Actor, Writer, Jedi, Singer,

Actor, Writer, Jedi, Singer,
You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

ELCA Youth Gathering: New Orleans

             Sorry for being gone so long. The reason is because, two weeks ago, I went to the ELCA(Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) Youth Gathering in New Orleans!(I also got my computer taken away so that's why I've been gone for two weeks instead of one).
The trip was definitely a lot more fun than I was expecting(usually Church Youth are kind of childish) and I wish I could go on the next one. New Orleans was such a pretty place with amazing food! XD.
Some of these pictures were taken with my phone so they might not be the best(though some of the pics surprised me by actually looking good and clear). Oh, and this might be a long post. Word of warning ;)
Solace, if you want to know, the three girls with black hair are three of the four girls I know who are half-Thai :)

                           We left on Tuesday at around eight P.M on a bus. I sat next to one of my friends on the way up. I talked to her a bit and since one of the boys had brought some movies, we popped one in(it was Forrest Gump). I couldn't really hear it all that well and the small screen was far away for I only watched parts of it. After a little while, I started listening to music and the book "Bloody Jack" on my Mp3 Player. I stayed awake for a long time(since I didn't want to sleep on a bus; I don't like sleeping in front of people) but I finally decided to sleep. I took my pillow and curled up on my chair, my leg pressing against the seat's arm chair(which kind of hurt) and I slept on and off for awhile(sometimes I'd wake up and listen to my story before going back to sleep.

             I had some Chebe cinnamon roles for a breakfast but when we stopped at a McDonald's, I got a biscuit and sausage which made me feel loads better(I'd had mostly sugary stuff on the trip thus far, so I felt a lot better). We kept driving and I listened to "Bloody Jack" and read some of "Rebel Angels". As the day went on, the kids started to get loud and since I was tired and feeling crowded, I started feeling a little cranky.  Soon we got closer to New Orleans and from there on out, the drive seemed to drag on and on.

                         When we saw this, the kids in my church and I were saying "We want to go there!!!"

             The landscape of Louisiana was quite pretty. I hadn't been to this state since I was six so it was cool to see it again. :)

                           Some pipes we saw on our way into New Orleans

                                The Superdome where we went every night to watch speakers, listen to music, and just gather as Lutherans :).

                   New Orleans is a really pretty and hodgepodge looking city(different part looks so different from each other). We rode our tall bus through the narrow streets until we reached the hotel where we would be staying.

                                  Our Hotel was called "International House" and was quite fancy looking. Some of the kids didn't like it but the only problem I had with it was that in our room we had no hair blow drier.  When we got there, we found out that the room my sister and I would be sharing was still being cleaned. So my sister and I lugged our belongings into the hotel and took them to the room the two woman adult leaders were and stayed in that room while the three grown ups went to go get signed in. My sister and I waited around for around two hours in that room, completely bored. I texted my mom and my sister took a shower and watched Spongebob(you can tell we were bored if we watched that show :p). Finally we got our room and took our stuff in there.

                                    (view from our window)


When we finally left the hotel, it was already way past lunch time so we all headed out to get a quick dinner. There was an outside Food Court by the superdome and went and got some food. It was ridiculously expensive! It cost eight dollars for the small pizza I got to share with my sister and four dollars each for the small water bottles we got. We decided we wouldn't go there again.


                 We had such a huge crowd. Some people may not believe it, but there are LOTS of Lutherans! :D Before the service thing started, they were playing some songs and one of them was "Dynamite"(a favorite of mine) and while it was playing some kids began waving plastic LIGHTSABERS in time to the song!! I was so excited when I saw that ;D.
For some reason, this night seemed to drag on and on; it might have been the large amount of music that was played(it wasn't my style since I'm not much into contemporary religious music and I prefer secular music in general). However, we had some really good speakers that night. My favorite were Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber and Reverend Yehiel Curry.

                        Nadia, also called "The Sarcastic Lutheran", was probably one of my favorite speakers over all. I loved how open and honest she was and how I agreed with her on a lot of topics. I think her story was really cool and I loved how she pulled herself out of the rut she'd been living in(her husband sounds really awesome- he minored in Womens' rights; so COOL!). I like how she's a Pastor for a Lutheran Church that is for people that might feel out of place in other churches. She's definitely a cool person! (she even got three standing ovations during her speech; after that, they would shine the light on the crowd to make them stand up. :p).
                       Reverend Yehiel Curry's speech was also really cool. I loved how he said that everyone is welcome "in our pot of gumbo" - white, black, brown, Asian, female, male, gay, straight, lesbian, bi, transgender, religious or not, unsure or confident, you are all welcome. I loved that! :D

        After the service was over, we had to wait for a bit since a storm had arrived. We decided to get out of our seats and make a break for it. When we left, it was barely misting so I thought I didn't need to put my rain poncho on. Well, the rain kept growing and growing until we were submerged into a downpour. We ran through the rain-splattered streets, droplets drenching us as we ran. It was so much fun! When we got back to the hotel, we were soaked.
                                                 So I ended up looking like this XD. We had a quick "Final Fifteen" thing(which is where our group gets together and has a Religious study of sorts. I took a shower then quickly fell asleep after such an exhausting day, knowing we'd have to wake up early the next morning.

                 I had my Dad call me on my cell phone to wake me up in the morning. My sister and I quickly got ready and headed to the room where the two adult woman leaders were staying to have breakfast. Once all the other kids were awake and had ate, we headed out to the Convention Center. We had to do a church service of sorts and since I was so tired, I was feeling a bit irritable(plus the music was so loud, it was near ear-damaging). After that, we went to the bottom floor where we could turn the money our church had raised for the "Hundred Wells Challenge."

                                          Our Church was actually one of the highest contributors, which is quite surprising since our congregation is pretty small compared to a lot of the churches there.

                                          Once we handed over our donations, they gave us foam blocks to build a well with and a little flag that had the name of our church and synod on it. :)

                                         We stayed at the Convention Center for the rest of the morning(we left at around noon-oneish) and looked at the different things set up. One girl got her hair cut, I did a short interview with some people, we did some art, and some people gave blood.

                                       My sister, a friend, and I went and looked at this exhibit that talked about real walls in the world that separate people(breaking down dividing walls was one of the themes of the gathering).  My favorite part of the exhibit were these renditions of sections of the Berlin Wall that once separated East and West Germany.
I liked the place but after awhile I got a little tired(and hungry) and so I was happy when we left.

                                      (you can't really see me in this picture, sadly :(  )
                                   We all wanted to get Gumbo so the adults looked up places that served this food and we decided that we would try "The Gumbo Pot". If you ever go to New Orleans GO TO THIS PLACE!!! The food is amazing!! If you don't, I'll fly down to New Orleans in my Jedi Starfighter and DRAG you by the hair there ;) >:) (JK, though still, check it out). Before and after lunch(we had to wait to be seated), my sister and I went and bought some souvenirs. Since we couldn't decide what to get, my sister, a friend of ours, and I decided we'd each order something different on the menu and each try each other's stuff. I got Gumbo Ya-Ya, my sister got spaghetti with Parmesan chicken, and our friend got pasta Jambalaya.

                                    The Gumbo I got was SO GOOD!! :D I really loved it; they make the best Gumbo there. Besides the sauce, it also has rice, sausage, pork, chicken, and shrimp. :D

                                My sister got the above and I tried the Parmesan chicken and let me tell you- BEST Parmesan chicken in the WORLD! :D
The pasta Jambalaya was good as well, but I liked the before mentioned foods better.

          After lunch, since we had some time, we decided to find Cafe du Monde where you can get beignets(we didn't get them that day) and look around at the sights of New Orleans.

                                            The Mayflies were crazy in New Orleans and when I saw all the mayflies covering this lamppost my immediate thought was MAY POLE!!! :D :D

                               Cafe du Monde which serves beignets twenty four hours a day :)

                                         Believe it or not, that is actually a person. People spray paint themselves and stand completely still as if they were a statue. It was pretty cool to see. :)

                                 The beautiful St. Louis Cathedral on the French Quarter of  New Orleans. It is such a beautiful building; it looks like a castle. :)

                                         Statue of Andrew Jackson before he became President

                                                                Street performer

                                         Yes, we went down the infamous Bourbon Street. While walking around, some of the kids wanted to head back to the hotel so my sister, part of our group, and I continued looking around. We eventually found ourselves passing through Bourbon street and even though it was late afternoon, there was quite a lot stuff out in the open. There were some pretty weird stuff down in that area. As we were making our way down the sidewalk, I looked across the street at a shop and saw a huge porn image inside(TOTALLY VILE) and quickly told my younger sister to not look; though I shouldn't have been surprised since the place had a pretty obvious title... We also saw several scantily clad woman-strippers walking around(they hardly wore anything; one lady had one a bikini like thing with something akin to fish-netting over it) and stripper clubs with nearly-naked images of woman(we went down it again a couple of days later but I'll get to that later).

                                     They had a lot of Voo Doo stuff in New Orleans. I thought this title was pretty funny since it reminded me of Wal Mart.

                                                  Column(Corinthian capital) near our hotel.


                                            We sat in the middle section of the Dome's seating again and watched more songs and speakers. One of my favorite speakers spoke that night and his name is Shane Claiborne(he is the author of the book The Irresistible Revolution and Jesus for President). I loved how he talked about his life and how he has lived the Christian way by helping and living with the poor. My favorite story I told was about how he helped some poor people in Pennsylvania. Where they were living, they have this stupid law which makes feeding or helping the poor and sleeping in parks illegal. So, they sneakily gave people food by holding Communion(they ended up getting pizza for everyone). Eventually they got taken to court and the Judge ruled in their favor!! :D Go Shane! :D. We also had some missionary speakers who talked about what they've learned and how they've grown in their faith by helping others. I didn't think we'd get dinner that day, but after the service we decided to find a place to eat. We walked around for awhile looking for a Subway but they were closed so as we were passing a Chinese place, my sister, a friend of ours, and I said we wanted to go inside. Most of the kids, however, wanted to go to McDonald's so one of the adult leaders took the three of us to the Chinese place and oh man, was the food GOOD! I got General Tso's Chicken(a large helping) which was amazing. The three of us talked about Anime the entire time which was awesome. :)   We had some Asian boys sitting behind us who were smiling and nodding when I was listing off my favorite Studio Ghibli films to our friend which I thought was really cool. After that, we headed back to the hotel and after final fifteen we went to sleep.

                                              Since we didn't have to go anywhere that morning, the majority of our group wanted to sleep in. However, my sister and I aren't really big on the whole 'sleeping in' thing, so we ended up waking earlier than most of the kids(which the adults had foreseen) so our friend's Dad(who was also one of the adult leaders) took us out walking around the city. It was really neat and we got to look at such places as the French Quarter at a more leisurely pace and got to enjoy the streets of New Orleans as pretty much empty. It was really nice and the weather was temperate so we weren't hot. While we were out we bought souvenirs for our Mom, Dad, and little brother.

                                                           My sister and I in front of the Louisiana Supreme Court. The statue is of one of the people that once worked there. While we were taking this picture, an older couple from New York asked us about what we were doing there and what the orange shirts meant. They were really nice and I enjoyed talking to them . :)

                                                         Cool store sign :) I love the name

                                                     My writer buddy!!!! I was quite excited when I saw this sign since I consider the author William Faulkner to be writer buddy since someone compared my writing to his(and I have read some of his work; I'm currently reading The Sound and The Fury). I wish I could have went into the store.

                                          My sister and I in front of the Andrew Jackson statue



                                   When we got back to the hotel we had breakfast and got ready to head out for our work project. Then, divulges began to pour from the sky and a thunder storm was upon us. We had to wait around in the hotel lobby for a long time until the rain let up. However, my sister and I enjoyed standing outside under the cover of the hotel roof and watch the rain pour down and hear the huge explosions of thunder.

                            They have huge umbrellas in New Orleans, such as the one carried by the man

                                The rain finally let up and we were able to leave the hotel. It had rained so much that the streets were flooded and several times I skirted puddles. Eventually I gave up and everyone slogged through the random knee-deep stretches of water. My socks and tennis shoes were soaking wet as were the hem of my shorts; luckily, I had on a poncho, so the rest of me stayed fairly dry. Though, my shoes were wet for the rest of the day. We got to the Dome and stayed in one of the rooms for a bit. One annoying fact I realized was that there were rules that you couldn't wear short shorts on the work day(I never wear these so it wasn't an issue) but almost none of the girls followed the rule, though most of the girls in my church.
            After waiting a bit in the pictured room for a bit, we were brought lunch, which consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich from Subway, an piece of fruit, a small bag of chips, and a cookie. After lunch some annoying young adults stood up and asked the group of gathered kids if they wanted to do a call and response singing thing. However when the group gathered all pretty much said "no" the people were all like "Okay, we're going to do it"; I found this pretty infuriating since why ask the question at all? And this wasn't the end of these people being butts. After a bit one of the young adults began to whine and be all, well, not going to say that on here and say that we weren't 'respecting' her and yadda yadda yadda(which I found stupid since she was the one not being respectful). Then to top it off, later on, one of them said "No we're going to sing the song that was everyone's favorite song as a child" which is the song "Jesus Loves Me"; when I heard that I said to my group "But I hate that song!"(my reasoning for disliking the song is because of the line "we are weak" since I have a phobia of weakness). And they sang it in a rock way which sounded awful. Then they did a weird dance thing; so you can be sure I was glad when we finally left the room. We waited in another room for awhile with our bus number and listened to music from a band that was being played until finally we found out what our work project.

                                      Because of the rain and the standing water, our original work project(picking up trash) was cancelled so instead we headed over to the Convention Center to make seed bombs, bags of soap, and traced images. My sister did the tracing and I did the other two. The room was huge so it was fun to run around in(I ran from where we were to the bathroom once and it was awesome!)
After we finished, we started picking up and one of the woman started being sexist by telling the boys to pick up the tables and the girls to pick up the chairs. So, I grabbed one of my friends and we carried a table to the side of the room- HA! >:)

                                 We headed to this indoor food court after leaving and I got sushi and pot-stickers for dinner. I've had sushi before and it was even better this time and of course, the pot-stickers were wonderful.

                       Since we got to the Dome a bit late, we ended up having to sit in the balcony, which wasn't much of a problem to me. My friends' Dad had went to the store and bought snacks and had gotten some sugar free wafer cookies which were so good.
                 We had some good speakers on this night as well, my favorite being Jaimy Nabozney and Leymah Gbowee. Jaimy was bullied as a child and as a teen because he was gay; one such beating landed him in the hospital and since the adults had failed to act, he sued his school for not being able to protect him. And he WON. I really enjoyed listening to his story and his message on bullying; such as how bullying can be unintentional like saying that something is "So gay"(I never say things like that since I think it's rude and insulting to homosexuals) or an adult saying that "That's just how life works". When we talked about his speech at our final fifteen the adults mentioned that they didn't think that the majority of the kids were really picking up on the message. That was true, of course, but to be honest, I don't think the adults learned anything either; I had asked one of the adult leaders that I didn't like it when people said a certain thing and she told me that I would just have to deal with it since it was going to happen*facepalm* I guess it takes repetition to teach anybody anything.
               The other speaker I enjoyed listening to was Leymah Gbowee who won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending(with the help of a group of woman) the war in her home country of Liberia which I find very impressing. I really enjoyed her speech but I wish she'd spoke more about how she ended the war, that was something I'd really wanted to find out. And for those who don't know, she was one of the people that carried the Olympic flag during the opening ceremony in London! :D.

                              At the end of the service they sang the song "Hallelujah". It was pretty and I really loved what they did with the balloons and streamers but they sang it completely wrong. It wouldn't have bothered me but the song(my favorite version is sung by Rufus Wainwright) is a favorite of mine so it kind of got on my nerves a little bit.

After the service was over, we walked back to the hotel. On the way there, we saw a wedding reception happening in a building so we waved at the people inside and they waved back(the Bride looked really excited when we were doing that). :)

                         The next morning, after breakfast, we went to the Marriott hotel where we met up with our Synod. Our Synod Bishop gave a church service in this room, which included singing hymms, several readings, a sermon, and communion. After the service, we separated into groups based on these plastic wrist bands we'd been given. I didn't think I'd like it at first but I was really lucky and had a really nice group. A young adult lead our group in a Bible talk which was really interesting. We talked about different Bible verses, did charades, and talked about helping others and dividing walls. At one point, they showed everyone this video which I found fascinating. Now I understand why the disciples just got up and followed Jesus. Back in the day, a child grew up studying and memorizing the Torah and by the time they were thirteen, if they were the best they moved onto studying the Talmud and other works. Then, by the time these kids were sixteen/seventeen they went to the Rabbi to speak and discuss with them and to show what they new and if they were the best of the best, they would be excepted to learn under the Rabbi (he would say "Follow Me"). So, these young men, when Jesus said to "Follow Me" it was a great honor and they of course would immediately drop whatever they were doing(they had probably already went to their Rabbi and had been turned down). Which brings up another great point; the disciples weren't old or middle aged men like the drawings and the books show- they were most likely teens or young adults which I think it amazing. :)
                      Another thing I liked about my group was when we stood up to do a closing prayer, the lady standing to my left immediately realized I didn't like holding hands and instead of asking me why, she put her hand on my upper arm instead which I really appreciated; not very many people understand and will make a big deal about it. I thanked her afterwards and she understood since had some friends who had OCD just like me :)

                               After we left the Marriott we went walking around New Orleans some more and stopped at a place in the French Quarter for some lunch(I got this Gumbo combination thing) and I got to try fried Alligator meat.

                         We got to the Dome early since we wanted to get seats on the floor. The line to get inside was HORRIBLE. Everyone was squished together which isn't so great for me since I have a near-phobia of touching other people(stupid OCD *punches OCD Hulk style >:)*) One of the adult leaders was sticking with me since my group seemed to think I was going to have a panic attack or something, which I wasn't; my OCD doesn't cause outward panic attacks, it makes me rant and snap at people.
              The speakers on this night weren't the best, though there was this one that almost everyone else liked. The reason I didn't like her speech was that the fact that she was in an abusive relationship and she didn't leave. I KNOW that it's complicated and such but at the same time, it's simple- either you leave or you don't. I have a problem about this since I can't really wrap my mind around why someone would stay with someone that beat them up so that hampered my ability to take something away from her speech. However, we got to see the band Switchfoot perform which was awesome! :D I've never listened to their music before but it was quite cool. :) When the lead singer came to a side stage near where we were sitting I rushed to the stage. :)

After rushing the stage, I danced to the music with some other girls which was really fun :). It was so cool since I've never been that close to a band while they were playing before(at least, not a famous one)

                                Jesus decided to come over and say hello to our group in New Orleans.

                         On the way to Cafe du Monde we got lost so we spent an hour wondering around some seedy looking streets before on our leaders asked a policeman for directions. By the time we got there, it was already around eleven.

                                       The Beignets were so good!!! They reminded me of a combination of a sopapilla and a doughnut. I ate three and I wish I could have had more. If you go to New Orleans you have to go get some!!! :D :D


After leaving Cafe du Monde one of the girls was wanting a hamburger at this one place on Bournon street so we headed that way. I two words- Bad Idea. Later some of the girls said they thought this time wasn't as bad as it was the first time we went down it but I disagree. Sure we didn't see as many half-naked woman(though some people saw some men strippers dancing on a table and I think I saw a prostitute) I think it was a whole lot worse since I saw a lot of scummy, gangster, nasty looking men who I wouldn't be surprised if they were creepers or psychopaths. As we walked down street after street, I kept a look on my face that said "If you mess me, I'll kill you" just encase some creepers tried to mess with me. If you ever go down a dangerous street like that I would recommend you do the same(sadly, no one listened to my advice   :( which is silly since it was very good advice). For some reason, the only people paying attention, besides my sister and I, were the guys. Even though my sister and I didn't need it, I liked that they were looking out for trouble since no one else seemed to be doing that. One funny thing did happen while we were on the street, however. My sister and I were talking about how scummy the people on this street were and suddenly this guy walked passed us, cursing and  dropping the F-bomb(using the F-word doesn't make you scum, it was just the way he was acting). I turned to my sister and said "See, scum."  I wasn't in a very good mood by the time we got to the hamburger place and I was very glad when we got back to the hotel so we could go to sleep(I ended up falling asleep at one-ish). 

The next morning we got up and headed to the Dome for the last time to have Sunday morning Church service. It was so cool to do a church service with Lutheran liturgy in such a big place with so many Lutherans all at once(the Communion was especially well done). I have to say, Mark Hanson, our main Bishop, is AWESOME!!! When he gave his sermon I kept thinking "I agree"; he is very liberal and proactive which I really loved seeing :). I would really love to speak with him someday. 

We left near lunch time and said goodbye to New Orleans as out bus began to head home. They gave us boxed lunches which was really nice. We had delicious sandwiches(mine was ham and cheese) that came with chips, a cookie, and a drink. The drive back was near pretty bad since I was in a foul mood and felt completly crowded. I squished as close as I could to the window and read "Rebel Angels" and finished listening to "Bloody Jack." We stopped in a small town and got dinner(I went with a group from my church and we went to a Asian buffet which had some really good food. Once we dropped off the other congregations in our bus, I moved to another seat, listened to music, and drifted in and out of sleep on the hour drive to our town. My dad came and picked my sister and I up and after taking a shower, I fell asleep at around four or five A.M. We slept until one and when we woke up, we told our Mom everything we'd done on our trip. 

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my trip(sorry it was so long). 
I dedicate this blog post in memory of those who died in the Aurora, Colorado shooting and those we were injured. I hope the man who did it gets what he deserves.

I hope everyone has a good day and May the Force be with you...Always :)
Jedi Shena Tokala signing out