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?
So 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!