Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Floating on a Cloud of Dreams

Photo above and below are of Rachel and Jarom, at their wedding last Saturday at Silver Falls State Park, just east of Salem, Oregon. The photos were taken by Michelle Versdahl, a guest and member of YAPS.

On Saturday afternoon, a lady named Chris from Vancouver, Washington area drove Christine and I down to the wedding site in Sublimity, Oregon. It was an hour and 45 minute drive. I got to see a new part of Oregon, including the Bavarian-style town of Mount Angel which is best known for holding an Octoberfest every September-October. This town and surrounding area did, in fact, remind me of Germany. The buildings not only look German (half-timbered or with painted murals on the sides) but the surrounding countryside and a hill in the distance with a monastery on top reminded me of a town I had seen in Germany as a teenager. How cool is that? I definitely want to return for Octoberfest this year.

In the drive to the wedding, we talked about travel. Chris has worked as a travel agent, selling vacation packages to Turtle Island resort in Fiji. She's been to Fiji 13 times. Ever since I first heard about Fiji (and Tahiti) in the 4th grade, I have dreamed of seeing these South Pacific islands. The travel agency is owned by an eccentric millionnaire who bought Turtle Island on a whim and created a resort. Senator John McCain supposedly vacationed there last year after losing the presidential election.

I have known Chris from church, but we haven't really had the opportunity to talk in depth until this drive. I met her two years ago when she brought her houseguest Erik from the Netherlands to attend Harvey's Comedy Club in downtown Portland. Erik set the ground rules of no talking about politics, which killed the conversation. I was additionally uneasy because Chris reminded me a little bit of the fundamentalist woman I had shared a cubicle with at the Georgia Bureau of Investigations in 2000-2001. Sometime earlier this year, Chris became Facebook friends with me and I learned more about her through her page, particularly that she had traveled to Panama and Costa Rica last December with her husband. That intrigued me, because on my travel dream list is: riding a ship through the Panama Canal and watching the sunrise in the Pacific and the sunset in the Atlantic (the only place in the world this is possible). Chris has done this!

She's also been to New Zealand twice, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Paris is next on her list. Had I known about her travel interests when we met at Harvey's Comedy Club two years ago, there would not have been the awkward silences as we waited for the show to start. The raunchy humour of the comedians, though, did help break the ice for us. But anyone who travels the world has an immediate bond with me. Its not surprising to me that the people I get along with the most at work are those who have traveled (such as the lady who traveled with a tourgroup in Northern Italy this past May) and the ones I dislike the most, don't. When I told a former co-worker about this strange "phenomenon", he wasn't surprised. He and his group of friends are the same way. In fact, he had left our workplace in May to hike the Continental Divide Trail (he's currently resting in Butte, Montana).

I was intrigued to hear about Chris' impressions of working in travel agencies (they don't pay well, but the discounts on travel are pretty good) and recommended a few places, as they tend to have high turnover rates. There's one downtown, named Avanti (Italian for "Go") that I may have to check out. They specialize in European travel and with my six years of living in Europe and travel experiences, I'd be great working at a place like that. Swapping travel stories with people is always a joy for me. I feel most alive when I'm traveling (as well as writing or reading). Maybe this is where I should be looking for a career?

Additionally to Chris' travel stories, she told me about recent travel experiences by two young ladies in her church congregation (she also belongs to the Community of Christ). Our church recently had an International Youth Forum in several locations around the world (the main one at church headquarters in Independence, Missouri; the others in Thailand, Malawi, and I think the last one was somewhere in Central America). I would have liked to have gone to the one in Thailand, just for the opportunity to see my mother's home country as an adult...but I couldn't afford it. The group that went to Malawi was small (just 8 participants) but they got to see about 11 villages / church congregations as well as go on safari and visit a Masai village in Kenya. The group in Thailand included members from five countries (India, Australia, the United States among them) and they saw the beach in southern Thailand with a shopping trip / tour day in Bangkok.

Back at work on Monday, I did a Google image search on Turtle Island and Fiji and saw so many beautiful pictures. The one above is a scene of a hotel suite at the resort. I'd love to have that kind of bed and layout in a home someday.

Even more fantastic is this underwater hotel room! Now there's an awesome honeymoon suite if I ever saw one! That would be cool to do what couples do on honeymoons while sharks and fishes swim above the window. There would be little need to leave the room...just order room service and eat while staring out of the window at the undersea world beyond.

Another picture of the resort, with its beautiful blue waters and white sandy beaches.

Or this swimming cove, with what I assume to be an outdoor bar that you have to swim up to. I thought alcohol and water don't mix!

The wedding of Rachel and Jarom (both members of MAYAs) was really nice. They had an outdoor picnic pavilion and field area that afforded some privacy for the ceremony and reception. Other people used the park for their own group gatherings, but despite the public nature of the park, there were no wedding party crashers.

The ceremony was simple and short. No souvenir programs, unfortunately. The food was a make your own cold cuts sandwich with pasta salad and a huge bowl of blueberries (I only tried blueberries for the first time last year and I LOVE them!). I was pleased to see Erik (the leader of YAPS) with his wife and 3 year old daughter, who loved to tell everyone about a huge anthill next to a tree (I checked it out and it was enormous! We're talking the New York City of anthills here! Gave me the creeps as I thought about the scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). It was good to catch up with Erik and get the latest "YAPS haps."

I enjoyed visiting with folks from church and see other MAYAs and YAPS members attending. As we waited for the couple to cut the cake and feed each other a piece, one elderly lady I know from Portland congregation turned to me and asked, "when's your wedding?" I was taken aback, so I said, "But I'm not even dating anyone!" She then asked, "when are you going to start?" I responded, "I can't even find a career first!" She must have sensed my annoyance and gave up at that point. Naomi (a MAYAs member) was behind me and heard the whole thing. She said, "you're very honest!" I whispered in her ear, "I invested in the wrong person for two years, hoping it would lead somewhere." Yes, I am heartbroken about that person's engagement to someone else, but also, I want her to be happy and I know that I am simply not in the financial shape or mood to have a relationship with anyone at the moment. I want a well-paying and satisfying career before I resume dating again.

I pondered later about my response to that lady. She meant well and I probably came across rudely. If I ever wake up early enough to attend church, I will have to apologize to her about my comments. I'm touched, really, that she was asking about my marriage plans. She probably does not know that I had fallen for the only single female my age at that congregation. Everyone is simply happy for that young lady's engagement to someone else. At any rate, I would love to get married in October 2012. I just don't see marriage happening before that date. After December 21, 2012, it might be a moot point anyway. I figure I have a good three years to find a career, get out of debt, and publish my novel(s).

The wedding wound down after the cake, bouquet toss (no one caught it), and garter toss (a boy about 6 years old caught it). The guests had to line the sidewalk to wait for the couple to change into their travel gear and walk the gauntlet as we threw jasmine at them (there's an idea!). There were off on their honeymoon (to the Oregon coast). The father of the bride told everyone to help themselves to the ferns and candles (in a glass container with rocks) at each table. I took one of each and the three of us (Chris, Christine and I) walked down to see one of the thirteen waterfalls at this park. It was beautiful. I'm definitely going to have to come back and hike the trails to see more waterfalls. I had never heard about this place until Saturday. Oregon is such a cool state. My dad calls it the most diverse state in America (though I think California is) because of the different types of landscapes (coast, river valley, wine country, mountains, lakes, forests, waterfalls, canyons, desert).

On the drive back, Chris' car died just south of Wilsonville. We could see the bustling I-5, which we were heading towards to get back to Portland. All three of us called people we knew to possibly come pick us up. Christine's cellphone battery died after her phonecall. Mine threatened to die. Chris didn't know her own cellphone number for someone to call her back. In the end, she was able to get a lady from church to pick us up. This lady, Susan, is a favourite of mine since I met her at the MAYAs sponsored Young Adult Retreat at Lewis River Campgrounds in March 2008. She worked in the Portland City government until she retired (and she informed me about various personalities she worked with, particularly the person who became Mayor, which she told me last year that he was not a nice guy). I love her personality and spiritual beliefs. She attends the Garden Grove congregation in Vancouver, unfortunately (it would be great to see her at the Portland congregation).

Anyhow, she was working on her sermon for Sunday and drove down to find us. When she called, she was afraid of missing us because she had taken the wrong exit. I directed her to where we were before my cellphone battery finally shut down the phone. It was dark out and the blinkers were on and boy were we glad to see her! She's a true angel and Good Samaritan!

From the moment the car died until the moment Susan picked us up, I think we were in the car for two hours. So many cars passed us by and not a single one stopped. Chris kept apologizing and thought we might never ride in the car with her again. However, none of us panicked or got upset. We just laughed about the whole thing and shared personal stories (including a funny one Chris told us about a man who had gone to a drive-thru safari park in eastern Oregon and honked his car horn at an elephant blocking the road, which caused the elephant to come over and sit on the hood of his car. The story went on from there in a comedy of errors that had us laughing like hyenas).

I actually didn't mind the breakdown because it answered a prayer for me. I'm continually frustrated with my church for its lack of young adult participants and the seeming indifference the older generation has towards young adults. Part of this frustration is probably contains as well the residue of disappointment in not being selected for the church jobs I had applied to recently (the one in Portland as well as the one in Santa Cruz). Recently, I thought of attending a Quaker church, the Unitarian Church downtown, a Buddhist temple or even a spiritualist church in eastern Portland...just to meet people my age with a similar spiritual view. This doesn't mean I'm giving up membership in the church I love, because that won't ever happen as I can see it. I'm definitely a heritage baby all the way 'til my dying day.

However, last week, I had a strange dream where I was in a museum in Astoria, Oregon. The museum was in an old warehouse, made in a loft style. I was on the second floor and stopped at the small gift shop where I saw the name of the church imprinted on the front of baseball caps. I was surprised to see that this was being sold in the gift shop. For some reason, Pastor Brad was in the dream (I'm not fond of him because he has never been friendly towards me and seems actually uncomfortable around me, which makes me uncomfortable).

In the dream, he seemed upset to see this baseball cap with our church name on it and he wanted them removed from the racks and to find out who made them so he could tell them that it was a copyright infringement and to cease doing it. I disagreed with him and wanted to find out who made them so I could thank that person and have them be more involved in church. I have no idea what this dream means. But with the car breakdown and how a fellow churchmember stopped working on her sermon to make the inconvenient drive out from Gresham to pick us up, the incident showed me that this is exactly what I love about our church. It was not an imposition at all, as she was concerned about our safety. This, to me, is the essence of being Christian.

I arrived home at 10:22 p.m. on the dot. What do I do for the rest of the evening after a day like that?

I decided to watch a DVD I had borrowed from my brother since April but could never get in the mood of watching: Stranger Than Fiction. I am NOT a Will Farrell fan at all. Though I like his Bush impersonation on Saturday Night Live (better than Will Forte's impersonation, though I like Forte much better than Farrell overall), I do not like his movies. If he is in a movie, I generally will not see it (Jack Black is the other actor I refuse to watch because I find him crudely unfunny). However, I had a reason to see this one. According to my sister, it was the movie that she saw on her first date with David, the man she married.

Two summers ago, she had responded to his ad on Craigslist about meeting to watch this film on an outdoor screen in the park. Their wedding included elements from the movie (such as their colour scheme of light green and lavender). The wedding cake featured fake green apples (a memorable prop from the film) and their party favours included green and purple candy (gummi apple rings, green taffy, chocolate balls wrapped in purple foil, purple rock candy) and a heart-shaped cookie cutter. I had planned to watch the film before going off to the wedding this past May but didn't get around to it.

Finally, I decided to force myself to watch it...and WOW! What a movie! I LOVED IT!!! I was shocked. Will Farrell actually did a great job (he wasn't his normal obnoxious manchild self). There were a few "Farrell moments" but it was minimal, as the story itself was a fascinating draw and definitely up my alley. I wish I had seen this one in theaters (it came out in November 2006). Emma Thompson plays a writer who is ten years overdue on her novel. Queen Latifah is the "closer" sent by her publishing company to help her finish her book. Will Farrell stars as a lonely IRS agent with the obsessive-compulsive personality of counting tiles, brush strokes, and other quirks (he lives precisely by the clock and established routines). Maggie Gyllenhaal is the bakery owner who is audited for failing to pay all of her taxes. Dustin Hoffman's turn as the literary professor helps Will find his way through a crisis.

What is his crisis?

He discovers that he's a character in novelist Karen Eiffel's latest, Death and Taxes, and learns that she plans to kill him off. Yeah, its quirky like that and they don't really explain how its possible, but you really don't need the explanations. The film simply works on many levels. I generally see movies about writers and had they cast another actor (Greg Kinnear? Tom Hanks?), I definitely would have seen this one in theaters. My aversion to Farrell, however, kept me from wanting to see it but I'm pleasantly surprised. This film is flawless to me. I love everything about it. The cast is simply fantastic (I've always been a fan of Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson, and especially Maggie Gyllenhaal).

In fact, let me expound on Maggie Gyllenhaal. In a couple films I've seen her in (Donnie Darko, 40 Days and 40 Nights), I love her sense of humour. Her humour type is the most appealing to me (she has a serious demeanor matched with witty sarcasm), which makes her really attractive in my eyes. Anyone who can get me to laugh that easily wins my heart and loyalty. In Stranger Than Fiction, I loved it when she told Farrell's IRS Agent that she paid the portion of taxes that funded the part of government that she agrees with, but refused to pay the part that supported the bloated military budget and wars. My kind of girl! And I also loved when she forced Farrell to eat one of her cookies. I especially liked the story she tells Farrell (whose character name is Harold Crick) about how she was in Harvard Law School and fell into baking as a hobby that she would bring to study sessions. Its the whole "do what you love and your career finds you" sort of thing.

This film has spiritual depth, careers not normally seen in films, humour, romance, and known literary devices of irony (my favourite). I don't recall ever seeing a film about writing that is as entertaining as this one. For me, I loved the writing process of the novel I wrote from 2000-2004, as well as the editing process. I really long to get started on my next writing project, but until I find a new job, that goal is on the backburner. Had I found a better paying job when I first moved to Portland in 2006, I probably would have had novel number two under my belt by now and working on my third one.

So, if God is reading my blog...how about it God? Can I find a job that involves traveling, where I can work on writing in my free time, and to meet a woman with the kind of humour that Maggie Gyllenhaal possesses? Those are the three things I would love to have in my life most right now.

After the film, I went to bed feeling strangely, blissfully happy. It was great to see the images in the film that was incorporated into my sister's wedding and to be pleasantly surprised by a film I had avoided seeing all because I didn't like one actor's general typecast roles that he usually plays. Saturday was truly a day for my soul and I felt extremely grateful for all of it. Simply a great day. May it lead to more.


Betty said...

Love the photos, especially that underwater room. Would it get kind of claustrophobic, do you think?

I'm not a Will Farrell fan, either, but I might watch that movie.

Sansego said...

I highly recommend it. He's a completely different person than the roles that made him famous (that of immature manchild with a crude sense of humour). This film is really sweet and worth watching.