more than gold

Tomorrow is the final day of the Olympics, and there are at least two things to keep your eye on.  At 15.40 on Sunday, Beijing time, Hungary will play the United States for the gold medal in waterpolo.  Hungary has won 8 gold medals in the sport since 1932.

The other thing to watch is the men’s marathon at 07.30 Beijing time (01:30 Budapest time / 19.30 Saturday Virginia time).  I’ve been waiting for this for the the last two weeks (though I’ll have to just catch the highlights on youtube).  Ryan Hall is the USA hope for gold.  Though Ryan has only competed in 3 official marathons, he holds the fastest olympic qualifying time for an American.  If I remember correctly, in London recently, he ran the marathon in 2:06:17.  Whoa.  That is not far off of the world record.  But there are three Kenyons who are running the same speed right now, so Ryan will be up against the fastest group in history.

But Ryan is running for more than a gold medal.  Ryan will be running in the memory of one of his best friends, Ryan Shay, who collapsed and died at the fifth mile of the olympic trials.  Ryan also talks a lot about letting go of all of the lofty goals of running a faster time or winning first place.  He talks a lot about the joy of simply running for God.  This is what he calls being “free to run.”  You can see his training video here.

Vrsno, Sovenia

Last weekend Laura and I had some meetings in Vrsno, Slovenia with our Central and Eastern European Colleagues (Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Bulgaria).  It was a very meaningful time in terms of our connection with friends who are tackling similar issues in their work.  We dug deep into our CEE related issues of Identity, Community, and Modeling.  It was also a rare opportunity to bring our kids with us to such a “work-oriented” meeting.  Thanks Milan, Dusan, and Stephan for making that possible!!

Now, let’s just say that Vrsno, Slovenia is not your typical meeting location.  It is a 7.5 hour drive to the West from Budapest (because I’m a slow driver), and it is an hour drive into the mountains from the border intersection of Austria, Italy, and Slovenia (It is amazing how close all of these countries are in Central Europe).  Vrsno is a little village at the top of a mountain (population of 60 people?, possibly 1700 meters?).  We stayed in a low-key panzio which was heated by a wood burning furnace, and there was a kitchen we could use to cook meals.

We spent the mornings and evenings working, and we used the afternoons to “get out” and have some adventures.  We are really looking forward to taking a group of students to Vrsno for an English Adventure Week.  Attention students, go to the outdoor club website for details.  And finally, I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story:


Yes, we will go swimming in this pool. No, I’m not kidding.

These are our neighbors.

Our Central European Network.

creatures on the mountain

Oh, I would love to do this.

mountain lake

Föld Órája

A világon elsoként, 2007. március 31-én Sydneyben több mint 2 millió cég és háztartás kapcsolta le az áramot egy órára a Föld Órájára, egy eroteljes nemzeti és világméretu üzenetet küldve arról, hogy van lehetoség tenni a globális felmelegedés ügyében. 2008. március 29-én este 8 órakor a Föld Órája világméretuvé válik, hiszen világszerte városok és emberek milliói csatlakoznak a programhoz bolygónkat valaha legnagyobb mértékben fenyegeto kérdésben csatlakoznak.
Ha szeretnél te is tenni valamit, kérlek, 2008. március 29-én este 8 órakor te is kapcsold le egy órára az áramot.
Kérlek, küldd tovább ezt a levelet minél több ismerosödnek, és nézd meg az alábbi weboldalon látható videót, mely a tavalyi Föld Órájáról készült.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcHz6Jv4l-g&feature=related

Two Years Old

On Friday December 28th, this blog turned two years old.  Happy Birthday utazni.com!  A few adjustments are coming for the new year!

According to Technorati’s April 2007 state of the blogosphere report:

  • there are 70 million weblogs
  • About 120,000 new weblogs are created each day
  • 1.4 new blogs are created every second
  • 1.5 million posts per day
  • 17 posts per second
  • Japanese is the #1 blogging language at 37%
  • English second at 33%
  • Chinese third at 8%
  • Italian fourth at 3%
  • 1% of blog posts are in Farsi

Schengen History

Last night, at midnight, border controls were lifted as nine countries entered into the Schengen aggreement and into Europe’s border-free passport-free zone.  The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the zone.

In a way, this was a final step for many people in the lowering of the iron curtain and the barrier between Eastern and Western Europe.  A big day with big celebrations along so many border towns and cities. 

The town of Sátoraljaújhely (literally “Tent Button New Place”) is on the border of Hungary and Slovakia and was split into two when borders were redrawn by the Trianon treaty in 1920.  As of midnight, residents can simply walk across and visit their neighbors without going through border guards and passport controls.  

velkeslemence.jpgHowever, there is another town on the Slovak Ukrainian border called Velké Slemence which is still split.  For decades the two halves of this town had no access to each other.  But at the strong appeal of the American Association of Hungarians, the governments set up a border passport control station so that friends and family members could once again visit one another.  As a result of the expansion of the Schengen countries, this border will become much much tighter along with those on the Eastern and Southern edges of Hungary. 

European Values and Family Trends

Recently I had the chance to meet with Vladislav Matej (Family Counselor with Socia) in Bratislava.  He outlined a set of recent sociological studies on European values and family trends.  Here are some of the highlights from Vladislav Matej.   

Prof. Jan Kerkhofs, University of Louwen, Belgium reported a longitudinal 20-year study of European values.  There were five primary shifts:

  • Ethics have entered the autonomous sphere (individually determined)
  • Ethical norms are influenced and created by parliaments and not by churches anymore (there are lots of examples of this)
  • There is a high tolerance to the actions of individuals
  • Individual ethics are limited by the freedom of other individuals

There has been a primary movement toward individualism, post-traditionalism, tolerance, and pessimism.

A report (D. Popeone, sociologist) shows correlating trends between the occurance of the sexual revolution, a rapid decrease of fertility, and a rapid increase of divorce.

A study by G.T. Stanton has found a rapid increase of cohabiting couples (not married) and several trends within these households: an increase in disturbing and painful relationships, an increase of interferance of the successful formation of follow-up partnerships (not sure what this means), an increase of conflict, an increase of domestic violence, and a strengthening of mistrust.

The following stats are taken from Eurostat.  The average age of men/women at first marriage in 1980 was 26/23.  In 2003 it was 30/28.  The percent of children born outside of marriage in 1980 was 8.8%.  In 2005 it was 33%.  In 1980 the number of divorces that occured in Europe was 672,917.  In 2005 it was 1,042,892.  Today, 2/3 of households in the EU live without children.  16% of families have one child, 13% have two children, and 4% have three children.  In the next fifty years, the population of the US is expected to increase by 150 million.  In Europe it is expected to decrease by 40 million.

life

From August to November of 1991 the 87 day siege of Vukovar took place leaving nothing but ruins, hardly any building fully intact, and 100% of the inhabitants scarred by the atrocities of this war.  There is still a heaviness being carried by Vukovarians.

But there is also life, a continued story.  One thing I clearly recognized while in Vukovar this time is the impossibility of outsiders to come and feel, empathize, and make any sort of real impact.  I see our friends Laci and Keri who moved to Vukovar almost three years ago, or our new friend Charles who moved there in 1995.  By doing so they entered the story.  By entering the story they have become fellow journeyers, able and willing to share burdens, meaning, and hope. 

I love this picture of the flowers growing out of a partly destroyed building.  Maybe it is an appropriate metaphor for many us as people, especially our friends in Vukovar.  Impact, meaning, and hope are the fruits of a shared story. 

where to go from here

Well, I’ve been thinking about this blog.  Here’s what I’d like to do, if I could find the time:  Finally fix the categories/tags and create a clean filing system, Clean up the sidecolumns, Change the header and colors, Start using “pages” for articles and resources, Fix the commenting function (I get 100 spam comments a week), Add an “interest groups” section in the column, add a menu bar, and occasionally write a series of posts according to a specific idea.