed more two thousand years ago, and I have seen more of Europe than I ever dreamed, I know that I have learned the greatest thing ever that has changed the course of my story forever. I have learned to laugh at myself. In the presence of my classmates, leaders and professors I have tripped over a tent dumping a dinner plate of food on Sam Wollenberg, I have set off the alarm in the Louvre, I have been pooped on by birds twice in one day, I have knocked things over, I have spilt wine, I have told many embarrassing stories and revealed much about myself that could have caused much more embarrassment had my classmates, leaders and professors not encouraged me to laugh.  As we sat in the Montreal airport awaiting the plane to Saint John that would take us to the end of our European journey together we had an award ceremony; I was awared the “Poopy Princess” award. And this was in recognition that this self-proclaimed princess survived two months of camping in very wet conditions whilst being pooped on by a bird twice in one day.  I am eternally grateful for this life altering experience, and the people that journeyed with me. To my classmates at SSU, to my professors and my leaders, thank you for your contribution to my story. PS: I finalized this post whilst watching the opening ceremonies to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China -along with millions all over the world – a fitting image for “story”.  Thousands of men and women, athletes and supporters, gather together in one place while even more watch at home to share in this event that will shape the stories of many.

Borrowed Words: “The Pain of Realizing a Dream” – Jason Bautista

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I believe that I am at a crossroad. It is not unusual, I’m convinced, that a man or woman crosses many times into new social dimensions where they are re-shaped. The deepest parts of my mind and soul have much to reveal. It is only now, in the “after life” of Europe with SSU, that I deliberate and in the passing thoughts come realizations, new perspectives – the firstlings of something genuinely mine. But it was not only the history or the philosophy that impacted me most. It was the experience of my present surroundings that sobered me into and kind of pre-occupation with the urgent rather than the suggested. At the end of the day, the journey is marked by the steps we took in the direction of our own curiosity. This curiosity I refer to is the wonder of how things are the way they are and how they could be different.I believe Europe is at a crossroad. A new beginning is underway in Europe. The union of many nations is forging a common future which means more possibilities for so many who might consider themselves unfortunate. With this change boarders are loosened and cultures are loosed. Ideas will clash and force many greater consequences for Europe and the world than has ever been before. When a new minority is introduced to a greater society, what happens now will be vastly different than the principles on which our forefathers relied.No longer can the superior of society reject the injustices of their neighbor’s sufferings. Of course, this is not the reality, but it is the dream that is a resounding cry across the globe. The way the world is wired today, we are aware of everything. Napoleon should know that if he were alive today, he would not rise to power. We would not allow it. The force of globalization has interwoven the world’s needs and desires to the point of undoing. Religion upon religion, the function of the individual, community and spirituality will be challenged, re-thought or reinforced and culture will be transformed nevertheless. We are an interdependent, inseparable world village, and where we are not yet, we will be. But, for what great cause is the EU of it does not look without? What are the injustices of Europe’s closest neighbors?In my travels, I did not have to look far to find ethnic diversity. So many types of African cultures are represented in Mediterranean Europe. They have come to get a taste of the dream. Personally, I don’t call bootlegging a lucrative business but perhaps there are other reasons why these men and women have come. I know that these are unstable times in northern Africa and all over that continent. It is a tragedy that they leave their homelands and their cultural habitat for a peace that is not their own. A freedom that is not one’s own is what? A culture that is not one’s own means what?So many dislocated people who speak so many different languages, in body and mind and spirit. To use a metaphor, we are so close in fellowship with our own brothers but we are so far from the cries of the illegitimate children who are actually of the same household. Our fellowship is most beautiful and it seeks more to love. The ones with no voice we can understand are the ones we place on the verges of society. And many times, in their fear, they retreat into what they are familiar with and create their own sub-societies in our midst. This is the cultural tension of the world. I hope my fellow Christ-lings and I can be the active force of love to the neighbors who live outside.I am at work. I am finishing some Europe assignments. I was reading an article and came across a remarkable author. His name is Per Huttner, from Sweden. He lives in Spain, away from all that he once knew. He writes:”But to actually pack up and leave is a very different reality from talking about it when you are slightly discontent with your life. On top of everything many I was caught up in a pattern of continuous and deliberate failure. With success come great responsibility and also the possibility for much more painful disappointments. By continuously failing I was able to remain in control of my reality and life. But when we submit ourselves to this pattern means that we are always controlled by our fears and it becomes impossible to distinguish what is true and false, good and bad in our lives. In the end this fear ends up running and ruining our lives.”I don’t believe that this story fits with the subject matter of the article in quite the way I was expecting because it is a personal account while the rest is a research report. It actually became the life force behind the subject, this testament from the heart of a man into words. Its strange, how many personal predicaments can be evaluated and challenged for great resolve all the while doing nothing at all for the people all around.”Pre-occupation with the urgent”. Too bad. Too much time in thought will send me drifting through time and space, alone.The pain of realizing a dream, in conclusion, is going bravely into the uncertain future, where dreams are traded for vivid, sometimes agonizing reality. Also, there is pain in reality. The pain is a passing away from the vain pleasures of indulgent comforts. There is something unbearable about realizing something real because it just might go against the ideal which is the thing dreamed of. The dream can be a pre-occupation with things fantasized. So, the Dream different from other dreams, is the happiness and love thought to be too unreal — a distant,impossible dream. When we embrace our Dreams for the first time, we walk into an uncertain place. It is so unlike our certain selves, the ignorant person who believes in the self no matter how deceived. So, we are in a seemingly unreal place. We need to tread on that land with some faith in hope. “The Pain of Realizing a Dream” is the title of Per Huttner’s article.

Some final reflections – Raymond Funk

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I have a hard time believing that I have just seen some of the most important places and works of art of the Western Civilization. It seems humanity is captivated by these places and these things, at least the many of us in the western hemisphere. Is humanity moved by these pieces and places? Yes. But, these pieces and places were moved by humanity first. And so humanity itself is captured through and captivated by the amazing cities, churches, sculptures, paintings and cultures we have experienced through this trip.

I have stood in places where humanity has shown its ability to function at its worst, and in the same place where humanity functioned, though suppressed and struggling, at its best (Dachau). I saw how wealth and power applied in the right way can bring a flourishing of colour and expression in art, but in the same place have seen where wealth and power applied in the wrong way can bring oppression and division (Italy, the Vatican). I have sat in a huddle of tents, completely frustrated by the friends around me, and have sat in that same place completely amazed by the friends around me.

There is both a problem in us and a solution in us as well. We have a great capacity for creating pain, for taking away life. But we have also been given a great capacity to give life. How do we become better at giving life to the world around us?

A Non-Violent Generation – Sam Wollenberg

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Well I am now “officially” home in Vancouver and while listening to the glorious rain fall outside and writing papers on the Anabaptists, I decided to carry on my train of thoughts by finishing up my last blog post.

Non-Violence. Quite the concept when you think about it. To be a true supporter of non-violence and peaceful resistance one must whole heartedly commit to withdraw from any form of retaliatory violence, armed protection, and, some would argue, self defense. As much as I try and convince myself that i would be able to do all of these things when confronted with such situations, I really think that in the end, i would fall back on violent resistance and put up a hell of a self defense. These two terms, non-violence and peaceful resistance, mean the complete sacrifice of ones self in the hopes that the opponent will have the audacity and sincerity to utilize the same method of conflict resolution, but as history shows, that rarely occurs.

History has shown us that violence is a way to take something for one owns gain, take back something that was stolen, accumulate wealth and property, exterminate a disliked peoples or simply to prove that the power is there and effective. And yet, after all of the evils that have existed or exist, WWI-II, communist Russia, military regimes, corrupt presidents and politicians, what remarkably stands out to me, is the methods used to resist them. I realized this during our last debriefing at the Winchester Vineyard when Peter asked something along the lines of “What will be the greatest understanding that we can take away from this trip” and after mulling it over for a few minutes, the thing that stuck out in my mind was the monumental task of choosing peace over violence and resistance over aggression. Despite all the atrocities that have been the result of totalitarian rulers and oppressive forces, it wasn’t these feats that stood out to me. It was the courage of those that chose a different method and, successful or not, were willing to sacrifice themselves in the hopes that history can be changed.

I guess my final thought would be in the form of a few questions. How can we as Christians choose a different, peaceful approach to the numerous conflicts surrounding us today? How can we produce a non-violent generation that actually considers the available possibilities before resorting to primal instincts? I don’t know how I will react in every confrontational situation I am presented with and I am sure that there will be times when I think the best possible cure for some guys ignorance is a whack to the head but I hope I can exhibit some signs of change that assures me history cannot eternally repeat itself.

Post Trip Reflection on Valles De Los Caidos – Jennifer Ngo

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Yes, this post is about the first “big” historic spot we visited on the SSU Europe Trip 2008, and yes, it has already been a week since I got home. Why? Why is this post as behind in time as my journal entries? Why am I still stuck in Spain? We went through cathedrals like bowls of rice (for me) or plates of salad (for Mel) or mounds of any food (for Kendall), but Valles De Los Caidos (aka VDLC) still stuck out to me. Like many of the cathedrals and places we saw,  VDLC has a unique history and is an architectural masterpiece. But most importantly, it made me think about two questions which I was to ask myself again and again throughout the trip: What is human evil and what do we do in the face of it? And is this/can this be a sacred space for worshipping Jesus? VDLC is the beginning of the struggle for hope and goodness as seen through history. I can’t say I have perfect answers to these questions and to all the other questions these two questions provoked, but I have asked a lot more good questions. I do hope I’ve come to better grounds with this specie called humankind.From the glorification of war at VDLC to the horrors of concentration camps, we see the darkness of man; yet from the fascinating design of Gaudi’s architecture to the tales of heroic acts at Omaha Beach, we see the goodness and creativity of man; then in the passionate and radical lives of the various saints (Francis, Teresa etc) to the majestic beauty of the Alps, we see the constant presence of God. The world we live in can be rather foggy, and human nature can be so complicated, yet everything can also be oh so simple. I found out that it all have to do with choice. Are we willing to accept the fact that there is always something dark in our nature, yet still choose to make the most out of the good that is in us as well? Are we willing to choose make each space we visit a space that God can also visit? These are choices which we can make.There is a quote in my old prayer book back in secondary school in Hong Kong (it’s Anglican, it’s cool), and it goes like this:” God, please grant us the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.”Evilness and sacred spaces, history and its lessons… don’t know how to finish this thought, I guess I’ll just let it hang. 

Post-Trip Reflection – Mike Cheatley

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Alas, I am home. I have my own bed, free food, and a pile of new academic responsibilities for the next couple weeks. I still feel like I am in the processing mode for a lot of what happened on the trip, so it is difficult to attempt any kind of summary.

I have a choice of topics to write about. There is the surface level personal experiences (a rock concert outside of Vienna; para-gliding in the Swiss Alps). The assigned academic experience (Western history; lectures on the Renaissance, Reformation, etc). The personal struggles and conflicts (group dynamics; understanding world evils and the responsibility to action that it warrants).

It seems the last of these topics might be the best, partly because it is related to themes that some of our profs have been talking about recently. Throughout the trip we learned about different examples in history where people abused power and instigated great evils. Obvious examples are learning about the extermination of Jews, handicap persons, and homosexuals at Dachau and the repression and starvation of those under Stalin. In both of these cases there is a dichotomy of responses to both the Nazi and Stalinist puritan ideologies. Some people accept what they are fed, often caught up in the illusion of propaganda and failing to see the–dare I say–absolute and intrinsic evil within it. However, there always seem to be voices that stand for the good at these times. I am reminded of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans and Sophie Scholl who opposed the Nazi ideology and lost their lives because of it. While in Prague, we learned about a young student, 20 years old, that burned himself in protest of the Communist occupiers.

What is interesting is that each of these figures became martyrs. This gives me insight into a question that had been bothering me for some time: How do we respond to evil (in its many forms)? After Dachau our group had a debrief session. I had a brief chat with Walter after this expressing my frustration with the issue. To paraphrase his response, there comes a point when, if we truly believe in righteousness and goodness, we are willing to die for it. This is not a ‘will to death,’ but the recognition of a higher Good and Moral and refusing to give in to evil when it tempts us with the easy way out. Is that not how Christ died?

So, do I stay quiet at injustice? Do I shut up and convince myself that ‘it would not make a difference?’ It is one of the most difficult and challenging tasks to figure out what the practical responses look like, but God help me if I ever give in to passivity and indifference.

Popes and Pubs – Karis Taylor

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Since resigning myself to the fact that I will never be the Holy Roman Catholic Church’s pope, I have begun toying with the idea of becoming an Oxford Don. C.S. Lewis was an Oxford Don, and he got to sit in leathery, smokey, dimly lit pubs with his friends and discuss magical stories with them. I want to do that. I got to visit the Inklings’ favorite pub, The Eagle and Child (or as they knew it, The Bird and the Babe), which inspired my erudite aspirations still further. Indeed, I was so inspired that I decided to come up with the perfect name for the pub that I will frequent when I do become a stodgy old professor smelling of books and foreign tea. I’ve been writing down names in the margins of my Once and Future King copy as they come to me. They are all %100 original. Here are some of them: “The Worm and the Kettle”, “The Hat and Spaniel”, “The Fawn’s Foot”, “The Shrub and Rug”, “The Wig and the Whale”, and “The Fiddler and the Estonian Princess”. I might have some difficulty actually finding a pub with any of these names exactly, but hopes and dreams are such noble things, and nothing is ever impossible.

The other brilliant thing about England besides their pub names is their curry. London is a kick in the trousers because it doesn’t matter what ethnicity your bus driver, waiter or businessman is, he or she will have a British accent. Yet regardless of the accents’ assimilation these cultures have brought to this big English city the most tasty recipes. Last night I ate something that I can neither pronounce nor spell but I will remember forever. I think there was lamb in it, and chutney. Second only to the food was the service. After being scorned by almost every continental waiter I was grateful for our small town-Irish-vegetarian server (who seemed to be quite taken by Miss Katie Mott, I might add).

Since we fly off tomorrow, I think it fitting to write that this Europe trip has been a glorious experience for which I am eternally grateful, and I am sorry to leave, but I know that Europe has not seen the last of me.