Tag Archives: stories

A Life Well Lived: Bernard Silver

Two weeks ago today my uncle, whom I called Dad and viewed as a grandfather, passed away. With the flurry of events that have taken place since then, I have not yet had the chance to express myself in a way that I felt was right and honorable.

This post is my attempt to recognize the man who meant so much to me and my family.

Bernard Silver (August 10, 1923-January 11, 2017)

Son of Louis and Jeannie Silver, Bernard came to the world on the same day as the funeral for former President Warren G. Harding. Louis had to travel far and wide across Brooklyn, New York to find the necessary supplies for Bernard’s home delivery as the majority of businesses were closed for the national day of mourning declared by newly appointed President Calvin Coolidge.

Later, the family grew again when Bernard’s sister Vera was born. A few years later, the Silvers moved to Washington, DCjust in time for the Great Depression.

Bernard great up knowing want and learned very early to be frugal, yet still found ways to enjoy life. The week was often spent doing chores to earn enough money to splurge on the weekends on penny candy and a nickel for a movie. Times were not easy, but Bernard always spoke how he and his family had it pretty well-off in comparison to other families.

On September 1, 1939 the Second World War began. Bernard was just 16 years old.

Like most young men, Bernard had a great desire to serve his country. Directly after graduating high school in 1943, he enlisted and was placed in the United States Army Air Corps. After completing his training, Bernard became a Staff Sergeant of the 328th Squadron in the 93rd Bombardment Group (H) A.A.F. Serving as a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator, Bernard and his nine other crew members completed 35 bombing missions over  Belgium and Germany. Several of Bernard’s favorite plane, the P-51 Mustang, accompanied them on every mission and as he would often say, “They kept us alive.”

Bernard was honorably discharged  on September 29, 1945 and returned to the life of a civilian. Several years later, Bernard began to work for a food company based in Washington, DC named Sol Salins.

In the mid 1970s, Bernard met and fell in love with Bonnie da Silva, a Brazilian immigrant to the United States. They were married in 1978 and Bernard treated Bonnie’s sons, Joseph, Edward, and Robert as his own. Bernard and Bonnie never had children together.

The newly formed family moved to and lived in Olney, Maryland. In 1986, they welcomed Bonnie’s younger sister, Vania, into their home.

Sadly, Bernard and Bonnie divorced in the 90’s and Bonnie would return to Brazil permanently. Bernard would eventually move in Vania, her husband Luis, and two daughters, Juliana and Vanessa. They affectionately called him “Dad,” and for the girls, Bernard was like a grandfather figure.

In 2013, Bernard moved to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC, only a couple of blocks from where he had grown up. There, he received all the care he deserved as a veteran of the United States, and even had the opportunity to meet President Barak Obama and his family.

On January 9th, Bernard fell and was admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he succumbed to an infection that affected his heart, lungs, and kidneys. He died peacefully in the morning of Wednesday the 11th, with his caring sister-in-law Vania by his side.

Bernard is survived by his three nephews, Bonnie’s sons, his sister-in-law Vania and her family.

Bernard’s was a full life, one that has seen many changes in society, technology, and government. Those who knew Dad loved him and will miss his kind spirit and wonderful stories.

His was a life well-lived. Rest now in deserved peace.


Please remember to always tell those you care for how much you love them. And whenever you see a service member, especially a veteran from WWII, be sure to thank them for their service.

This post will be later updated with photos of Bernard throughout the years of his life. Thank you for reading.

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

 

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Moment in the Mist

When Mommy and left the hotel this morning we were a bit distraught to see snow falling from the sky. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to make us both think, “We’re going to freeze today…”

Why? Because today we were taking the tour of Niagara Falls, Canada, which included our northern neighbor’s version of the Maid of the Mist called the Hornblower. When we signed up for the tour, the agent had mentioned to us that technically the Maid of the Mist was a better ride because the boats are better equipped and able to maneuver within the curve of the Horseshoe Falls but that one would only notice after having gone  many, many times. Either way, we were expecting to get really wet.

Our Gray Line tour guide for the day, Carl, picked us up right by the hotel and after gathering the other passengers from locations around Niagara, NY, took us to the border where all we were asked was, “Where do you live?” and “Are you carrying any firearms?” As both of those were easy to answer, everyone made it to the other side without any difficulty and were soon bused to the Hornblower Cruise.

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Mommy didn’t want to get wet and therefore decided to stay below, but I chose to brave the winds and mist on the upper deck. Throngs of people, cloaked by wildly flapping red ponchos, pressed at the railings in an attempt to have the best angle for a memorable shot and a decent looking selfie. Admittedly, I was thinking the same thing as I wanted to be able to share with my family, friends, and followers here, on Facebook, Instagram, Yonder, and Google+. As I couldn’t get to the railing myself, I found the shortest people I could and reached over them until I got just what I wanted.

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Then I heard a father tell one of his kids, “Don’t worry about taking the best picture – be present in the experience. It’ll make a better impression.”

I’ll be honest and say that it only had me pause for a moment, because I was playing the part of a tourist and throughout the rest of the day as we visited different locations of importance on the Canadian side of Niagara and wanted to take photos of the floral clock, the Skylon Tower, the whirlpool, etc., not just to share but really for myself. I want to have memories that are somehow saved, that won’t fade and can be recalled at a click of a button.

But… his words did make me think. How often, in this day and age is our first reaction – when we something interesting, exciting, or even scary – to document and share it? Social media has pushed this urge to new heights and it makes one wonder if we know how to wonder anymore. How to be in awe. How to just be.

One of my favorite movie scenes comes from the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, when Walter finally finds Sean O’Connell, the wildlife photographer he’s been trying to track during the entirety of the story, up in the Himalayas waiting for the perfect shot of the elusive snow leopard. Walter, trying to figure out what was on a special negative he thinks he’s lost, is trying to coax and answer from Sean when a snow leopard comes into the viewfinder.

Sean motions Walter to peer through the camera at the beautiful “ghost cat,” and then continues to sit and stare across the valley. “When are you going to take it?” asks Walter.

Sean replies, “Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”

I need more of this attitude in my life. To enjoy the moment without any distractions and cherish something real, honest, and true. I’m not saying that I won’t be taking anymore pictures during my time in Canada, but this is a philosophy that I hope to make my own – perhaps you will consider it to.

That being said, today’s tour was very enjoyable, even with the random moments of precipitation. It was never too cold and the flimsy ponchos on the Hornblower actually kept us dry. Despite the gray skies, there’s no denying it – the Canadians have the better view.

We returned to our hotel in the afternoon, only to turn right back around and go through US-Canada customs a third time (this time with a little more questioning) and spend a few moments in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake before heading to Toronto, the next destination of our trip.

Mom and I are truly having a wonderful time on our trip so far. Here’s hoping that as this week continues we’ll learn what it truly means to just stay in the moment, so that it’ll be saved not only in our hard drives, but our hearts.

-Wandering Minstrelette

A Stroll Among the Cherry Trees

Last week for my birthday, I treated myself to an experience I had never had before.

Waking up several hours before the sun, I drove to Washington, DC, surprisingly tons of people already moving at that hour and even more surprisingly found FREE parking near the Tidal Basin. Following the growing crowd, I found myself on a bridge facing the Jefferson Memorial, just as the sky began to turn from navy blue, to purple, to red.

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It turned out that my vantage point was perfect to capture the beauty of the sunrise and in fact it was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever experienced.

Pink clouds were strategically placed at the water’s edge, their pale color appearing with the increasing light. The Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument stood proudly and majestically across the way, welcoming the awe and wonder of the already thousand some tourists gazing upon them at first light.

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The colors in the sky became brighter, richer, until finally the sun appeared from beyond the horizon and the magic dissipated.

At least in the sky, it did, but it continued among the trees.

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As I skirted along the rim of the Tidal Basin, I would watch as the wind gently played with the soft, fragile branches arrayed in a distinct hue with which the entire capital has donned for the next few weeks. Every so often I would pull away from their allure and be drawn to what was just on the other side of their lattice-like appearance.

I discovered, for the first time, the FDR and George Mason Memorials. I strolled up to the foot of the Washington Monument, touched its base that had stood strong despite the unexpected earthquake of the recent past.

 

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Back in the pink forest, I saw all sorts of people taken advantage of the most attractive time of the year in the District. Photographers and models were everywhere – there were engagement shoots, wedding shoots, maternity shoots, family shoots, artistic shoots, and even pet shoots.

This is an event I have been blessed enough to have grown up by and enjoy for several years. But as I enjoyed my morning under the blushing boughs, I began to think about all those who would have loved to come and see what I am seeing, experience what I am experiencing. So, I decided to take a stroll among the cherry trees and share it with you around the world that you might, vicariously, be able to enjoy a moment of the wonder of spring in the nation’s capital.

Please click here to see my video on YouTube.

Happy travels!

-Wandering Minstrelette

Greet the Morning

“And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.”

-Genesis 1:5b

Twilight - Neighborhood

It has become a tradition of mine to wake up early on the morning of January 1st to watch the first sunrise of the year. The idea was taken from a manga comic I used to read in my teens. Something about waking up early in the frigid morning and watching the pale colors creep across the sky until the golden-orange sphere peeks above the horizon fascinates me. The brisk wind rushing through my hair gives me a sense of renewal. The canvas of the sky seems fresh with new beginnings and hopes. I’m excited for this year and everything that it will present me.

Adventure and challenges. Trials and victories. Lessons and growth. Most of all – starting over, getting a clean slate.

Many people love the start of the new year because they feel they get another chance to perhaps do better or be better than they did or were the previous year. The only way to properly do so, however, is to take the time to reflect on and study the past. Before I stepped outside into the twilight, I spent the night reviewing the year gone by. I had kept a jar filled with my successes, happy moments, and blessings from God. One by one, I read the notes I had written to myself over the past year, remembering each of those happy and delightful moments. Those moments, however, also caused me to recall some of my less joyful memories. Things I had struggled with, cried about, and struggled with God. By processing each moment, good and bad, I came to the conclusion the notes were meant to lead me towards – God had been with me all the way.

My faith was increased by reviewing my past and remembering how God had lead me in times of joy and times of sorrow. My greatest resolution is to dedicate each coming day to His service. It was only because of this that I was able to lift my face to greet the morning with a peace and assurance that this year God would again be with me at all times, in all places, and during all situations. Without fear or worry, I can look to the future, for God is with me.

Sunrise - Lake Frank

In the Jewish tradition, a day starts first at the sunset and then continues into the sunrise. This was understood from the words above, repeated six times in Genesis 1.  Each day, then, could be seen as a representation of God bringing us out of darkness into light just as He did when He created the earth.  Each day we can have a new slate. Each day we can start anew. When we dedicate ourselves to God, He will use us for His purposes. He will lead us to where we need to go, tell us what we need to know, and show us what we need to see.

Perhaps the last year wasn’t the greatest of years for you. Perhaps, even now, you are still struggling with things you feel are out of your control. If you desire a clean slate, a fresh start, look to God. Not just on this, the first day of the new year, but every day. Dedicate yourself, no matter how messy you feel your life is, to Him and watch Him work wonders. He has promised to take you from darkness to light. Trust in Him, for He is ever with you.

Lift your face, its time to greet the morning.

First Morning - Lake Frank

-Wandering Minstrelette

“How Many Loaves Do You Have?”

For the past several years, prayer has become more and more important in my life. Not to say that it wasn’t important before, but somehow I’ve come to better realize my great need of communion with my Heavenly Father and at the same time know the great power that comes from asking of God things in the name of Jesus. Sure, I’ve had plenty of times when I felt my faith was challenged or wondered if my faith was too small because my prayers weren’t answered as I expected or wanted them to be. But God used those moments to teach me what it really meant to have faith and trust in Him for all things. I’m slowly learning what it really means to pray and to be a prayer warrior.

This past week is a perfect example. My church does an annual Thanksgiving basket (box) distribution the Sunday before Thanksgiving, with church members donating food or money from almost a month prior. We even have our Pathfinder group (sort of like a co-ed version of Boy Scouts) go out into the neighborhood and drop off paper bags on doorsteps asking for people to leave non-perishable items the following week for pick up. The families that are selected for receiving a Thanksgiving box are vetted through a thorough process of investigation to ensure that we are helping the truly needy families of our community. Every year, the amount of families seems to grow, with the past couple of years rounding out at about 90 boxes that needed to be filled for families of various sizes.

Well this year, we approved 134 families from the community, ranging in size from 2 individuals to 10 plus pets. It was the most we had ever had to provide for. You want to know what else? This year we received the least amount of food ever donated. How were going to fill the need of the families to whom we promised a box full of supplies when we weren’t sure if we had enough supplies to fill the boxes? That’s when we knew we had to really start praying hard.

In an effort to improve my prayer life, I’ve recently been reading a book entitled, “The Kneeling Christian” by An Unknown Christian. It was recommended to me by a friend and I feel, going through it, that I still have so much to learn in regards to prayer. God wants us to pray, to pray for anything. When we align our will with the Father’s and seek for an outpouring of His power and Spirit in our lives, amazing things happen. Jesus promised us that anything we ask for in His name will be granted to us. Jesus also said that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to accomplish even greater things than He Himself! I can’t even imagine what that could mean! Of course, this is not so that we can boast in ourselves, but so that we may glorify our Father, Creator, and Redeemer. What this meant for me, this past weekend as volunteers joined together to do last minute preparations of the boxes, was that if we asked, God would multiply the food. He had done it to loaves and fishes – twice (Matthew 14; 15:29-39)! We knew and believed that He could multiply again.

Friday night came and our Adventurers (elementary aged children’s group similar to Pathfinders) came with their parents to “shop” for the supplies listed on a piece of paper in each box. Supplies were gathered from shelves that had been erected in one of the church’s hallways and carefully placed in the proper box. This was to ensure that each box was filled with the main necessities. Once each box was filled, the child would pray for the family it would go to and move on to the next box. Saturday night, some teens and adults came together to flesh out the boxes. Already we could see how God was working, because each of the boxes were slowly filling up. Then, just as we thought we were finished – we ran out. There were still 16 boxes that needed some supplies to be considered complete.

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Thankfully, donations from members of the church allowed one of our deacons to make an emergency grocery run to Wegmans on Sunday morning in order to have just enough to provide for those last few boxes. Four individuals ran the calculations, figured out just how much would need to be purchased to make sure everything was just right.

Sunday morning, a couple of hours before distribution, I was helping the deacon in filling in the last 16 boxes with the newly bought supplies. When we were done – there were still leftovers! Lots of leftovers! “How is this possible?” someone asked, “we had four people doing the calculations? How do we have extra?” We all smiled, because we knew the answer already. God.

The leftovers allowed us to add a little extra to some of the boxes meant for larger families – like that one family with 2 parents and 8 children. Or the other family with 4 adults and 4 cats. Or one adult and 5 children. I’m sure that what was added, although extra according to our calculations, ended up being exactly what they needed.

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At noon, we opened our doors to invite the members of the community who were expecting a box to come inside and wait for their turn to pick up their delightful array of non-perishables and produce. All the volunteers had a job. We had ladies checking names with addresses, our pastor welcomed them as they entered the room where all the boxes were lined up in numerical order, and we had young men and their fathers helping cart out the boxes (they became very heavy!) to each person’s car.

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My job? I had been asked to mingle with the community members while they waited for their turn and offer to pray with them. Mingling is not a problem for me, I’m not a shy person and yet… I became extremely shy about asking these people if they wanted prayer. I didn’t want to force it on them. What if they didn’t like it? I wondered. I don’t want to anger anyone… What if someone got mad at me…

I had suddenly become very inward focused – self preservation took over in a weird way. For the first half hour or so I stuck to speaking with the children and mentioning to the group that I was available for prayer, but not doing much more. Then this couple showed up from a neighboring church – a middle aged woman and her father – and said that they were here to pray with those who were waiting. You know what I felt? Threatened. This is my job! I thought. I quickly realized this was ridiculous and that even though it was my job, I wasn’t doing a very good job at it. So instead I relaxed and watched.

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These two made it look so natural – approach the person, ask their name, tell them yours, ask if there is anything they would like to have prayed about. I was astonished. I realized that my fear and timidness was ungrounded and silly. Slowly, I started imitating them, every once in a while joining hands with them and we prayed together for an individual or a group. I started to truly feel the blessings being poured out by our petitions.

Towards the end of our 3 hour distribution time, a woman approached me asking if she could speak to me. Noticing that she looked distraught, I walked her to the opposite end of the hallway where we had a little more privacy. “Jesus told me to come and ask you to pray for me,” she said. “Please, please pray for me.” This woman began to tell me deep rooted troubles and fears that haunted her daily, how she rarely felt safe, and that she had often thought about taking her own life. As she spoke, I kept praying silently that the Holy Spirit be present at that moment. When we finally started praying, both of us were shedding tears, asking for God’s protection and peace. I was later told by someone else that we had prayed for at least 15 minutes together. By the end, the woman seemed calmer. Things weren’t yet perfect, they may never be, but I believe the Holy Spirit was granting her peace within her heart. She thanked me for praying with her and went on her way.

I returned to the front of the hall where the father/daughter team were sitting, waiting for new attendants. My face must have shown how worn out I was, nearly in shock over what had just taken place, because they came and prayed for me to strengthen and encourage me. It was the first time in a long time that I felt I had actually done battle during prayer.

Being a prayer warrior takes practice. Patience. Willingness. Determination. Faith. You have to believe in the power of prayer, the power of the One the prayer connects you to. I caught a glimpse this past weekend of what it takes to be a prayer warrior and all I can say is, there is still much training to be done.

If you are a person of prayer, please whisper a prayer for my troubled friend, that she might find rest in the Lord. And for all the families who received Thanksgiving boxes, that when they left our church they were not only physically-filled, but spiritually filled as well.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Thankfulness

When I wrote my piece about Robin Williams back in August, I had no idea what kind of impact it would have.

It has become the most read and most commented on post of my blog. My mother, being her proud motherly self, decided to print out the post and share it with someone at my church. This gentleman happened to work for Adventist World, a major Seventh-day Adventist Church magazine. He asked if he could publish my writing and I, flabbergasted, said, “Of course!”

The October issue featured my article in the North American Division perspective. It was all very exciting, but that wasn’t the end of it.

People at church approached me to thank me for speaking up about the stigma held against those who have committed suicide and their families. The article was shared on Facebook. I got phone calls to my house! And the comments some of you have left on the post itself have left me breathless.

I am overwhelmed by how God has used my writing, originally (essentially) a rant on the need for us, as God’s people, to change our perspective on those who are hurting, to touch the lives of people across the United States and possibly even beyond. Hearing the stories of those who have contacted me has been emotional but also uplifting. I am humbled, honored, and blessed.

Above all, I am thankful to have been used by God as an instrument of peace, encouragement, and hope to those who came across my writing. May God choose to use me again to bring you blessings.

To those who contacted me, you are in my prayers. For those who have read, but haven’t written, I would love to hear your story. And if you have a story of when God has used you or you’ve learned a lesson in thankfulness, I’d love to hear that, too.

It is the season, after all, to remind ourselves what it means to be filled with thankfulness.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Building Trees

American artist Sam van Aken is taking everyone by surprise. Aken has taken two seemingly unrelated subjects, art and agriculture, and has created something beautiful beyond words.

The blossoming Tree of 40 Fruit. (Property of www.huffingtonpost.com)
The blossoming Tree of 40 Fruit. (Property of http://www.huffingtonpost.com)

The Tree of 40 Fruit was a project that started several years ago when Aken made it his “mission to combine the aesthetic of sculpture with the agricultural wonder of planting trees” (HuffingtonPost).   Through extensive research, Aken discovered that there are many, many varieties of stone fruits, such as peaches, plums, and cherries, that are not always extremely popular or well-known. He eventually bought an orchard that was going out of business where he was able to nurture and cultivate his hybrids, created through a methodical and meticulous process of grafting branches to the host tree.

Every addition is carefully diagrammed and kept track of, allowing Aken to have an idea of how the tree would look like at different parts of the year according to the various blooming and producing schedules. In this way, he is able to make a “living sculpture” that has become popular among collectors and some museums. On top of that, his labors are producing literal fruit.

The trees were displayed at an art exhibit of called “New Edens” held on the campus of Gettysburg College back in 2011. The tree both shocked and amazed, causing many to ask what was the purpose behind this almost Frankenstein-like creation. Aken wanted his viewers to decide for themselves what the message was, but it would be difficult to miss the Biblical references: 40 fruits to represent the 40 years of Moses in the wilderness and 40 days and nights of Noah’s voyage, also it’s a “Tree of Life” in Eden. The tape-wrapped buds also give light to the digital age in which we live (EveningSun). In other words, there’s a little something for everyone.

“I look at the Tree of 40 Fruit as an artwork, a research project, and a form of conservation,” says Aken in a TEDxManhatten presentation earlier this year (YouTube). He is changing how the world views art, agricultural, and the fruit which the tree produces, many of which are seldom produced heritage and native species. A complicated and magnificent feat that Aken has scientifically and artistically accomplished in this unique and important project.

To learn more about Sam van Aken’s projects, check out his website at: http://www.samvanaken.com/.

Artist Sam Van Aken is silhouetted against an image of a full-grown hybridized fruit tree. (Property of www.eveningsun.com)
Artist Sam Van Aken is silhouetted against an image of a full-grown hybridized fruit tree. (Property of http://www.eveningsun.com)

I never thought I’d see a single tree produce more than one kind of fruit until I got to heaven, but Sam van Aken has proven that God truly has endowed mankind with remarkable creativity and knowledge to be able to accomplish amazing things. Wouldn’t be awesome to try one of this special tree’s fruits? Almost like a bit of heaven on earth.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Object Lessons

My time here in Brazil is quickly wrapping up, so I figured that I needed to squeeze in one last adventure.

As I had no responsibilities scheduled for the afternoon, I decided today would be the day I would go to Corcovado and see for myself the statue that represents Brazil to the rest of the world, Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), along with what is considered on of the most glorious views of Rio.

There was, however, one complication…

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Yeah… It was foggy. And raining. And really windy…

At the ticket office, the teller told me that the view was going to be very poor and that I should consider coming back later. “The weather is supposed to be bad all weekend, but Monday will be beautiful!” Whelp…

I figured since I had already made the trek from Rio by bus and taxi to get there that I would at least see what I could. I took the adorable red train up the side of the morro, through the forest of Tijuca, and was able to get a quick view of the city from above. There were a couple of Egyptians who were sitting behind me on the way up who were lamenting the fact that the weather was so poor but they had no other day to reschedule since, like me, they would soon be leaving the country.

It became colder at the higher altitude and just as we got off the train the wind decided to pick up, blasting cold rain in every which direction. Determined to at least get some semblance of a picture, I bravely hiked the steps to the Cristo with my poor, little umbrella that only managed to keep me less wet than if I had not had it. The one perk about the weather though was that there was barely anyone around.

The view that was supposed to be so glorious was engulfed in white; it was like being in a cloud.

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It was quite a feat trying to get a picture of Cristo without getting myself and my camera soaked, even harder to get one with me in it. I ended up settling with this as an acceptable portrait, fitting for the weather:

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During my rather pathetic attempts of taking a selfie, I encountered a fellow American named Josh who volunteered to assist me in my efforts. We ended up chatting in the rain for a bit, talking about California (he’s from LA), and about Brazil’s lack of individuals with English skills (if you’d like to read more about my opinion on that subject, please read the other blog I write for: http://insoucianceabroad.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/lost-in-lack-of-communication/).

A few men walked past by us and Josh ran after them when he recognized one as being a sports newscaster on ESPN. HeCorcovado - ESPN newcaster asked the gentleman, who had an Australian sounding accent, if he minded saying a little blurb for a friend as encouragement for her country in the next World Cup. The guy happily obliged and later was walking around the statue filming himself and his buddies, who were all part of the ESPN crew.

Soon after, Josh and I decided that we had enough of being soaked by the wind and rain and walked back down to the vans, where he met his friends, and I went on to the train station. While waiting for the train down, I met two other Americans – Brian from Texas and Brandon from Arkansas – who also had come to see the statue. Surprisingly, they were not here for the Cup, but just decided to have an impromptu vacation. We chatted on the train heading back about things to do in Rio and Niteroi as they had only been here a week and were leaving in a few days, but wanted to find something cool to do. Hopefully the weather of the weekend won’t dampen all their plans.

So, my first encounter with the Cristo statue was not perfect but I have to admit that even in just being able to see the shadow of the statue, I felt an awe for what it represented. The statue was placed overlooking Rio de Janeiro in 1931 as a representation of Brazilian Christianity and has since become an icon for the city and Brazil ever since. I also love the symbolism of Christ watching over the people, reinforced by the fact that the statue can be seen from most any part of the city,  and with the weather I encountered I was reminded of the verse that says, “He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Matthew 5:45b, NLT).  Definitely a powerful object lesson.

My adventure, although soggy, proved not to have been in vain. I met some cool people, got to ride the cute red train, and catch of glimpse of the statue. I even managed to get an obligatory open-armed photo, thanks to Josh.

Corcovado - Obligatory Pose

All this means is that I’ll have to come back some day to catch a day with better weather, a day when I can see his face. But you know what’s really cool? Regardless of whether or not I could see the face of the statue, I knew it was there. Just like the real Christ – in times of sunshine and times of the storm, He’s there with His arms open wide, watching over me. Praise God, what a glorious lesson to experience.

-Wandering Minstrelette

The Great Embarrassment

The day started cloudy and threatening, but now its almost as if the weather is crying with Brazil tonight.

In all things, Germans are known to be efficient, effective, and ruthless. But this… This was slaughter.

I doubt there has ever been a soccer match like today’s of Brazil against Germany. 7-1, Germany; it’s simply unheard of. This kind of thing doesn’t happen in soccer, but it sure happened today…

Photo Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

All those around me at the Nobrega Restaurant looked absolutely dumbfounded, expressing they shock and astonishment in a mixture of curses, silence, and eventually clapping for Germany’s last two goals cheering, “Flamengo! Flamengo!” (one of Brazil’s regional teams has a uniform just like the one Germany used tonight), almost as if trying to shake off the great humiliation and ridiculousness of the situation. The stadium was nearly silent at the beginning of the second half, as all the Brazilians seemed to holding their breath in hopes that somehow, someway, a miracle would happen.

From the screen that had been raised in the middle of the street, images of bawling Brazilians and jubilant Germans interchanged as the game wound down. Many people had left at half time, recognizing that there was no way for Brazil to make a comeback after Germany scored 5 goals in the first half; those who stayed were hoping for something, anything, to make this situation less mortifying which somewhat manifested itself in the form of Oscar scoring the single goal of the match. Of course, it couldn’t erase the gravity of what was happening, but at least Brazil didn’t go under with nothing.

Now, I’m not a sports expert or commentator by any stretch of the imagination. I do not pretend to understand sports, but I would like to give a stab at to what I think happened tonight.

The loss of Thiago Silva and Neymar Jr., one not allowed to play and the other injured, resulted in a psychological meltdown in the rest of the team. This meltdown, despite David Luiz’s best efforts, caused the team to be disorganized, disorderly, and ultimately, unfit to play. It was amazing, in a bad way, to watch the Brazilian players acting dazed and confused, wondering what was going through their minds. Could the injury of Neymar really have had such a drastic effect? The self-confidence they had had in previous games dissipated almost the moment they stepped on the field.  To top it off, the stress of playing in the semi-finals on their home turf must have also taken its toll on them mentally. From the flailing attempts to score to lack of defense, it is evident that Brazil was simply not equipped to play today.

To be honest, Brazil had not been playing well throughout the Cup. True, there were some glorious moments (most of which involved Neymar), but overall this is not the jogo bonito that every Brazilian citizen is taught to love about our soccer players. If I may, its been a while since Brazil has truly been up to its past standards.

Herein lies one of Brazil’s major faults: I believe that Brazil has been resting on its laurels. This, indeed, is a fault of many people and organizations; pride truly comes before the fall. For decades, Brazil has been known as producing some of the best soccer players in the world. It is also the only country to have won the World Cup 5 times and its team is the only one that has participated in every single Cup since its initiation. Logically, now that the Cup was on their soil, they would win. Well… As with any organization, it is important to be proud of past accomplishments but it is even more important to be proactive in striving for the next level.

Please, don’t think I am trying to diminish the efforts of the Brazilian national players. They are all excellent in their own right and their coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, is known for his technique and capability. But what was missing, in my humble, un-sports-educated opinion, was the sense of a team. There were articles being written about how Brazil had never before depended so greatly on a single individual for success and when that star fell, I believe the light went with him. It never was, as it should have been, about the team.

Julio Cesar Photo Credit: O Globo, Facebook page.

It was truly heartbreaking to see the tear-filled eyes of Júlio César and David Luiz after the game. Júlio César, I’m sure, feels that he has once again let down his country (the last Cup he made a public apology to Brazil for ‘letting’ the other team make the winning). David Luiz, who tried so hard to pull together the troops was ultimately unable to fight the mentally trauma, left the stadium crestfallen, looking into the stands and mouthing “Desculpa… Desculpa…” (I’m sorry… I’m sorry…). [See his heartbreaking post-game interview here: http://mashable.com/2014/07/08/brazil-david-luiz-interview-germany-loss/#:eyJzIjoiZiIsImkiOiJfOXdjZmluOTdiNGpreDBzaCJ9] I know neither of them will probably ever read this, but I hope they understand that neither of them as individuals are responsible for this loss. They may feel like they’ve let down their country, but they did so as a team – not as a single person. No one deserves to carry that sort of pressure and heartache…

Photo Credit: O Globo, Facebook page.
David Luiz Photo Credit: O Globo, Facebook page.

Now, do I believe that if Thiago Silva and Neymar Jr. had been playing that Brazil would have won? No, but I do feel that it would not have been such a “massacre.” Let’s face it – Germany’s team is great. They played well, they played as a team. They were in it to win it, without the added stresses of being at home, losing their best players, etc. But there is no doubt that they are truly excellent.

I feel genuinely sorry for the players of Brazil. Tomorrow, I’ll probably encounter some extremely depressed individuals, but right now there’s a party happening in the street behind the apartment building with singing and dancing; people are eating, drinking, and being merry. It seems regardless of whether we win or lose, we choose to celebrate. Which, once again in my humble opinion, is a pretty great attitude to have.

Brazil has one more game on Saturday to fight for third place. I truly hope they win. As for the World Cup champion… Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Fly Like an Eagle, photos

The pictures are finally here! Enjoy. 🙂

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Setting up the cameras; GoPros, of course.

 

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Practicing Flight Position

 

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Game face

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The assistant, who was from Angola, kept encouraging me while we were waiting for the right kind of wind.

 

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Take off!

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Our legs were released from their straps to make landing easier.

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Not the most graceful of landings…

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We survived!

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What an amazing experience! Can’t wait to do it again.

 

-Wandering Minstrelette