Friday, October 3, 2014

To be the foreigner.

"For I was hungry, and you fed me. 
I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. 
I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home."

"I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat.
I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. 
I was a stranger, and you welcomed me." 

Well, aside from the fact that I am overdue [again!] However, this particular blog post has long mulled over in my mind for quite some time now. Growing up in public school in diverse West Seattle, it was completely normal for me to have friends from all over the world, varying cultures, religions and countries. In fact, I tend to find myself more uneasy when I am not surrounded by a fair level of diversity. 

Well, cool enough, Nina, but why are you going down this route when you started off with this bible verse?

Funny thing about foreign languages is that they sometimes change the way one thinks.  In Portuguese, the bolded part of the verse is stated as: "fui estrangeiro, e vocês me acolheram." Literally: I was the foreigner, and you welcomed me. 

This particular interpretation of Matthew's gospel and what Jesus says resonates very deeply with me because, quite frankly -- here I am indeed the foreigner. The stranger. So what does it mean to be the foreigner in Brazil? Well, I can only attest to my own experiences. There is never only one narrative. My experiences as a brown-haired, fair-skinned person who has a pretty decent grasp of the language is not the same as, say, the Bolivians who work in Sao Paulo's textile industry, whom everyone can tell who they are based on how they look and how they speak. [And for the record, the plight of many Bolivians in Sao Paulo specifically has been noted by many as akin to modern slavery at times.] 

That said, it has truly been fascinating to be at the whims of someone else's rulebook even more so than the average citizen. I remember when I first moved to Sao Paulo last year with hardly any Portuguese under my belt -- thank God that I had someone who could help me navigate the system, otherwise I would have not been able to understand what it was I needed to do, how to do it, where to do it...etc. Though I still remember my friend David's smart aleck joking when we were at the Federal Police [immigration department] for my paperwork, and he said, "Oh Nina, I'm sorry...deportation.... --What?! --I'm joking! Now you just - how was it you said? Hurry up and wait."

There's a lot of that. Bureaucracy, red tape, hours upon hours of waiting, getting redirected somewhere else when you think you were in the right spot with the right documents and the right information... and even in this, my second year, with a grasp of Portuguese and the process -- I mean, I'd done it once before -- and yet I remember walking down the street and fighting back hot tears of frustration once in dealing with what felt like a huge amount of bureaucracy all on the same day, and it was just too much for me to deal with all at once... the irony being is it was something simple that was proving problematic, but because I had first registered in Sao Paulo, and am now in Rio de Janeiro, there was a small thing that was proving to be a snafu with someone who was a stickler for the rules and not giving me any way to work around the complication. [And yet the next day, someone else called me to deal with the issue and we worked around it anyways.]

That is rather amazing how some things can seep into your subconsciousness even when you think you've got it all together. The inherent reaction of cautiously glancing at a police officer as you pass, even though you haven't done anything -- but simply because you yourself know that you walk a different line than Brazilians do. When you feel burdened to the point where you just want to take a break from thinking and doing and being in another language - and yet having no choice. To realize that whether or not you notice it right away, you still have that knee-jerk reaction when someone pauses and asks where you're from, because they can tell, except you don't really know how they are going to take it when you say where you're from -- when Lord knows what you wouldn't give to just let it be and blend in for once, and go unnoticed -- well, until you open your mouth. [And this is me with a pretty good grasp of Portuguese saying this -- even so, one still has their random moments of feeling beaten down by the system once in a while.] That even sometimes the simplest of things can prove problematic because you may not have something in line because you're different somehow.

Perhaps one of the reasons I delayed on this blog is because of the other things that were constantly flying through my head as I reflected on my own experiences: the immigration crisis and issues at the southern border of my home country, the United States, with some tens of thousands children from Central American countries, many unaccompanied, tried to cross the U.S.-Mexican border, with the idea that U.S. immigration & refugee had special provisions for children in situations as that. However...the sheer number of immigrants overwhelmed the resources available, and improvisations had to be made - improvisations that drew criticisms from multiple sides of the matter. The image that burned itself most onto my mind was from an improvised detention facility in Texas -- children held in what looked more like dog kennels at a pound, countless crammed into rooms barely large enough to hold whatever gross amount of them were held there to begin with. 

There are countless reflections on these events, from all sides of opinion. But something I have been constantly trying to ask myself and remember in difficult situations or moments of what seems to me to be injustice, is to ask: where is Jesus in these moments? Where is the one who called us to love, above all us, and encourages us to turn the other cheek, to aid the widow and the orphan, to seek justice and encourage the oppressed? By no means do I want religion in my government, mind you -- I am a Christian and a political science major, and I want no one's religious interpretations dictating policy. However...I do believe that as people of faith, what we believe does encourage us to action. What does that mean in times like these?

Icon of Saint Toribio Romo, Patron Saint of Immigrants,
which will eventually reside at St Matthew's Episcopal Parish in Phoenix.
Recently made by Father William Hart McNichols.

And in closing, I share this reflection as the ultimate food for thought for those of us who strive to follow the Christian path:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Another video...but not in English! :)

So, a while ago I was installed as lay minister in the Anglican Diocese of Rio de Janeiro, specifically at my home church and placement at Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Rio's north zone. 

What does it mean to be a lay minister? Here's a blurb from my church's website to explain:

"The lay minister can participate in various functions, such as: serving in public offices, preaching, administer the liturgical offices...Church of the Most Holy Trinity is blessed in having a number of Lay Ministers who go back and forth between these functions, including preaching, teaching, and serving together at the altar as subdeacons."   Essentially, I am in a leadership position and can work with the priests in specific functions, even though I myself am not ordained as a priest.

Serving as subdeacon and assisting the priests during Communion.
Holding the Bible during the Gospel reading.
So far, I had just served as subdeacon a few times, that is - assisting the priests behind the altar during the service. But a couple Sundays ago, I finally had my first real major challenge: preaching in Portuguese!


You can click here for the text of my sermon in English. I was pretty nervous at first, but I think I relaxed after a while. If you speak Portuguese, please pardon any grammatical mistakes -- I didn't finish in time to have someone edit it for me. If you don't...well, read the English version and let me know what you think! :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

4 months + a [video] surprise!

.... UGH. So, I'm sorry, people. Every time I sit down and plan to write a blog, I feel like I want to make sure I include so many things....and then it either all gets away from me, or I just feel overwhelmed and don't write anything, haha. So, first of all, apologies for the delay. I'm working on my newsletter as well so I can be more detailed there. But, for lack of anything for the last couple of months, let me put an update here on my blog, too!

I'm not sure if anyone's noticed, but I write so little in English - at least, anything more comprehensive than perhaps emails and Facebook posts - that sometimes I think my writing in English has become captive to me using it as though I'm speaking in Portuguese -- which, whilst it has a more...structured grammar, in some ways, is, I would say, more fluid than English in others. But that said, there have been times - even speaking in English; my sister's noticed it via Skype at times -- I'll try to throw in a word in English that is a literal translation of something in Portuguese...and it's not the actual word in English :) language problems!

Well, perhaps one of the biggest pieces of news to update with at this point is that I will be staying in Rio de Janeiro the entire 10 months I am here! =) As some of you may recall, the idea was for me to do part of my time in Rio de Janeiro, and part of my time in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, in Santa Maria. Well, since things are wont to change, and we ought to be flexible and go with the flow of whatever change occurs... I am feeling very blessed to stay in Rio the whole time -- time has already flown by! BUT, I am also super excited, because the Young Adult Service Corps is sending another young adult to Brazil! Rachel McDaniel from the Diocese of East Tennessee will be coming to Brazil within 2 months [please pray that she does not encounter the same visa drama I did!] and will be spending her year of service in the Diocese of the Southwest, in Santa Maria, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, working in support of Bishop Francisco de Assis da Silva. Bishop Francisco is not only the Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of the Southwest, but also the Primate [or Archbishop] of the entire Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil. I have met him various times, and have visited his diocese, and I am super excited for Rachel to have this amazing opportunity!

Well, even though I waited a long time to post anything, I don't want to overdo it in a blog post, so I will save the bulk of the details for my next newsletter -- but, as I alluded to in the blog title....there's another surprise! My home diocese, the Diocese of Olympia [western Washington] has an amazing, absolutely wonderful team of people working in support of the Diocese. Of course there is my friend and Bishop, Greg Rickel -- his miracle-working assistant and bowtie king, Blaire Notrica -- and I have also had the pleasure of working with a few members of their incredible communications team, including Dede Moore and Greg Hester. They listened to my stories and experiences, and set up a time for me to visit and be filmed, and with their hard work, have put together the following video!

They have also enabled [most generously, I might add] the ability for one to donate and support YASC efforts online -- click here for more information on that!

Now, I promise I won't delay so much in another blog post -- in fact, I actually have a couple in mind / drafts already underway, but I needed to get this one out first! Next up, newsletter, then more news via the blog -- stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2.5 months, 1 World Cup, and a monkey in a pine tree

Like always, if you are interested in learning more about how to contribute and support me, I very much appreciate it! Please click here for the link to the 'How to Help' page -- many thanks!


Well, witticisms of the blog post title aside, I did spy a little monkey in the tree outside my window once. He scampered off before I could get a good picture, though I did snag something. 

Also, the bigger tree a bit further away played host to this noisy guest one day: 

Or as a friend of mine joked, "where do you live, a zoo?" Well, sometimes between wildlife and traffic congestion, it seems like it! 

That said, time has flown by and it's hard to believe it's been 2 and a half months already! I was a bit slow in getting things organized on my newsletters, so my first newsletter covers the entire time I've been here -- from now on I will try to get one out per month. You can read the first newsletter of this second year at this link - and you can keep tabs on my 'Newsletters' page on the blog at this link here.

In the newsletter I have some photos and talk a bit about Holy Week in Brazil and at my church, Most Holy Trinity -- since that was a busy week, I'll let you take a peek at that if you're interested! Other than that, on that front, we have been keeping super busy lately! 

  • We're working on getting our second community flea market/bazaar up and going for this next week -- we had a lot of success the last time, which helps us with fundraising for building repairs and future  construction plans, but also had a lot of good interaction and feedback with and from the community, so we are looking for ways to be even more involved in the immediate community in Meier! 
  • Something big in Brazil that's coming up is festa junina, or June festival - it has its roots in traditional Portuguese cultural celebrations of the saints [coinciding with the pagan equinox festivals], and has over time become part of Brazilian culture as well, utilizing the symbols of rural cultural celebrations from Portugal -- will be posting some pictures in the next couple week as that happens!
  • Yours truly has some excitement next Sunday -- I am being installed as a lay minister in the Anglican Diocese of Rio de Janeiro, during the service held at my home church at Most Holy Trinity when Bishop Filadelfo Oliveira has his official visit. What does this mean? Well, kind of what the name suggests - some of the roles that the ministers [reverends/priests] have within the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, but as a lay person -- that is, not a member of the clergy, technically not a priest. So this enables me to serve and participate in more leadership roles, including assisting in other various positions during a Sunday service or life in the community, including preaching/giving a sermon - yikes! Guess it's time to brush up my grammar.
  • Speaking of grammar, I'm in the midst of working on getting some resources and lessons set up for fine-tuning my Portuguese even know what happens if you give a Nina a language...!
  • And speaking of also is in the works that I will be giving some English lessons soon enough. Good practice, right? 
  • Also, we are preparing and organizing to receive a group of 10-15 people from the US on a short mission/service trip to Rio the week after the World Cup ends -- it's certainly giving me the chance to hone my skills in organization and such...all things I like to do, and enjoy practicing to improve and gain more experience!
Displaying a fun find from the last flea market.

Leandro up on the roof decorating for festa junina.

Our banner out front with the upcoming big days -- next up, Trinity Sunday, and then Thursday after, Corpus Christi.

Out other banner with information about festa junina at Holy Trinity.
My work at the Diocesan office has been pretty flexible -- some days my commute is halted by a random strike [such as the bus strike last week or so], and sometimes my work is from home, due to other issues [getting my shower fixed - but yay, I have hot water again!] But luckily most of what I do is also doable virtually, so I have been able to keep up -- my organization skills have come in handy, and we're working on setting up an image database of sorts...since I have experience with my own photos and organizing them, some of this just seems to be a piece of cake! 

Anyway, aside from all that, this week is the beginning of the World Cup -- so I am curious to see what kind of impact this will have on commutes, and all sorts of things. As some of you may well know, there are conflicting feelings about this year's World Cup due to varying factors -- FIFA [international associated football federation] and their actions, the actions of the Brazilian government to appease FIFA and prepare for the Cup, and everything in between. There are many articles out there on the matter, but for those of you just tuning in to the issue or wanting a summary, here is a good one

Anyways, aside from all of that...not a lot else, really. I'm finally back into training both of my main martial arts interests now, including muay thai [a form of kickboxing originally from Thailand], in addition to my Brazilian jiu jitsu. It gets me my workout, my social interaction since I don't otherwise spend a lot of money to go out much, and - in my personal opinion - plays a huge role in my mental and emotional self care, in addition to physical. I'm a bit sore since it's been about 5 months since I really and regularly trained muay thai, and I am now doing it for an hour and a half five nights per week, with 2 hours of jiu jitsu following after a half hour break 4 of those nights per week. But I am happy! :) 

That's pretty much it for now! I hope all is well with all of y'all, and please feel free to drop a line! Take care and all the best,

~ Nina

Friday, April 25, 2014

Settling in to Rio

Now that things have calmed down a little, I can write a bit about the last few weeks, and my first month back in Brazil – because, amazingly enough, it’s already been a month! So what’s been happening? What am I doing, after all? After two months home in Seattle, I am back in Brazil, but in Rio de Janeiro this time (last year I was in Sao Paulo).

A bit about Rio…

            Rio de Janeiro is perhaps Brazil’s most well known and tourist frequented city. Situated on the south-central western coast of the country, its metropolitan area boasts a population of some 14 million (comparable to New York City). Rio is home to an impressive array of natural beauty, including numerous beaches and coastlines, mountains, and forests. A sub-tropical climate, its average temperatures thus far seem to stay in the 80s (Fahrenheit)/high 20s/mid 30s (Celsius). I have yet to have a day where I need to wear a jacket during the day, though have had a couple of nights that, sans a blanket, I’ve worn my sweatshirt to bed. Usually I sleep with my window open to stay cool enough to sleep.

The arches of Lapa, not even a five minute walk from where I live. The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Sebastian in the background.
            Rio de Janeiro is split up into geographic zones, consisting of north, south, east, west, and central. I live in the central zone, in the neighborhood of Lapa – minutes away from its iconic white arches. I work in two different neighborhoods (work explained in a bit more detail below), Tijuca (north zone), and mostly in Meier (north zone). There are two buses that go to Meier (one that also passes Tijuca), and it’s a short walk to the street parallel to mine to catch them both. With good traffic, it’s just 20-30 minutes to Meier – though catching rush hour in the late afternoon/early evening can delay things somewhat, more so when I catch the second option for a bus (which takes a longer route).

What am I doing, anyway?

I have two main roles here in the Anglican Diocese of Rio de Janeiro. One is part-time administrative & communication support at the Diocesan office at the Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer in Tijuca. This is just a couple mornings and afternoon a week, and has technically yet to really begin in earnest – until recently, diocesan bishop Filadelfo Oliveira was recovering from multiple cardiac surgeries – but has recently returned to work in Rio de Janeiro, and it was so incredibly good to see him in person, and see him up and about. He has an upcoming trip to the United States, and it is likely after that (mid-May) that I will really begin my position assisting with the Diocese.

A picture with Bishop Filadelfo from July 2013.

            The other position I have is with Church of the Most Holy Trinity, a parish located in Meier. A small Anglican parish that has its roots in a mission plant from 1910, it passed through some difficult times in the mid/late 1980s to early 1990s, a time during which many members left, and the state of the building suffered greatly. Before, during and after this same timeframe, the neighborhood itself changed greatly as well, with area demographics shifting from middle class to working class. This era also saw the parish’s worship styles and attitudes shift from what had been slightly more evangelical, to charismatic, to its current more traditional Anglo-Catholic form.

Church of Most Holy Trinity, April 2014.
Being presented to the community by Rev. Eduardo Costa at my first Sunday service in March 2014 
            For more information, click here to read Holy Trinity’s parish profile in English.

            Aside from regular participation in services and community events, some of the highlights of my presence at Holy Trinity is working with Episcopaz, the parish’s human rights ministry. Rooted in our baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every human being, Episcopaz and Holy Trinity host regular events open to the community on various topics of importance. The first one in which I participated was the weekend after I arrived, on domestic violence against women. People came together to create murals, as well as joining a panel discussion with activists and church members.

            Holy Trinity is in the process of fundraising to remodel and expand its existing property so as to better serve the community – currently it plays host to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and a weekly community lunch that is also available free of charge to area homeless. Given that Meier’s homeless populations is one of the largest in Rio, the church is hoping to respond to this need by having a parish nurse in the future, as well as space for people to take a shower, receive a haircut, donated personal items, etc…

            It’s a quick summary, and I don’t want to write too much at once, but this is essentially a glance at life in Rio de Janeiro. I feel like I’m settling in well, but it’s hard to believe it’s already been a month. I hope you all are well—drop a line sometime! Until next time! Até a próxima!

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..."