Monday, January 31, 2011

A trip out to explore

Here's some sights from around our new home.
Marseille. This is standing in the Vieux Port ('Old Port') area and looking around. A great place to spend a day.

Our home! That's the apartment building where we live. It's a new building and seems to be about half or more full. We have neighbors above us and down the hall, but not across the hall or next door.

A look down the main road a few blocks from our apartment.

Las Tortillas. Yep, there's a Mexican restaurant less than 100 yards from our door. How cool is that? Only problem: in a month's time, we've yet to see them open once. And we pass it at least twice a day!

Au revoir from Super-Sawyer!

Friday, January 28, 2011

When Machines Go On Strike

Today I drove across town to a friend’s house. Throughout Marseille, there is available parallel parking (often on sidewalks), when you can find a spot, marked “payant”. This means that you must pay for parking. After wiggling your car into a spot that’s probably too small, bumping the car in front of and behind you a few times, and wishing for a second you had a smartcar (then remembering just how ridiculous they are), you must find a meter to pay for parking. Every block or so there’s a machine marked with a blue P where one can deposit coins and retrieve a small piece of paper authorizing parking for a specified amount of time. That paper, once deposited on your dash, assures you will not be towed. Unless of course there’s a market about to take over the sidewalk.

Back to today’s story...
I parked and I walked to the machine. But when I tried to put coins in, they wouldn’t go. Curious, I pushed a button. Up on the digital screen popped the words en grève. I laughed. The parking meter had just told me that it’s on strike. It could have said en panne, meaning ‘out of order/broken’, but instead it chose ‘on strike’.

What exactly prompts a parking meter to go on strike? Not enough vacation time? Are working conditions not up to par? The 2-hour lunch break not sufficiently long? Too much dog poo nearby?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chivalry, Potty Humor

Realizing that it’s a pretty lame parental trait to constantly write/talk about your kids, I will ask your forgiveness and do it anyways.

This morning we were having a family worship time in our bedroom. Me playing guitar and singing some songs, JJ reading some verses and sharing life application, and Sawyer spinning and dancing around the room, with occasional attempts at singing combined with gutteral yells for the fun of it. During one of his widest spins, Sawyer knocked over a humidifier that sat in the corner, spilling water on the floor. He immediately said “sowwy” and came over to ask for forgiveness. We forgave him but told him that his saying sorry didn’t change the fact of what he’d done and he needed to learn not to continue making the same mistake. He then looked around the room for a moment. Settling his gaze on the water spot, he took off the jacket he was wearing and walked over to the spill, dropped to his knees, and used his jacket to wipe it up. Even though four piles of laundry sat around the room (we bought a washing machine two weeks ago, expected delivery Tuesday!) and a towel rested near the humidifier, he chose to use his own jacket for the cleanup. And they say chivalry is dead!

For added fun...

-Yesterday I heard our son call out with delight “Shower!” That was followed by my wife calmly saying, “No Sawyer, that’s not a shower, that’s the toilet.” Moments later I heard her cry out, “Sawyer, get your head out of the toilet!”

-Our kid is far far far from the most well-behaved on the block, but one thing he does pretty well is put things away. After playing with a particular toy, he’ll box it up. After finishing a book reading, back on the shelf it goes. Earlier he picked up a half roll of toilet paper that had been used for noses and said “away”. Off he ran. When we went to look, we found him in the bathroom tearing off short strips and dropping them into the toilet. Our toilet was quite full of clean strips of pink toilet paper (they like their pink toilet paper here).
Maybe he’s saying that he’s ready for potty training, or maybe I just need to close the door when I go.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When in Rome

Paul said "I have become all things to all men so that I may by all means save some" (1 Cor 9:22). Or he at least wrote something in Greek that basically means that. He might have said it too. Maybe even in Hebrew or Aramaic. But probably not in English.

To be honest, this has little to do with living a missional life and more to do with trying to fit it and avoid the funny looks, the broken English, and the constant conversations about KFC and someone's cousin in Minneapolis.

Living in France, I daily try pretty hard to fit in with the culture around me. It's not all that different, but I do consciously change the way I dress, stand, walk, and act when I'm in public, and I try verrry hard to get my pronunciation and phrases in French right. Sometimes I can go totally unnoticed as a foreigner in a crowded place, and sometimes even a few short responses into a conversation.

I've decided today though that in one facet of my life I'm okay with being an overt foreigner. Grocery shopping. As I walked to the checkout line this afternoon with a loaded down cart I prepped myself with a few key phrases and mentally practiced my pronunciation. I pulled out my wallet, looked up with half a smile and a "bonjour" at the right time and had even myself going. But then I realized that it was somewhat futile, as the moment my purchases passed the scanner, the check-out lady would easily recognize me as not French. My load was lacking in stinky cheeses, bags of breakfast breads and coffees, kiddy cookies, patés, sardines, and assorted sausages and salmons. And I had multiple packages of tortillas (not "tex-mex burrito kits"), fresh milk, black beans, a liter of caffeine-free coke, and cinnamon. Obviously not French. And you know what? I'm ok with that.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

VI, reading Jesus, and litte sister

It’s been awhile since I’ve been around here. Sorry about that, life’s been a bit crazy. New city. New jobs. New illnesses. New problems. New apartment to paint and buy cabinets and such. And other stuff too.

But I’m back, and with a new city the material should be flowing. I haven’t had time to put together any long or deep thoughts lately, so here’s some quick hitters:

-I’m beginning to wonder if my son has Voice Immodulation disorder. He says everything at full volume. All the time. And he loves identifying things he knows. One of his favorite things is cars. We go outside, living in a city with thousands and thousands of automobiles, and he will quite literally shout at the top of his lungs “car” at each parked car we walk past. People from hundreds of yards away will turn to look when he cries out.

-Where would your life be without the tooth fairy? Probably at least $2 poorer (unless you’re like a college friend of ours who sold his teeth on ebay for $20). Well in France you’d still be ok thanks to La Petite Souris. Yup. The Little Mouse. In France, there is no tooth fairy, but rather a tooth mouse that comes to replace fallen teeth with treats and money. We have a young friend, American who’s lived most of her life in France, who recently lost her first tooth. We were with her family the night she placed the tooth under her pillow, and she told us all about the little mouse. When asked why there’s not a tooth mouse in America, she responded simply “the mouse can’t cross the ocean, silly.”

-When you live abroad in a modern, western country, it’s often the little things that drive you batty. Take for instance, grocery carts. Here in France, someone decided to make all grocery carts with four fully turning wheels. Trying to wrangle a grocery cart with four spinning and turning wheels through a crowded grocery store is like trying to push a red wagon through a slalom course on an ice rink. It just doesn’t work well. Lock the two front wheels, please!!

-Yesterday while eating his breakfast, Sawyer pointed to his children’s Bible and said “Read Jesus... please.” Melted my heart. I can thank his wonderful, godly mother for that one. She models it for him each morning, reading her own Jesus stories over breakfast.

-If you read this and you think about it this week, pray for a strong easterly wind over the Atlantic ocean. Somewhere in the ocean there’s a ship. On that ship there’s a crate. On that crate is our name. Oh how we long to see that crate. You see, nearly four years ago we packed up our meager belongings (dishes, dresser, decorations, photo albums) into storage and moved to East Africa. 15 months ago we transferred those items into a wooden crate and bought a few new things to add in (couch, mattress, chair). It’s scheduled to arrive sometime in February. It’s not that we’re addicted to our stuff or anything, we’d just like to sit on something other than a trunk and an exercise ball and have more décor than a couple of ikea bookshelves!

-I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on here yet, but it’s pretty official that Sawyer will have a little sister coming into the world in about 3.5 months. We are incredibly excited and can’t wait for her arrival! Name suggestions welcomed, but be not offended when we don’t use yours :). We really don’t have it narrowed down much, still in the brainstorming phase.

Until next time...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mec, where's my car?

We have officially moved to Marseille. We're not quite moved into our permanent place, but one more day of painting and then a day-trip to Paris and back to pick up some of our stuff and we'll be ready to settle. It's great being here and discovering another new place, but it's also great to emotionally exhale, this is to be our home. We're here. It hasn't all been sunshine and smiles though:

Our first day didn’t start quite like I expected.

We pulled into Marseille late and unloaded. I drove around for awhile searching for a parking place on the street and eventually found one, then we hit the hay. In the morning I arose with a full day planned. Step one was to get our apartment keys so that I could get our car off the street and into our apartment's parking garage. Before the meters started counting, I walked out to the the road to move my car plenty early. But instead of my car, I found a bustling morning market on the sidewalk. My car was nowhere to be seen. I’d been towed. At least I could buy some jeans, fresh crêpes, fruit, and CDRs.

[I did not see this sign or any like it by the way. I'm told there's a market day no parking sign. But I'm still skeptical.]

By the end of the day I’d still managed to pick up our apartment keys, buy loads of paint, get our electricity turned on, and reacquire our car, though my wallet left much lighter. I visited a side of town I had no prior intention of discovering that day, but I learned a valuable lesson in city street parking. And then I settled in to watch a fantastic UK-UL basketball game (J-O-R-T-S Jorts Jorts Jorts!)... not an all bad start to our time in Marseille.