Thursday, August 30, 2007

Into the Deep

I am twenty-two. I'm still very young, but my life so far has been full and varied, deep and good. After twenty-one, the years loose their individual significance, their character -- being sixteen, in and of itself, gives a person an identity, as does being eighteen, or seven -- but something about turning twenty-two felt like standing on a precipice. Eventually, you either leave the shore line or you commit to sitting and watching the waves break, and I guess I jumped in.

But the waves were harder to manage than what I was really prepared for. Life, after all, changes when it must, not when we're ready for it, and we endeavor to keep up. Thankfully -- owing entirely to grace, as I have long believed all good things do -- I have people around me who help keep my head over the water. Some of those were remote, some right here, and some quite unexpected but very significant. Thanks to them, I caught my breath -- and how precious air becomes when it's suddenly cut short. Yet I know the real wonder, the true richness of this is deeper still below me. Eventually, I have to dive.

Still, even with all the help I have, in the end it's me who makes the choice to keep swimming, to dive. My own will, rather than that of any other person or even of God, brings me here and will keep me here. I aim to follow God's will, but it is my choice, you see, to do so (something I'm working on accepting). I've been trying to make myself into God's puppet when he wants a disciple; to make myself a slave to people who need a servant. This will not do.

In the eighteen days I've been here, I've learned much. I've felt much. I've lost and gained much. This has been true, in cycles, all of my life, but now, at twenty-two, I've made these choices willingly. By my own will, I let a part of my life go -- let it die, in a sense -- to be replaced by a new life. Only a dead tree keeps its same leaves. This doesn't mean that I leave everything behind, but that how everything is in my life is changes -- the life itself has changed.

I can look back at a handful of moments, days, times, in my short little life that changed me, when I shed leaves. Most have been in the last few years, and they have been a choice on my part to let something go so something better can take its space. The soul is not static. She cannot be made to be still. She changes, shifts, swells and recedes as she must -- and she knows what she needs.

The things I feel right now, the things I felt over the last two weeks, are almost all brand new. It steals my breath to stop and think on it, but not in the way a wave crashing over head does, rather as the immensity of the ocean realized does. What an incredible glimpse of divine will it is when we meet people at the right moment, and when we let change come.

I will dive.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I Fooled 'Em All!

This has been my victory cheer in the months since I passed student teaching, graduated, and got a job (and not any job, but a position that demands a certain level of "decent human being" behavior). Clearly, none of the people involved in permitting any of those things actually knew what they were allowing.

That sly chuckle can now be extended to my students (all 99-100 of them, for whom I am entirely responsible without the over-the shoulder look of a professor or the net of a co-op to hand them back to), who have actually stayed in class and listened to me for an entire week. Not only that, when they see me around the halls and playground, they wave excitedly, which suggests they at least kind of like me.

Oh, how innocent children are.

Seriously, the kids at St. John Bosco are wonderful and the first week of teaching went remarkably well. One down, 35 to go...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

So, Um... I Live in a Convent

No joke, I stood in my room for a few minutes the other day and just repeated that a few times. That, followed by a little manic laugh because... well, I live in a convent.

This is not to say that I dislike the convent, or the sister, or the school. Quite the contrary, I very quickly became very fond of all of the above. Still, Sr Gloria looked at me one day this week and said, "You're homesick, aren't you?"

Is it that obvious?

I'm adjusting, though, that's what I do. Everyday, the sisters make me feel more and more at home. All that stuff I used to hear about nuns being mean and frightening never made any sense to me, and much less so now. How can you look at someone like Sr. Gloria or Sr. Thuy and think, "There's someone I need to cower in fear of"? There are ten Salesian sisters in this community (That is, at the school. The provincial house is across the street, where the retired sisters and some official kinds of sisters live and work). I plan to gradually sneak photos of all of them as part of my effort to rid the world of anti-sisterism.


My room. There's actually notably more junk in there now than when this was taken, including a set of speakers for my mp3 player (thanks, Papa and Josie!). I'm a huge fan of the huge windows!
We have open-air corridors for most of the school. The offices and the junior high building (where I am) are enclosed, and walking from one to the other is like leaving the fridge, running through the oven, and landing in the freezer. In case you're wondering, those are the stations of the cross hanging on the pillars.

The good Saint John Bosco, founder of the Salesians and patron of th youth. I didn't know anything about him before I came here, but the more I find out, the more I like him. Incidentally, there are two patrons of this congregation: St Francis deSales (hence, Salesian) and my patroness, Teresa de Avila. I didn't know that before I got here either. As Sr. Rosann said after I told her about how I found and developed my affection for Teresa, "I think St. Teresa's got you by the shoulders".

My classroom! My classroom. Do they know they gave me one of these? And put students in it? Do they know how old I am?

I have a funny story about how I got this room, but at this moment I have to run out the door to go with Sr. Gloria and Marco (another volunteer) to show off VIDES at a young adult ministry fair. Then, we're going to a Maronite Church for mass (or Qurbono, as they call it).

More on all of the above as soon as I can! This morning Sr. Gloria helped me jump the weird hurdles that had been keeping me from getting onto Blogger to update. From now on I should be able to update regularly (if not frequently because of school).

Friday, August 17, 2007

Dear Family and Friends - Revisited

I tried to get online to post tonight but for whatever reason couldnt log on. Im in san antonio and quite well, excepting the sharp pangs of home sickness - which i actually hope never go away completely, because what would be the point of having them in the first place if they stop? Anyway, thats far too much philosophy for a post via text message. [Paragraph] This past week was in-service. I have all manner of adventures to relate about that, especially where my lack of room, over abundance of room, and (possible) settling of room are concerned. The rest of the teachers are fantastically helpful, and the sisters are remarkably giving - and Jesus and Mary still glow at me when I sleep, just like in June, only now they are joined by the rabbit Fish gave me and Charlie`s balloon. More on all of that when blogger decides to cooperate. For now, my thumb is worn out.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fledgling; or Heartstrings, pt. 2

"Fledgling" is probably not actually be the best analogy for where I am in my life right now. After all, I'm twenty-two, which doesn't make me a sage, but I'm old enough for this. I've been through a solid four years of college that included frequent travels across the country and more responsibility and experience than is probably average. Practically, I'm all set.

But, when did practically have anything to do with it?

Sure, it's been four years since I really lived at home. I haven't even had a room most of that time. Still, part of the lure of the University of Delaware was that it was close to home. When my family got moved to Maryland rather than California or Germany, I must confess, I was selfishly thrilled. I opted not to work this summer, when I will not be earning money for at least the next ten months, because I wouldn't have been able to spend as much time with my family as I did. Alright, fine, I'm a little obsessed. That's justifiable, I think, because after all the years of moving and upheaval, "home" stopped being a place a long time ago. It is, instead, my family.

Anyway, my point here is that I'm not exactly skipping off into freedom. Moving forward, yes; willingly and gladly, yes. I'm not hopelessly dependent, not scared of being on my own, but rather the converse: I simply will not enjoy being away from my family. It's probably that look over my shoulder that makes me feel "fledgling".

Very nearly nothing in the world brings me more joy this.

And I already kind of feel like this.

Anyway, I'm off, taking way too much stuff with me and leaving what I'd really like to take behind. This coming week, on top of me settling in, is in-service, so I don't know how much time I'll have for updating. Until next time, dear readers.
*Heartstrings, pt 1, if you're interested.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Alright, I haven't posted anything in a while. I rather doubt that's breaking anyone's heart, as most of the people who read this are in the same house with me right now.

To update those who are not in the house with me:

My procedure on Tuesday went well. I have a sore throat and some muscle aches from the anesthesia and it's associated tubes-down-the-throat, but am otherwise well.

I leave for San Antonio on Sunday. At the moment, I'm really not excited about this at all, although in conversation I tell people I am. It's not that I don't want to go, I just don't want to leave.

I've read roughly nine hundred pages of Harry Potter books in the last three days, that being all of Half Blood Prince and the first 260 pages of Deathly Hallows. The further from the release date we get, the more careless folks on the internet are with the details of Book 7, so I'm being really careful about who I talk to and what I read right now. At this rate, I'll easily be done before I leave -- which is really great, because it's Alex's book.

For now, I leave you with this, possibly the greatest snapshot in the history of amateur posed photography. The bes part is that I didn't come up with this, she did it on her own and I just had her do it again where I could get a picture of it. What a stinkin' punk!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

"It's Big and... Blue"

I fear, dear readers, that the adventures of the Wild Cisneri are drawing to a close. Tomorrow, the whole lot of us pack off in our car-that-looks-like-a-shuttle (just me?) and drive back home, a journey through the south that will take us about three days. I'll try to do some decent mobile blogging (as decent as a text-messaged post can be), and I'll probably do one more post on the whole trip once I'm settled. For now, we look back about a week to our last day in California, which found us in that most enchanting merger of conservation and marketing, Sea World San Diego.

By the intercession of St Veronica, I managed to fumble the camera out in time to catch the kids' first glimpse of Shamu, the only aquatic mammal arguably as famous as Flipper or as cool as George and Gracie. Actually, they have about a half dozen of these little critters there, so I don't know that this was Shamu. Who cares, he/she is fantastic.
Every time I go to Sea World, I kinda wish I had pursued the little-girl fantasy of being an animal trainer. That study, however, probably involves the study of biology, which I only did well in because my teacher was prancing on the border between senility and indifference.

We went to the watch-giant-animals-leap-from-the-water show, and I said, "Hey, kids, lets sit in the very front!" Which we did, and which the kids enjoyed tremendously. I, on the other hand, spent a good part of the day with my jacket around my waist because I had made the poor fashion choice of tan linen pants to a water-oriented park. Brilliant.

Manatees are a heckuva lot bigger than I remembered, but they were also way off the "endearment" charts. Big floating sea cows with pig noses and no teeth? What's not to love?

On a more sincere note, I was happy to learn that keeping these beasties in San Diego opens up the rehabilitation facilities at Sea World Orlando to animals with more urgent care needs. Granted that a lot of their image is careful marketing, but it seems Sea World and Anheuser-Busch's other conservation efforts are actually doing a lot of good.

Charlie (who turned seven yesterday -- yikes!!) at the polar bear exhibit. The bears were big and white, and otherwise quite uninteresting, owing to their choice to sleep all the time. Still, I wouldn't want to meet one of those buggers in a jungle.

Things like this just amuse me. What concerns me slightly is that, at nine years old, Melissa is already fearless about making a fool of herself for the sake of a funny picture.

Cousins Ana and Carmen (sometimes referred to as "little Carmen" for clarity's sake, but I will not so anger her here) were there too, and since my cousins have always been some of my favorite people, the animals seemed even better. An all around splendid time, two thumbs up, fine family fare. There are, or course, plenty more pictures, but I don't like to overload these entries. If I load the rest onto Picasa, I'll give you a link.

Alright, I'm off. Watch for short mobile updates! Dear readers, do take care of yourselves, and please pray for us as we roll down the highways. Three days in a car together could in all likelihood be awesome, but it could also get a little hairy... and smelly.