Sunday, 1 February 2015

Nation of Stags

Stagnation. The ease of water into the pool stops; it ceases to flow outwards. Day by day it decays imperceptibly, until miasmic and sludgy it serves only as a breeding ground for filth and mosquitoes.

Such feelings of despondency are the rite of passage for any perspiring author, published or not. Is this where it ends, a battle hardly begun to culminate in defeat? Am I to be finished here, not the book?

I indulge such tender feelings because they provide the illusion of a journey, and serve to create a sense of rise and fall, the dramatic heartbeat of any artist. In truth I see it with the eyes of a bird, able to imagine but not interact with the grounded perspective enjoyed by so many others and instead sentenced to view it with the unimpassioned nod of a 'been there, done that' curmudgeon who knows that his moment, if not now, will come sooner or later.

It always does.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Little progress.

On paper, none. Mentally, hardly more.

This is the way of it. A spirit of depression has haunted my steps this past day, dragging me away from thrivability.

I think perhaps that, like the spirit of God, any spirit of inspiration cannot be controlled, only prepared for. So I open my heart and mind, make a room ready, and place myself in various opportune locations as to attract such attention. But until action is taken, I must wait.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Bard's War - The Beginning of the Journey

Here I begin the record of my progress of what I firmly believe will become my magnum opus, the great work of literature for which I will, one day, be remembered for above all others. Out of this belief I am chronicling the many steps of the journey here for my own musings (because, somehow, even the possibility that others of my race will read it provides a degree of accountability, mind-bogglingly more so than the knowledge that our Creator will anyway).

The story behind the story began six years ago, when the first seed of an idea was planted in my mind. From there it grew into a world and took shape as a fully-fledged journey—in my mind. Despite the endless reams of notes scrawled over church bulletins, napkins, and old receipts I knew that this was a story that deserved my best.

Unfortunately, my best needed a little help. Though I had already written thirty thousand words, I knew it was all drivel and decided to wipe the slate clean and embark on a secondary journey that would facilitate my true goal.

I went to university.

Research, research, research. Three years of study culminating in a BA in Medieval Studies from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David was simply a means to an end: hands-on experience in a country and a culture that was the main inspiration for my tale.

Despite the several sidetracks I was led down—including but not limited to finding a wife and moving into my parents' basement—my goal remained the same. Now, all other obstacles aside, I have prepared a space in which to begin this glorious adventure.

Bard's War - a two-volume jaunt through the lives of troubled men and women fighting for peace in a war-torn world.

Feel no obligation to follow this tedious page. It does not trouble my spirit either way. Without further ado, I turn to the task at hand.

Monday, 13 October 2014

A world full of senseless pain; deceit, unfaithfulness and cruelty.

Man gazes up at the heavens and asks why, hearing in the echoes of his own frustration no answer.

But I turn my eyes to him and ask, "Can you see this?"

God looks at me and says, "I know. That's why I came."

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Thus and thus.

Thus have the fates decreed: that my time in the United Kingdom should be limited to three years, and that the day following such anniversary will herald my indefinite departure.

Much has changed since I planted that first unsteady foot on my heart's native soil. I arrived a lonely foreign undergraduate, damp behind the ears, known by all but friends to none. I will leave with a 1st Class Honours Degree in Medieval Studies, happily married, with far fewer acquaintances but a good many more lifelong friends than I could have imagined.

I left an eager, impatient brother and a straining-at-the-leash son, to return a stranger, both to my land and my family. It is a strange feeling, returning to former paths; most of those we walk in life are disposable, not to be used again.

Nothing of my current experience cries innovation or originality, nor are my thoughts and feelings more of note than any other's. Those who take interest do so based solely through their existing connection to me and personal altruism. I can offer no hidden insights that your own hearts and minds have not already taught you; equally, if you are of an age where such an experience as I describe is beyond your scope then my words will pass through you, meaningless until your own paths of practice grant you clarity.

So I come to the conclusion of my philosophising: that the sharing of my thoughts and emotions serves only to further my personal understanding of my own soul, and provides nothing new for the world to ponder; thus have my self-aggrandising especial discoveries come to an end, save for that which is necessary for conversation.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Slovakia - The End

The trip has finished. It was an interesting drive home, and not without some form of excitement, even if that involves God teaching us how to live with less money.

We spent a lovely evening in Prague after our first journey and I fell in love with the city. We had a whirlwind courtship (despite my dislike of the word) and were married by midnight. T-shirts were cheap so I bought two, partly because by this time I had run out of clean clothes several days before and we had no washing options.

We ate at a restaurant on the river, and the food was good, but the staff seemed beyond stressed. One of the waitresses was crying, our waiter seems to have done a decent job but half of the things we ordered never arrived. Eventually the other table of our group became exasperated and there was confusion with the payment ending in the staff asking us politely but firmly not to come back. Shame.

The next day we hit a bollard on the German motorway. It was a tiny construction lane, and there was a lorry to the right so I can be thankful we didn't hit that, but it came out of nowhere and scared most of us half to death. No one was hurt, and the car had no internal damage, but the rental place will charge us an arm and a leg, I have no doubt.

We spent the second night in Darmstadt with a university friend of the Aberystwyth girls. I had a doner kebab for the first time and quite liked it. Then I got in bed at 9:00 and woke up at 5:00 to head back to England.

There was heavy excitement as we approached the tunnel; I could feel that England was close again. After several close calls—details of which are strictly classified—we made several drops and landed in Birmingham with 30 seconds to spare before the hire company shut and we couldn't return the vehicle till the next day.

Despite the stress, it was a great trip. I would do it again. We drove almost 3000 miles in total, which I realise isn't even the distance across the US. But it does mean I can cross six new countries off my list.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Slovakia - Discovery Camp


Dear all,

Have I ever mentioned that the missionary world is sadly lopsided in favour of the female sex? It’s not as fun as it sounds, trust me.

Discovery Camp is over and we are moving on in the morning (or have already moved, if the internet doesn’t become available before I put this up). I am sorry not to have written more, but it was a long and full week and there was limited internet. In any case, it was better that I focus on the campers and my activities as English teacher than be writing home and neglecting opportunities here.

Camp days run very similarly: 7:45 is devotions for the team; 8:30 is breakfast; 9:30-10:30 is Bible Study; 11:15 to 12:45 is English lesson; 1:00 is lunch; 2:30-4:30 is afternoon activity of various sorts, and then dinner is at 6:00 with evening event at 7:30 followed by relaxed café atmosphere at 9:30.

We played a variety of indoor and outdoor games, had a murder mystery afternoon (for which I was a Scottish gamekeeper dressed in kilt attire), after which I played the bagpipe and had photos taken with most of the campers to whom a bagpipe was a relatively foreign concept. Several of the girls wanted to learn how to play, so I attempted to teach them, but the lung capacity takes months to build up to, so after becoming rather red-faced with puffing, they relinquished their dream of playing such a magnificent instrument, and settled to posing in photos holding it.

On Friday evening I taught two Ceilidh dances and the Slovaks then taught us traditional Slovak folk dances. In the end, I danced from 8:30 to 1:30 in the morning, knowing it was the last night for many of the campers. I believe I’m starting to get the hang of this thing you call dancing. In fact, I rather enjoyed it.

We had an arts evening on Thursday where I read out and had translated a portion from my book, followed by short interview with me (writers, represent), an actress, a singer, and an artist from the camp leader teams. 

I’ve spent a lot of time teaching English one on one and being taught Slovak, with an emphasis on the romantic phrases. I have picked more up than I expected to, surrounded as I am with the language at every side. As I tell people here, if there’s only one part of a language you learn, it’s best to learn how to compliment people. I assure you, it will take you farther than knowing how to count (a skill, incidentally, I have also acquired).

By now (Sunday) the days have all run together. On Wednesday we went up to the High Tatras (pictures forthcoming), the pride and joy of all Slovaks. They are beautiful. After climbing for a couple of hours, taking pictures, enjoying a leisurely packed lunch, we descended and arrived back at the centre in time for dinner.

One afternoon was spent teaching the Slovaks my American accent. I am proud to say they didn’t succumb to its subtleties, but we all laughed very hard at the attempts. They are willing and able students, and eager to please their teacher. I quite like teaching, the more I do it.

This is nearly all I have to say at the moment. I will prepare a longer newsletter at the end of the summer, with updates from the whole season. For now, thanks for reading, and thanks for praying.

Love to all,

Josiah

Monday, 15 July 2013

Slovakia - Several Days, Berlin, Prague, Poprad (Slovakia)


Dear All,

I haven’t had time to write for the last couple of days so I’ll try to squeeze everything into this update.
All day on Friday we drove through Belgium, the Netherlands, and most of Germany, arriving in Berlin around 8:00pm. We joined the Berlin CU for dinner and then their CU meeting, which was a great encouragement and loads of fun. Afterwards, the girls headed to their house and Dan and I drove to ours.
I didn’t sleep very well, as my bedding was a series of couch cushions that kept sliding apart from each other during the night. They didn’t do wonders for my back, and I got up feeling that I’d been run over by a truck. I wasn’t sure if it was the bed or all the driving for the past two days. And yet, I’m thankful that we were alive and safe in Berlin after all the complicated driving and switching sides of the road, getting used to being on the right side of the car, and enduring the—at times conflicting—advice from my lovely passengers.
Lara, our team leader, joined us in Berlin and we went on a tour of the city till 3:00 in the afternoon. I saw the Brandenburg Gate, Frederick’s Palace, various exteriors of famous museums, a fish tank elevator, the Jewish memorial, the place Hitler died, and of course the remains of the East/West Berlin wall. It’s a very interesting place. I would like to go back.
The drive commenced to Prague after that, and we made decent time, though still in excess of our plans. The Czech Republic is beautiful, a bit like a poor Switzerland. After a long, complicated attempt to park in the vicinity of the hostel, we were gathered in one place at last and made our way to dinner. I have so many different currencies in my pocket right now; Koruna, Euro, Pound, with various denominations of each to the point that I have to pick through them to pay for anything.
I had the cheapest goulash I could find on the menu, which was not a bad price at all considering Germany and Belgium. Then all 10 of us trooped home and I snuck off to use the internet and Facetime for a few minutes as well as attempt to catch up on emails. Remind me never to do this with my summer again! It’s wonderful and exciting and complicated and frustrating and nail-bitingly difficult to juggle all at once. I love, hate and despair over it simultaneously.
We hit the road early, because we’re coming back to Prague in a week’s time and so wanted to get the long drive over with as soon as possible. For the most part, our journey through Slovakia included astounded ‘Ahhs!’ and ‘Oohs!’ over the spectacular scenery, the mountains and valleys, the castles perched precariously on the outermost edge of a cliff, the towns nestled in a gorge and the rivers that run through everything. Then we got pulled over by the police.
Turns out, you can’t drive without a road permit, so they fined us €100 (€50 each vehicle) and instructed us to buy the permits at our next opportunity. The girls found the officer quite fit. I can’t disagree.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully. Arguments happened, stony silences (like after the time one of the girls insulted all home schoolers), loud music to drown out disagreements, laughter, and then, at long last, the journey was over and we had arrived in Poprad, Slovakia.
We ate dinner, then played some get-to-know you games with the Slovakia team for a couple of hours, and ended it all with a cup of tea. I didn’t realise how much I missed my tea till they offered it to me. Even if it wasn’t Yorkshire, I survived.
I got into bed at a decent time, exhausted, and am now awake on Sunday morning before breakfast catching up on what I can with my computer but without internet.

I love and miss you all, 

Josiah