Sunday, March 30, 2014

ola from Rio de Janeiro!

Well, it's been a bit over a week now, and I have been settling into life in Rio de Janeiro quite well. Admittedly, the weather has been a bit of a change -- in a more positive and happier direction, for me! I would much rather be warm than cold! 

Somehow I don't think that will be a problem.
I was supposed to leave on a Tuesday and arrive on a Wednesday, but my flights got moved around, and I left and arrived a day later than intended. After a couple days to re-acclimatize to the heat, we got right to work with the exciting event "Vamos pichar o machismo!" with Church of the Holy Trinity's human rights ministry, Episcopaz. You can click here and find out how it went!

Call 180! Domestic violence, never! (180 is the crisis number to call for domestic violence)
I did the dove! :)
With Sunday's panelists/some of the amazing team that made the event possible! Myself, Rev. Lilian Lira (Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil), Fabiana Karine (LGBTT activist), Ricardo Pinheiro (Holy Trinity/Episcopaz), & Pamela Castro, president of Rede Nami.
That same Sunday I was also introduced to everyone, and I can tell you that I am very happy to be here with these amazing people! 

Rev. Eduardo Costa introducing me at Church of the Most Holy Trinity.
Since then I've been blessed with the opportunity to have some time to relax and get to know the city more, and do some work remotely from home a bit - some translations and editing and the like. Holy Week and thereafter is when it'll really start to get busy! 

Also, part of my work here in the Diocese of Rio de Janeiro will be supporting the work of Diocesan Bishop Filadelfo Oliveira, who quite recently had heart surgery. The great news is that not only is he out of intensive care after his operation, but he is also out of the hospital! He is recuperating with family in his hometown of the northeastern city of Recife, but hopefully will be back in Rio de Janeiro soon enough, as clergy and lay alike miss him and wish him all the best!

And last but not least, myself and other fellow Young Adult Service Corps members are keeping up a blog of Lenten meditations, and my first post is available at the following link: 

Meditation from Millennial Missionaries: To Be Of Service.

That's all for now -- I just wanted to update everyone with a glimpse into what the last nearly two weeks have looked like! Greetings and hugs to all in Seattle and beyond, and much love from Brazil!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Back to Brazil!

And just like last time, time has flown by too quickly once again! It's time for me to go back to Brazil...and technically, I should have already been in the air, but due to some weather and scheduling issues, my flight got pushed back a day. I leave Tuesday morning at 10am PST, arrive in Atlanta around 5pm EST, and depart Atlanta just four hours later or so, arriving in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday morning at 830 local time (4 hours' difference from the west coast). 

It has been an absolute whirlwind of a time back in the US, and there is definitely more I wish I could have done, but I am yet human -- something I find myself having to remember that regularly! But I did manage to squeeze quite a bit into that time, including a two week trip to New York City, where I spent time at the Episcopal Church Center in Manhattan. Aside from having time to work on some reports and the like, I also met with staff who oversee the Young Adult Service Corps, and had a sort of debrief like the ones most of my friends in the program had back in October. Since my start time was a bit delayed, I was still in Brazil during that time, but luckily I was able to meet with the great staff of the Global Partnerships team anyway!

I also had the chance to meet with Bishop Greg Rickel, my diocesan bishop here in western Washington in the Diocese of Olympia. I had the opportunity to talk with him about this last year, but also the coming year -- and additionally, he and the Diocese kickstarted my fundraising with a generous $2,000 donation! 

Myself and Bishop Greg Rickel, with a gift I brought back from Brazil.
This last Sunday at my home church, St. John the Baptist Episcopal, I had some information about Brazil and my experiences, and a goodwill offering basket reaped another $272. This leaves me with just $5,228 to fundraise by the end of the year. If you are interested in learning more and/or feeling led to assist in donating towards my goal, please click here to be taken to the 'How to Help' page!

I also received a generous physical donation from a couple of anonymous donors, including a certain notorious humanitarian. I had mentioned that one day I would be interested in attaining a Macbook, as they are quite good for photo/video work -- and the next thing I knew, I had received a generous donation towards acquiring said Macbook. Being a much lighter laptop, this will also make my travels a bit easier, as well! Many thanks to all who give in the spirit of generosity!

Just days after my arrival in Brazil, I have the distinct pleasure of being directly involved with an event this coming weekend -- hitting the ground running in Rio! As I've mentioned in a previous post, part of my work in Rio de Janeiro will be with the human rights ministry Episcopaz. Episcopaz is hosting an event at Church of the Most Holy Trinity in the neighborhood of Meier, combining with Rede Nami, a feminist network for urban art -- and together, we will engage the community with art, as well as host a roundtable discussion on the topic of the empowerment of feminism, and confronting violence against women. 

And so I leave another country, another home once more, again posting this song by Michael Franti, which is - ironically enough - filmed in Rio de Janeiro. Until more! Ate mais!

"...I say hey, I'll be gone today
but I'll be back around the way -
it seems like everywhere I go, 
the more I see the less I know
but I know one thing, that iIlove you - 
I love you, I love you, I love you..."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

From Sao Paulo to Seattle --

So, apologies for not getting something out sooner! But despite being back in Seattle for almost three weeks now, in some ways, things haven't really stopped moving much.

I had a great meeting today with my bishop, Greg Rickel, and am very excited about some upcoming stuff (which I will update in a timely fashion this time!) about amping up my virtual presence in keeping the Diocese of Olympia informed of what I've been up to and what's up next with Brazil, round 2!

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at my local church, Saint John the Baptist Episcopal Church in West Seattle, and though it was somewhat sparse due to the random whopping snowstorm that whipped through and was gone in less than 24 hours, I heard much good feedback -- but I wanted to share it with all of you who were not there!

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…amen… or, as we say in Brazilian Portuguese, em nome do Pai e do Filho e do Espírito Santo, amém.

It is wonderful to be here with you all today, and to be back in Seattle after a year abroad. My name is Nina Boe, and I have been a member of this parish since 2005. In 2012, I applied to the Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps, or YASC – an international program of the Episcopal Church of the United States for young adults the ages of 21-30 to spend a year in another country – a year of service, a year of community, and a year of giving of yourself—as well as receiving the gifts that this incredible experience will inevitably give to you. In my year there were 13 of us; this last year saw almost 30 applicants. Placements range from Asia to sub-Saharan Africa to Latin America, and after interviews, prayer and discernment, an offer was made to me: Brazil. The bustling city of São Paulo, to be precise—working in support of the national provincial office of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil. My work would turn out to be heavily communication-based: a lot of translation, writing, editing, and administrative support—things that the provincial office sorely needs. I also had incredible opportunities to travel and visit six of the 9 dioceses and 1 missionary district that comprise the Church—and experience the beauty that is Brazil, from north to south, central to coastal. 

From today’s reading from Corinthians, a line in particular sticks out in my mind. “I came to you in weakness and fear; with much trembling…no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” How can we be that salt of the earth or city on a hill if we do not walk forward to what God has beckoned us, to come to the Corinthians of our calling? I’m always up for an adventure, and I love traveling, but to do something like this for a year…it’s kind of a big deal. I had never been anywhere in Latin America before, and a year ago, I had no idea what lay ahead of me. Yes, I was excited to go, and I very soon felt at home—but in retrospect, I see that there was much I had to learn, strengths on which to improve…weakness and fear, while perhaps not the words I’d choose—but on the other hand, I can completely resonate with them. 

In piecing this reflection together, despite feeling like this is perhaps one of the biggest revelations I’ve ever had, it still feels like a strange, Sunday school sense of deja vu—I’ve learned this before, haven’t I? And yet I’m learning it all over again…what exactly happened in Brazil? I met God, face to face.

Jesus is in the pews as much as he’s also – perhaps sometimes more so – out of them as well…in the happy smile of a baby turning a year old, and in the joyful spirit of service of the 94 year old who is the oldest deacon in the entire Anglican Communion. God in the love and sadness in the notes and placards at the nightclub in Santa Maria, where 242 youths died in a tragic fire last year. God in the eyes of the prostitutes on the corner, in the homeless you walk by every day and likely don’t look in the eye. God walking even with the kid trying to rob me once, shouting vou te matar! I’ll kill you! Jesus amongst the crack addicts and slum-dwellers, the ones who go scrounging for garbage, cardboard and salvage scrap metal. I saw God even in the places I know I should see him, but didn’t want to see him–if I’m honest, I probably avoided bumping into God at least just as many times, but with time I at least became – hopefully – a bit more sensitive and open to the idea and tried to pay attention more. 

I think that a lot of times when we say we know God is there, it’s like some stupid spiritual pact of coexistence. God is not there so we don’t have to be. We have to be there because God is there.  Jesus doesn’t just hang out at polite Episcopal gatherings with a few glasses of a nice wine. He’s just as much there when you give in to your first real cultural immersion of watching Brazil beat Portugal in a World Cup qualifier, accepting a cheap beer, fried yucca and some beef cubes, sitting on a grimy bar stool and engaging in an incredibly odd sort of cultural communion as you yell at the TV when it doesn’t work out right—or when it does.

People would joke – or maybe ask seriously – why on earth was I there, just to do what I usually do? I mean, taking pictures at protests, go to the gym… does anyone remember the kids’ book, If you give a mouse a cookie? He’ll probably want some milk, and if he has milk, then he’ll ask for a straw, and then he’ll ask for a napkin…it’ll lead somewhere else, and inevitably somewhere else… for me, it’s more like: if you give a Nina a new country, she’ll inevitably live in it and make herself right at home...and who knows where that leads? I don’t need to do something miraculous, spectacular, or even all that unique –I just need to be. A number of Brazilians, clergy and lay alike, have told me that they practically consider me Brazilian by now. 

Indeed, this last year in Brazil has been interesting, not just for me, but for Brazilians, too.  Amongst the many experiences emblazoned in my own memory are the protests against a hike in transit fares last June—currently underway again in Rio de Janeiro—and these protests have been the biggest social movement that the country has seen since the end of the military dictatorship in the 1980s. This made it historical in and of itself, but it was a big deal because it was a struggle of the Brazilian people. My new home, my community, my country for the time being—my participation in and witness to these events was more than a matter of polite solidarity by association—it was my ability to say and show: I stand with you in your struggles.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us of our calling: “to loose the chains of injustice…to set the oppressed share your food with the hungry, provide the wanderer with shelter—to not turn away from your flesh and blood.” In Brazil, I learned about new, similar and different forms of injustice and oppression. I tried to understand the ways in which people are hungry in today’s world. I realized that in some ways, I too was the stranger, the wanderer, and found myself sheltered innumerable times in so many homes, however different they were from my own. I realized that though Sao Paulo was a very long way from Seattle, these people too were my flesh and blood. I’m reminded of a quote I used in my sermon I gave last year before leaving for Brazil: when Trappist monk Thomas Merton once wrote, a revelation whilst on a street corner in Lexington, Kentucky of all places: “I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I was theirs.”

I have realized that at the end of the day, the fact is that Jesus – God – the Holy Spirit – love – is in every single person and place out there, from the pristine church to the back alleys that smell of human waste. And when I’m completely honest, I sometimes have problems with that at times—with one or the other side, or with the very fact that I even have a problem with anything in the first place. But I am so glad that I am fighting with myself over this, and not letting myself remain on only one side or the other. I read a book whilst abroad, a memoir of a Lutheran pastor in Denver. A lot stuck out to me, especially this anecdote of hers—ironically enough, a reminder from her husband who is also a minister: when you draw a line between yourself, your people, and someone else, God is usually on the other side. Well, damn. (Her words, not mine.) 

There are those of us who might find it easier to see God in young people, older people, clean people, the homeless, the poor, or in wealth and generosity. I may find it easier to hug cute, dirty kids than to hug less cute, dirty adults, but until I can remember to shut up sometimes and be reminded, as Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu began each and every chapter of a particular book of his, with the words: dear child of God – I must keep fighting to remember to look at every single person through this lens. Because at the end of it all, a year, a day, a mission, a lifetime – it’s not about me. It’s not about us. It’s not even about the church, either. 

It’s about God, and our mission is to see God in everyone out there, and treat them as we ought to anyone in such a position. Despite all of our stupid spiritual, social, political, religious, ethno-nationalist, sexist, racist bickering, Jesus is quite clear about what it means to do just that: love your neighbor as yourself. Yes, these experiences in Brazil changed me. It has more deeply and totally reaffirmed my conviction that unless we are truly acting, living and loving in this spirit—loving everyone in this spirit—then we’re still not quite getting it yet. I admit, I’ve had problems with this over the years, because I’ve never been very good at really loving myself. But this experience abroad helped truly make some progress in the process of reconciling me to myself—and to love myself as much as I love my neighbor. And as my friend and Bishop of Brasilia, Mauricio Andrade once said, “Reconciliation is part of our Christian vocation. If we do not believe in reconciliation, then we do not believe in Christ.”

These prophets of all the ages speak the words we need to hear. As poet June Jordan wrote, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” We are the ones who are called. To love is our calling. To set the oppressed free. To not turn away. This and so much more is what I have been learning about—not just in Brazil, but through this time of service. To both give and receive…and to return to do just that, and learn how to continue doing so in service for the rest of my life. Amen.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Goodbye, Brazil -- for now!

Well, the time has come. After months of thought, prayer, discernment and discussion, after the invitation to come to Brazil, after the training, the visa delay, and the year itself...the time has come for me to leave Brazil, as my year is up. As I alluded to in my previous post, I'm not yet quite sure what that really means for me. In some ways, it's really just a 'see you later', because I will be back in mid/late March for a second year. However, while I'll be back in Sao Paulo for a week or so to resolve everything with the government, it'll be a goodbye for Sao Paulo, as I will head to Rio de Janeiro to live and work when I'm back.

View from the neighborhood of Santa Teresa, where I will be living in Rio de Janeiro.
I know I can handle things well -- conflict, transition, cultural differences and whatnot. I've always felt confident about how I can handle things like that, and I've definitely learned even more about it this last year -- and I will continue to learn more; it's a process. But that said...

I'm just not quite sure how to define these feelings these days. I am excited to see family and friends after so long -- in real life, not just via Skype. I miss the Pacific Northwest something fierce, and while I know it'll be a bit until I get used to the weather again, I'm excited to go on at least one hiking and beach trip and see the cold Pacific Ocean, as beautiful as the sub-tropical Atlantic can be. 

On the other hand, leaving Brazil is...I'm not even sure how to describe it. Though I am very much evolving even more into the world traveler label a lot of friends stick me with, and I'm sure that will continue to be the case even after Brazil -- I've grown to feel at home here. Honestly, people-wise, I felt at home right away. I've gotten used to speaking in Portuguese, gotten used to the throngs of people, the rhythm of a city that doesn't sleep, the rich colors and music and traditions of a beautiful country that I didn't expect would steal my heart so thoroughly and quickly.

At the very least, I know that it is a process -- and that, blessedly enough, I have learned to be somewhat comfortable with a level of discomfort. I would actually be somewhat hesitant with things if I were completely comfortable with every aspect in my life. It's a journey, a process -- and something moving often means something is growing or developing. This, in my opinion, is a very good place in which to be.  Over the next few months, I hope I can reflect a bit more on these things and delve into them a bit deeper.

I recently came across this song by Michael Franti on my iPod without really remembering how it got there in the first place -- I liked the album cover enough that I looked up the song itself, and to my surprise, the video is set in Rio de Janeiro, my soon to be home when I come back to Brazil!

 "I say hey, I'll be gone today
but I'll be back all around the way
it seems like everywhere I go
the more I see, the less I know
but I know one thing,
that I love you...
I love you, I love you, I love you..."

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reflecting on 2013: the year that changed my life.

I remember when I first set foot in Brazil: January 23rd, 2013. Aside from a trip to Colombia in May, and crossing the street a few times in the south to go to dinner and shopping in Uruguay, almost the entire last year of my life has been in Brazil. I have had many adventures -- multiple trips to the federal police (hours of my life I'll never get back, but many lessons learned in bureaucracy and patience), a tooth extraction (cheaper here, quality care), and a sunburn, amongst other things (I'll be the random girl with a decent tan in Seattle in a few weeks).

I've made many amazing friends, traveled to some beautiful places, and learned not just a new language, but an entire new way to simply be. I find myself increasingly excited to go back to the Pacific Northwest of the US in just a few weeks -- seeing my family and friends back home in Seattle, seeing the beautiful region and its mountains, lakes and forests. Hiking around familiar haunts, seeing familiar faces...and yet I find myself increasingly torn about leaving Brazil, even if it's only for a couple of months. My next year's experiences here will not be the same as the first year's. I will not be the same after this first year, or after this second year. Brazil has changed me, and there is no going back to anything which I thought I really knew or was. Everything is new.

And oddly enough, despite being a huge game-changer, I'm completely okay with that. 

I have a hunch I will be reflecting on this first year for a while, my first real living abroad for a long period of time, completely immersing and throwing myself into something completely new and different -- I'm not sure of the words with which to explain it all, in either Portuguese or English. I feel like any place I've traveled, I learn something different -- I leave a part of my heart there, so there's space for that place to give me something new to carry with me. I guess now there's a Brazil-shaped piece in my heart now too, so to speak -- the part that beats a bit faster in rhythm with samba, funk, forró, and everything in between. The part that will throb with saudades when I hear Portuguese outside of Brazil. The part that aches even more in solidarity with the issues that particularly affect this country, in addition to many other places around the world.

I've also learned a lot about myself personally, and I know I'll continue to reflect on those personal lessons for quite some time -- perhaps a blog post for the future when I'm back home. But related to all of that, I am really resonating with a song that I recently came across, and will include below, as well with some excerpts from the lyrics that particularly speak to me.
 "Rescue" -- Yuna

...things were bad, she was in despair.  
...but things were bad, she came up for air.
she said a little prayer, she found herself.
...she looks into the sky and all her tears are dry
she kissed her fears goodbye, she’s gonna be alright. 

things were bad, it was beyond repair.
she was scared, she couldn’t handle it.
things were bad, but now she’s glad.
can’t you tell that she’s walking on air?
yeah, she’s got light in her face, she don’t need no rescuing; she’s okay.
yeah, she’s got life in her veins, she don’t need no rescuing; she’s okay.
no S.O.S. needed, no rescuing, she’s fine out there...

that girl is you yeah and that girl is me, that girl is stronger than the raging sea.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Encountering spirituality in the heart of service

           It’s been ten months for me in Brazil already. I’ll be home in less than two months, and two months after that, I’ll be back in Brazil for a second year. As I sit here trying to wrap my mind around that, we also just recently had our national synodical assembly of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil (IEAB) in Rio de Janeiro a week ago. (Though I could easily write a blog post just about synod, that’s not really what’s on my mind. However, there’s a write up about things attained at the link here, so please do check it out – some exciting things went down!)

            I admit I have always given lip service to the more reflective and meditative side of spirituality, but quite honestly, it has always seemed somewhat elusive to me. And yet, despite the work behind the scenes, amidst the numerous meetings and sessions, smoothing out the last minute logistics frustrations and a host of other things… I found myself incredibly humbled. Rev. Luiz Coelho (Parish of the Most Holy Trinity, Rio de Janeiro) and Dean of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Porto Alegre, Marinez Bassotto, were the backbone of the team involved in developing and organizing the daily worship services during synod, usually with one in the morning and one in the evening. 

            I find it rather ironic that while I have previously encountered most all of the elements present in these services – candles, a labyrinth, music, an icon – with aspects both interactive and more reflective… these things, in this community, with these people, in this country -- I truly feel like I encountered the very spirit of God in a very tangible way.
          Life in Brazil has not been without its ups and downs…frustrations, miscommunications, mistakes, and all sorts of things that are part and parcel of the daily grind in most any place – just perhaps more pronounced when you’re out of your own context and in another. And yet despite all of that, I feel deeply flattered when my Brazilian friends count me as one of them, essentially. “Yeah, well, you’re practically Brazilian at this rate.” Or as someone commented upon seeing a sign I held up at one of the protests in Sao Paulo a few months back – it said in Portuguese, “I’m from the USA and I support the Brazilian people” – a friend’s comment said, “I think by now it would say ‘sou dos EUA e do Brasil’.” – “I’m from the USA and from Brazil.”

            At synod this year we were marvelously received by the Anglican Diocese of Rio de Janeiro and diocesan bishop Filadelfo Oliveira. We also elected a new Primate, a Presiding Bishop of the entire Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, with Bishop Mauricio Andrade of Brasilia stepping down as Primate, and two bishops – Naudal Gomes of Curitiba and Francisco de Assis of the Southwest – as candidates. Bishop Francisco won the majority of votes in two of the three pools necessary, and Bishop Naudal graciously withdrew his candidacy, and the following day, Bishop Francisco was installed as Primate. Even in just these few examples given, I really can’t begin to explain the examples of service, love, unity and solidarity, and so much more that I saw in these few days in Rio de Janeiro.

When you’re crying because you’re caught up in the emotion and depth of it all, the beautiful examples of service and spirit you’ve seen – and the Bishop who has just stepped down as Presiding Bishop of the entire country comes over to give you a hug, and stays with you as you finish crying. The irony being that the words being used at the time in prayerful reflection also included the phrase “a brother of solidarity at our sides” were not lost on me. Like I said, I haven’t really much considered myself a deep, spiritual type, despite liking to reflect on these types of things. And yet I found myself compelled to remain in reflection even well after everyone had left the chapel one night after an evening service, kneeling in semi-darkness before the icon written in anticipation of our synodical assembly. I found myself tearfully reflecting on everything – not just the things with which I always and often struggle, but in realizing that even during this synod alone, I had seen so many things that forced me to confront that – and to let go. Really let go. Or at least begin to do so. And as though he knew exactly what to say and when, I felt a hand on my shoulder, and a priest/friend of mine said, “It’s not the end, you know; it’s just the beginning of something new.”

            I’m reminded also of the quote attributed to the Persian poet Rumi – “you have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.” For too long I have been too good at breaking it, myself, because I feel broken. I break myself again and again because I feel like it’s the brokenness that’s important, that broken is all I can ever be or do well, when there’s the openness, too. I keep giving lip service to having an open heart, but you can’t keep a festering wound open. It needs to close to heal, but a heart can’t stay closed. It can’t stay broken. It can’t stay unhealed.

           As my friend Andrew reflected in the video about the Young Adult Service Corps that the Episcopal Church center produced, “you get so much more out of this [service] experience than what you put in.”

            And I am so glad I am learning what that means. Amen.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A fun little addition...

It just struck me that many people have inquired about the daily doings of Sao Paulo and my life here, and I realized I try to take a picture on Instagram in case you are interested, you can link to my Instagram account at the following URL:

If you use Instagram yourself, you can follow me -- username ninaboe87 -- or, you can bookmark the page on the computer and check it out! I try to post something every other day or so.

Here is a glimpse as to what it looks like on the computer: