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Saturday, June 21, 2008

The strange and funny ways of my middle daughter

Walking with Heulwen and Ella (and Bridget, in the stroller, obviously) yesterday. Somehow we got onto how to say stuff in French, just individual words. In the process I discovered that Heulwen can do a perfect French throaty 'rrrrr' -- that was cool -- and was really into repeating what I said. So then I started feeding her longer phrases and trying to think of sentences (my French n'est pas merveilleux). She asked what 'fox' was, so I taught her to say "J'aime les renards". So she was waking down the street, repeating "J'aime -- les -- renards. J'aime -- les -- renards. J'aime -- les -- renards", like a hundred times. Then she started freaking out because we walked to Gabriela's house to show her how Heulwen could say this and do the great 'rrr' and stuff, and Gabriela was out. Heulwen was worried that she would never be able to remember her little sentence. Poor wee scone. So I said "Don't worry Heulwen, even if you forget it, I won't -- I can just tell it to you again -- or I can write it down for you ".

"But I can't read!"

"You can read a bit, honey -- "

"No! I want to read but I can't read anything!"

"Come on, sure you can. Listen: p-o-t. What does that say? Sound it out, Heulwen."

"ELEPHANT!!!! -- SEE?!"

Then there was the time she was looking for something. I asked what she wanted. A shovel, she says. Why do you want a shovel, I say. So I can take my raspberry plant for a walk.
No, honey, you can't take a plant for a walk. They don't like it, they like staying in the ground where they are.


For those who don't know Heulwen very well, these were real, heartfelt, bitter tears of sadness. She doesn't do manipulation. Not that helped me at the time. All I could do was shake my head in disbelief.

One more, this time about Ella. This is vintage from four years ago, when Heulwen was a baby and Ella was three. Heulwen's full name is Heulwen Theresa Catherine May.

"Ella", I remarked one day, "Heulwen's name is longer than she is".

Ella: "And thinner!"

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Be Careful What You Ask a Baby to Do

Early this morning I was playing with Tiggy (nearly one year old for those who don't know) and trying to see what she could understand. We know she can 'high five', but it occurred to me: does she understand if I say 'kiss mommy'? Well, sort of -- she kind of leaned forward and snuggled me -- I'll take that. Then I thought, she has to learn to kiss the Gospel and icons, etc. So I grabbed a random book off the bedside table -- Henry David Thoreau's Walden (which, btw, is AMAZING -- far less stultifying than I remembered) and said 'kiss book', not thinking that she would. Wrong -- she totally planted one. So, for our family history -- Bridget's first book that she kissed: not the Gospel, but Walden. I guess it could be worse.

Monday, June 09, 2008

new blog

Hey guys -- I just started a NEW BLOG for matters and discussion relating to Egeria Orthodox Home Exchange. It's called Egeria Orthodox Home Exchange -- the Blog.

I have to run, but please check back soon and I will have my links sorted out!

Egeria Part 2, or Greyhounds with Credit Cards

Okay, as I was saying before chronos so rudely interrupted with the whole "it's midnight" thing. . .

Oh! I promised to discuss the membership fee. We're thinking it will be something like 50 bucks (Cdn) for a year and maybe 70 for two years.

Ten percent shoots straight to IOCC -- I will attempt to put a link from my blog to their site if you want to check it out; suffice to say it is International Orthodox Christian Charities, a fantastic pan-Orthodox organization who actually manage to get over 90% of each donated dollar to the people who need help (who are not just other Orthodox, but people of all groups, btw). We may set up another automatic donation (eg to OCMC, Project Mexico, etc) down the road as well, but IOCC will benefit right away. If you are interested, go to the Ancient Faith Radio website where you can listen to an interview on The Illumined Heart with the (very young!) director of IOCC. It's really interesting, and makes you proud to be Orthodox.

There are three other reasons we have to charge a fee.

One: Baby needs new shoes. And an education at some point. Et cetera. In other words, I'm partly in it as a source of income for my family. Also I just really believe in the idea and think there is a real need for it.

Two: It costs time and money to build, maintain and promote a site like this, which in its full form will involve people from all over the world, have an active blog/ forum on travel and related topics from members and general silliness from me, a photo gallery, travel tips and information and maybe even some special deals for members (TBA!)

Three: This concept only really works if you as a member can be sure that everyone on the list is serious about arranging an exchange with someone. There are free sites out there but they don't work because it's too easy to sign on and then forget all about it. If the other members have paid a (modest) fee you know they will actually keep track of offers to exchange and give them serious consideration.

Next Topic: How do we get this baby started?

here's what I'm thinking. For the three reasons above, especially the third one, we are going to charge you from the very beginning, even though there will not be many folks listed to choose from at first. BUT! This means that either you will be charged well below the 50 mark, or your membership will automatically be extended (perhaps several years), or BOTH. I'm not sure whether we will do this offer for a period of time or until the number of listings reaches a certain level, or what. Keep checking this blog for further updates. No, really, I will post stuff here, and if you're on FB I will mention the updates there. And please, if you are reading this, spread the word! The more listings we have, the better for everybody! The site is not up yet but if we have lots of folks primed like greyhounds in the slips, greyhounds with credit cards, that is, but no pockets so maybe their credit cards are in a little pouch around their necks, then we can really set this thing up!

Which leads me to a question which even now may be playing about your lively minds: Do people really have to be Orthodox for this? Like, will there be a quiz when you sign up? Answer: Not really. It's not some big formal thing, it's more of an ethos. If you're Orthodox, fine. If your cousin is Orthodox, fine. If you once saw an onion dome and thought, "Huh. What the heck is that all about", fine. The idea is that people who are going to be drawn to this club already have Orthodoxy on their radar in some way and they like the vibe. They don't have to be poised to 'convert' or anything. It's more a matter of friendship and a desire to encounter people and life in an authentic way when you travel, instead of being shoved around by tour guides and eating at MacDonalds by the Colosseum. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but only a bit. We had pizza by the Colosseum, but it was flavoured with our lonely tears.

What I mean is that when you arrive you are already part of the community of your brothers and sisters in the faith, who can tell you things that no tour guide or guide book ever would, or not in the same way. For example! We went to Europe a few years ago, and while France and Italy were terrific, Greece was utterly spellbinding. Now, I'm a great fan of Greece as a place, but what really made the difference was that in Greece we knew people. We were shown around, fed, beamed at and generally LOVED by folks whose hearts were practically bursting with pride that we were there to see their world. It was at the home of a friend in Athens that I wondered, in all seriousness, whether you could die from eating too much in one sitting. It was at a church summer camp in the hills of Crete that children gathered around us to show us that when you look up close, cicadas have little smiles on their faces, and the 25-year-old geronda (elder!) from Mt Athos told us that the lore about the chant of cicadas is that they provide the "terirems" (nonesense syllables, like la la las)
along with the chanting in the church. You can't get that stuff by traveling anonymously and enriching the hotel industry! You are not some schmo! You have friends there!

Okay, that will do for now. I have to go subdue my hair and face the day now. I will write again, mes amies! If you're still reading, thanks for hanging in there, and tell your friends!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

coming soon. . .egeriaexhange dot com, baby!

Hey friends in blog land!

I promise some great quotes and silly stories in the days ahead (okay, weeks for you reality-niks)
but in the meantime, some shameless self-promotion. Well, not exactly self, but self's nascent enterprise!

Okay, what am I talking about. It's

Egeria: Holiday, Academic and Pilgrimage Home Exchange --
for Orthodox Christians and their Friends

The concept isn't new -- there are lots of home exchange 'clubs' (so the lingo goes) out there, but this one would be specifically for us Ortho-folk. As Matthew D put it: you never have to bring your icons!

But seriously folks, this is gonna be cool. When Egeria is up and running and has had a chance to get established, you will be able, for a small membership fee (more on that in a minute), to connect with other members all over the world who, like you, want to exchange homes at a mutually agreeable time. This means that, whatever your reasons for traveling, you pay only for the transportation itself -- no hotels, hostels, or paid accommodation of any kind! You save hundreds of dollars a trip; thousands over a few years, depending on how much you take advantage of your membership. Plus instead of just a room you could potentially have an entire house, complete with kitchen, computer, extra rooms, back yard, etc! Some exchangers even swap vehicles, boats, bikes, etc. And maybe best of all, you get to live like a local instead of a tourist -- meet the neighbours, get great advice on day trips, where to eat and shop, what to see, what to skip.

Many people who do home exchanges make lifelong friends on their adventures. This type of travel is also extremely child-friendly (rooms! toys! outdoor space!) and great for people with dietary concerns, since you can do all your own cooking. But the best thing is that at the end of your stay there is no bill.

Members can exchange close to home (eg Vancouver with interior BC, Montreal with Toronto, etc) or internationally; for many months, a couple of weeks or just a weekend -- whatever suits both parties. Possibly clergy can even do exchanges where they serve in each others' parishes -- what is known in some parts as a 'busman's holiday' :-)

The other form this takes is called hospitality exchange. This is where two parties host each other at different times. So, for example, you go hang out with Ioanni in Thessaloniki this September, and he comes to Vancouver in April to hang out with you. This way your host shows you around and you meet a lot of locals, maybe even pick up some language skills, and in an Orthodox context, gain an appreciation for how Orthodoxy looks and feels in other parts of the world.

I know there are other questions to answer about this concept, and I will post again soon with some FAQs about home exchange in general and what Egeria is going to be like. Right now: bedtime, and Love Over Scotland, the new Alexander McCall Smith book! Oh bliss!