Friday, January 21, 2011

2010, The Year in Review.

As seen through highlights from my Facebook status updates.

I know. This is pathetic. But you've got to admit, some of them really are so clever that they deserved to be preserved for posterity, right? No, I guess you don't have to admit that. Well could you at least admit that they deserve deserve something more than the ephemerality of a Facebook status? (Yeah, it really is a word.)

- Jan. 5: Wow, this is probably as close to fame as I'll ever get. I just got mentioned in the NY Times!

- Jan. 12: A friend of mine is a wholesale supplier of cigarette lighters here in Makedonija. He buys them by the container from China. He goes through a container, which contains over a million cigarette lighters, every couple of months. This is a country with a population of barely 2 million.

- Feb. 3: Went ice skating with Lydia. I skate like Frakenstein. What can I say? I'm a Louisiana boy.

- Feb. 5: Taking a break from my latest move in a battle of wits with our dog Cody, aka "Houdini". So far I'm losing.

- Feb. 7: This is the day I've been waiting for all my life! WHO DAT!

- Feb. 8: I had this really bizarre dream last night. I dreamed -- ok, I know this is really silly -- I dreamed that the Saints won the Super Bowl. Crazy dream, huh?

- Feb. 13: Just when I think I can't stand another day of winter, God gives us a gorgeous one like today. Ended up hiking up to the ruins of an old monastery above Matka Canyon.

- Feb. 21: Wednesday's the big anniversary. You'd think after 20 years we'd have it figured out.

- Feb. 23: Budapest has got to be one of the most romantic cities in the world. I'm so glad that it worked out for us to be here for our 20th.

- Feb. 24: Had escargot last night. They were ok, but give me a half dozen raw erstas on the half shell anytime!

- February 27: Pondering what it means to be an emotional pygmy.

- Mar. 1: Took Luke out in the schoolyard to toss the (American) football yesterday. Lots of neighborhood kids (Albanian, Macedonian and otherwise) gathered round so I ended up teaching them to play and organizing a game. They begged us to play again today, so we did. They're asked me if I could come back tomorrow. Lots of fun!

- Mar. 5: I'm gonna walk from Matka Canyon to the summit of Vodno then down into town tomorrow. It's supposed to snow tonight so it should be pretty. Anybody wanna come?


- Mar. 10: Here and here are the links to the photos chosen by National Geographic Traveler:

- Mar. 11: Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come.

- Mar. 12: My sweet girl Lydia made me a tiramisu for my b'day! No dad was ever more blessed.

- Mar. 13: I got an invitation to join a group to fight to keep God in America. I appreciate the thought, but actually I'm fighting to let Him out.

- Mar. 18: Tirana next week, Brussels the week after.

- Apr. 11: L&L and I are having fun reading through the books of Kings. We're making a chart and assigning each king a letter grade A through F.

- Apr. 22: Luke didn't have to be dragged out of bed to get ready for school this morning. He was up before 5 a.m. -- without an alarm clock -- to find out what was happening with the NFL draft.

- Apr. 25: More village visits to measure and photograph wheelchair candidates today.

- Apr. 30: How strange it was to hear the sweet sounds of Plaquemines Parish accents on BBC radio this morning. How sad it is that once again my home state is in the news as the site of an epic tragedy!

- May 2: Had an amazing, unforgettable daddy-daughter time in the mountains with Lydia this weekend.

- May 4: Doing the wheelchair distribution today.

- May 5: That's what I deserve for my vanity. I googled my name and came across the following quote: "What Mark Orfila says is complete BS." Apparently it's referring to another Mark Orfila, but perhaps we've got more in common than our name.

- May 8: Traveling to Spain next week. Looking forward to churros and chocolate for b'fast.

- May 14: Isn't Spain supposed to be sunny and warm?

- May 24: Almost 50 denar to the dollar. Happy days are here again!

- June 1: Mary made a run to Thessaloniki yesterday and brought us back bougatsa. Yum!

- June 1: Lydia tasting my gumbo: "Wow, dad, you hit the nail on the nose!"

- June 22: Jesus loves me this I know/ For the Bible tells me so

- July 1: Climbed to the top of the clock tower next to the old Sultan Murat Mosque yesterday. I love having guests from abroad because I get to be a tourist along with them.

- July 4: A question for all my British friends: Aren't you glad to be rid of us?

- July 10: Got dumped in the lake and embedded a fish hook in my finger past the barb. But a bad day fishing is still better than a good day doing anything else.

- July 26: Anybody love me enough to do my quarterly financial report for me?

- July 29: Off to Seattle tomorrow for a month of counseling and pastoral care.

- July 29: We're about to set out for the land of Pop-tarts.

- August 1: Sleepless in Seattle.

- August 3: Over jet lag in Seattle.

- Aug. 8: Loved watching the Sounders beat Hoston Dynamo 2-0. Till New Orleans gets a MLS team, I think I'm going to be a Sounders fan. Thanks to Craig Mathison for tickets.

- Aug. 19: I start ADD meds tomorrow. Wonder what the new me will be like.

- Aug. 26: I'm thinking that if you've gotta be stuck in some strange place in the States, you could do worse than Seattle.

- Aug. 29: Nervous about the kids starting school tomorrow. Luke is 10 and has never gone to US school.

- Sept. 16: Aren't those new mint Oreos amazing? I'm eager to get back to the Balkans, but you've gotta admit: America does have its charms!

- Sept. 17: Thanks to Criag Mathison for directing us toward this great little Eastern European grocery store. We bought some Croatian ajvar, and it turned out to be the best store-bought ajvar I've ever had. But nothing can replace being there this time of year to enjoy the smell when they're making it.

- Sept. 22: Learning to love.

- Oct. 10: Sold some more pictures without even trying -- this time to Bradt Travel Guides (to Kosova).

- Oct. 10: IT'S WORSE THAN I THOUGHT! So I ordered this book on Emotional Intelligence because that's one of the things I'm working on these days, and it came with an online "EQ" test, and I came out like in the bottom 15th percentile! I really am an emotional pygmy. Thanks to all of you who've put up with me all these years.

- Oct. 12: So I thought that after last year's Super Bowl, the Saints had commenced their millennial reign. Looks like I'll have to revise my eschatology.

- Oct. 19: Newsweek ranked the high school Lydia is attending 14th in the USA! Of course I think she deserves better.

- Nov. 10: A picture of mine was featured on an article that came out today noting 5 billion photos uploaded to flickr. Just think: Out of 5 billion photos, mine was one of 16 chosen to illustrate the article! (Mine is the 12th picture as you scroll down the page.)

- Dec. 10: So I often hear everybody talking about all the idiots on the road. I don't really notice very much. I wonder if that means I'm one of the idiots?

- Dec. 15: Thinking of a Sara Groves lyric today: "It's been a while since I felt this/
but it feels like it might be hope"

- Dec. 15: Amazing how such a dull picture could generate such heated comments. I never dreamed that taxonomy could inspire such passion.

- Dec. 20: Pondering this from Lewis' The Four Loves: "For many of us, all experience merely defines... the shape of that gap where our love of God ought to be. It is not enough. It is something. If we cannot 'practice the presence of God,' it is something to practice the absence of God, to become increasingly aware of our unawareness..."

- Dec. 23: Ok, I know I've already squeezed more than my 15 minutes out of fame out of this, but what can I do? This woman just keeps on saying nice things about me all over the place!

- Dec. 28: The kids and I have this great idea for a reality tv show: Behind the scenes at the county library. All we need is an investor to help us make it happen. Any takers?

- Dec. 30: Look for Luke & me on tv at the Seahawks-Rams game Sunday night. We should be easy to spot. We'll be the only ones at Qwest Field wearing Saints colors. It'll be Luke's 1st time at an NFL game.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Not by might, not by power..."

It is worth noting that Martin Luther King Jr. preached his last sermon in a Church of God in Christ facility. (The Church of God in Christ is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the U.S.) In some photos you can see a banner with a Bible verse hanging over Dr. King's head -- a verse which could be considered the theme of the Pentecostal movement since its inception: "Not by might, not my power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord" (Zechariah 4:6). In the early days of the movement Pentecostals took this verse to mean that moving in the power of the Spirit precluded violence -- a message that meshes powerfully with Dr. King's life and legacy.

In honor of MLK Day.

Friday, January 07, 2011

My grandfather was Napoleon Bonaparte Hippler; his grandfather was Julius Caesar Hippler. Apparently I'm genetically programmed more for grandiosity than for greatness.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

wheelchair distribution
Originally uploaded by kosova cajun

The Banquet at the World's End

Today I was blessed to help with the distribution of wheelchairs to handicapped people from the villages of Batincë, Moranë, and Studeniçan. The experience brought forcefully to mind an old Daniel Amos song, "The Banquet at the World's End". This song is a favorite of mine because it has helped me to see a very familiar story with fresh eyes. The story I'm talking about is one Jesus told. You can find it in the Bible in Luke 14:15-24. Here are the lyrics:

The beautiful people, all send their excuses:
(Real estate and sex lives, livestock and ex-wives)

But the poor are coming, the lame are running
In their sleazy clothes and orthopedic shoes
There's a harelip spokesman shouting out the news

"Come to the banquet at the world's end!"

There's a string ensemble, and the King's court jester
Telling parables and big jokes, to mongoloids and old folks

The blind are seeing, the dead are breathing
And the mummies dance in geriatric style
The amputees are rolling down the aisles

"Come to the banquet at the world's end!"

Candlelight and party hats, duck and pheasant under glass
Aluminum walkers, thin white canes, caviar and pink champagne
The bride and the groom waltz on
Club foot lane at the banquet at the world's end
The banquet at the world's end
The banquet at the world's end

Say the beautiful people (the poor are coming)
"We'll live with the lights out (the lame are running)
Leave us alone now because (the blind are seeing)
Hell feels like home now" (the dead are breathing)


But the poor are coming, the lame are running
In their sleazy clothes and orthopedic shoes
There's a harelip spokesman shouting out the news

"Come to the banquet at the world's end!"
"Come to the banquet at the world's end!"
"Come to the banquet at the world's end!"

The words and music are by Terry Taylor. The song appeared on the Daniel Amos album MotorCycle.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Lion truthin

Here's a little mind game I play sometimes when I'm having trouble falling asleep.  Rather than explaining the rules, I'll just give you some examples.  (Maybe you already got it from the title.)  I think you'll pick up on the pattern.  My kids love this too.  Ok, so here goes:

lion - truthin

badger - goodger

panther - potther

hyena - lowena

donkey - donlock

tick - tock

goat - stopt

Get the idea?  Feel free to add one (or more) of you own?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Homesick for Egypt

homesick for Egypt
Originally uploaded by kosova cajun

I was taking pictures of Farka Lake, and this old Albanan man tending his cows and sheep watched me suspiciously. Finally he asked me what I was doing. "I'm taking pictures of the lake because it's beautiful!' I said.

"Yes, it's beautiful," he replied. "It was made by Enver; whereas these politicians we have these days don't make anything beautiful. All they do is destory things."

(For the uninitiated, Enver Hoxha was the murderous Communist dictator who ruled Albania from 1945 to 1985. Under his leadership Albania procliamed itself the world's first completely atheist state. His legacy was isolation, poverty and paranoia on such a scale that the tiny country was littered with 750,000 concrete bunkers. And apparently a pretty lake.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Albanian imam: "We would die for America!"

I was riding around today in the front seat of an Albanian friend's Yugo when he stopped outside village mosque to get out and greet his uncle, the imam. The imam wanted a ride into town, so he folded his tall frame into the back seat of the Yugo. He was older than me and at least as tall as me, so of course I offered to get in the back, but I knew full well that their code of hospitality would never allow such a thing.

The imam was carrying a two liter Coke bottle full of fresh milk, which he had obtained for his family's iftar (the evening meal to break the daily fast during Ramadan). "My nephew tells me your American," he said. "I'm going to give you this milk. Make sure to boil it well. We Albanians love America. We would die for America!"

I laughed and said, "I'shallah (God willing) it never comes to that!"

We had a good time on our ride into town. He hardly let me get a word in edgewise, but I enjoyed listening to him as he told me stories of suffering for his faith during the Communist years and his five years of study in Saudi Arabia. Of course I had to endure a bit of a lecture about the superiority of Islam, but that was ok too. He mentioned that the Koran endorses the Inxhil (Gospel), Tevrati (Pentateuch), and Zeburi (Psalms), so I asked him if he had ever read the Gospel, and he admitted that he hadn't. I pulled a New Testament out of my book bag, and he graciously accepted the gift.

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about his words, "We would die for America." He probably didn't mean to be taken literally, but I do believe that behind the boast was a deep and sincere gratitude for the help American has given to the Albanian people for the last hundred years or so. As an American citizen I can't help but be touched by the love and respect that most Albanians feel toward my country.* On the other hand, I'm aware that my home country like every human institution is fallen and therefore deeply flawed.

What about me? Would I die for America? Of course nobody knows what he would do in the moment of decision, but believe that I would be honored to die for the Gospel. I'm pretty sure that I would be willing to die for a member of my family. I hope that if it came down to it I would even be prepared to give my life for a stranger -- American, Albanian, Serb, Iraqi or whatever. But there's no way that I would willingly give my life for any nation-state.

*This is true of the vast majority, but not of everyone. I heard an Albanian radio station here claiming that it was the Jews who brought down the Twin Towers.