Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Racing with the rain

So it's been quite an eventful few weeks since I last wrote. Our journey from Gaziantep to Albania was incredibly fast (for us) we got as far as Istanbul in about 18 hours. Greece was a little more tricky but we made across to macidonia in only 3 days. We would have gone all the way to Elbasan in Albania but we were invited to stay the night with one of our drivers with his family who live in Ohrid, so we had an unexpected stop in this beautiful town sat right on the edge of a vast lake and surrounded by mountains, where we were force fed home made Rakija for dinner and breakfast. After a morning of being tourists we made the last 50km in a very fast car on a very windey road to Elbasan... Patrick looked quite pale when we finally got out of the car.
We stayed in Elbasan for 6 days and we had a really great time making circus workshops with kids from the Roma gypsy area where the family we were staying had planted a church. We also made a couple of shows one in the gypsy area and one for a youth event at the church. The best part about our stay though was that we made some really great friends. And more importantly friends that make really good cakes!
We had planned to stay a little longer but after looking at the weather forecast we decided to make our way north before the rain caught us out. (hitchiking in the rain is no fun at all and nobody wants two soggy guys and wet bags in there car) So on Friday morning we made our way back up the windey road to macidonia (this time in a not so fast car, in fact 2 very slow lorries) it took us the whole day to get to the border of Serbia where we made camp for the night and felt for the first time the cold chill of winter approaching.
Now my advice for hitchiking in Serbia is quite straight forward... Don't do it!
Actually it wasn't so bad but with the cold wind and the rain getting closer the waiting seemed even longer. Somehow though we made it all the way up to the border of Hungary by nightfall where our driver dropped us off half asleep in the pouring rain. We had done really well so far to avoid the rain but now it was relentless. We walked in the dark, in the cold, and the pouring rain down the side of the motorway (don't tell my mum) hoping to find some shelter or someone kind enough to pick us up. (and pitch our tent was useless as we had lost the roof) The green lights of a petrol station have never looked so beautiful! We slept in the warm and dry on the shop floor with all our wet gear spread out to dry and it was amasing.
The next day we made our way through Hungary and Czech Republic and up to Poland really quite fast, and the rain held off too. The big shock to us though was to see snow on the sides of the road, as we were waiting for our last lift we were jumping about just to stay warm. We finally made it though on Sunday evening. I don't think either of us had quite realised just how tired we were.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

New Shoes!

So our time here in Gaziantep is almost over - in fact we had planned to leave today but my stomach was playing loop the loop last night so we decided to take a day off and make our way north in the morning.
We have had an incredible time here working with a friend we met in Germany who is setting up a youth center in the city and staying with a wonderful family from the states.
It has been a busy but amazing week. Sabine had organised for us to run some circus workshops in two of the schools she has been connecting with since she's been here. It was really great to be working with kids again but very different from working in schools in the UK. We might as well have been pop stars for the reception we got from the kids. They all wanted us to sign there arms - and we really couldn't refuse - so in the end we exchanged signatures with them all and had kids writing all over our arms too.

On Friday we had the opportunity to visit one of the refugee camps on the Syrian border. If the schools in Gaziantep were crazy this place was something else - from the moment we arrived kids followed us everywhere. We arrived at the camp at 9am and had organised to run some workshops in the schools there. We had hoped to run workshops for groups of 30 but it seemed the teachers wanted all the kids (of which there are about 4000) to have a go. So our first workshop consisted of us holding a ring of over 200 kids, trying are very hardest not to get completely swamped as the circle got smaller and smaller around us. I lost count of how many workshops we did that day. In the evening we had organised to make a fire show for them. As it began to get dark and we started to set up a huge crowd started to gather, the kids were going wild, we were dancing together, playing games, singing songs, just to keep them at bay while we waited for the sound system to arrive. When an older group of boys picked Patrick up and carried him off i thought we'd lost it... Finally the sound system arrived and a crowd of nearly 2000 people watched the show. When we tried to share a few words at the end i could see the crowds pressing in on us and by the time i had said Jesus loves you we were mobbed by a crowd of excited children, literally climbing all over us.
It was a day that i will never forget. I was completely exhausted but blown away. After the show we were invited out for dinner by the camp manager and all the officials. Patrick and i sat in our scruffy smelly clothes dining with smart officials and a posh hotel - very very bizarre.

So of course the other important event of the week was the purchase of a new pair of shoes! My old red toms aren't quite dead yet. (they still just about stay on my feet) But i fell in love with the traditional Turkish leather shoes, although sadly they didn't have the red ones in my size.

This is the point in our tour when we turn around and start heading home. Tomorrow we make our way north to Albania to work with a YWAM group there for a few days and then it is all the way north to Germany. It feels quite strange to be hitting the road again, we have kind of cheated the last few weeks with taking buses, but tomorrow we go by our traditional method. Hopefully we'll be there by Saturday.

so signing out...



Sunday, 7 October 2012

'the freedom of self-forgetfulness'

So our time here in Istanbul has come to an end. I will be sad to wave good bye to this beautiful but crazy city. The last 10 days have flown by as we have found ourselves in a whirlwind of activity making shows out on the street with the group here. It's been a week of mixed feelings though. On one hand it is an incredible experience being able to travel like this, we have met some truly wonderful people and seen amasing things. But every so often I find myself asking why? What is this all about? Is what we are doing worth while ? Does it really change anything? Or are we just a couple of bums trekking about with seriously bad shoes? 

I guess everyone asks these kinds of questions about their lives from time to time. Sometimes there is so much pressure to 'arrive.' that the journey of searching and learning seems like a lame excuse for not having a clue.

I just finished reading a little book called 'the freedom of self-forgetfulness' by Tim Keller. He talks about the image the apostle paul had of himself. How he didn't trust even his own judgements about himself, let alone the judgements of others (although I think it's our own judgements that are most often the most critical) He only had ears for what God would say about him. He didn't need to puff up his own ego with good works or feel the crushing pain of the criticism of others. He only listened to the unchanging words of the father 'my son, in whom I am well pleased.'

So i am learning to think less about what I think about myself, and what I think others think about me. And think only on what my Father thinks. 
Maybe I am a 'bum' on a crazy journey lost in a sea of unanswered questions, but I am a loved 'bum' and that's all that counts... And He knows the plans he has for us for good and not for disaster. 

So tonight we head south to Gaziantep on the Siran border. We are visiting a friend there and her church. Not sue exactly what's in store for us but lots more shows, visiting some schools and possibly a refuge camp. Just got to sit on a bus for 15 hours to get there!