Roman Polanski Soapbox....Lynch the fool.

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Ok, the title is a bit harsh and the subject is a slight departure from my normal mumblings but I am a bit irked about this issue, please pardon me. Today's article on CNN.COM really miffed me and I had to respond.

I don't understand the uproar about Polanski's arrest and think Hollywood's nutjob quota has increased! The man is a child molester and plead guilty to the crime. He committed his crime on American soil, was tried, plead guilt, and while waiting for sentencing when he fled back to Europe. Everyone in the magic fairy land of Hollywood seems to think that he should be given a free ride...why? I can only assume it is because of how much time has passed, but 32 years doesn't mean the crime should not have consequences and the perp be held accountable. Perhaps it is from some sense of brotherhood, I don't know.

Hollywood "professionals" have their pants all knotted up and "Demand" his release, France can't believe that he was arrested just before a program meant to honor him was to take place. Where are your priorities people!? Even the now adult child he abused back in the 70's is saying she wants it dropped. While my heart goes out for what she and her family had to endure it really isn't up to her and my personal opinion is that if she would be quiet about what is going on people probably won't be
focusing too much on her. While the infraction took place against her the issue isn't solely about the victim, its about justice and a man mocking the appropriate response to raping a child.

I applaud the government for actually being persistent and doing the right thing for once. We'll see how it turns out. For the time being I'd like to see Hollywood shut up and act responsibly instead of condoning and praising a man who is/was a sexual predator. They did the same for MJ, guess Hollywood ia more screwed up than I could every imagine.


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Coming Soon...

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Stay tuned for my October newsletter, which I will be sending out via email and posting here by the end of this week.


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Office Space

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Here are some shots of my new office space and the learning center (where my "office" will be). It is a work in progress, but it is coming along quickly. The small room is my office, where I will meet with the children on a regular basis for individual counseling and work.




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2009/2010: The New Year Begins !!!

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I was going to wait until Friday or Saturday, but I had some time to kill, so I thought I'd go ahead and post a short note this evening. Anyway, I am am excited that school resumes Friday so I probably would have been unable to wait…go figure.

The residents are returning and the campus is once again echoing with the sounds of laughter, playing, running, doors slamming, shouting, and at times, crying (Hey, we have around 40 boys here! There is bound to be some conflict at times!). We are welcoming three new residents this season and saying goodbye to a few as well. Unit assignments have changed, some have been promoted to the teen/independent living house, some have just been moved around for other reasons. Change can be difficult as attachments and bonds with house mothers are stretched and broken when residents are reassigned. Change can be difficult when you leave your mother or father and Dar el Awlad becomes your new home.

The residents aren't the only ones experiencing change. House mothers have to say goodbye to those that move on and welcome the new ones. Teachers must adapt to new classrooms and students. New students must learn how to navigate and negotiate a new school (or school for the first time). Residential staff deals with all the stress and change from the bottom up, so everyone is affected in some way.

Thank you so much for your prayers. I look forward to this upcoming year and seeing the results of your current and future prayers. My schedule appears to be rather full now as I am finally starting to meet individually with all students, not just those with special needs or issues. I am also finishing up the final touches to my office space, photos will follow. I'll likely still "telecommute" from my computer, which will remain in my flat, but I now have a small space in the resource center that I can call my own and use for individual or small group time with the residents.

Above:
I'll post some pictures soon of the new year and all the hustle and bustle that accompanies it. Until then here is a photo of one of our guys getting a quick haircut so he will be ready for his first day of school. The little guy in the background is ok…he's one of our sillier residents and just playing around. When I snapped this image I had no idea he was on the ground, rolling around like that :)



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2009/2010: The New Year Begins !!!

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I was going to wait until Friday or Saturday, but I had some time to kill, so I thought I'd go ahead and post a short note this evening. Anyway, I am am excited that school resumes Friday so I probably would have been unable to wait…go figure.

The residents are returning and the campus is once again echoing with the sounds of laughter, playing, running, doors slamming, shouting, and at times, crying (Hey, we have around 40 boys here! There is bound to be some conflict at times!). We are welcoming three new residents this season and saying goodbye to a few as well. Unit assignments have changed, some have been promoted to the teen/independent living house, some have just been moved around for other reasons. Change can be difficult as attachments and bonds with house mothers are stretched and broken when residents are reassigned. Change can be difficult when you leave your mother or father and Dar el Awlad becomes your new home.

The residents aren't the only ones experiencing change. House mothers have to say goodbye to those that move on and welcome the new ones. Teachers must adapt to new classrooms and students. New students must learn how to navigate and negotiate a new school (or school for the first time). Residential staff deals with all the stress and change from the bottom up, so everyone is affected in some way.

Thank you so much for your prayers. I look forward to this upcoming year and seeing the results of your current and future prayers. My schedule appears to be rather full now as I am finally starting to meet individually with all students, not just those with special needs or issues. I am also finishing up the final touches to my office space, photos will follow. I'll likely still "telecommute" from my computer, which will remain in my flat, but I now have a small space in the resource center that I can call my own and use for individual or small group time with the residents.

I'll post some pictures soon of the new year and all the hustle and bustle that accompanies it. Until then here is a photo of one of our guys getting a quick haircut so he will be ready for his first day of school. The little guy in the background is ok…he's one of our sillier residents and just playing around. When I snapped this image I had no idea he was on the ground, rolling around like that :)



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Reaching for the Sky

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I can't really remember how many times I've been to the boulder field now. The place is becoming so familiar now that it seems as if I have been going there forever. There are several things I'd like to see change: people cleaning up after themselves (shotgun shells...don't leave them behind!), no thorn bushes and other sharp (and stingy) plants, pine resin on the rocks, and easier access. Since I cannot change any of those and it is likely that there will never be change in any of those areas I am just going to have to cope and accept the undesirable along with the desire to climb.


Climbing at Putt Putt has been great for exercise, practice, and working on projects for the kids, but I needed more. Before coming to Lebanon most of my outdoor climbing experience was limited to scrambling over boulders while hiking and some rather stupid bouldering attempts in Maine (note, it isn't a good idea to free climb the basalt cliffs, especially when they are covered with wet and slimy seaweed). At the end of 2008 I joined a climbing gym in Lynchburg, after taking three skills classes and just spending a ton of time climbing I not only learned a lot about the sport but also about myself. I've learned I am afraid of commitment, that although the hold looks as if it is in reach it I just can't let go of what is safe and secure. I've learned that given a pair of climbing shoes and and the opportunity I will try to climb almost anything. I've learned that the skills I gained in the gym transfer quite well to the great outdoors. I've learned that I am not too much of a risk-taker, though I have my moments. I've learned that I still take pride in my scratches, cuts, scrapes, bruises, and sweat...makes me feel like I've accomplished something. I've also learned that I have improved in my climbing and there is still infinite room for additional growth.

The first attempt at bouldering in Lebanon ended quite poorly, with me becoming dehydrated and stuck in bed for over a day. That first experience was not unlike my first attempt at kayaking with my own boat: 2nd degree sunburn, repetitive stress injury, and dehydration. The results of pushing myself while not being prepared weren't all that attractive and comfortable, I didn't intentionally go out and try to get injured, but they didn't stop me from doing something that I enjoyed. As a result of such a "disastrous" first attempt I learned about my body and what I needed to do differently next time.

There are three main climbing areas at the boulder field. The relative flat field that is first encountered has several challenging slabs and large boulders. The next area is split into two parts and really should involved ropes. At the top of the cliff (looming over the boulder field) a top rope could be placed and there would be some amazing routes for the casual sport climber. Some of the cliff can be climbed fairly easily without ropes, which you need to do if you want to get to the best boulders. The third area is sort of an upper boulder "field", requiring some scrambling and free climbing up the cliff, in fact some of the cracks that allow easy access to the upper boulders are fun in their own way. The rock in this section offers some interesting and technical bouldering problems. The biggest risk I've noticed so far is that some of the rock is loose and crumbles when any substantial weight is placed on. Thankfully the loose rock is easily identified and quite sporadic. Overall the rock in Beit Mary tends to be quite sharp and hard on the fingers. This past Friday when I climbed I developed several cuts and small puncture wounds on my hands, even bleeding once from my fingernails. I am looking forward to getting a crash pad so that tougher problems can be developed and beaten.


Friday was the last time we (myself and two co-workers) went climbing. The rains have started and I am unsure when we'll hit the rock again. It doesn't rain every day from September to April, but it does rain a lot. Hopefully there will be a few days of good climbing weather.



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A Subtle Change of Perspective

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While walking through Souk El Tayeb today with some friends from work it felt like nature was preparing its bounty for the coming season. Fresh hot peppers drying on string, gourds and pumpkins on display, pomegranates being juiced, and tons of fresh bread being sold all made me feel that I was at a county fair somewhere in the US.

Autumn is here in Lebanon, at least it is starting to feel like it. Cooler night temperatures (yay, no fans!), light winds, clouds rolling in from over the mountains during the day, a slight change in the smell of the air, and a sense of expectation, that something good and needed is about to happen. All this describes the coming of Autumn here in Lebanon.

While it feels more like Autumn here in Mansourieh it definitely didn't feel that way down in Beirut. The day temperatures up in the foothills of Eastern Beirut are significantly cooler than the flat and humid floodplain that is Beirut proper. But…the sun, the clouds, and the blue sky still point to the coming of Fall and the end of Summer, preparing the land for much needed rain. With Autumn will come rain and cooler temperatures, which means that produce will change and we'll be eating differently here. What we'll be eating I am not exactly sure. I think the avocados will be ripening soon and kiwi should start being available as well. No matter what comes to the produce stands and markets I am sure that I'll enjoy it, and find something new to sample (note: stay away from unripened dates, just as bad as unripened persimmons, like alum disguised as a fruit!).

If you couldn't get the tone from the post so far I really enjoy Autumn, it is probably my favorite season in general. It will be interesting to see the differences of this season in Lebanon but from what I've witnessed over the last week I think it will be something I enjoy greatly. I've been in Lebanon for every season now, but getting the opportunity to see the changes take place and experience how life adapts is absolutely amazing.

The kids come back soon, we've lost and gained a few over the course of the Summer, but they are coming back! As the staff return from vacations and get ready for "work" there is a developing sense of urgency. Classrooms to prepare, offices to clean, curriculum to fine-tune, and paperwork to finish are just some of tasks we're involved with at the moment. I finally have some office space, which I will start to organize and decorate here soon. I've been getting supplies for sand trays and play therapy recently, so I feel that I am almost ready for the children to come back. At the beginning of the Summer I worked out a rota for meeting each child individually and I need to start working on some group exercises and programming. My arrival in April was strange as I came only a month or two before the children left for the Summer, but it gave me time to watch and learn the children's ways. As they return for this upcoming academic year I have some strategies and goals in mind that I developed from my initial contacts in the Spring.


Well, it has been a long day and I need to get some rest. Just thought I'd share a little news about what is going on currently at the maytam (orphanage). As time allows I think I am going to try to publish a post at least once a week. I will still send out emails and post prayer updates here but this is also a place that I can share about life (and food) here in Lebanon.

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Month Five, what am I still doing here?

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Here I am, beginning my fifth month in Lebanon. Summer is starting to fade away, the days are still full of sunshine and heat but there is a strong sense that Fall is just around the corner and the sun sets earlier each evening. As a result of my earlier travels I've now been in Lebanon for all four seasons but it is exciting now to see how each season changes and makes the transition to the next. The children will be returning soon and life at the maytam (orphanage) will become hectic once again.

The last few weeks I've been climbing a lot on the wall at Putt Putt, staying in shape, working on my skills, and developing some problems and routes that I want the children to try later this year. While climbing I've met two brothers from Iraq, working at the Iraqi television station that rents space from Putt Putt. This morning on the way to church I met a young lady from Qatar. During the last several days I regained contact with an acquaintance from the States that has family here. We have teams that visit us from all over Lebanon and the world, reaching out to the children we serve. The children we teach, care for, and love come from all parts of the region. While we are working and serving locally we are actually involved in something much larger and global in nature.

Twice I've been asked a similar question, once while vacationing and the other while climbing the wall. "Why Lebanon, why not..." (fill in the blank). I cannot argue that there are needy families and children throughout the world. For 10 years I worked with at-risk children and families in the US. Turn on the TV, flip through a newspaper, or check the news online and you will see the devastation that we inflict on each other, on ourselves. I cannot really give an adequate answer to those that ask me, "Why Lebanon?" The best way I can respond, as I remarked in my support letter, is the children. My answer is often followed up with a second question, "but there are needy children all over that need help, why Lebanon?" My answer is that God has placed me here, for this season in my life I am here. God gave me a heart for Lebanon, directed me here, and has allowed me to serve here. When that time is up I know something else will come along. For now, and I don't know if it is for months, years, or decades, I am here in Lebanon.












Lebanon is a country full of contrasts. There is a refugee camp and slum next to the sports arena, brand new high rises are being built next to bullet-riddled ruins. One neighborhood has clean cobblestone streets, the next one over has trash and litter overflowing the rubbish bins and into the street and sidewalk. Muslim suburbs, Christian suburbs. There are two woman walking side by side, one wearing hijab and modest clothing while her friend is wearing a miniskirt and top that leaves nothing to the imagination. The clean and dirty, the poor and wealthy, the Lebanese and the immigrant, the loud and the silent, and the new and the old. I could take up an entire post just describing all the contrasts that exist in this country, all the contrasts that make Lebanon uniquely Lebanon. I've been blessed to have a climbing wall next door to my work and boulder fields that allow hiking and bouldering. There are bookstores, coffee shops, farmers' markets, and street vendors (food) that make this place feel more like home each passing day. The contrast for me is that everything that makes me feel like home generally is not accessible to the families and children I work with. As a co-worker mentioned the other day, it is as if we live two lives. I think I am ok with the contrasts, with the way we have to live here. For all the comforts we have there are days when the electricity doesn't seem to cooperate very well, there are days when the hot water isn't even luke-warm, and there are days when it takes hours on a bus just to travel less than 8 miles. Even though I don't meet the families I work with in all their pains and inconveniences I still am able to know to a degree on what life is like without. Life in Lebanon is both fragile and tenacious. Peace is relative and you never know when the next war or conflict will break out, when the life that has become comfortable will crumble apart and have to be rebuilt. It is tenacious in that even when everything seems bleak the people here are always looking for ways to rebuild and move forward; never giving up, even in the face of war or unrest.

I've spent a lot of time lately thinking of my future, the future of my work here, and of Lebanon. I think that my conclusion is that I am learning to hold onto life and all that it entails loosely. In the big picture I am nothing, but my actions can cause a positive or negative impact in the lives that I encounter. Though I am nothing my deeds will last longer and carry more weight than my life ever will. I am working on being a better steward of the resources that God has blessed me with, especially of time. Arabic, which has plagued me for the past month or two, is becoming more alive to me now, though I still find it easier to read and write than speak. Above all things, I want to live more humbly rather than with pride and arrogance.

While Lebanon might not be a village in central Africa, the slums of India, or a favella in Brazil, there are urgent needs here. The overall attitude of the country seems to be one of striving for more money, more cars, more "bling", and there are large numbers of people here that don't have clean places to live, fresh water, consistent housing, or even an education . Although I think that I could rough it for a while in the bush of the Congo or favellas of Rio de Janeiro I feel that my personality and attitude is designed more for the Levant. Even if I am not sure how I got here God surely does.

"You have your Lebanon and its dilemma. I have my Lebanon and its beauty...You have your Lebanon and its people. I have my Lebanon and its people...You have your Lebanon and I have my Lebanon."
- جبران خليل جبران | K
halil (Kahlil) Gibran

...and in all things we are in God's hands, working, living, and existing through His delight, mercy, grace, and affection.



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