I’ve been Prined and I’ve been Schooled

Saturday, an Indonesian church rented our building to hold their church service. A crew of young members arrived early to set everything up, and a young boy, no older than eight or nine, was standing in the hall, looking a bit bored. He came to the counter and I expected him to order a “Chocomel” (chocolate milk) or a pack of Mentos. He asked me for the wi-fi code. I thought it was kind of sweet, this little boy wanting internet access. Anyway, I pulled out a piece of paper with our 15-digit long code. He had this rather impassive look on his face as I explained that the first long series of numbers was the name of our connection and the second the log in code. The long code is quite often daunting to grown up clients who ask for internet access, so I couldn’t imagine how this little guy was feeling.

I took his iPhone in my hand and started typing in the code. Except, I was having trouble switching between capitals and lower case, my fingers a bit clumsy when searching out numbers rather than letters. He started explaining it to me, and I smartly handed it back to him.
“How about if I read you the code and you can type it in.”
“Okay.” As I read, his fingers flew along, waiting impatiently for me to catch up.
“Can I also use it to log in on my iPad?” he asked. You have an iPhone and an iPad? I asked indignantly in my head. You’re what, seven, maybe eight?
“Sure,” I responded cheerfully. “You can keep a copy of this paper.”
“I’ll just take a photo,” he said.
“Oh. Yeah. That’s a good idea,” I responded. I didn’t see a smirk on his face. I’m sure this happens to him all of the time, interacting with slow, older people. AT this point, I was holding my head up high just by the mere fact that I towered over this youngster.

As I walked away with my silly paper, it came to me: In 2011 I had been Prined and in 2014 I had been Schooled. Being Prined is a joyous occasion. On the other side of the spectrum is being schooled; by a little boy; a little boy who has a smart phone, an iPad and quick little fingers.

I remember when I considered my mom and dad silly and antiquated because they had no idea who the Red Hot Chili Peppers were, and didn’t have a clue how to write an email. But I was in my mid 20s in grad school, spending gobs of hours in the computer lab; they in their 60s, enjoying the early stages of retirement. This recollection makes me feel rather uncomfortable as the wheel of Karma does its spinning thing in my direction.

It’s a well-known fact that the Indonesians are blessed with youthful countenances. Perhaps this little iPhone, iPad toting boy was actually a bright young college student who looked young for his age. The second stage of being Schooled; denial.


Ask and You Shall Receive

We’ve all heard of the power of intention. Ask and you shall receive. So what happens when your intentions are only half formed? Does the universe still provide?

Arie Jan and I have an ongoing fantasy of living in an intentional community, yet the fantasy has a nebulous quality. Sometimes we picture ourselves in an urban eco-village with a square block of apartment buildings surrounding an urban garden and teaching facility. Other times we envision a rural eco-village hinged around a sprawling organic farm, waterways and forest. People gather together to work on various projects that are important to them and have a healthy social life with one another, although not overly social.

The members of the community are united by a shared mission statement of how to live with one another and how to respect the planet—a mission statement we have yet to define. Sometimes we think the community should be tied together through faith, other times we think it should be a cross section of society, believers and non-believers alike.

Although my husband and I are drawn to community, we are also private people who like closing the door at the end of the day. As you can see, our vision is not so clearly defined. Yet as our life begins to unfold here in Holland, we have the uncanny sensation that the universe has answered our half formed intentions to live within an intentional community.

Monasteries aside, I had never thought of a church as an intentional community. Sure, people attend voluntarily and share a common belief and intention. But, I view an intentional community as people who live together, and church members don’t live at the church. But, as a matter of fact, we do live at the church. And in doing so, we have become more known to this congregation in just a few short months than we did in two years at the last church we attended. Church members have given us everything from stuffed animals for Ezra, to plates, pots and pans, garden furniture, couches, tables and dressers.

I joined a group of volunteers one morning to prepare Easter breakfast for 90 other church members. As we poured juice and set little bowls of butter and jelly on the tables, I felt we were part of something intentional here. As the future church managers, our living space is physically connected to the church, which provides both work and connection to a large community of people.

Although I live in an urban area surrounded by strangers, I can look out my window and see someone I know on a regular basis. Yet, when we shut the door at the end of the day, we are alone.  Although the church is not exemplary when it comes to the environment, they do have a committee that vends fair trade products one Sunday a month after church, they use real coffee and tea cups and reusable cloths for cleaning, and they are incredibly diligent when it comes to turning off the heating and lighting when not in use.

Although everyone has their own relationship with spirituality, the presumption of shared belief is there as a uniting force. Church members volunteer to work on group projects—providing meals and companionship for the elderly, outreach programs to Suriname, cleaning and maintaining the church, coming together for bible readings, etc. And, the church rents out rooms to community members—believers and non believers alike. Thus, we get to see a cross-section of society coming in and out of the doors: people from embassies and other government organizations, members of home owners associations, interesting authors and their followers, musical choirs, even classes are held here. Does this sound a bit like our half baked community idea?

When we thought of an intentional community, this is not at all what we envisioned, but we can’t help but be aware of the parallels. It’s as if this is an intentional community intro course with the ability to retreat into our residence when it’s too much–yet we are still right next door. It’s not fodder for a reality TV show, but some days I think the interactions, the problems to be solved, the annoyances, sadness and joy provide us with a real life understanding to what community is about.

Now what would happen if we really fleshed our ideal eco-village concept and wrote that mission statement? Would we find ourselves in an Italian hill town raising organic romas and lemons with a community of like minded individuals? Will we transform this church into an eco village? That’s the fun of life. There really is no telling how things will turn out.

Re-entering the Fray

I’ve seen movies where someone is treading along and then all of a sudden their world changes drastically. This past weekend, we had two such moments; perhaps not film worthy moments, but in the sphere of our Dutch existence, an ode to Dylan’s times, they are a changing.

Friday, Arie headed to Amsterdam for a second interview for a teaching position. The interview was at 12pm. When I hadn’t heard from him by 2pm, I called him on the cell. He answered curtly and said he would call me back. I was not alone in my impatience for an aye or nay. His sister had called him 5 minutes before. Thanks to our impatience, Arie Jan was having the unfortunate experience of discovering the pop song ringtone I had selected for our new cell phone while in the final moments of his interview. This did not, however, interfere with the headmaster’s decision to offer him the job. That’s right. Arie Jan will soon be a math teacher at a public Christian middle school!

Now came my period of angst and waiting. Earlier in the week, I had a successful second interview for a management position that comes with housing. It was down to me and one other candidate. If I got the job, we would stay in Den Haag, city of diplomacy, international significance and tranquility. If I didn’t get the job, we would most likely move to lively Amsterdam, where Arie’s friends live, a city of excitement, temptation and intrigue.   We didn’t get a chance to really think about the options, as the very next day, I received a phone call and was offered the job, pending receipt of my work permit. So, in less than 24 hours, we both went from jobless, to soon-to-be employed. Of course, we knew our undertaking was stressful, but I didn’t realize just how stressful it was until I felt relief wash over us with this news.

Coming up next: Commuting by bike in Holland