Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Post #10--I'll Be Home For Christmas

 It used to be that missionaries, when they left for their assignments, would buy a wooden coffin, pack it full of all the belongings they could fit, and sell the rest.  Then they’d get on a boat and (hopefully) survive the months-long journey to wherever it was God had called them, weeping and waving to their mothers as they left because they knew they’d never see them alive again.
            I, however, got to come home for Christmas.  So yeah, I’d say my life is pretty good. 
            How excited I feel about Christmas varies from year to year. And when I say that, I mean it varies from “Yeah, I’m pretty excited” to “LITERAL SWEET BABY JESUS.”  I like Christmas. It brings out my six-year-old excitement.  Every year since I can remember, my family has spent Christmas Eve at church, where we are all (despite our best efforts) heavily involved in the services, and then spend Christmas day opening presents, and ABSOLUTELY NOT EVER getting out of our pajamas. I am generally more excited about Christmas than the rest of my family.  Last year I got fed up the day before Christmas Eve when we didn’t have a tree, and I decorated the whole thing by myself in a sullen yuletide rage, glaring holiday guilt into the souls of my brother and sister. And that’s how they learned the true meaning of Christmas.

            This year, possibly because I knew I’d get to go home and possibly because I started the season off with a visit from the Boyfriend and the most perfect Christmas tree ever, my Christmas excitement levels were really high.  Really. 
            And since this kind of excitement about Christmas is supposed to be reserved for six-year-olds, I did my best to repress the childish version of myself and be an adult about the rest of life.  This was difficult for me, as adulthood is a scary place full of bills and weighty life decisions.  But I did my best.
            I researched travel options months in advance.  I compared prices.  I chose to leave on the 2:00pm BoltBus from Vancouver to Portland.
            I pre-packed.  I packed. I unpacked.  I re-packed.
            I cleaned my apartment.  I paid next month’s rent.
            I printed my ticket.

            I was READY! I WAS AN ADULT!

            Joan drove me to the train station (I WASN’T EVEN LATE!), where I deposited my suitcase (I ONLY HAD ONE!) and presented my passport (which I DID NOT FORGET!) and my ticket (which I printed out WAY IN ADVANCE!).

            And then…
            “Hold it,” said Bus Driving Citizen, “Did you get the schedule wrong?”
            What? Did I what?  What do you mean, did I get the schedule wrong? I showed him my ticket (which I printed out WAY IN ADVANCE! LIKE AN ADULT!)
            “This ticket is for the 6:30am BoltBus from Vancouver to Portland,” said Bus Driving Citizen, “That bus left like eight hours ago.”

            What?  It most certainly did not.  That was absolutely not possible.  Obviously no, I did NOT get the schedule wrong.  I am an ADULT, and adults don’t do that. Also are you not looking at my cape, sir?
            I tried to tell Bus Driving Citizen that there must be some mistake, but he just pointed to my ticket.



            And just like that, I crumbled from Adult Amy to six-year-old Amy, who knows for certain that the best way to deal with a situation like this is to crawl under your bed with a box of cereal and never come out again.  Which was a problem, because my Vancouver bed was now 20 miles away and my Portland bed was like 350 miles away, and I was here with one adult suitcase, a wasted eighty-dollar ticket, no cereal, and definitely no way to get home for Christmas.

Don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry

            Adult Amy rallied for a little bit, and I got the sense to ask, “please, is there any way, any way at all, that I can ride stand-by?  Are there any empty seats?  Anything?”
            “We’ll see,” said Bus Driving Citizen, “This is supposed to be a full bus, but stay here and we’ll see.”
            Then six-year-old Amy got the better of me for a second, and I got a little sniffly and tried to think of a plan B.  I watched as people kept coming for the bus.  I called my sister, who called my brother, who then called me back.  We arranged that Brother could pick me up in Seattle.  THERE IS HOPE!
            By this time, the bus is nearly full.  To my dismay, another guy has joined me in the stand-by line.  

The Dude

He seems upset, and is grumbling stuff like “why aren’t they ready?  I called the place and they didn’t tell me anything about how this works.  They just told me to be here and get on.”
            I try to have compassion for this guy, but can’t.  He is DEFINITELY young enough to know how to use the Internet.
            Bus Driving Citizen asks if Dude has a ticket. Dude does, but doesn’t have it.  The people on the phone didn’t tell him anything about how this works.  They just told him to be here and get on.
            “Ok, but you definitely have a ticket, right?” asks both Bus Driving Citizen and myself. 

Dude seems very confused about how busses work.
I would make fun of him, but I apparently have the same problem.

            Both Adult Amy and six-year-old Amy understand this as a moral dilemma.  Suppose there is only one seat left?  Should I, as a follower of Jesus and long-time lover of random acts of kindness during Christmastime, allow him to have my seat and spend Christmas away from church and pajamas and my family?  Who will angrily teach my siblings about tree decorating?  Who will play the violin at the service?  And (puke noise) what would Jesus do?
            Bus Driving Citizen must now call the bus company to confirm Dude’s ticket.  Adult Amy would like to point out that I can definitely confirm my ticket, since I printed it out way in advance LIKE AN ADULT, but does not do so because that’s obnoxious.
            Bus Driving Citizen is put on hold. He is becoming disgruntle, because we are now late for our departure. Dude begins biting his fingernails and spitting them onto the sidewalk. All versions of Amy are having a hard time thinking about Jesus.
            Bus Driving Citizen, still on hold, asks where I need to go.
            “If I could just get to Seattle.  Please, just get me across the border to Seattle, and I PROMISE I will not get back on the bus.  Please, anything.”
            Bus driver says “We’ll see,” wand we all wait another 10 minutes while he’s on hold. At this point, everybody on the bus is as stressed out as we are.
            Finally, Dude taps Bus Driving Citizen (still on hold) on the shoulder, and loudly says, “So, do I pay you now or later?”

He repeats: “Do I pay now or later? How does this work?”


            Bus Driver voices the opinion of both of us: “Do you mean to tell me…that YOU DO NOT HAVE A TICKET?”
            “Well,” says Dude, “I haven’t paid or anything…”
            Bus Driving Citizen cuts him off. “So you need to ride stand-by? You both need to ride stand-by? Look, I only have 1 seat left.”
            Dude and I look at each other.  That seat is rightfully mine.  I already paid.  But no, I can’t help thinking this guy was probably just trying to be an adult, and got all ready to go home, and just missed one tiny little detail. And it’s Christmas.
Dang it, Jesus.
            So Adult Amy takes a deep breath and starts telling six-year-old Amy to calm down.  After all, most missionaries don’t even think about getting to come home for Christmas. It comes with the job.  I’ve never had to pack all my belongings into my own coffin, and that should probably be enough to make me thankful.  Compared to most people in the world, this doesn't even classify as a problem.
            But six-year-old Amy takes one more chance, tears and all.

“So…there’s really nothing else?  Just one more seat?”
            Bus Driver sighs.  “Look,” he says, “I don’t normally do this, but if you’re just going to Seattle, there’s a shelf in the back of the bus where people put their extra carry-on luggage.  I guess one of you could ride on that.  It’s not a real seat, though.”

            And that is the story of how I rode on the BoltBus luggage shelf from Vancouver to Seattle because a kind bus driver saved my Christmas.  It’s also a story about how God works things out for me, even though I never seem to do things right.  The luggage shelf wasn’t so bad.  Even though it wasn’t the most comfy, curling up between the suitcases was the same kind of cozy as curling up under my bed with a box of cereal, and the six-year-old in me really enjoyed that.  Plus, once I got to Seattle, my fabulous brother picked me up, and we listened to awesome indy music all the way home (If you know my brother, you should probably ask him about music.  He knows.)  And really, it was a comfort to sit back there and thank Jesus that I’ve never had to wave goodbye forever to my mom from the deck of a boat or ride a smelly donkey through a desert to find a shack in Bethehem.  Maybe one day, He’ll ask me to do one of those things.  And it will be scary.  But when I’m sitting on the shelf in the back of the bus, finally on my way home, it’s easy to remember that He never sends me anywhere without giving me what I need.  I think it will be okay.

Please consider donating, because I really need to get groceries.  Merry Christmas, y'all.  See you next year.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Post 8-- Sames and Differences: Portland and Vancouver

    Perhaps my favorite ironic thing about Vancouver is that it has a huge crush on Portland.  This is because I know (but Vancouver doesn't) that Portland also has a huge crush on Vancouver.  Seriously, you talk to a Portlander and they're all:
"Oh man, I've heard Vancouver's so progressive.
 Like they're really doing cool stuff up there. So cool."

Meanwhile, up Vancouver, they're all:
"Oh man, Portland's such a cool town. There's so much to do. It's so happening."

No seriously, they've posted these signs up all over town:

Portland is happening now? Like, my Portland? Is Portland an event now?  
Was it not happening before? Like at any point in time, 
Portland may or may not be occurring? Wow, so hip. 

Well, December marks five months since my arrival in Vancouver, which means I've had plenty of time to observe this wonderful place, to experience several different aspects of the culture, and to come to the paradigm-shattering conclusion that Canada and America are not actually that different. Trust me.  I'm pretty sure I'm an expert.

HOWEVER.  There are some distinctions I'd be remiss to leave out.  Canada is definitely a different country (even if I forget it sometimes).  So, as one of Canada's bloggers-in-residence, I thought I'd lay down some sick facts for you all. Here goes:

Sames and Differences in Vancouver and Portland

I know "sames" is not a word.  This is my blog, fools.

Same #1--The Climate.

All my Pacific Northwesters will feel me here.  You know that feeling you get in early October?  That feeling that says, "Wow, it sure has been beautiful for the last four months.  I really live in a beautiful place.  Why do I have this horrible sense of dread that I might never see sunlight again?"  Yeah, we have that here, too.

Difference #1-- The Response to the Climate.

Here's the difference

Vancouver: "Wow, it sure is rainy!"

Portland: "Wow, it sure is--ackplh! Sweet mother of wharrgarbl"

Portlanders, how long must we fight?  Invest in an umbrella.

Same #2--The Public Transit.

Where Portland has the MAX, Vancouver has the SkyTrain.  The pros are the same: cheap, reliable travel and less money towards ExxonMobile. The cons are also the same: Waiting in the rain, doubled travel time, and lots and lots of people asking for your spare change.

Difference #2--The Languages on Public Transit.

The SkyTrain is, in my opinion, the best place to experience the cultural mosaic that is Vancouver.  Over half the population of this city has immigrated from other countries, which means "What Language is My Neighbor Speaking?" is the most-played game in the metro area (closely followed by "Muslim or Nun?" It's surprisingly hard to tell from a distance.)  IT'S SO AWESOME.

Same #3--The Donuts


Voodoo Donuts and Tim Hortons are so different that it's useless to try and pit them against each other in competition.  But someday, I hope someone does.  And I hope it's me. And that I get to be the judge.

Difference #3--The Coffee.


Same #4--The Groceries

Five months here and I'm still not sure if there's such a thing as authentic Canadian food.  Everything seems basically the same.  The only exception is poutine, which looks like this and is not so tasty:

Difference #4--The Prices

I, like every visiting American I know, had heard that Vancouver was expensive and had said, "well, that sucks, but it can't be that bad."  Until I actually went to my local Safeway:

Wait...Wait, is that...eight bucks for milk?

TEN bucks for cereal??



I realized I may have some deep-seated miserly qualities when I kept leaving grocery stores in fits of rage.

I'm still working on this.

Same #5--The Gluten-Free Options.

I'm usually not gluten-free, but some people I love are (in the actual, don't-give-them-gluten-or-they'll-die kind of way), so it makes me very happy that there are a lot of different options in both of my cities for the bread-impaired.  When the Boyfriend came to visit, we got to spend an evening ranking the local gluten-free treats in terms of taste, texture, and how bad we felt about ourselves afterwards:
The donuts won. At everything.

Difference #5--The Jingling.

Canada uses coins exclusively for both $1 and $2 amounts, which means a handful of change is actually a substantial of money (visitors: please, PLEASE remember this before handing all your change away in one go):

This, for example, could probably pay my entire phone bill. Not a joke.

The vast amount of change in everyone's pockets means that Canadians are, in my opinion, the Jingly-est people on the planet.  This is great news for me when I am running to catch a bus (everyone knows I'm coming), and bad news for the ninja community, who I've heard are having a hard time remaining incognito.  Thank goodness Canada got rid of pennies, or they might be completely extinct.

Difference #6--What? No Pennies?

No pennies!! The government was spending way more that one cent to create each penny, so they just decided to get rid of them.  So how do they still use prices like $9.96 or $4.47? Get this: they just ROUND TO THE NEAREST NUMBER! Like if something costs 9.99, you pay exactly $10.00 and get no change back, but if it costs $9.96, you just pay $9.95 and call it even!  And apparently, everything evens out and no one is upset about it?

I do not know why this is so fascinating to me, but it really, really is.

So there you have it, my pretties, 5 Sames and 6 Differences between these two cities that I love.  Have you noticed any more?  Leave me a comment!

Also, please consider donating.  You saw those grocery prices.

You are all God's gifts to me.  Such love,