J2A Greece Pilgrimage 2008

Sunday, July 30, 2006

“Remember again and again that true pilgrimage is into the undiscovered land of your imagination, which you could not have explored any other way than through these lands. The challenge is to learn how to carry over the quality of the journey into your everyday life. The art of pilgrimage is the craft of taking time seriously, elegantly.”

Today was easily the coldest day so far on our trip, but it was also one of the best. We went to church at 9:00 this morning and ate breakfast there. They served breakfast cakes, coffee, small doughnuts called “dreams” and a four-foot long sub sandwich as the main event. At breakfast our youth friends surprised us with gifts like the ones we had planned for them, but from Brazil!

It was such a sweet gesture and really made me realize how much we had learned from our friends and how much we had bonded with them on this journey. Their gifts were fun little things such as Brazilian CDs and socks. It was amazing that all these things, which probably would have been bizarre to me before this trip, had meaning now. After breakfast we joined their Sunday School class and discussed Psalm 122:1.

The church service was very nice, and really had more meaning now that we were friends with all the participants. Laurie sang a beautiful song and was approached several times after the service and told how nice it was. Julio Pedro thanked us for coming at the end of the service, and talked about a return visit from our Brazilian friends. After the service we had lunch.

During lunch we received more gifts and gave ours. We each had a backpack to give to one friend, and our individual gifts. They seemed to have the same reaction to our gifts as we did to theirs. We did not have rice and beans for lunch, but will fortunately probably have it at dinner. For lunch we had salad, several kinds of meat filled pastry-like foods, and a rice-chicken mixture. We also had Guarana and tried a pineapple-mint soy juice. We sang our Compline song for the church as a gift, and then had cake. We spent a long time saying goodbye to some members of the parish, then left to go to the “hippie market”. The market was amazing and had every kind of jewelry imaginable. There was also art, clothes, and other Brazilian mementos. We had a lot of fun shopping and found things that had been more expensive at the mall. When we finally left our friends, we gave them all hugs and brought one girl (Luciela) back to the convent to have dinner with us.

Mostly everyone has finished packing now and many people plan to wear their new socks on the airplane. We will have dinner here at the convent and go to the airport after that for our 11:00 flight. This pilgrimage has taught me so much, and I hope everyone has had the same experience. I did not know what to expect when I agreed to come, but I feel so blessed to have been able to do this. Everything was so amazing and everyone was so welcoming that I really felt like I was able to be a Pilgrim. -ginny weinmann

O God of peace, you taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength. By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, July 29

After all your preparation, the arduous journey, the force that called you here is asking for something vital only you can give. What is it? What can you give back? Has your amazement been amazed yet? Consider the marvel of your arrival.

This morning I slept a half hour later than usual, and it was a beautiful thing to have the extra sleep. What was not beautiful however was the weather. Our first cloudy and rainy day also happened to be our first and only day at the beach. Luckily, by the time we arrived at the beach, the rain had stopped, and the sun eventually parted long enough to allow a few rays of sun to shine through. The waves at the beach were gigantic and powerful, and the most exhilarating and painful activity was running into the enormous wall of water that was created by the waves and powerful current. We were met by our Brazilian friends at the beach, and we all were able to enjoy the beautiful coast.

After the beach, we all piled onto the bus and drove to the most magical place I’ve ever been: the all you can eat pizza parlor. I thought we had reached the pinnacle of food services at the all you can eat Brazilian steak house, but friends I tell you that that is not so. Not only did we receive the usual pepperoni and cheese pizza, but I also for the first time experienced shrimp pizza, white chocolate pizza, bacon pizza, and dark chocolate pizza with strawberries. Even with my allergy to cheese, I engulfed 12 pieces of pizza.

After we had finished with this amazing place, the whole group went to a Rio mall so the females of the group could go on their long “needed” shopping spree. All of us enjoyed the mall, and our Brazilian friends bought everyone sandals as a parting gift. When we came back to the convent and began our nightly devotionals, we heard the eerie howling of the wind outside for the first time. We aren’t sure of where this sound came from, but it was the creepiest, yet most amazing sound I have ever heard. During our silent prayer, the wind picked up its intensity and let out a sad shriek. It was an awesome way to end the day.
–will kimmell

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Our visit to Corcorvado

This is a great moment, when you see however distant, the goal of your wandering. The thing which has been living in your imagination suddenly becomes part of the tangible world.–freya starck

This morning, after two years of mental, spiritual, and physical preparation, we finally had Jesus Day! When we arrived at the parking lot where we were planning to board our vans to take us to the Corcovado, the mountain on which the Jesus statue stands, we were surprised to find out that a group of Germans had paid the vans to take them to the top instead of us. After a little negotiation, we acquired several taxis. Our unexpected change in transportation was just another turn in the pilgrim’s “labyrinth” we are becoming so accustomed to.

After careening our way to the top of the mountain, thanks to our typical crazy Brazilian drivers, we were greatly rewarded with the view from the top. As we anxiously waited for the elevator to bring us to the feet of the huge statue, I truly felt like a pilgrim. The statue I had seen in so many pictures and tried to imagine so many times was finally right in front of me. Up close, the fifty-two year old Jesus statue looms over its visitors and looks out over all of Rio de Janeiro with a watchful eye. We admired the 360-degree view as well as the masterpiece we had waited so long to see. While at the top, we had our own liturgy and read the passage about Jesus walking on water. After our service and a little more staring, we tore our eyes away and walked back down the stairs to our taxis.

Next, we arrived at Jan and Anne Benedict’s (two of our Brazilian hosts) country club for a beautiful lunch. We had steak and fried mashed potatoes on the patio overlooking the beautiful pool. After our late lunch, we headed to the outdoor botanical gardens to see the Brazilian flora. Jan, our resident ecologist, gave us a tour and pointed out the monkeys, Jack birds, and every beautiful tree we asked him about. We were all relieved when our bus driver for the day, Washington, eventually made it back to the convent after fighting Rio traffic at rush hour.

Our dinner was a surprise: fried fish along with our mandatory rice, beans, and salad. We had Compline on the roof and we talked about “Arrival” and the reality of our pilgrimage. As we looked up at the Jesus statue, illuminated by bright white light, each of us shared when we believed we “arrived” in Rio. Between moments like the consecration of the Santa Teresa project, our tour of Boystown orphanage, finding ways to connect with our Brazilian friends, and finally seeing the Jesus statue up close and personal, we have all finally fully arrived.

-maggie riddell

Friday, July 28, 2006

Happy are the people whose strength is in you!* whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.
Psalm 84:4

By the end of the day, it had been almost unanimously decided that today had been the most eventful. It began with the consecration of the Santa Teresa Project, a school setting providing education to prepare less privileged kids, typically from the streets, for entering the job market. We met many old friends at the ceremony, including Bishop Celso and David from the English Anglican church, as well as some new ones, such as Ben Gilbert, who was the main founder of the project itself. Although most of the service was in Portuguese, it was still very enjoyable, especially singing the hymns. To top it all off, all of the kids already enrolled in the program stood in the front and held up four signs in English welcoming “our friends from the Diocese of Atlanta.”

When we returned to the convent, we were blessed with the arrival of Donna Mitchell and Laurie Burlington, thus completing our pilgrimage group. The rest of our trip was taken up by a cable-car trip to the top of the Sugar Loaf, the famous 600-million-year-old 396-meter rock located near the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Although it was probably the most touristy thing that we have done so far, the view was beautiful, we were with six of our new Brazilian friends and every guy’s dream finally came true: there were dozens of monkeys living in the woods at the top of the rock! This was, of course, by far the highlight of the trip.

Although our day was very busy, there was still plenty of down time, and it is in this down time that I am beginning to see more and more how our relationships with the Brazilians are growing. At lunch, we talked like old friends, and afterwards Charlie and I played a Brazilian card game with Rafael and Nilton that we had learned many days before. At a gift shop at the base of the Sugar Loaf, Luiz saved us by stopping us from buying overpriced souvenirs, telling us that we could get the same items for half the price in the markets on Saturday.

During the day while at the convent, I managed to find time to do my laundry. Although this hardly seems like a task worth mentioning, it was an adventure all its own. I hand washed my clothes before dinner and am proud to say that not only was I the first male to take a stab at this task, but the first person in the entire group. I guess I’ll have to wait until they dry tomorrow to see if I did a good job or not.

Our day concluded with our ritual Compline, but this time it was on the roof area of the convent. As we sang through the rounds of our ritual hymn in the pitch black, and moved on to the service with only dim candlelight to guide us, I began to realize how everything about this journey had grown on me. I found that I didn’t even need that dim light to sing the hymns and participate in the service. It had become a part of me, as had everything around me. It seems like so long ago since our first meeting with our Brazilian friends right there on that very rooftop. I have grown very accustomed to the city and the people around me. I feel like I’ve lost track of time, and there is no end in sight. But then I look forward and realize that there is an end in sight, and it is only three days away. It’s still a hard concept to grasp. I prefer to continue living in the eternity of the present, and to try and keep it with me wherever I go, be it in Brazil or eventually back home.
-brad cox

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Day 5

“Imagine the burden on your back as your pilgrimage progresses. Many times, the burden that the traveler carries is the heavy load of unasked questions. Those who refuse to ask vital questions along the way pay the consequences, either by getting lost or settling for the superficial loss that is everywhere served up to the tourist on the fly.”
-Phil Cousineau

This morning we woke up and had to check for frost-bite on our fingers and toes. Just kidding, but seriously, coming from Atlanta temperatures in the fifties feel like snow. As we limited ourselves to only two cups of very strong Brazilian coffee, Rob decided to stuff his face with as much of the white bland cheese as possible. We shoved all of our clothes and toiletries back into our “small satchels” in literally three minutes as we hustled out to Paul Caesar and the bus. We went to the Anglican school COLONAR, where the library was currently under construction using government funding. We were impressed by the many computers, one of which was available for John to upload the two previous blogs. We headed across the street and up another hill to Boystown, an orphanage for boys under 18. We met three boys staying at the orphanage.

We are all very eager to get involved in the program once we return to Atlanta because of our unanswered questions about life at the orphanage. After our tour of Boystown we said goodbye to the seminary and countryside and headed to the urban Petropolis, better known to the pilgrims as P-town.

Our first stop was Santos=Dumont’s home, the Brazilians’ version of the Wright brothers (that is how he signed his name to show the Brazilian-French equality). After learning about the Brazilians’ first flight, we walked down the “Champs-d’Elysees” of Brazil towards the Imperial Museum.

It is a 19th century Brazilian mansion, which was Don Pedro’s summer home. For forty-five minutes we slid around on mandatory slippers and polished the floors as we toured the beautifully decorated rooms and the exquisite jewels (including the scepter and crown of Brazil’s last emperor), paintings, and outfits. By 2:30 everyone was ready to eat. We drove about twenty minutes and arrived at the gates of heaven, Lago Sul, the Fogo de Chao of Petropolis.

For about an hour we kept our green cards up as we stuffed our faces with different types of meat, side dishes including fried plantains and onion rings, but most importantly meat, chicken hearts, and more meat. Will Boswell, Jason, Brad, and our very own John Mitchell never refused anything that passed by. Often used was the phrase, “it’s a party in my mouth.” Needless to say, it was a hit, which unfortunately caught up to us later down the mountain as we headed back to the convent. The minute we stepped through the convent door it was dinner time, and we got just what we needed, more rice and beans.

-page zakas, maggie riddell, & a little help from helen harris

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Araras Day 1

“Imagine that the task of the pilgrim is to deepen the mystery for himself or herself. If you find yourself facing disappointment, try to ask yourself where your attention has wandered. The real work on the journey has begun. Rejoice that you have come so far.”
-Phil Cousineau

I slowly woke up this morning in a bed with not enough blankets. I was surprised to find that a winter night in Brazil could actually become quite chilly, but the sun soon warmed the day back to the usual temperatures we have become accustomed to in this beautiful country. I was tired from the night before because Will Burriss and I stayed up late talking and becoming friends with the two Brazilian boys that had come to stay with us at the seminary. It was difficult overcoming the language barrier at first, but we still managed to have hours of conversation, and it became a game of deciphering what we were trying to say to each other. Unfortunately for myself, to overcome this late night chat I had to down five cups of caffeine-filled Brazilian coffee at breakfast. After our first meal of the day, we threw a Frisbee around while we waited for more Brazilian youth to join us. Once they came and introductions were made, everyone piled on to our bus and we traveled to my first rain forest nature walk.

Ever since I can remember I have wanted to travel into the Brazilian rain forest and explore, so this was a dream come true for me. We were shown around by a machete-carrying biologist, and his spear-carrying friend. We did not see very many exotic animals on this walk because 90% of the creatures are nocturnal, and partly because a large group of teenagers typically do not stay quiet very long. We did end up seeing a turkey-like bird after the hike, but alas, to the dismay of all the men, no monkeys have been spotted yet.

After the hike, we returned to the seminary for lunch and enjoyed a brief but exceptional naptime. After our heavenly sleep, we intended to go to a private pool, but we were officially lost an hour into the ride because the bus could not keep up with the lead car. Part of the pilgrim’s journey is overcoming obstacles and accepting unexpected adventures with a willing and happy heart, but this was difficult with carsickness and a lack of public bathrooms. Yet the pilgrim’s way prevailed, and we made it to the pool in good spirits after our two hour car ride through the Brazilian countryside. The house we visited is owned by a deacon in the Diocese of Rio and the pool that we were supposed to swim in was something close to ice water. Only a brave few souls made the jump into the chilling depth while the rest of us watched with amusement and horror as the “brave souls” quickly jumped out again.

Arlinda, the deacon, fed us hotdogs, which was an excellent touch, and we listened to Brazilian music while we watched the day turn into night. One of my most personal favorite pastimes is watching the stars, and the display of the night sky was one of the most impressive I have ever seen. After we returned to the seminary for dinner, we had our usual pre-bed Compline service. Tonight I enjoyed it because Rob asked us to interpret Psalm 84:1-4 and share phrases that had meaning to us. All in all, it was a great day.

By the way, our bus driver Paul is a retired undercover federal agent who is rumored to have been hired by the Harris and Zakas families. Paul is a great guy and a very skilled driver.
Will Kimmell

Third Day Recap

“The difference between pilgrim and tourist is the intention of attention, the quality of the curiosity.”

Today we had another early start after an energizing night of sleep. Our first event of the day was a delicious breakfast prepared by the convent. After breakfast we started our reflection time where people were journaling, reading and observing the breathtaking views of Rio from the convent. After our reflection we proceeded to the bus for the day’s adventures.

Our first stop of the day was Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the seat of the Anglican Episcopal Diocese in Rio. We were greeted by Bishop Celso and Inamar, the Dean of the Cathedral. They described their many projects and the history of the church building and the diocese. Although they don’t have many regular members, the cathedral is an essential part of the surrounding Santa Tereza neighborhood. As a treat for the birthday boy, Will Boswell, Bishop Celso led a short liturgy, which included a prayer for his birthday.

After we left the cathedral we continued to walk around the neighborhood, Santa Tereza, where our convent in also located.

We visited local shops and grocery stores where we saw foods we had never seen before and interesting pieces of artwork. After our walk we headed back to the convent for lunch where to everyone’s surprise we had a meal of rice and beans! Everyone is really starting to love the food. Once lunch was finished we quickly packed and set out for our next journey. Our first stop as we were driving was to pick up four youth and two priests from Church of the Redeemer. Then we all rode to Christ Church. Christ Church is the only Anglican English-speaking church in Rio.

We got to walk around and see the beautiful old church and the British school on grounds. David the English priest there was informative and very friendly. Next on our journey we walked to the local grocery store where we stocked up on all the American food we could find. I’m sure everyone was satisfied after that trip.

Then we continued on our bus ride through the beautiful Brazilian forests. The scenery was gorgeous and the sunset was beautiful as it has been every day. On our bus ride was had plenty of time to bond with the Rio youth. Our main connection was music. Virginia’s portable speakers came in handy as we traded ipods to listen to American and Brazilian music. It was cool to see our common interest in music. We were all amazed that our bus made it up the mountain as we swerved to the top. When we got to the seminary we settled into our new rooms and proceeded to dinner. We had a change in the menu, as there was no rice and beans present. We had a delicious noodle casserole that everyone enjoyed. We also had a birthday cake for Will, the third cake of the day for Will, and we sang him happy birthday in Portuguese while all wearing Varsity hats. Before Compline we all wrote a “Rio pilgrimage” haiku. Here are two examples:

Rio is
Quite beautiful now
Much land to
-helen harris

And Some Beans
We eat all the time
Beans and some
-annie thim

Everyone had a wonderful day and we look forward to a wonderful week to come.
Anna Baker, Annie Thim, and Virginia Zakas

Monday, July 24, 2006

Second Update

“Imagine the way you see yourself seeing. How are you seeing your way? The practice you pursue will determine the quality of your pilgrimage.” Phil Cousineau

Today, I was gently awakened by the singing of the Catholic group worshiping in the chapel. After being awakened, I naturally fell back asleep, only to be awakened again by the loud knocking of Rob on my door. I made my way to the dining room were we had a great breakfast of bread, cheese, ham, and papaya, a wonderful fruit I have just learned to love. After breakfast, we met in the courtyard briefly before we went to our private reflection time (nap time) for half an hour. After doing this we dressed for church and met out in front of the convent. We then crammed into the bus and made our way to the Church of the Redeemer.

This church is extremely simple, but still beautiful. The church service was entirely in Portuguese except for the sermon, which was translated by Ian, one of our guides who is from Brazil. Once the sermon was complete we then had the pleasure of seeing a married couple renewing their vows for their fiftieth anniversary. A member of the vestry was then called up to the front and it was announced that it was his birthday. This was followed by a gift of flowers given to Virginia and a card for our group. We were then presented to the whole church by standing in the front and looking beautiful. We then filed into a back room (like our Ellis Hall) where we ate a wonderful lunch of more beans and rice, with the same type of meat that we had been served for lunch yesterday. After finishing the meal we started playing cards. First we played a game we knew, and then our new Rio friends taught us another game.

Then we had a birthday cake for the vestry member (my birthday is Monday by the way ). The cake was very different, especially the icing which had the texture of pure sugar. Next we traveled to Niteroi to go to a museum, which looked to really be a flying saucer.

Unfortunately it was closed for renovations. On the way there, we passed this mountain surrounded by water, which had a church on top. Finding out that the museum was closed we made our way to a small fishing village where we went and got some drinks and enjoyed the lovely smell of rotting fish.

After piling back on to the bus and heading back it was time for dinner, which was surprisingly beans, rice, and for a change, spaghetti. I personally, once finished, went up to the roof and looked out over the city and at the stars. Then we had our regular Compline and I started writing this. Overall today was a fun day but was extremely simple.
- Will Boswell

We are traveling to Araras today and may not be able to post until Wednesday evening.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Our First Day!

“How we pack our bags defines our journey. We always have a choice.” Phil Cousineau

“Bomdia.” Hello from Rio de Janeiro! It is almost nine o’clock and we are all at the convent safe and sound, most of the group already sleeping. We boarded our flight with varying expectations and anxieties. Our flight was a normal overnight flight, tossing and turning and smacking the chair in front of us trying to get at least an hour or even two hours of sleep. Of course, the movie was pretty bad and Rob instantly fell asleep while reading his 400+ page Brazilian book. Upon arriving and exiting the plane, groggy and unaware of our surroundings, we encountered our first journey: the customs line. We weaved around and around for about an hour meeting new people coming to Rio for many things. After being allowed to enter the city, finding our luggage went quite smoothly, thank goodness! After going up and down and all around on elevators, staircases, and even luggage carts we boarded the bus. Our first glimpse of the city was a remarkable one, a memory that will probably never escape me. A mix of rich, poor, urban, and country all included in one package. We drove through the city and upon arriving at our destination, we noticed that this destination was on top of a mountain; it is really just a hill but after two hours of sleep it seemed like Everest. We now faced our second journey, getting all of ours bags up to the convent in one piece. “How we pack our bags defines our journey. We always have a choice.” Yes, we always have a choice.

Judson made the right choice to pack a suitcase that would probably hold my shampoo, and then Virginia with the suitcase that could hold the Mitchell and Burlington children with space. The suitcase we had was the suitcase we chose and that suitcase was the one WE got to haul up the “mountain.” Judson, with his “man purse” chose to take the stairs, while the majority of the girls chose to wait for the elevator that would only take three people and that could probably break any second. The bottom line is that we all made it to our rooms, some faster than others, but we all enjoyed the spectacular view from the “summit of our climb.”

After our test of physical endurance we met the youth group from The Church of the Redeemer. Our first ice-breaker activity was to attempt to repeat simple Portuguese phrases. We sort of failed but we all laughed at ourselves and learned that this group of youth was going to be kind and welcoming despite any language issues. Lunch at the convent, then a bus tour around the city came next. We stopped at several beach locations and even tried the local drink: coconut milk. We literally went up and down and all around the city with our bus driver who definitely has “mad skills”. No offence to you driving Atlanta parents, you’ve got nothing on this guy. After dropping our new friends off at their church we continued back up to the convent where we enjoyed a nice, long shower and a simple Brazilian dinner. To end our tiring but absolutely lovely first day we shared our ideas on the differences between pilgrimage and mission and ended with Compline and singing a few hymns. We look forward to our days to come in this wonderful place. We hope that you enjoy experiencing it with us.
- Helen Harris

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

All Saints' pilgrims enjoy a kick off cookout before heading to Rio de Janeiro.