Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back to America after 3+ years

Back to where I started putting footprints in the sand...

There are over 300 pictures for those 30 days, so we'll just mention some of the highlights.

Just the view out the planes window was enough to send some shivers down the old spine... With no burning fires, illegal shacks in the woods, or mosques blaring their tunes it was back to NYC.
Just being on the LIR and the Subway in NYC was strange. People were speaking English. But it was a different english. People were big. I mean big. I felt like an immigrant. Seeing gang members, lesbians kissing on the stairs, people 6'6 and above, girls wearing next to nothing, guys wearing who knows what, asians, africans, latinos, models, and everything mixed in between.

I was not the bule (white buffalo) who stuck out in Indonesia anymore. I was just another color of paint in variety that only NYC offers. It was time to put back on the perennial NY game face. I had to dig down deep to find out, but that person had not been around in a while. The bow your head when you walk, the stick out your hand softly if you cut in front of someone, the smile to acknowledge that someone older then you is in your presence, the head nod to show you notice another soul is in your general area which dominates Indonesian life was what was coming out of me. That only means easy prey in NYC.

The fact I had flown for 23 hours and crossed 12 time zones and hadn't slept since taking a nap over the North Pole, and being bitten by a white tiger the day before, it was quite an experience trying to get my barring s again after a 3 year absence. It was only fitting I get lost in lower Manhattan and end up a government housing building for deaf people. The person's phone I borrowed to find my friend turned out to be a women who studied for 2 years and attended meetings who now stopped.

Now only some 18 hours earlier a LOT of prayers were answered by receiving a ticket to the 2010 Annual Meeting. It was funny showing up in the 25 lobby with my bags, all sweaty, no suit jacket, and so incredibly tired. When I sat down in a section, a brother asked me who I was and respectfully kicked me out of the section. It turns out I was in the delegate seating section.

Ironically I was an official delegate which enabled me for the special branch tour, snacks, cookies, and to sit down in that 'special section' and all of that. By this time I was just trying to stand. I was quite -breathless- by this point after only some 24 hours after landing. I didn't have much of a spirit left in me. I think I was running on pure adrenaline, shock, awe, and a new smile starting to form.

To make up for the lack of cookies and lemonade from the branch tour I could have drank, I met Dave.

(Dave, Dave, Dave, Still as sharp and fast as when I first met him!)

Just like a typical trip to NYC and the whole 7 degrees of Witnesses, in Dave's office were people who had heard of me in Indonesia since they were in ASL in California. My boy Marion who was my tour guide had actually met them before at a party somewhere. Then Dave just busted on me to say how much I grew up from a wild crazy backpacker traveling the world to the first ex-pat at MTS in Indo. Good times.

During the clean-up for the annual meeting I went up in Stanley Theater and sat on the balcony where I use to sleep, took it all in again. A lot to think about since those 4 years had passed since passing zzzz's in that location. The other blessing was having some young guys who really really wanted to have their horizons opened by life in another country. Sharing
is healing, and it can be some of the best growth possible. By looking back it helps to look forward.

(I take a deep breathe every time I look at pics from Stanley. The building and spirit there is something)

Well, although no cookies and lemonade it was nice to chat with 4 members of the GB. That provides a good shot in the arm when your isolated on a island. Never mind their talks at the annual meeting.

Shot in the Arm. Funny how that works. Seeing other friends like Abraham and Mary, the old Stanley crew, meeting random people like long-time missionaries, Bethelites, Elders school instructors, people that know the same people, and the list goes on. I think these are the things that when going back re-charge all the batteries and give you some extra energy that you didn't have before.

Somewhere in there I received a hot and spicy rabbit in a wild mushroom sauce with fresh Italian bread, merlot, broschuto, cheeses, pepperoni, and some good old french brandy. Not only that but to wash it down with my own personal sauna in my bathroom... I'm sorry, off topic. Mmmm. I can still remember the tastes, aromas, although its 2 months later.

The day after the annual meeting it was back to work. I had to interpret the talk from a Spanish brother giving the talk in English and then I translate it into Bahasa Indonesia at the Queens Indonesian group who meets in the same building with the Filipino congregation.

By this time, I'm running on, I don't know what. But there's enough in me to make a video!

(Mosque and KH. Quite a contrast, wouldn't see that in Indo)

As we get back to the kampong (look in the dictionary it's an actual english word!) it was about seeing family, friends, and re-connecting.

They were building a KH back home so it was nice to go and work for a few days. It again though was about the connections, looking back in order to look forward. One person was Mr. Tom Helmer. The Chicken Man as he is affectionally called due to his love of chickens and ability to sound like one.

He gave me advice about me growing up and balancing me out when I was 18. I still remembered the conversation, and apparently he did too! That was really special to continue the conversation where we left off. A conversation that took 11 years to finish.

(Baaaack, The Chicken Man is still alive and going)

Another good man is Mark O. Both Tom and Mark were elders in the hall when I was a kid. With Mark we just jumped into it. He wanted to hear about the annual meeting, we talked about the deeper things of Revelation, the anointed, prophecy, the American culture, the simplicity of the friends lives in Indonesia, organizational procedures, all the while eating a juicy roast beef sandwich with some coconut frosted cakes and donuts and moving tree stumps. Oh boy, the quick-build culture!

(Mark at the KH build... Go Red Sox!)

Another connection was with Spencer. We grew up in the same town. I grew up on 24 Spencer Drive, Spencer on 24 Thomas Road. We were in the same hall at birth and both had our heads tuned the same direction for deep spiritual things. Spence ended up serving on IC work in Nicaragua, serving in Brooklyn, Walkill, and now has been moved to the Printery in Canada Bethel.

We have a lot of good last minute trips together and so it was so fitting he was down from Canada and me back from Indonesia. So we both borrowed motor bikes and drove around like boyz do.

(Spence and I next to a tractor, on a bike, in the rain, next to a bridge shut down, being stupid kids on vaca from our full-time service assignments)

Here are some of the things we saw. Of course this view is from a local cemetery. The dead always seem to have the best views. Again here we are on motorbikes cruising around a cemetery to check out the scenery. Boys will be Boys.

(Mystic at it's best. On the left is the restaurant I use to work- Seamen's Inne)

In typical fashion I was at my parents home like the old days- A gas station. Check in, fill up, chit chat, then off. I knew the trip would be a crazy month, and so many good friends to see. I had apologized 10 months in advance that I wouldn't be with my family but for maybe 1 week out of the month. I served in 7 places congregations over the years in the states so there were a lot of close people to visit. The conversations with John Lafountain were deep. Beer & Wings with Matt, Dave Trom, Jordan, Jeff and Moe and others from time to time were something.

There is also the fact that I believe the mind needs to make connections of choices. What does that mean? To make a choice to leave family, friends, food, language, culture, normality to move to Indonesia is not an everyday choice a New-Englander makes. So to see what others have done with their choices will help me to appreciate more the advantages that the Indonesian door presents while it is still open for business. Tomorrow though can lead to another door.

(Some small town in New England)

It was soothing to the soul to see cleanliness, orderliness, and history that New England brings. Not to mention the way people think, act, and go about things was a wake up call for what I'm use too. Being on the motorcycle going through the back-country roads with nothing but a backpack and a mp3 player is a feast for the eyes, the ears, and a remberance of how everything has moved forward since last living full-time in New England in 2005.

(Motor bike trip through Massachusetts)

(New England Mountains and aahh)

I made it back to some of the people who changed my life. Definitely the Springfield boyz. Chris, Charles, Potvin. All are married now, Charles and Chris with kids. They as family have moved to where the need is great in Portugese. Going to that Kingdom Hall was like being in a Palace in Indonesia. A Kingdom hall with a carpet! Wow! I crashed on the floor and took a nap...

Chris and the kids thought they was smart. They stole my camera. This is what they get.

(Chris this is was you get for taking pics on my camera without me knowing!)

Then it was on the bike again. Through the fields the rivers lakes and everything else it was time to catch up to Dave. I still remember his first week at Bethel back in 2000, (Or was it 99?) Off the record, it was always nice to have a floor to crash on Columbia Heights after a long weekend at the assembly, or driving through NYC. So many awesome memories crashing in the dorm building of Brooklyn. Also I remember surfing September 11 with Dave at Breakers in Newport. Great break that day!

So, I show up. What's up? Catch up... Anything going on? No? Let's drive last minute to Boston go the season opening of Celtics, see Shaq play, go to a baaah, eat some clam chowder, then get some canollis at Modern Pastry.

Last minute trips, always the most memorable.

(Let's go green and G detti)

There is random places you see and experience while traveling. I love the cushion of a pine tree forest. Your legs seem to just float.

(A long walk of serentitiy)

I was cold even though it was only October. My little toes were cold for a few weeks straight. Not having a winter for 4 years thins out the blood. So at a random meeting with an old friend name Chad that I haven't seen since 1999 when graduating high school who left the truth but now was back serving Jehovah was a pleasant surprise. At his congregation there was a nice reminder of how cute kids can be when they are winterized.

(Man, just too cute)

Again it's all about the good mates who influence who you are as a person. Dan Daly...
Loon Mountain ski-boarding when I was 20 years old on Christmas Day. Typical Tommy story. I just did a road trip from Vermont on Christmas Eve at Okemo Mt. at a home on a lake with some random single brother Vandy that I had never met. There were 6 others there and we stayed up until 2 am or 3 talking about Bible prophecy and riddles. On that same night many compadres from I grew up with had a big party where unfortunately many succumbed to temptations of youth.

So I showed up the next day at Loon with no place to stay after a solid 9 hours of riding snowflakes. Dan was as many of 100 hundred other JW's there that day..
Dan-Hey bro! Oh, your from RI? You don't have a place to stay?
Tom-'Ya man." I thought I might, but I don't know what's going on. I heard some stories.
Dan-If you want, take a left out of the parking lot go 8 miles or so down to 93 south. Take the exit for Danbury. Right off the exit, road will split follow to left. 10 miles down a sign on left ragged mt road, follow turns to dirt, first dirt road on right take a right 2nd house down it's brown cabin.
Sorry no cell-phone reception. The house is in the middle of nowhere.
Tom- "Ok. Maybe I'll show up."

Nearly 10 years later and after Dan help hook me into Sign Language, were still good mates. I think Danny Boy is still shocked I showed up that night! Probably regrets it!?!?!?!?

(Yooooo, Daaaiiily. Where's the bah?)

Dan has a nice home on the bay, which enables him to mingle with people who like to go out on boats. We spent a few hours on Narragansett Bay and just took in the smell of salt water while drinking some blueberry bubblies.

(Throughout all things, there's always a glimpse in the clouds)

Something about the alcove's of New England. They are around in many many places. You just need to be aware of where they are.

(Flowers by the bay)

On to Patterson where Sarah Mel was my hero for letting me borrow her car during a torrential rainstorm. It wouldn't have been a fun trip to Walkill at 9 pm on the motorbike on the highway going to someones home I had never been before. Sarah and I caught up and had a 'special' photo session with A.R.T. department. Xavier and Andera Clairbush who were only dating in 2003 when I stayed with Xavier at the Intl. in Hungary. Now, after many years of patience, he made his goal. Gilead.

But the highlight from Patterson, look where sign language has come too!

(Sign Languages around the World)

Speaking of old friends and acloves, Lisa Marie is one of those people that only New England can handle, and it fails. I met Lisa when I was 16 or 17, at Ryan Flemings farm, and I remember saying out loud in the group of people and in front of Lisa; "is this girl for real, or is she acting?" Lisa and I have had so many great conversations over the years. We went to Pioneer School together, served where the need is great in Mt. Pleasant then on too the Sign Language hall. Talk about seeing things outside of the box,- Lisa sees a square and a circles and says the box is for grandma's shoes.

So too bump into her in the hallway at Walkill with her husband and the same beautiful intricate ways about her after she slapped cancer in the face and kept smiling was, was, was such a...

(An unexpected surprise)

I did do some preaching, but I was actually nervous about going door to door. I just did the direct approach. Why? Here in Indonesia you get invited in and drink tea and eat some snacks at most peoples home, before you even get into it. You have about 10 seconds in New England to get your point across.

Being out in a group of 4 persons in a comfortable car is a nice blessing as well. When your normally by yourself or one other person on a moped it's a different feel.

(Preaching in New England. Nothing like it)

One of my goals before I left was to sit down some young guys and lay it out there... I mean lay it out... I had 10 years worth of good choices and bad that others had laid out to me beforehand. Not only that, but to explain how it's a bigger world then what you see in Westerly, RI.

I don't know why I wanted to do it, but I guess I still remember small conversations from people who told me stories when I was 18-21ish. "I always regret I didn't pioneer and go to Bethel." "Living on my own for 3 months before I was married was one of the smartest things I ever did." "Stay single and see the world, because after your married you can't." Those stories help affect my decisions of where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to do.

I will say it was nice to eat some chewy chocolate chip cookies, doritios, and candy bars and drink Hawaiian Punch. If there was some scotch there I would have talked all night with the boys!

(I wish this happened to me)

There were some other unexpected blessings that happened while going back home. One was to give the last ever public talk at the Exeter Kingdom Hall. The Stonington congregation had me give the Public Talk at the hall so most of my family could come down to see it. It was such a privilege since this was the hall that I mainly grew up in. The talk was mainly experiences from Indo with a worldwide twist.

After the talk we had the good ole Kenyon family turkey, lasagna, salad, italian bread, and carrot cake buffet. It had been 5 years since we had gotten all together so it was long overdue.

That Sunday was a Sunday to remember. It was so nice. I will cherish that day for a long time. To see how all have grown. To see the congregation. To see family. To have the meal where your so stuffed you can't move. It was great to be with everyone.

(Yo, Mama's Italian side of the family)

(Heeeey, Daddy's Irish side of the family)

It wouldn't be a trip back to the US, if there wasn't a picture of a sunrise or sunset. This was a necessity. Amazingly how I even know the positions of rocks and sand at this beach...

Sunrise at WHill

What can I say... I made my goal. Over 3 years without going back to where I grew up. Your immediate family and those close friends always warm your heart in a new way. I don't know how long it will be before the next time, but this time was priceless...