Beer! Bière! Bier!

The first beer I actually enjoyed was a mega-corporation-posing-as-a-craft beer‘s take on Belgian witbier. (I was a teenager, don’t judge me.  Besides we all liked it.) After that, outside of some other American craft brewery versions of Belgian ale, my main acquaintance with Belgian beer was Monkish brewery, a fantastic brewery owned and operated by a dude who also studied theology in Scotland. Then earlier this year while we are in Scotland I read on article on monastic brewing that reminded me of the the mythical Trappist brewers, and how Belgium is not only home to them, but some of the best beer in the world. I immediately told Hayley I wanted to visit Belgium if we got the chance, but since we already had most of our traveling planned I didn’t really think to mention it again. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA However, as soon as we found out we’d be spending a month in Paris I declared to the heavens that we’d be making a pilgrimage to the holy land of artisan beer. I imagined walking through these antiquarian abbeys sipping some of the best ale with the monks who make it. Unfortunately, as soon as I began researching our trip I realized immediately that beer tourism is not a conducive part of the monastic way of life, and as such these world famous breweries do not offer tours. Yet, I remained undaunted and hopeful. I may not get to tour the breweries but I’d get to see the grounds of a few abbeys and try the beer, even some of the most difficult beer in the world to get a hold of. IMG_6296 Finally, last weekend the dream came true. Hayley and I hopped in the car with our good friends Laura and Logan Isaac and drove up to Brugge. We stopped at Westvleteren abbey on the way, hoping to visit the abbey’s brew shop in the few hours a day they are open to the public, and have drink at the visitors center across the street. Unfortunately, neither were open on Fridays, so we had our first Belgian ales at a pub next to the train station. I had a St. Bernardus Abt 12, which is supposedly the same exact recipe as the Westveterern 12. I never did a side by side comparison, but it was amazing. A fantastic introduction to Belgium. IMG_6286 IMG_6290 Once we meandered up the coast to Brugge we settled into our spiffy hostel, and set out into the medieval town to find food. We ended up a touristy place with decently albeit overpriced food with an incredible view. Hayley made friends with an American couple who live in Saudi Arabia, because of course she did. I had a La Chouffe which paired well with my muscles au gratin and flemmish rabbit stew. (Yes I just wrote that sentence) After dinner we headed over to a small pub that I was almost as excited for as the abbeys. Staminee De Garre isa  tiny little rustic pub hidden in an alley in the heart of the town. It’s mentioned in pretty much every beer nerd blog and review of Brugge. It’s also the only place in the world to get their famous house trippel. It was amazing, and it came with cheese. At this point I was completely situated in beer heaven. IMG_6305The next day was included Belgian waffles, chocolate, the strangest Saturday market I’ve ever seen, German bratwurst, frites with artechoke maynoise, Hayley bumping into a highschool friend’s little brother and a tour of De Haalve Maan brewery before we drove back to Westvleteren. De Haalve Maan was super rad, and included probably the best brewery tour I’ve ever been on. They are super proud of their heritage, and they are the only brewery still in the city center. The tour included a taste of their flagship beer Brugse Zot. Unsurprisingly, it was a fantastic light and crisp blond ale with plenty of flavor.  IMG_6344The rest of the evening involved the capstone of the weekend. Westvleteren 12 is consistently ranked one of, and usually the, best beer in the world, and it is also incredibly difficult to get your hands on. So we were obviously excited to try the beer, but before we left for the abbey Logon suggested we see if we could attend their compline service. Compline is the last service of the day in monastic life. Hayley and I enjoyed going to a service on Thursday nights in St Andrews that was modeled on the compline service. After trying the deservedly hyped ale at the restaurant/visitor’s center across the street we went and knocked on the door of the abbey and was warmly invited to attend the service with the 25 monks in the abbey and about five other local Westvleterens. It was a beautiful and intimate service that made me think about the commitment to faith and work these men have committed themselves to. The quality of their beer is an expression of their devotion to worship God in the quality of their work. Of course, after speaking with one of the monks (who I am convinced is the brewmaster because he said he was named after St Arnold the patron saint of brewers) we headed back to the visitors center to enjoy the fruits of their labor again. IMG_6355The next day we sadly had to had back to Paris (never thought I was write that), but on the way, or actually out of our way, we made sure to stop by another Trappist abbey for good measure. Chimay, because it is also a working monastic abbey, does not give tours, but they do have a more robust visitor center, as well as a whole production and distribution organization that employs over 200 employees. I had the red labeled beer, which they also call Première because it was their original recipe. We also tried the patersbier which is only for the monks themselves and the vistor’s center. At this point in the blog post it should go without saying. Both were absolutely incredible. IMG_6379Thus ended the best beer weekend of my life.  We also did other cool things that involved stuff like Renaissance art that was stolen by Nazis during WWII. Also I could say more about Trappists monastic life and what makes Trappist ale special in the first place, or Westvleteren’s insane distribution, or lack thereof, system. But since this has already been a long blog post I will simply end by saying Belgium delivered in a major way.IMG_8488IMG_6301IMG_6334IMG_6372

The Speyside Way

When I was but a wee lad, whenever I would spend time with my grandfather he would tell me about growing up in Scotland, he’d teach me Scottish history and we’d sing Scottish folk songs together. One of my favorites was “The Sky is Bluer in Scotland.” The chorus goes like this:

The sky is bluer in Scotland.

The grass is greener there, too.

The air smells sweeter,

the rivers are deeper,

The mountains a lovelier view.

And if you ever leave Scotland,

the country of your birth,

From your homesick cries,

you’ll realize It’s the finest place on earth.

So, one of the things I was most excited about experiencing in Scotland was nature. And we got to experience a lot of the beauty of Scotland’s natural world just by driving through the highlands and isles on our various adventures, and we walked a bit of the Fife coastal path, and I hiked a Ben with some friends in September as well. However, like CS Lewis says, “We do not want merely to see beauty… we want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” Which is why from the moment we landed I began planning a long distance walking trip.IMG_5674 Hayley had no interest in such things. While she enjoys wildcamping out of a car for a night or two when necessary, walking and sleeping in a tent where ever we decide to pitch it is not her thing. So I enlisted a good friend and former student Matt, who was already planning an extended visit after he graduated from university in May. He’s gone backpacking in Oregon every year for the past three years, and did some backpacking in Africa last year as well. So I knew he’d be game.IMG_5625 We decided on the Speyside Way because Speyside is one of my favorite areas in Scotland, but not an area we had been to as much as I would have wanted this year,  I wanted to walk a long the River Spey and there happens to be a lot of distilleries in the region. Once we decided that we’d be wildcamping, rather than finding hostels, we didn’t really plan our trip until we were on the train headed into the Highlands. I tend to plan a little differently without Hayley. In the end we decided we’d start in Aviemore, because that’s where the train station is, and then walk to Dufftown, about 55 miles away, and end at the Glenfiddich Distillery, the largest in Scotland, and take the bus to Elgin where we’d take the train back to St Andrews.IMG_5650 The first day we walked 14 miles like was nothing. We stopped at a hotel in the tiny village Boat of Garten for lunch, and had dinner at a pub in Nethybridge, another tiny village Hayley and I stayed in the first time we visited Scotland. We ended up camping right on the bank of the Spey that night. The next day we woke up sore, and realized we probably pushed it harder than we should have the day before. After walking into Grantown for lunch and supplies for dinner and breakfast the next day, we slogged the rest of the way to Cromdale. By the time we reached Cromdale, we had walked seven and half miles, and had 10 more miles to reach Ballindalloch. Both of us were tired, and neither of thought we’d actually make it to Ballindalloch that day. I figured we’d just pitch our tent whenever we got feed up with walking.IMG_5627 Then unexpectedly, right as we crossed the bridge into Cromdale (a super tiny village. It doesn’t even have a store.) a woman with her toddler child pulled up in a car and asked if we were walking the Speyside Way. When we said we were, she told us that it was going to be very windy that night and if we wanted we could pitch our tent in their yard next to their stonewall. She also told us we could have a homecooked meal with her family, and offered to pick up any beer of our choosing for the evening. We gratefully took her up on her offer and followed her to her nearby home. It was probably the highlight of our trip. Erica, Charles, and little Charlie were incredibly kind, the food was delicious and the 200 year old former manse Georgian home was beautiful.IMG_5665 The next morning we hitched a ride from Charles to Ballindalloch in order to skip about 10 miles of the walk that seemed pretty uneventful on the map. From there we walked into Aberlour, passing about a half dozen distilleries along the way. It was by for the prettiest part of the walk, and we saw the most people on this section as well. In Aberlour we watched a local soccer match, tasted some Aberlour and ate at the Mash Tun where we met one of the most talkative and worst listeners I’ve ever met. Matt and I could tell you all about his career, his hometown, his favorite beers and least favorite beers. I’m not sure if he even heard our names. It was good times. After we found a place to pitch our tents, and after Matt almost died when he decided to run around the top of a tunnel opening, we visited one of the coolest and most depressing pubs I’ve ever seen, owned and operated by a WWII veteran and widower. The only time he’s left Speyside was for the War.IMG_5675 After camping in the rain, the next morning we walked into to Dufftown, opted out of a tour of the Balvenie distillery because it was going to be 25 pounds, and made our way to Glenfiddich. The Glenfiddich distillery is insanely huge, and has a very in depth touring experience. To be honest, we were most excited for the comfy couches in the cafe. The tour was great though, the vast distillery is beautiful. They were also very generous with their tastings. Afterwards we walked the rest of the way into Dufftown, visiting a field of Highland coos along the way. We hitched a bus ride up to Elgin, and ended up seeing our friend from the Mashtun again.IMG_5680 I had high expectations for this little adventure, and it delivered in every way. The Highland countryside is unparalleled as an idyllic setting, and getting to spend so much time with such a great friend out in nature was a rare pleasure. Even though we were both sore and tired (it’s really hard to get a full night’s sleep in a tent when it’s light out until 11:30 and sunrises at 3am), and I had blisteres all over my feet (I actually began the walk with blisters from walking around London and hiking around Skye the week before), and as much as I enjoyed my comfy bed and shower, I immediately wanted to go back. I hope it’s not the last time I get to walk and camp in Scotland. I’m sure it wont be. (btw, be sure to watch the video at the top. It’s rad)IMG_5708

Touring Scotland like a Boss

Family is an interesting concept. We intuitively take it for granted that our closest or most intimate relationships are with members of our family. Usually that is true, and sometimes we can have really close friends, but they still aren’t family. The Bossolettis are great friends, but they are also family. When Hayley first stayed in Ventura, she lived with the Bossolettis for the entire summer. The next summer she stayed with them from May until we got married in November. So when Hayley was first accepted to the University of St Andrews, along with other family members, the Bossolettis were the first people we told, and when we decided we were going to actually go to Scotland, they were again the first to know. From the very beginning it seemed like a no brainer that they would come and visit us, just like a other members of our families.

P1000145However, we were still absolutely thrilled when they told us back in the Fall that they’d booked their flights for April, and from that time on everything we did we’d wonder if the Bossoletti kids would enjoy it. By the time they actually got here we had a million ideas of things to do. After flying into Edinburgh they took the train to Pitlochry where we met in the Athol Palace, our residence for the night. We spent the evening exploring the town, listening to live folk music and eating Haggis. The Bossolettis are way more adventurous than I could have imagined being at their age. The next day we ate a full Scottish breakfast, and played in the indoor pool, where Olivia re-perfected doing flips off the palms of my hands. We then made our way up to the Inverness area, where we stayed in a farmhouse that had a round hobbit hole-esque entryway. I was probably the most excited about this. We explored the countryside, and visited Loch Ness. We didn’t see Nessie, but Kevin did underestimate the coldness of the water and when he tried to walk out to a rock, he got stuck and couldn’t move. We also saw plenty of Highland Coos and gained an appreciation for how ridiculously silly Shetland Ponies are.

P1000169P1000175We spent the rest of the weekend around the Inverness area, where we ate at some delicious restaurants, a not so delicious restaurant, went to an Easter service at a very welcoming Church of Scotland church, learned about ancient Pictish culture, skipped stones on every body of water we could find, and did not see dolphins as was promised. From Inverness, we drove through the Speyside region where we visited a couple of distilleries including Cardhu, where Alisa discovered there is indeed actually a whisky for everyone. We also got to check out a 200 year old wool mill near Ballindalloch, and toured a cooperage in Dufftown where we watched the journeyman coopers use their craft.

P1000335 P1000307I also had an opportunity to purchase some petrol for our car in Dufftown, but I decided we could just as easily get petrol in Braemar on our way home. We got to Braemar, with the gas light on, at 6:20pm. The only gas station in a 30-mile radius closed at 6pm. After looking around the town for someone with a diesel vehicle we decided to “just go for it”, and drive the 30 miles of hilly road to the next gas station. I can say that we made it to Blairgowrie where we were able to fill up. I cannot say what we did to make it there, at least until the statute of limitations has expired. It was memorable and we did what we had to do to get home.P1000478P1000370The Bossolettis spent the bulk of their time in Scotland with us in St Andews. They stayed near the 18th hole of the Old Course and pretty much explored every nook and cranny of our ancient town. We did a scavenger hunt, explored the castle, climbed to the top of the cathedral tower, climbed around the cathedral ruins, jumped off the pier into the North Sea, ran on the the West Sands like Chariots of Fire, rolled down grass hills, and continued to eat at all the delicious restaurants. They also made it out to the Isle of May and got to see some Puffins. One of our favorite parts of having visitors has just been sharing our current hometown with our old friends. It is so much fun to show off how cool the town is, and it was especially fun to get to see the town through the eyes of a 7 year old and 9 year old. St Andrews is a small town but we walked a lot. One day we walked over 10 miles, and there wasn’t a peep of a complaint from the kids. Although, I’m kind of a sucker for shoulder rides, so they probably only walked a fraction of that total.2015-04-09 13.16.10P1000995P1000553 P1000597The last leg of the Bossoletti tour de Scotland was through Edinburgh, probably my favorite city in the world. On the way there we took an extended detour through Stirling where we explored the Wallace Monument and Stirling castle. Stirling castle is one of my favorite places to take visitors because it’s so big, it never has too many tourists (unlike Edinburgh castle) and they have parts of it restored to look exactly how it would have looked in the 16th century. The kids loved it, and that of course made me very happy. The last two days were spent in Edinburgh. We stayed in a cool AirBnB right beneath the castle and did a lot more walking up and down the royal mile and ate at one of the best Thai restaurants I’ve ever been to.P1000290P1000603It was with very heavy hearts that we said goodbye to the Bossolettis, although when Kevin couldn’t find his passport at first that morning we thought maybe they could stay indefinitely. I’m sure we will continue to visit them in Ventura often, and hopefully that can make it out to DC semi-regurly. Actually, I’m sure we will see eachother soon, after all we’re family. P1000452 P1000454 P1000235

Old Friends and Ancients Lands

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I’m not one hundred percent sure how Isaac, aka Zeek, aka Hank Mardukas, and I become such close friends, or as he likes to tell to people “hetero-life-partners”. I know that when we were in elementary school we were often rivals at kickball, but somehow as we were transitioning into middle school we combined our forces, and despite life taking us on different paths, in different cities and states, and now countries, we’ve been a dynamic duo for most of our lives. We’ve also quit arguing about who is Batman to whose Robin. This is why what we got to experience last month (back when my beard and hair were out of control) was such a thrill. The minute Hayley and I were finished with our Thursday modules, we hopped into the car and headed for Glasgow where Isaac, his wife Sarah and their barely one year old son Malachi were waiting for us to begin a stunning, delicious tour of the west coast and highlands of Scotland, marked especially by the camaraderie of two young families united by such deep friendship.

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From Glasgow we meandered our way around Loch Lomand towards Oban, a picturesque port village, Hayley and I have stopped through a number of times now on our way to and from various isles, or late at night in a harrowing effort to avoid running out gas in the middle of nowhere. However, this was our first time we were able to spend a whole day there. We had a blast chasing Malachi around as he took in the sights, sounds and smells of the village as we ate lunch and explored the old tower that overlooks the bay. Malachi also got to enjoy some “Aunt Hayley” time as Isaac, Sarah and I took a tour the Oban distillery. This was Isaac’s first time trying peated whiskey. As we would soon discover, he spends so much time breathing in forest fire smoke, few whiskeys are peated enough for his pallet.

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That night we stayed at an insanely comfortable cabin on the shore of Loch Linnhe Hayley found on AirBnB. I’m not sure how Hayley consistently finds such rad places to stay in such remote areas. I’m also still not sure how we found that place in the dark without the assistance of any clear signage. The only explanation is that Sarah is a wizard. The next day we drove along Loch Ness until we reached Inverness, stopping to check out Dhuckart castle. We were not fortunate enough to see Nessy that day. But we did try some delicious Ardbeg single cask scotch and discovered that while no whiskey is smokey enough for Isaac, no whiskey is not whiskey enough for Sarah. The next day we stopped by Pitlochry, one of my favorite towns in all of Scotland on our way back to St Andrews. There we discovered that sometimes fudge donuts disappointingly don’t have fudge in them at all.

The Obsts spent the rest of the week with us in St Andrews because, alas, despite what it may seem on social media, we do have school. It was awesome to have them in St Andrews with us. Showing our friends and family around the ancient town and school we have had the privilege to call home this year is always a great pleasure, and allows to see it through fresh eyes and to appreciate it all over again. They were also able to spend a day in Edinburgh and I accompanied them to Stirling while Hayley was at work. Stirling was probably the highlight of the whole week for me. Boys (and men) need heroes, and William Wallace has been one of our heroes since Isaac and I started regularly watching Braveheart together as children. It was pretty awesome to be there when Isaac got to share the history and presence of one his heroes with his son, who happens to be named after a pretty heroic individual in his own right.

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It was sad to see the Obsts leave at the end our week together. Having friends scattered all over the globe is hard, and getting the chance to spend quality time with friends you haven’t seen in a while causes one to reflect on how much of our friends’ lives we miss. The last time we saw Malachi he was just a wrinkly little thing that could barely open his eyes, and now we’re chasing him around castles. How big is he going to be the next time we see him? Personally, it seems like just yesterday I left the comfort and familiarity of the small town in which I grew up, and in the past 8 years I have formed amazing friendships as I’ve moved from school to school, job to job, city to city, state to state, and now country to country. As Hayley wrote a few weeks ago, it is amazing how quickly we’ve formed such close friendships in the short time we’ve been here. Yet, there is something so unique, so special, and so privileged to spend time with and share new experiences with someone who has known you so well for so long.

Skiing for the Conditions

When we first moved to Scotland, I was quickly enthralled with British Groupon. My excitement about the price of airline tickets in Europe finally met its match. I had a much harder time seeing through Groupon’s “this is an amazing deal and it’s going to go away soon don’t miss out” marketing on this side of the pond. I had a massive case of fear of missing out. So when a deal came up for a week skiing in the French Alps for roughly the same amount as two days in our local mountains in California, I may have gone on a slight rampage. Not that Jeff needed to be convinced, but I did pull Trevor and Rachel into our grand plan, and well flying from California was a slightly higher level of commitment. Thankfully, despite my haste, it was a pretty unforgettable trip! We loved exploring Scotland with Trevor and Rachel. Living together for two years is great preparation for roads trips. So together we finally made the long drive to the Isle of Skye, which in spite the wind and rain, lived up to its hype.

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Family on the way to Skye and the selfie stick makes its first appearance.

Skye is stunning. DCIM102GOPRO Really unbelievably stunning.

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The Fairy Pools of Skye are unreal. I am really glad we ignored the advice of the Scotland tourism representative who claimed they wouldn’t be worth it due to the weather.

We would love to go back some day for a bit more hiking.

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So many high points to conquer!

DCIM102GOPRO But even in our brief time on the island, I think we got a good taste.

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Really old whisky at Talisker distillery. I am pretty sure a single cask is valued at more than my net worth.

You could even say we took a bite out of life.

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Skye’s famous Oyster shed. Incredible crab roles. Actual Shed.

And I got to say hi to my favorite furry friends.

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Joy in cow form.

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Portree in color.

From our beautiful time in Skye we went back to St Andrews and then on to Geneva where we would rent a car and drive into the French Alps. This trip was special for many reasons. Jeff, Trevor, and Rachel grew up in the mountain town of Mt Shasta, California and were basically raised at the ski resort. My southern California-self always enjoys meeting them at the bottom of the run. On top of the fact that Trevor and Rachel now live in Ventura (more beach than snow), California has been in a serious drought for the last three years. Last year the ski park didn’t open once. From going from skiing every week (every day) to once a year, is a slight culture change. So sometimes you have to fly across half-way across the world to ski on a mountain that once hosted the Olympics because your cousin found a good Groupon deal. IMG_4804 Yet if I am being completely honest, we did manage to hit the resort on a slightly down week in snow terms.  One day Trevor hit a patch of rocks in the middle of the run, gauging his rentals and facing the wrath our the French rental shop manger, who just kept saying over and over again that Trevor wasn’t skiing for the conditions. Opps! We did manage to make the best of it. It is the Alps!

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I fell every time we got into the gondola. It really shouldn’t be that hard.

Jeff’s gopro captured some of our best footage. Well his, and Trevor and Rachel’s best footage, I mostly just looked like a goob. I had fun!

But really the video I was most excited about was this one. On a day when the snow was a little less than ideal. We got to shoot a video with a little less action, and now that the word is out we can celebrate.

Trevor and Rachel are having a baby! I am going to be an aunt! Or as Jeff insists a second-cousin once removed in law. Yes, technically Jeff and Trevor are not brothers, but they are cousin-brothers (cousins like brothers, not cousins and brothers), and I am an a only child, and Jeff’s only sister has like 8 years of medical school ahead of her, so this is basically my only legitimate shot at aunthood in the next decade. We are so very excited for this baby and loved that we got to find out in person about his or her impending arrival. The hardest part of being in Scotland is being so far from friends and family. Sometimes you get lucky and they come to you! This also worked in our favor because of the long list things pregnant women can’t eat, there was more fondu for us!

Walking (not hiking) Up a Ben (not a mountain)

Glimpsing the developing views of Glen Lyon.

Glimpsing the developing views of Glen Lyon.

Today I got to go for a hike with some friends from our homegroup. Hayley wasn’t able to come, because she had her orientation for her new intership, which she is super excited about. We drove up to Pitlochry, a really quaint town in the center of the country, known as “the Gateway to the Highlands”. It’s also where we took Phil and Maureen to tour Blair Atholl distilery when they were here. We were only planning on going for a short scenic walk, but after some misinformation from a worker at an information center we ended up making our way up the side of a heathered mountain. Once we noticed how majestic the views were becoming, we knew we couldn’t turn back till we reached the top. As we made our way up, we passed a couple of tiny lochs till we came to the foot of Ben Vrackie. From there we climbed up a trail made of stone steps, passing sheep and Brits confused by my wearing of shorts in November.

Angels in the distance.

Angels in the distance.

Ben Vrackie reminded me of Castle Lake

Ben Vrackie reminded me of Castle Lake

The view from the top was stunning. We could see Pitlochary below tucked againt the bens, Blair Castle poking up through bare cedars, and the River Tummel meandering through Glen Lyon, described by Sir Walter Scott as the “longest, loneliest and loveliest glen in Scotland” As we were returning to our car, bringing our surprising five and a half mile hike to a close, my friend Kirsty declared that today might have been her best day in Scotland yet. It’s hard to argue.

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The clouds rolled in while we scrambled to the top. They didn't ruin the view though.

The clouds rolled in while we scrambled to the top. They didn’t ruin the view though.

You might even say the clouds ehanced the view.

You might even say the clouds ehanced the view.

It was a little windy at the top.

– Jeff

Nothing is the Same

I can’t even think of words to match the way I’m feeling

I don’t even think a book could say enough for you

I can only try my best, to put it in a song I guess

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I’ve been waiting to contribute to the blog until it either felt super important or until we actually got to Scotland. I’m glad that Hayley has been writing though, because moving is hard and learning how to relocate to another country is full of unexpected surprises. It’s been fun to share all of that with others.  Yet, by far the hardest, or maybe just the worst, part of moving has not been dealing with the Department of Education, waiting on Visas, losing Passports the night before we leave Ventura, deciding what to get rid of and what to keep, or moving furniture or selling vehicles at the last possible second. The hardest and worst part has been leaving our family church, friends and students, especially our students. I hurts so deep, I don’t really know how to explain it. As we left our last coffee with our students last Tuesday we listened to this song by the late Tony Sly. It seemed especially apropos.

 If I could freeze our small amount of time together

Then we could make believe this world would never end

Unfortunately truth is cold

So you stay young while I get old

But always know, I’m your best friend

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I moved to the Southern California in the Fall of 2007, passing Ventura, a town that didn’t mean anything to me at the time, as I cruised down the 101 on my way to La Mirada to attend graduate school at Biola University. After about a week, I applied for an internship in Student Ministries at St Peter’s by the Sea in Rancho Palos Verdes. During my interview, one of the committee members (Rob Farmer who became a great friend) asked me a very simple question, “Why do you want to be a youth intern? Do you want to be a youth pastor someday” It’s one of the only things I remember from that interview, besides the shock of finding out the a youth pastor named Chuck Hunt wasn’t a short nerdy white guy as I had assumed. My answer to Rob’s question was, “I’m not sure what I will ending up doing vocationally. It’s a question I have wrestled with, and will probably continue to wrestle with. I feel pulled in a lot of different directions. What I do know is,  I love youth, and I have a deep desire to see them know Christ and have hope in their lives. I don’t know if I want to be a youth pastor, but I know I will always be involved in youth ministry in some form or another.” A lot has transpired in the intervening seven years, but in many ways I’m finding myself in a similar place.

Nothing is the same

Everything is a better change

Sometimes I see silence in your eyes

Let it all crash down

When it ends it begins with you

I’m gonna learn every time you do

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I have had the absolute pleasure of spending four of those intervening years living in Ventura and working at Orchard Community Church. In many ways those four years seem like a dream, and I know that I will always remember that time with only idyllic images. I can’t believe I got to surf C Street whenever I wanted (although I usually preferred to go just north of Emma Wood where there is less of a crowd). I know I will always remember the sunsets and cool oceans breezes as I rode my motorcycle down Foothill on my way home from the church in the evenings, or the smell of the freshly cut grass as I officiated football games on Friday nights. I’ll miss Snapper Jacks, and UYogurt, and seeing matinees on Fridays at Paseo Regency in Camarillo, and the giant farm house we shared with Trevor and Rachel. Of course, as I said before, mostly I will miss my students and the time I had with them. It’s hard to imagine a time that I didn’t know them, or hadn’t shared so much of my life with them and their lives with me. I have so many special memories, of youth groups, Sunday schools, camps, retreats, coffees, overnighters, beach days, mission trips, sporting events, plays, dinners, late night phone calls, late night texts, hospital visits, tearful conversations in my office or over coffee, snapchat conversations, inside jokes, hopes lost, and dreams comes true. It honestly still hasn’t sunk in that I am not going to be there, with them, anymore.

And I’m as scared as anybody who has done this

I wouldn’t give it up for nothing Fi

You took my life, turned it around

And put my feet back on the ground

I owe you, eternally

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Hayley and I are moving to Scotland, and away from so much that we love and such a nice comfortable life, so that we can attend St. Andrews University. She will be working on an M.Litt in Middle Eastern Security Studies (“So she’ll be the one who can actually find a job” The uplifting words wisdom I received from an ex-pastors ex-wife this weekend.) I will be working on an M.Litt in Systematic and Historical Theology. At the same time I have just recently applied for ordination in ECO, a Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. I still don’t know what I will end up doing vocationally. It’s still a question I wrestle with, but I do know I love youth, and I have a deep desire to see them know Christ and have hope in their lives. I don’t know if I will to be a pastor someday or a professor, or both. I do know that I will continue to serve in the best ways I can, and that Hayley and I are both open to whatever God has in store for us, wherever that may be, although I really hope that happens to be on the west coast, and not in a hot sandy desert somewhere. We have given up a lot to to this. I even sold my beloved Toaster today. We’re not going to waste this amazing opportunity.

I’m always

I’m always

I’m always here

 

I’m always

I’m always

I’m always here

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This is all to say that yes, leaving is hard. Duh. I haven’t cried as hard as I’ve cried this last week in a very long time. It feels like part of me died. Still, I am somewhat looking forward, and even a little excited, to see how the relationships we’ve formed with our friends in Ventura transform, and how we can be friends from a far. One my closest mentor type friends, Pastor Gary, has always been there for me, even after I moved away from Mount Shasta. I know from experience that youth leaders can still help in time of crisis, or perceived crisis, even when they don’t live in the same town, or time zone. In fact, I was reminded of the endurance of authentic relationships at my good friend Josh’s wedding this past weekend. Hayley and I had an amazing, and well needed, time of catching up with old friends, some we hadn’t seen in years, as well as connecting with new friends, and friends of friends.

So, after years of scheming and months of planning, we are getting on a plane tomorrow to finally begin a dream of an adventure, leaving behind memories, comforts, warm weather, good Mexican food, family and deep friendships. Yet, we know that the relationships we’ve forged will remain, and evolve, as we hopefully do the same.