Thursday, August 31, 2006


for most of this month, a team of wonderful team of church volunteers has been picking up international students at the airport, being the welcoming face of montreal to dozens of concordia and mcgill students who are in canada for the first time. because the unpredictable time of processing at immigration, students often took an hour or two to emerge, yet they still found a smiling, hospitable volunteer waiting to ferry them to their dorm or other arranged housing. more than once, students were delivered to the designated address, only to discover that no one was home or there was no way to get into their apartment, and the volunteers would wait with them or take them home for dinner. they have gone further than the proverbial extra mile to demonstrate the love of God to the newcomer in our midst.

Jesus said that the greatest among us would be those who serve — and by that measure, this group of servants has been great indeed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

playing in the ivy league

with b applying to university this fall, we thought it would be worthwhile to take a short trip down the east coast to take a look at some of the schools she is considering. so we packed up the van (and cousin t!) and we got to sit in on the academic information sessions and take the campus tours at harvard, brown, yale, and princeton. some impressions:
  • the sense of history and the beauty of the architecture (especially at yale) were notable at these institutions; there's simply nothing comparable in california.
  • while exceedingly expensive — on the order of $45,000 USD per year — these schools have a remarkable commitment to financial aid. at least they say they do (maybe we'll get to test that!).
  • the communities surrounding the schools were very different. cambridge was people-dense and in our experience, somewhat rude. providence (at least the part we were in) was beautiful, but had a homey feel about it. new haven was urban and gritty. princeton was suburban and off the beaten track.
  • we met students at each of the four schools, and while we realize it was quite a small sampling, it made a big impression. without naming names (of universities or individuals!), it was clear that some of these folks were very bright, but not terribly well-socialized. others seemed to be classic 'legacy' admissions; we had one student tour guide who talked and talked but just didn't make a lot of sense! finally, we met a few folks who were very impressive — obviously smart but also very good with people.
  • as expected, all of these institutions are extremely selective, with admission rates of 8-10%. nothing like aiming high!
as a result of the trip, one of the four schools became a major favourite (i won't ruin the surprise by telling which — if you want to get the details, e-mail b!), and two schools suffered a bit, though i think b knows better than to base her whole opinion on one brief visit. her research continues, as do her preparations for the standardized tests and for turning in her applications.

she also expects to apply to some schools in california, though the list changes from time to time. as i recall, cal poly - san luis obispo, ucla, uc berkeley, and stanford were in the running.

n got to take a look around as well, and while it was probably a bit early for her (some of those academic information sessions got a little, well, boring for her), i think she and cousin t still had a good time on the trip. getting to watch some movies and eating brushetta chicken pasta and the occasional plate of chili fries helped to make the experience more palatable!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

visiting california

some of you are already aware that we spent a couple of weeks in california in the second half of july. it was a fun time, seeing family and friends and favourite restaurants and places, but for our girls, it wasn't nearly long enough. i find that the trip is a mixed experience for them. on the one hand, it's a major joy to be 'home,' in a place that feels welcoming and familiar; on the other, it's a two-week reminder of all that they struggle with here in montreal: the weather (major humidity and thunderstorms during the summer), the animosity towards americans, even the absence of certain foods (notably, good mexican food and favourites like chili cheese fries). they talk to old friends about their school experiences in berkeley, knowing that if things had fallen differently, that might have been their own school experience. processing those feelings is still a significant part of our walk with Jesus here in montreal.

we flew from montreal to los angeles, and after visiting with friends and family for a day, took our rental car (a jeep cherokee) up to northern california. the experience of driving an suv for a couple of weeks made me wonder why anyone would want to own one; it wasn't that big inside, and the gas mileage (with gas hovering around $3.50usd/gallon) was just awful. it did, however, get us to where we wanted to go — from los angeles to san jose, in 40C/100F+ heat all the way! surprisingly, we found the heat quite comfortable compared to montreal, as it was very dry.

once we got to san jose, we settled in at a guest home (provided by generous church friends, who make it available to visiting missionaries) and embarked on our busy schedule of visiting family and friends. to be honest, we were over-scheduled by about 50%. we're finally realizing that we need to host large get-togethers in 3-4 venues when we visit, and have people come to us; otherwise, we spend the entire vacation driving from friend to friend, and still only see a small slice of the folks we want to see. of course, we didn't come to that realization until just before we left, so while we had multiple meeting locations (one in san jose, one in berkeley, one in santa rosa), the planning and invitations were later than we wanted. even so, we still enjoyed visiting with friends in all three locations, and had the chance to hang out with b's family on several occasions as well. one other memorable day was a visit to stanford university where b may apply this fall.

the southern california portion of the trip was a bit more sane in terms of pace. we got in some restful days at the beach (the photo above is from zuma beach, just north of malibu), visited with m's family (including grandma p, who is a perennial favourite) and a few friends. at the end of the week, we drove up to santa maria for the wedding of a, a former student from the ssu intervarsity group. she's a terrific, beautiful woman and probably had other opportunities to get married, but waited until she felt the confirmation from God that this was the right one and the right time, which i really respect. it was a joy to be able to celebrate with her and her groom, as well as to connect with so many former ssu and srjc students (see group photo), and to see them married, having children, and starting the process of passing on their faith to the next generation. God has been so faithful for so long to so many!