Bye Bye Harrisburg

Dear family and friends,

I have been busy lately going through the rigors of transition, which for me seems to never end, but the last month has been particularly rigorous in that regard.

What am I saying? All I am saying is that when one is going through the process of moving it seems as though there all always at least eight categories with at least twelve things on the to do list within each category and that adds up to a lot when it is all floating around in your brain and also on little papers that I keep all over the place.

As mentioned a while ago, I have decided to move back to Alberta, and this was my last hoorah summer in Harrisburg. It was lovely hanging out with friends and doing things, all of which have now blended in to a blur of sunsets and humidity. But it was nice.

And I had an art show and over 100 people came, and I sold some artwork and I also sold a lot of little artwork cards that I made, and you are welcome to buy some off me whenever you like! [this is not blatant advertising]. Speaking of which, my mom compiled a book and I illustrated it, and you should/could buy it.

Anyways, end of August we moved out of our house, which included selling and giving away all sorts of furnitures and appliances, and I managed to make a lifelong enemy in the process of selling my piano, but that’s one of the complications of life I suppose. Needless to say, we did manage to get it all out of there on time, except for the spiders and the intergenerational family of cockroaches that we had been breeding, much to the chagrin of certain unnamed roommates. I have downsized my ‘stuff’ to hopefully fit into my 4 door sedan. Right now I am living with some nice people near Messiah College who are so nice they let me live with them for 3 weeks. I have been eating their hummus. And I accidently fed their dog one too many times tonight. Oh well.

The only reason I am still here now, is because one of my roommates got married this last weekend, and I wanted to be there. I also played the piano for her wedding. Also, my other roommate has decided she will drive with me to Canada! Yay! So I delayed the trip for when she can get time off work. We drive out this coming Monday, and we are going to do it really fast in four days, against my back’s better judgment. We are also planning to make a documentary.

For those wondering I do not have a job lined up in Medicine Hat but that is ok.  I am planning to visit my cousin Julie in Uganda in November, and then attend family reunion in Kenya in December, so those travels are trumping high quality job at this time. But thanks for caring!

As for me and my work in Pennsylvania, I haphazardly quit for a week, and then returned to work for a few more weeks when they called me up and said I could work with one of my favorite kids from last year. I got to go to the first few days of grade one with him, and he has mastered the cafeteria line already so I feel ok leaving. So now my calendar is only full of social engagements and final piano lessons and playing piano at an old folks home and selling my bike and changing my address and convincing the Harrisburg School District that I am moving and no longer need to pay them taxes and writing letters to family and friends about my complicated transitions.

The Plan:

Dear people,

I have a plan!

I have decided to return to Alberta in the fall (like to live). I will stay with my parents in Medicine Hat probably for the year. These are the reasons I’m coming back to the homeland:

1. I felt like it. I have quite enjoyed living in Harrisburg for 2 years, but it is not ‘home’, and I think I could make it home if I lived in PA for another decade, but then I decided maybe it wasn’t worth it since I do, afterall, like my parents and Canada and all that jazz. I chose Harrisburg because it is bankrupt and an underdog city in glitzy America, and I feel somewhat useful there. (Whereas Canadians already have everything figured out). But then I realized Canadians don’t necessarily have everything figured out, so heck, maybe I can just move back home and live in the wilderness where I like it. Cities stress me out sometimes, especially when I can never escape the suburban sprawl.

2. My house is breaking up… Alaska, India/Seattle, Thailand, Ivy League Grad schools, marriage, whatever-rachel-is-doing….  my roommates are moving on and Hamilton House as we like to call it is coming to an end. It was great while it lasted. I WILL be living in Harrisburg for the summer still, until August/September. I will also be having an art show in July in Harrisburg. You are invited. I also plan to visit my elderly brother in New York City this summer.

3. I don’t have health insurance, and strawberries from the Great Canadian Superstore taste really good. I could potentially get really rich if I work in Alberta for like a month (joke, but not actually).

4. I like my job in Harrisburg, but it is not my ‘passion’ to work with kids with autism, for the most part I felt like I was just doling out common sense, which was great, but I don’t feel like I’m performing at my highest potential. Thus, I am open to trying out something else.

So my plan is to live in Harrisburg for the summer, drive back to Medicine Hat Alberta with all my stuff in my car in the fall, work a dead end job for a while (get rich), go to Africa (the whole continent – that’s a joke, not actually) for a family reunion before Christmas, then return to Canada and find a real job. And then ‘take it from there’ in the most vague sense of the word.

Some things I’m worried about:

1. Getting sucked into the superficial comfort of Canadian living (obviously I already have.) It seems to me that most Albertans are obssessed with making money. Most Americans are too, but people in Alberta actually succeed at it. And it freaks me out a bit that it’s a whole culture of rich people with comfortable lives. (Unless you’re homeless in Calgary I understand).

2. Making friends. So far I have an average of three and a half intergenerational friends in Medicine Hat. None my age. None interested. I will also miss the great friendships that grew out of good ole Messiah College, and all the friends in Harrisburg that I could walk down the street and visit.

3. It’s a little bittersweet that I won’t feel justified in making fun of ‘Merica when I don’t actually live there, but priorities, priorities…

Travel is all I ever write about…

My day on Saturday:

Woke up at 5 am to persistent pounding on a door and a man yelling “you’re f****** kidding me,” intermittently with “I’m gonna stab you, I don’t care.”  Luckily he wasn’t pounding on my door. Crept outside on my second floor balcony and my neighbor informed me from her balcony in the morning light that our other persnickety neighbor had already called the police twice.

Walked the banks of the mighty Susquehanna [river] and reflected on the probable fact that I would be in Calgary, Alberta in the evening. Ate two breakfasts, the latter being my housemate Kate’s bridesmaid  brunch and pre dress shopping shindig of freshly made melt in your mouth blueberry scones with cream cheese and coffee, and met all of her bridesmaids, who all fit in the kitchen at the same time.

Caught a ride with my friends ‘The Calebs’ to the Harrisburg mall to catch my bus to Philly. A fact for which I am EXTREMELY GRATEFUL and I also bribed them with chocolate. While waiting for the bus I talked to a friendly girl around my age who said she wants to switch to working with kids instead of doing medical billing which she hates. She said something to the effect of,” there’s so much potential in kids they just need to be able to do good things.” Very profound.

Rode megabus to Philly. Thought I had time to spare, so bought a frosty and wandered around. Couldn’t quite remember where the regional rail to the airport was located, so I asked a Septa Subway agent. Turns out Regional Rail employees are on strike as of last night. He told me to catch the subway West to 69th Street (40 blocks away) and take a bus from there. So I panicked and followed his advice. In hindsight maybe should’ve risked a taxi. Because I boarded the bus about the time I should’ve been arriving at the airport. And I was really annoying and asked the annoyed bus driver when she ‘thought’ we ‘might possibly’ arrive at the airport. She said an hour and 15 minutes. Ahh! Decided to take the bus and risk it, because I didn’t see any taxis and I told myself I could always get off the bus and just hail down a taxi (in the middle of West Philly) like they do in the movies. So I rode the bus for an hour and  the whole time I was hyperventilpraying (yes I just made that word up) and I also hummed to myself under the drone of the bus because that is how I cope apparently but one time a lady looked at me wierd like she could hear me humming so I tried to tone it down a bit.

So we zigzagged and stopped at all the bus stops and stop signs in the whole West Philly and then South Philly, both places that I am not familiar with so I didn’t ever know how close we were to the airport. I saw a plane flying overhead at one point and was a little encouraged. Eventually the bus started clearing out and I had a nice conversation with an airport worker on her commute to work about how the regional rail strike was ruining everything… that made me feel better. Finally made it to the airport exactly an hour and a half before my international flight. The bus stopped at the first terminal and just sat, because it was ahead of schedule, so I got out and ran to the departure area with my heavy backpack and overloaded suitcase stuffed with three winter coats and two pairs of boots and various other materials. Asked for Air Canada and ran ahead 3 more terminals with my suitcase clickety clacking behind me. Arrived a little sweaty and out of breath, but the ticket man was still there, and I made it!!!

Drank some free Coke on the plane to celebrate. Then travelled for 11 more hours!

Year of the Car, Revisited

One fateful February Wednesday morning, whilst brushing my teeth at home, my green-gift-from-God-Ford-stationwagon was smashed whilst parked on my street by a large Egg and Cheese Delivery truck. There was freezing rain and the truck slipped. The truck driver was an honest abe who luckily stayed around and called the police and gave me his insurance numbers. My car was smashed on both ends with a broken window, and I caught a ride late to work.

After some minor hyperventilating, and some phone calls back and forth, with scary insurance adjustors and my Dad and the Egg and Cheese Company Owner, and some major zoning out on my part at work, the owner of the Egg and Cheese Company agreed to just buy my smashed car off of me for an okay price. So 9 pm the same Wednesday I found myself with two middle-aged brothers from the Mennonite Mafia (with matching jackets, and embroidered things like “Gary: Owner; Egg and Cheese Company” stitched onto their lapels) awkwardly standing in my dining room, handing me a wad of cash and signing papers that we won’t sue each other, and I signed over the title (Gary’s ‘brother’ was apparently a Notary) and they drove my green stationwagon off in the dark with one taillight missing, two smashed bumpers, and some cold wind blowing through the broken window.

So, once more I was without a car. I feel like I can relate to all people who have malfunctioning or nonexistent vehicles.

And it is hard to get to work, and go to the other place of work, and the other place, when you have no car and all one’s friends also work. But thank you to Katherine, Rachel, Kate, Danielle, Becca, Maryann, Eldon, Henok and Sarah, for really helping me out. I also enjoyed a few adventurous four mile walks from Harrisburg to Steelton in the middle of the day, to make it to all my ‘clients’ for work.

It is hard to buy a car when one has no car to drive to look at the cars. And I realized that I absolutely hate asking people for help when I suspect it is inconvenient for them. Not sure of the solution to that dilemma.

But a nice man offered to drive me around to look at some Craigslist options. However all the cars we saw were crap – for lack of a better word.

But then again when I was getting desperate after almost 3 weeks another nice knowledgable car man called me up on a Saturday morning and offered to go look at cars with me, and I found one and bought it! (And this time there were no smiling men with babies involved, if you catch my drift). So in conclusion I upgraded 7 years to the nicest car I have ever owned!

But then a filling fell out of my tooth and I almost had to get a root canal and deplete my bank account again, but that’s another story.

Date my brother… who travels

Date my brother who travels.

Sometimes his hair changes colour in the sun. And he has a scar on his hand. And his skin gets tan in the sun also. And he tells interesting stories.

Date my brother who travels. He loves malls more than a preteen girl in a Hello Kitty sweater.

Date my brother who travels. He takes weekend getaways to Five-star Egyptian hotels on a student budget. He takes obscure one way flights through Eastern Europe merely for the thrill. He’s always planning the next trip, and he’s memorized the Wikipedia article on regions and peoples of the world that you haven’t even heard of.

Date my brother who travels because he drinks more than his weight in water. He goes to dangerous places. He can sign gestures in any language. He can stick up to corrupt taxi drivers. He doesn’t do yoga, but he dances Zumba far better than the rest of us.

Date my brother who travels because he spends his vacation on one-man scooters. He goes where the road leads him. Life is a road. He goes out and takes what comes. He scooters in the sun. He scooters in the wind. He scooters in the rain. He would scooter in the sleet if it ever sleeted. When he is scootering, he forgets about his other lives and lives in the moment. But he has learned that important things in life are only slightly better than scootering.

Date my brother who travels as he speaks his mind. He isn’t afraid to have opinions, and he can justify his reasoning so well you’ll find yourself nodding your head in aquiscence, regardless of the issue, because you’ll realize he’s right. He’s so passionate about social justice he doesn’t even mention it.

Date my brother who travels because he can’t cook, and he’s quite high maintenance, but he does not let that deter him. He will let you pay for his meals. You can get stuck in airport security with him for 3 hours. You can live life on the edge and spend a lot of time around toilets and eat parasitic street food for a good price.

Date my brother who travels, because heck, he’s got a blog. And he’s not even a hipster.

Check out his blog here!!!!


Well, i haven’t ‘blogged’ lately because I’m much too busy being uninspired and ‘working for the man,’ which in my case is a nonprofit human services agency, (but with still enough paperwork to seem corporate).

a day in the life of Maria:

morning: Hang out with my ‘client’ in grade 4 who doesn’t know her alphabet yet, who is scared of her teacher and cries and shakes and drools every time the American anthem plays during morning announcements. Who should’ve never watched the ‘Chucky’ horror movie, because it’s provided too much trauma considering how much she talks about it (in incomplete two word sentences.) This girl had hydrocephalus as a baby and is ‘on the spectrum’ as they say, which means she’s diagnosed with autism of some form. She likes to passive aggressively fight back at her teacher by ‘roaring’ at the teacher behind her back and calling the teacher names, like novio (which means boyfriend in Spanish) or Justine Bieber, which is apparently the biggest burn ever. They say she can’t remember and that’s why she can’t learn the alphabet but she seems to remember other things just fine, like when I told her about how I fell out of my bunk bed once. I mostly just pound alphabet flashcards into her head, and hand out lots of high fives. And try to act as a buffer between frustrated teacher and scared child.

Drive to my afternoon ‘client’ or ‘kiddo’ as they say (if you’re up on the lingo – which I’m rebelling against) and eat lunch in the car in the company of NPR (National Public Radio – rough equivalent of CBC). Sometimes I stop on the drive and walk around for 10 minutes to help deal with my restless leg syndrome (RLS).

Afternoon number one:
My afternoon client is a little (large and chubby) boy in Kindergarten on the tough side of town. He’s ‘on the spectrum’ too and is super smart – knows his alphabet inside and out. He does this thing called ‘scripting’ where he repeats lines from TV – somewhat awkward when he’s supposed to be listening to the teacher. I mostly just observe Kindergarten in action – terribly interesting since I haven’t been to  Kindergarten since my personal accomplishment of becoming somewhat socially aware. All the little kids call me ‘Miss Maria’ and ask me to tie their shoes.

Afternoon continued:

Drive across town again to teach a piano lesson or too. I like being my own boss for this work.

Drive across town again (in rush hour traffic) to tutor two lovely children in their house, and I supplement their homework with pushups and situps and jumping jacks and running laps around the tables in their house because I tell them it gives them more oxygen in their brain so they can pay attention. Which is true? It also helps me deal with my RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome.)

Then I come home, eat some food, sit around the kitchen in confusion, possibly sing some homemade opera songs with my house mate Katherine (who’s not a nurse and therefore is home when i am!), then go to sleep under a borrowed down blanket that was apparently bought second hand in a bazaar in Afghanistan so who knows where it’s been but it certainly beats freezing to death!

And then, quite predictably, it starts all over again.

Generic rant about faith:

So… why am I a Christian? Well, even though I’ve practiced being awkward so many times that I’m pretty good at it, I still don’t like to talk about this because I either come across as defensive or preachy (and I try to avoid defensive and preachy as often as possible, because when other people do it, it makes me feel like throwing up) or I appear simpleminded which is somewhat embarrassing. Oh well.

So… mostly because I’ve had a good feeling about it for quite a while. And also I have a not so good feeling of the alternative. I’m not talking about heaven and hell, I’m talking about having God in my life versus not. I usually feel a bit out of control in the realm of who I am and what I am becoming and where I’m going and where I’m coming from and how I’m surviving in the meantime, and I need some help with that. And since most people naturally care more for themselves than me, as is to be expected, I can’t get it all out of other human beings, and I ‘believe in myself’ to an extent, but not that much, so that leaves God. I suppose some people have it all under control and don’t need God, but I’m not one of those people. And I’m glad I’m not one of those people, because at this point I am stressed about 50 percent of my life, but I can’t imagine being stressed 100 percent all the time.

I think I can admit that I might be a perfectionist in life. By that I mean I want my life to be happy (have some hope), and I want others’ lives to be happy (have some hope also). And when they’re not, I get sad, and a little depressed, and wish there was some hope outside of myself, and then I turn to God for hope and then I get a little happier because I realize He’s good and there is some hope.  And everyone keeps arguing that God isn’t the answer for making the world happy because why does he let good people suffer, and if He’s good than why do bad things even happen, etc etc…. Well, I don’t know – but since all those good people are suffering and bad things are happening I crave some hope and happiness. When I was little I used to get sad quite often for no apparent reason and I couldn’t snap out of it. By sad I mean hopeless and confused and lost in my little brain. And then one time I thought, ‘hey maybe if I pray to God to be in my life God will help me stop from being sad.’ So I did, and I stopped being sad, and that gave me a lot of hope. And even now, when I am feeling hopeless, I talk to God about it, and it’s nice to have someone else with more power than me understand how I’m feeling and give out some encouragement here and there. And that goes beyond my own hopelessness – it extends to unhappiness I see in others that I have absolutely no idea what to do about.

Some preachy hypocritical Christianeze for the Churched (blah blah blah for the ‘normal’ people):
So, now let me just jump into the Christian bubble and say, I think there’s a lot more to being a Christian than rationalizing why I am one. I think us twenty-something-Sunday-Schooled-cynics spend too much of our energy thinking it all out, of whether we should go for it or not, and then we’re forever drinking that ‘baby milk’ Paul talks about because we can’t ‘leap’ off the fence (Kierkegaard cough cough) and we’re afraid that if we do we might fall into a rut of legalism or judgemental attitudes or radical fanatacism or believing what we want to believe and thus putting God into a box or believing what everyone else believes which is actually secretly wrong or believing and then being proven wrong or worse yet getting no proof either way – God forbid! Well that’s how I feel at least. It’s a crazy world out there – especially the Christian worlds that seem to also be on a hazy plane far separated from actual reality. My plan is to venture out from the fence here and there and ask God to keep me out of a rut (PLEASE!!) because apart from falling off a climbing wall or getting raped that’s my worst fear. But I think we get discouraged because we leave the fence for a second and expect God to prove his magic, when maybe our focus should be more on weaning ourselves off the ‘baby milk’ to ‘adult food’, and God will work magic eventually, but it might be more in what God does for others than what God does for me, which is egotistically draining. Of course, you say, it’s smart to make sure you’re right before you just blindly follow some strange religion, but I’m tired of arguing that point, so whatever. I can’t prove I’m right but I’m assuming God knows what’s right more than I do. Yes that’s an assumption.

But my problem is it’s hard to find some good safe paths to follow – because all those saints who’ve gone on before didn’t grow up when I did. Case in point – Billy Graham didn’t have Facebook when he was my age. And I have a feeling it looks different for different people and I would like to have someone from my generation who has my personality who has figured out how to connect to God and make God happy all the time, and is also really enjoying it, and isn’t crazy – and can prove that they’re not crazy. That would be nice.

So what is my point? Don’t have one, other than I’m trying to verbalize myself and thought maybe you’d find some food for thought to pick yourself apart with.