Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New York, New York

The city that never sleeps. We spent just a few days in NYC and Washington D.C. Felt like we acked so much into our short time here, but in reality, we didn’t even begin to explore the many things there are to do in the respective places.

I rolled up at La Guardia airport on Monday morning, 9am, bleary eyed and a bit unsure of myself. In typical fashion, I hadn’t really made any arrangements with my family for how, when and where they would pick me up from, all the information they had was my flight times. Somehow though, we managed to come together, and we embarked upon a full day’s sight-seeing. At this point, I had already been up for something like 36 hours, so I wasn’t really on top of things!

We visited Central Park which was a really nice place to be, beautiful surroundings, amazing scenery, and we decided to take one of the ‘famous’ horse and carriage tours around the park. What promised to be a remember-forever experience turned out not to be, and I won’t remember it for two main reasons.

1) It was pretty lame! We mostly drove up and down roads, and our guide was on the phone to someone, only turning round every once in a while to tell us “Thees ees where you can play chess” in a romanian/czech accent.

2) I fell asleep.

Obviously, by this point, I was approaching 40 hours without sleep and it was beginning to take it’s toll on me! We ate dinner at the slightly more impressive ‘Planet Hollywood’ restaurant in Times Square, and it was good. We continued to do all the tourist-y stuff in NYC for the next few days...the Empire states building was great, Rockerfeller centre, Statueof Liberty boat cruise, Grand Central Station etc...All of it well worth doing if you find yourself in New York.

We spent a day at a shopping outlet about an hour out of New York City and it was just painful. Anyone who’s been shopping with me can attest to the fact that it jsut doesn’t work well with me, so when I found myself in a massive retail outlet, I did a quick calculation: Matt + 200 plus shops + a whole day = a nightmare. Anyway, I survived the experience with nothing more than a few cuts and bruises, and even bought a nice pair of earphones for my ipod to make the whole experience go quicker!

A day spent in Washington probably wasn’t enough, but we saw plenty of things, including btoh Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the monolith, the white house, the capitol building, the aerospace museum amongst others. However my favourite place of the day to visit strangely enough was the union train station, simply because it had the most amazing food court below it!!! As well as the amazing architecture and so on and so forth.

All in all, plenty to do in New York and Washington, probably needs more time than we can give it it helps if you stay awake!

Oh, and yes, the tattoo was a spray-on, lasted for 7 glorious days and then faded away! I have no intentions of getting a permanent one!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Did you miss it?...

So Hawaii is fast becoming a distant memory, and I'm right into the life of a busy New Yorker!

Since I last blogged, we've had numerous break days, and Older Adult Ministries camp, farewells, two flights, and 3 'new york days'.

So, on our last break days together at camp, a few of us went to the local swap meet which is a kind of huge-scale market. I was reluctant to go at first, as the thought of shopping didn't exactly enthrall me. However, in the blazing heat, we trailed around a large stadium, going from stall to stall, and I must say, it was one of the most fun afternoons I've spent in Hawaii other than with the kids! Astonishingly low prices, lots of variety, and good company meant that we had a great time...and age the local economy a boost! And I got a tatoo.

We did a variety of things on the other days, includig our big farewell banquet at a nice uptown restaurant, and a visit to Pearl Harbor. This was a particularly moving experience, with guided tours, movies, examinations of one of the sunken ships, and seeing some of the survivors of the attacks there on the day, it was an emotional few hours.

On our last evening at camp, after going for another big dinner at another restaurant (it's a hard life) some of us decided that we didn't want to spend our last hours in Hawaii we pulled an all-nighter. To be honest, I don't remember alot of that night, other than writing in people's books and spending time with people, I'm not entirely sure what else we did! However we did try and see our first Hawaiin sunrise after being assured of it's beauty. The plan was great, we were going to set our alarms for 5.30am just incase we forgot about it, and go and lie on the beach and watch the sun come up. The only problem was we forgot to not sleep, and ended up napping for half an hour...through the alarm! So we got up and went to the beach, but it was already fairly light, and clouds were obscuring our view of the sun anyway so it was a lost task!

Nethertheless, it was a good evening, and we enjoyed spending time with eachother before having to say an emotional farewell the following morning!

Just in case you thought you had misread...yes I did say I now have a tatoo. It's a little manly flower on my foot, picure to go up on facebook soon!

I'll put up a reflection on the whole camp at a later date, but suffice to say, it was an amazing experience, one I shall never ever forget.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I know it's been a while since I've blogged...but it's been a bit busy! In this time I've had CS#3 camp, seen the batman movie, ridden a unicycle, had Teen camp, hiked up a mountain, and had an awesome American barbecue!

Alot of stuff has happened, so the last 2 weeks have kind of merged into eachother, but we had such a great week with Community Servce #3. I was with the youngest cabin (Lanai) again which was fun. We definitely had our challenges throughout our week, but I think that it was my best camp. One of my boys had an episode late at night and ended up running off-site and shutting down. With the help of the camp director and the DYS, Joe and Captain Neil, we managed to get him to respond and get back to the cabin. I ended up just chatting to him for about an hour as he sat in bed after lights out, and some of the stuff he told me about himself and his family just broke my heart, and he finished up asking me for a hug, which moved me!

Batman: The Dark Knight. Such an awesome movie...I wasn't expecting much, but came out of the screen just amazed. I won't give much away, but Heath Ledger gave the performance of a lifetime (somewhat sadly), and the characters of Lucius and Alfred lifted the film even further. Great direction from Christopher Nolan really brought the story alive.

Two things I didn't expect to be doing this summer, unicycling and hiking! One of the guys here on staff is a champion unicycler, so has been entertaining the kids on his uni all summer. I'd managed to stay clear of riding it for 6 weeks, but then one day...I stupidly forgot that I have no sense of balance whatsoever, and hopped on. 3 seconds later, I picked myself up off the floor, mopped up the blood on my heel, and vowed never again to ride anything with les than two wheels.

With the kids at teen camp being older than our other kids, we were able to do a bit more stuff with them. So we took them up a mountain and back down again. Now, it's obvious from looking at me that anything more than walking to the fridge is a bit of an effort for me, so I wasn't really looking forward to it. The problem is, my cabin for the week, the middle cabin (Niihau) was full of energetic, strong 14/15 year olds, and they had other ideas about the hike. So predictably, we were first up, and first down the mountain, but strangely, I enjoyed it! It certainly proved how unfit I was...but I could take it and was up at the front with them as they power-walked upwards! Think I shall leave it a while before going again though! We took them ice-skating in the evening as well which was fun!

The last night that our kids were here, we had a campfire worship service which was pretty awesome, we had a time afterwards for personal reflection and response with them, which gave me the opportunity to have some really good honest conversations with the guys. I spoke to two young men in particular, who told me someting of their backgrounds and family lives, and it just amazed me that -having been with them for a few days- they were so together and 'normal'. It reminded me that although people can seem one way or another, it's not up to us to judge them or make assumptions because we jst don't know what's going on in their lives!

I'm just about to go and lie on the beach, and rest off the MASSIVE bbq we had after today's worship service...mmmmmmm.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Don't want the music

Out with the old and in with the new. We finished SAY camp earlier this week, and by common consent it was probably our best week!

The kids were great, we had 10 in our cabin, and managed to have alot of fun with them. They were only the young ones, but they were so well behaved, and had a good sense of humour, so we had a great week together. The theme of the week was about space, and so we took them to a planetarium one day of the week, where we had an amazing star-projection presentation.

I think we formed a closer emotional bond with these kids than usual, so leaving day was slightly more difficult than it has been, but was still a happy affair!

We spent our break days mainly with eachother which was nice, we went to one of the staff's house for a bbq which was nice, and stopped on the way to go to a grocery store. I thought it was just going to be a nice normal shopping trip, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary except maybe it was a bit cleaner and posher inside than most of the ones we had been to before.

It was only when I was walking down past the fresh produce aisle that I heard something unusual, thunder! It was really loud, and seemed to be coming from the shelves. I pretty much ducked to the floor and upturned the trolley over me to cover me from falling pineapples. When this didn't happen, I got some funny looks from the people I was with who informed me it was to 'warn me it's about to rain'. 'Haha' I said, 'you're not going to make me look silly twice, don't lie'

Well, turns out that it did begin to rain...inside the grocery store! They spray the fresh produce every 5 minutes or so to keep it fresh, which my American friends were amazed at the fact that we don't have that back home!

So anyway, I wrote far more about that than I intended, just wanted to point out another Americanism that I have discovered!

I've been taking the time out here to listen to alot of music, and one piece in particular has stuck by me and struck me over the last week or so. It's called 'Don't want the music' by Phil Laeger, and I'd really recommend checking it out, from the album 'All I held onto'.

I jsut want to leave you these lyrics, which have moved me and challenged me considerably.

I don't want the music without You...I don't care the melody - that is one song I won't sing. I don't wanna do this without You...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ijela kajin majol.

I have been investing my time wisely whilst here at camp and started learning a local language...marshallese.

The Marshall Islands is a small Micronesian nation that is a part of the Hawaii and South Pacific Territory, and we have a small number of people from there at the camp, so I have decided to learn their language!

I can so far only have a very basic conversation in the tongue, but thought I would share with you what I have learnt.

Me: yokwe
You: yokwe!
Me: ej et am mour?
You: ebwe kommal.
Me: jab keroro!
You: bwe?
Me: ke nga ichba! (Not too sure about the spelling for this one!)

The translation for that conversation follows:

Me: Hello
You: Hello!
Me: How are you?
You: Okay thanks.
Me: Stop talking!
You: Why?
Me: Because I said so!

And that's it! I realise it's not a typical conversation, but it's the best I can do, and at least it makes me feel good!

:) Big Birthday greetings to both Ellie (8) and Dad (4*) in the last 3 days!

Tatty bye byes!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Born on the 4th of July

I realised I haven't blogged for a few days, it's just tough to find the time at the moment...but here goes for now!

There's only about 18 hours left of this service camp to go, so thought I had better put some thoughts down so far.

I have loved taking part in this week. It's been possibly the most tiring for me as we are back to a cabin of boys who don't want to listen and/or take part...and faced with 13 ten-twelve year old boys all with egos and attitudes gets draining! However there have been undoubtedly some real highlights for me.

The first, finding out that the 3rd of July is known as Commonwealth day, which took me by surprise, but meant that I was able to represent team GB for part of the day. As part of our evening program, our cabin boys put on a short skit which they devised themselves, and did a fantastic job of it. If that wasn't enough...we had a visit from the Queen of England! Or an englishman dressed in drag as Queen Elizabeth II.

Another special part of the day for me was being asked by one of the 11 year olds in my cabin whether we had electricity in the UK, or did we still use candles?!?! I very calmly gave him the correct answer and held back from discussing how Michael Faraday, Alexander Bell, Lord Kelvin all hailed from Great Britain!

The 3rd of July is of course followed by the 4th of July which meant one thing...Independance day!!!

I was worried that I might feel uncomfortable or uneasy during this day as a British Citizen...but couldn't have felt more at home, especially when I heard the tunes to Land of Hope and Glory and God Save the Queen being used throughout the day! As one American put it, we couldn't be bothered to come up with our own patriotic tunes, so we take them from other people!

The whole day was fantastic, from the big BBQ, to the carnival (where I manned the kissing booth!!!) to the campfire and fireworks afterwords. I don't mind at all owning up to the fact that I had a lump in my throat whilst standing listening to God Bless America (Sandi patty - awesome) watching the different fireworks and sparklers.

All in all, it makes me wonder why we in GB don't celebrate our heritage and uniqueness more...could it be - as was said in a prayer by one of the other English guys on the team - because 'We in the Commonwealth have been used as a tool for evil and wrongdoing'?!?!

Who knows?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Milkshakes and being British in the USA


Coming to Hawaii I really only had one cultural objective, to learn how to surf.

Today, I took the first step towards that dream. We took a surfboard out onto the beach with us, and I ended up having my first surf lesson from a 7 year old boy! I managed to paddle out to deep waters lying down on the board, get into a kneeling position, then crouch on the board, and then up to standing on the board…for about 5 seconds before falling off!

At least I can now say I have surfed in Hawaii…kind of! I want to try again tomorrow, but may have to wear a guard to make sure I don’t get a rash from the rough board all down my front!

Tonight we went into Waikiki to eat, which was quite an amazing experience. Walking down the street meant that every 15 metres or so there was someone on the sidewalk either singing, painting, doing magic, playing the drums, rapping, being a human statue, or indeed just sitting wearing a load of spikes all over their bodies! It was quite surreal to have these street performers on one side whilst passing stores like Gucci, Chanel, Dior, Rolex and Armani on the other.

We ate at a ‘typical’ American diner devoted mainly to Elvis Presley. The food was alright, but we were mainly paying the money for the atmosphere…and the waitresses jumping up onto the stage and dancing a routine to ‘Greased Lightning’ when it came on, with one of our group jumping up to join them!

Some things about the USA that I love:

People saying ‘Have a nice day’ and actually meaning it.
People smiling at you in the street without the intentions of separating you and your money.
Free refills.
Patriotism and a genuine love of their country.
No beating about the bush or hiding behind words.
Amounts of food.
The assumption that a British accent makes you a great person.
Genuine appreciation.
The beach J

That’s all folks!