The news from Paris

This week, I’m in Paris.

As my mother pointed out, news seems to follow me, which I suppose is a good thing for my career. Besides all of the drama that unfolded during my semester in Rome (for a while there was no pope, president, prime minister or police chief!), the day that I got to England in 2013 Margaret Thatcher died, and my first year in NYC brought two hurricanes and the Occupy Wall Street movement. For the last few days, of course, all eyes have been on Paris.

je suis charlie

First, my experience. I am filtering everything through the cultural barrier (Parisians are much quieter than Americans–are they handling this uproar remarkably well, or merely showing their angst silently?) and the lack of an international data plan, meaning I can’t be glued to Twitter as I normally would.

On the day of the shooting, I was around Notre Dame with friends and didn’t even know what had happened until I returned to campus about an hour after the attack unfolded. The majority of the rest of the drama has been outside the city proper, and our campus is not particularly near the Charlie Hebdo office, so there hasn’t been a visible reaction except the extraordinarily high police presence. Bags are being searched on subways and at major attractions. Our road was closed briefly last night due to a suspicious package, which came to nothing.

St. John’s is located in the Vincentian headquarters in Paris (cool huh?) and has multiple gates, a courtyard and a 24/7 security guard in addition to all of the special measures they’ve taken because of the increased risk, so I am quite safe.

In a more general sense, this attack is horrific and I’m very impressed at the worldwide response–condemning terror, of course, but also speaking out in defense of freedom of speech and human dignity. #JeSuisCharlie was trending, and then the NYT had a very thoughtful piece (among many on the issue in general) about NOT being Charlie, and it’s all been very interesting to watch. 

I have a lot of thoughts floating around, on the freedom of the press in particular. Perhaps they’ll gel into something eventually. 

In the meantime, I wrote this post/little essay after the Newtown school shooting a few years ago, which coincidentally I watched unfold with a roommate who is also my roommate in Paris. (We’ve been talking about current events quite a bit.) I think it’s relevant anytime a major media event occurs, and I always try to remember this:

The “media” is not one gigantic, evil conglomerate scheming to brainwash the public, most especially at the site of a breaking tragedy. They are people like you and me, with partners and children and mortgages and crappy cars, people who drink cups upon cups of coffee to keep themselves going, people who work on tight deadlines and low incomes for the benefit of everyone.

nous sommes tous charlie

A city billboard near the former Bastille prison displays the We Are Charlie slogan, while a French flag flies at half-mast in the background.

I would love to hear any thoughts on the recent events in Paris. 



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Giving Tuesday

As you may remember from last year, my family has recently started the tradition of spending the money we would have used for gifts on a donation to charity instead. We still fill stockings so each person has plenty of little presents to open (stockings are the fun part anyway, am I right?) and it’s so much fun to see who donated to what in your honor when we exchange gifts on Christmas Eve.

Coincidentally, the United Methodist Church has a little program (along with other denominations and groups) called Giving Tuesday (#givingtuesday) that takes place TODAY! Any donations made to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) today will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $1 million! Another super cool fact about UMCOR is that the overhead for the projects is paid for through the network of United Methodist churches, so that any donations go directly to the work itself, not to salaries or other expenses.

I’ll be taking this opportunity to grab my Christmas “gifts,” and if you feel like donating a little something this holiday season, today would be a great day to participate.

Donate to UMC programs here!

When Methodists_470 x 246-rev

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100 Hours of Poverty: Recap

fried eggs breakfast

A simple/cheap/healthy breakfast (photo via Pixabay)

One of the things I love about St. John’s, which I’ve probably mentioned a dozen times already, is its Vincentian traditions. I have learned a lot about social justice during my time here.

One program Campus Ministry hosts that I always thought was interesting is called “100 Hours of Poverty.” Each participant commits to living for 100 hours on $18.49, which is less than $0.19 an hour, or $4.44 per day. This is the budget of an individual currently receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. This year, I was the first to sign up to participate in what I thought would be an interesting challenge.

Here are five lessons that I learned:

1. It wasn’t convenient.

It was actually a terrible week to try this. I was overcommitted, I was away for the weekend and didn’t have time to pre-cook meals, and on and on. But experiencing real poverty is never convenient either, and so I stuck it out.

2. It was more difficult than I anticipated.

My family tends to live very, very frugally–no haircuts, no pedicures, etc.–and I know how to cook very cheaply, so I was surprised at how difficult the challenge turned out to be. I was restricted by circumstances, and so are the majority of those who are using these benefits.

3. I failed on Thursday, and I was lucky.

One of the things with 3 or 4 a.m. production nights is that on Wednesday, I generally do fine. I have a long morning class and then a long block of work in the afternoon. But on Thursdays, when I have a 7:30 class and a fuller day, I tend to crash. During the week of the challenge, I crashed and burned in a major way on Thursday. I ended up in such a funk and so after class I grabbed a bagel (about $1.50, which wasn’t enough to put me overbudget by itself but combined with my other food it did), worked my last shift and then headed home to crash instead of going to my evening meetings. I think I ended up spending $6 or $7 on food that day.

I am fortunate: I have that extra $3 to spend if I need it. Going over my budget had no real consequences. If I was really experiencing poverty, that $3 might have meant no bus fare, or no heat, or no food the next day, or any number of other negative consequences. 

4. Resources matter.

Being on a food-stamp budget if you know how to cook, are used to living frugally, have access to plenty of ingredients and a real kitchen and have time to cook from scratch is entirely different from living on this budget if you are out of the house 12 hours a day, or if you don’t know how to cook much, or if you don’t have a kitchen.

One of the things that struck me while working with the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers for a week last year was that many of the people they serve tend to purchased fast food or processed food, not because they want to, but because they have no other option–for example, if they live in a shelter where if anything there is a microwave and maybe, maybe, a fridge. Or, they can’t get to the store to buy food regularly and have to purchase things that won’t spoil, like in my hometown where it’s unusual to live within walking distance of a store and there is no public transportation.  

5. I can do better. 

I know I can do better at eating well on a budget, and this challenge made that starkly apparent. I’ve tried to improve in many small ways over the last few weeks. 

For example, I’m boiling eggs ahead of time so that I can just grab one in the morning. I bought a loaf of bread and have toast as a nice quick snack instead of coming home starving and eating Nutella out of the jar (TMI?). I’ve been more conscientious about cooking ahead and freezing meals to bring to school during the week. I’ve been adding canned veggies or tuna to pasta and rice dishes to stretch them and make sure I get protein and green things. I make a pot of coffee in the morning nearly every day so I don’t buy it at school. If I need coffee during the school day, I get a plain black coffee for less than half the price of my preferred cappuccino, and I save the cup to get a cheap or free refill. 

All in all? 100 hours of poverty didn’t change my life in any big way. However, I’m glad I went through with it, and it’s been a great catalyst to remind me to pray for the poor (and volunteer when I can) and be more mindful of how I use my own resources. 


Bonus: This cookbook is fantastic! Eating well on $4 a day. 

Shoutout to Mama C., who is spending Tuesday assembling/distributing food baskets for Thanksgiving. Go MUMC!

The song on my mind while I was writing this.

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(Bi-) Weekly Wishes #4

It is, once again, Monday.

The Nectar Collective

Let’s take a look back at what I wanted to get accomplished two weeks ago.

1. Keeping up on school.  Done! I only dropped the ball on one assignment (it was due at 11:59 am, not pm as I thought) and it shouldn’t hurt my grades too badly. 

2. Posting on here, especially about my trip to Rome (O.M.G.).  The THREEEE previous posts have been about Rome. Scroll down and read all about it. 

3. Clean my room, which is very cluttered, and the bathroom, which sadly is my chore this week. Room tidy, chores done.

4. Create my senior year New York City bucket list. I didn’t do this. I still want to. 

5. Clear out my email inbox and reply to everyone that I’m supposed to reply to. Pretty much done. Inbox zero, anyone else? 

Roughly 4/5, not bad!

Outside a church in Rome.

Outside a church in Rome.

This week I want to:

  • Make that bucket list.
  • Mail a few letters I’ve been meaning to get sent.
  • Visit the library.
  • Spend a few minutes planning what I’m going to eat this week so that I don’t have to think about it if I’m in a rush.


Can we also take a second and ruminate on how you would think that looking at other peoples’ to-do lists was dead boring, but in fact it is not only fun but immensely popular? Click on the Weekly Wishes image at the top of this post to read hundreds of other peoples’ wishes. 

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Weekly Wishes #3

Oh my lord. What a few months!

I am not even looking back, because I just have so much to process and today, for the first time in a while, I am not overwhelmed with a whole load of stuff to do/organize/think about.


The Nectar Collective

So, without further ado, here’s what I’m working on this week:

1. Keeping up on school. It’s been crazy catching up, I have my first exam and a few big essays coming up, and the Boyfriend will be here this weekend so I need to be proactive.

2. Posting on here, especially about my trip to Rome (O.M.G.).

3. Clean my room, which is very cluttered, and the bathroom, which sadly is my chore this week.

4. Create my senior year New York City bucket list.

5. Clear out my email inbox and reply to everyone that I’m supposed to reply to.

Stay tuned, my three loyal followers.

(PS: here’s a bonus pope pic!)


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