Monday, 23 February 2009

Cyprus here we come.

We finally got to do some cross country skiing this week. We never got around to buying any skis instead we borrowed some from friends and went around the track on Saturday and because we enjoyed it so much the first time we went again on the Sunday. Although it was great fun boy do I ache. The skis aren't quite so maneouverable as downhill skis which was interesting on the hillier sections - good job the snow was powdery - yes you guessed it we fell over a few times. The Sunday we stuck to the flat section of the course just to get used to skiing with these types of skis and I think we got the hang of it in the end. Mind you we did find out that there are two types of cross country skiing, skating and walking! We were informed by a friend about 50 yards into the course and found out there are two grooves for the walkers to ski in and the rest of the track was for the skaters - well you live and learn. (Photos Ian clearing the car of snow yet again, and a sunny day from our flat)

This next saturday sees Ian and I finally heading for Cyprus which is about 10 years after I last travelled there as it was the last week of February and the beginning of March when we went. Ian has been to Cyprus quite a few times now, helping out at the Nicosia Children's Hospital with their leukaemia diagnosis, which is where he will be for the second week of our trip, but I have only been the once. The first time I travelled to Cyprus was together with all our family and it was in response to a prophecy that we had that we would travel as a family. We didn't have much money so in faith we bought a big pink suitcase - which we still have, maybe we should take it on a nostalgic trip back to Cyprus? We decided that travelling to Cyprus would be a gentle introduction to staying with someone from a different culture and travelling on a plane for our young family. Little did we realise when we set off how many journeys our whole family would take and it all started in a prayer week in Sheffield. 

Next year will be 10 years since we started coming to Latvia and I can hardly comprehend the changes that have taken place. Our children are now all grown up, they all have serious relationships, we have all travelled to different parts of the world, and none of our circumstances resemble anything like they did 10 years ago. Wow! What God set in motion has been truly amazing.

On a slightly more trivial note I found out this week that there is only one native speaker of Livonian still living which is a language related to Estonian (which is nearer to Finnish than Latvian) and was spoken by the people on the very West of Latvia in Kurzeme. We live in the Vidzeme region (orange on the map). It must be really strange to be the only person left who talks a language, I know it feels odd when talking English when everyone around is talking a different language but at least there is Ian and I and not just me. Talking of languages I had my first Latvian lesson this week. We have been slowly learning words that help us in our day to day living and we certainly won't starve and I know some words for the DIY projects we have been doing but that is about it. Latvian words are relatively easy to be able to guess at a pronunciation as it is very phonetic unlike English but the grammar is very different. Words have all sorts of different endings depending on the context in which it is used and I believe it is a bit more like Spanish for that and that is what I have been getting to grips with in my lesson. How much I will remember by next week will be the question but at leastI  now have some idea of the changes that occur and understand why and that is half the battle.

To add to the turmoil that Latvia is under at the moment the prime minister has resigned this week with the threat of the possibility of snap elections unless a new government can be formed which gains the trust of the people. These are interesting times in this nation and trust is at rock bottom and there needs to be a something to pull the people together. At the moment it would seem that the President is doing a good job of making the kinds of demands of the government that the people want, and any new government has until the end of March to come up with something to inspire the nation.  

It is interesting though that Trust seems to be such a big issue for the Latvian people right now as it is one of the things which has really struck me with the course I have been doing. Trust has enormous value, and one person in the development field said it is of economic value which sounds really strange but in a way it does because Trust=efficiency. If you have trust you don't need quite so many rules, you do not need to check up quite so much because everyone will be taking their responsibility. Here in Latvia there is a distinct lack of trust in politicians, not like in England or America where it is almost assumed that they are only in the job for the prestige but on the whole they are trustworthy, just they might be stupid and make stupid decisions if you don't agree and good decisions if you do agree. Here in Latvia it is assumed that the politicians are lining their own pockets and are not trustworthy in any form whatsoever. Neither do the bureaucracies trust the people or the people trust the bureaucracies and hence tax avoidance and heavy handed tax officials are rife. What a waste. There is a real need for the people to pull together at this time not fight with each other but how do you build trust? I think this is one place the church really needs to move on, the body of Christ has got to start trusting each other and helping each other, they have to show the way for others to follow. Not come up with more schemes that make you look good, but real and practical steps to work with each other in a genuine way that shows love in action.

One example of love in action I saw on the BBC site is such an example of real care in the community where a vulnerable adult is taken into someone's home and cared for until they are ready to stand on their own - adult fostering. In Gheel a town in Belgium in the middle ages it became well known for families taking in people with mental health problems which is quite amazing, they didn't lock them away there. There maybe many opportunities today where we have a chance to reach out to those who need help and to stand alongside them. One of the important parts of the care according to the article was a chance to just talk without having to drag through the past like in a counselling session. Not that I am against counselling but there are times when people just need a ready ear and some tender loving care to get them through a down phase rather than a heavy period of counselling sessions. It is a joy to have people in the home who need a helping hand, and we used to be part of an organisation that organised breaks for those who needed it but wouldn't be able to afford a normal holiday and needed some support as well. We didn't do it that often but it was a privilege to help where we could and we enjoyed having the company of others sharing our home. I think it is expressed well in John 13:35 where it says 

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

I would like to explore that some more, see what that really looks like. What kind of love would it require that people would actually notice? I think that Ian and I saw a bit of that again  whilst sat around the table eating and sharing stories with some folks tonight. We know Marvin quite well now, as he has been and eaten with us quite a few times and we always spend hours around the kitchen table just chatting but his two friends we have only just got to know and they will be leaving almost as soon as we get back and yet we were able to share our hearts and share our stories.

While I was looking for the verse above this one came up and I love it, seems very relevant for this day and age.
Romans 13:8
[ Love, for the Day is Near ] Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

Some final thoughts: It struck me this week that in the bible it talks about not lending with usury (still not entirely sure if it means without interest at all or just excessive interest), so isn't it odd that many of the main banks have now cut their interest rates to virtually zero. Is this God's way of bringing the banks in line to his biblical principles? What does anyone else think, has anyone out there studied what usury actually meant in practice?

This little snippet was from something called the Bretton Woods project and was the funniest award of three awards the others were for creative vocabulary, and best slip of the tongue.
Award for absurdity
Our thanks to Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times for finding this amazing use of the English language. She heard: “a World Bank economist who hedged his bets so cleverly it was impossible to know what his view was on anything. As he told the BBC World Service: ‘In our base case simulation there is an upside case that, er, corresponds on the flipside of the downside case in kind of an adverse direction.’”

And on that note I think I should finish.


MErk said...

:( how dare you go to cyprus

MErk said...

but as punishment, you have to put up with me for 2 weeks after MWHAHAHAHAHA

Joanna said...

Oh we dare. Your dad is working, honest! Well one week :P Errrrr looking forward to seeing you, I think!