The Orange Room

orange room

Another BabySafe blog. I’ve started and restarted this entry probably ten times over the last week, and before I even get started, I know my words will never ever be enough.  Every time I close my eyes, I’m back there.  And I only wish my prayers were stronger… 

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My name is Lynn, and in this moment, that’s all I can really remember.  It’s as though every piece of me has been stripped away in this second, and for the first time, I come face to face with the truth – there are no words I can offer.  No perfectly turned phrase that will dull the ache of this moment.

I am new here.  A stranger oddly welcome in the midst of a family grieving.  I can feel it in the air when I walk in, a metallic tang that creaks with anger and grief and the bitterness of Why now?  These are the emotions the world spends their entire life screaming to avoid.  And right now, it feels as though the rest of the world has screamed away from us – recoiling in fear that if they dare look us in the face, that somehow our sorrow will morph into their own, our sadness will infect them and taint them with the taste they’ve longed to forget.

Death has visited here.  

And I – the stranger from so far – am welcomed in to witness the day.

I want nothing more than to turn the day inside out.  My heart on my sleeve, a family newly stitched in.  I will remember today for the rest of my life. Their names will find their ways into my prayers.  My heart is still bleeding for them.  And for a moment, I long to take their grief as my own, holding it for them for a moment.  Two. Ten.  The respite they’re searching for will not come today.

If only I was strong enough to bring it to them.

In the meantime, I will hold them.  I will stare straight into their eyes, a stranger welcomed in.  I will witness their soul-rending pain, acknowledge it, bear them up in it.  I will not look away. Nothing I give will be enough.  But maybe – somewhere – it’s important to know they are not alone.

Today, this family survived.

And in the quiet, a song plays.  Freedom reigns in this place… 

Today is not for always.  

Today will mark them, define this part of their lives.  They will remember the weight of the wispy clouds above.  The sound of the bird.  The chilled air that deadens so much. But now is not forever.

And in this bright orange room – I begin to understand.  We are all here together.  A tiny hand slips into mine.  And I breathe in.

Not all is lost today.  Some, but not all.

I only wish I had more to give.

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Finding the Words – Cape Town

finding the words

Imagine sitting at a tiny little cafe, looking out and seeing this view.

A field of warm green grass, hedged in by a field of lavender, with the Atlantic Ocean lapping at the base of the mountain half a mile away.  The sprinklers were going, throwing rainbow mist across the patio, and wild peacocks wandered between the tables, hoping to eat a discarded croissant or cookie.  Sitting there and drinking my coffee, for the first time in my life, I really had the thought – This must be what heaven looks like. 

I just don’t have the words.  

I had this grand idea that I was going to go to Cape Town, then come back with these amazing stories to tell.  And I did.  And I do.

But I just don’t have the words yet.  All my stories are still wrapped up in these swirling ideas that haven’t quite coalesced into actual sentences that move from one to the next.  I know what this moment or that moment felt like, but I don’t even know where to begin with actually sharing those thoughts and experiences with other people.

It. Was. Amazing. 

We can at least start there. Every day was full of brand new “Oh my gosh, I’ve never done this before!” moments, just one right after the other like this endless string of melodies that I’ve recorded but can’t sing back to anyone just yet.

I ate bread for the first time in a few years.  Fish. (My nearly-vegan ways deserted me pretty much as soon as I got off the plane!)  Alli & I didn’t have to rush in all of our conversations.  I watched my very first episode of the train wreck that is “Toddlers & Tiaras”.  (Yes, my fabulous LA people – that is one of the shows we export to the rest of the world. Gotta love it.)  I wore sandals every day while I was there – and the dust clung to my feet everywhere I went.  The sunlight is a different color there, thanks to being pretty much as far south as you can go on the planet without requiring a phD and a snowsuit a foot thick.  I love South Africa. I love the accents.  I love that everyone hugged me straight away before saying, “Hi.  Who are you?  Welcome!”  I loved living daily life with Alli again.  It felt like no time had passed at all.  This trip turned my world upside down in such a beautiful, heart-wrenching way.

I am different.  The world is different. 

If I can barely put into words all of the brilliantly fun experiences, how am I ever going to share the hardest experiences?  I live in LA, where we really don’t deal with the specter of extreme poverty and even death every single day.  All of my photos from my trip are gorgeous.  But they really only tell half the story.

And I’m getting to a point where I’m finally going to be able to share the second half of my trip with all of you.

Stay tuned…

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Thanksgiving Comes But Once a Year…

                                  

Friends!  

I can’t even believe that it’s Thanksgiving already!  How on earth did that happen?  

I hope you are warmly ensconced with family and friends, living it up and loving life.  There are so many things to be so very thankful for this year, and I have SO much to share with you over the next few days.  I am so excited! 

You’ve all made my life so wonderful. 

With love, 

Lynn 

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Seeking Each Other Out

seeking each other out

I think when I told some people I was coming to Africa they imagined me going into the bush, with no showers, no electricity, no phone, nothing.  Boiling water over an open fire, eating crazy things and being around everyone who spoke a million different dialects.

One day, that’s going to be my Africa experience… one day.  

Cape Town is its own thing – a strange mix of modern and ancient, of urban with the way things have been here for thousands of years.

And here in this lovely city so full of life and passion and energy – life is different.  I am different.  Everything in my heart is shifting around. Even more than usual, I see the value of community.  The value of saying ‘Hello, how are you?’ to everyone, and then actually listening to them. The value of beauty for beauty’s sake.  Things really can be functional and gorgeous all at once.  The value of family, of hugging new friends, of listening.  The value of sleeping 11 hours a day.  (Two days in a row…. I am beyond shocked & so so well-rested.)

We went today to Green Market Square – to the open-air markets in the middle, and we walked through all the stalls saying hello to everyone.  It’s free to look. But I have a good price for you.  Look at this one. Or this one for you.  It will look very nice on you.  For everything.

But the craftsmanship was stunning.  So many tiny figurines and bracelets and scarves and carved wooden spoons and statues and earrings and shoes and paintings.  I wish I would have taken more photos as I walked through everything.  I touched everything, felt the smoothness of the soapstone figurines, the supple softness of the leather purses, the textures of a thin cotton scarf, the polished, rounded edges of the wooden ladles.  I could smell the coffee nearby, and the fish & chips from the ocean.  I could hear the wings of flocks of pigeons.  The sound of steel drums from a nearby musician.  The gentle clinking of a mbira in the next stall.  The conversations all around me in English, Afrikaans, Shona. The laughter of kids getting out of school, running through the marketplace on their way home.  I met V’s aunt and cousin and SO many of the other merchants there.  Everyone wanted to hug us and wish us well. This is your first time to Africa?  And they’re looking after you well?  After reassuring everyone that Alli & V are taking crazy good care of me while I’m here, I just listened to everyone’s stories.  How business is going.  How life is going.   At least compared to LA, everyone is constantly touching everyone else.  It’s a land of living together.  These lovely people just know how to do life together and I love it!   There is just so much everywhere.

So often, I feel like I’m just drinking from a firehose.

Everywhere I turn, there’s just so much to see, so much to process, so much to absorb.  The way the air smells.  The way the city is just so full of people always looking to see if they know someone.

Like I told Alli – back in LA, if I saw a friend of mine way across the street while I was driving down a road, I might try to honk at them.  I’d wave, but most likely, they wouldn’t see me.  They’d be looking at their phone, seriously in their own world.  (And if I was the person walking across the street – I’d be doing the exact same thing.)   So we’d more likely get home and text each other – Hey!  I saw you walking on Riverside today! We’d both laugh and catch up at that point.  But here in Cape Town, everyone is looking for everyone else, and everyone is yelling from their cars – Hello!  Hello!  How are you, mama?  They’re seeking each other out, and the world is so much more vibrant for it.  And I can’t even tell you how many times people hugged me before Alli & V could even explain who I was.  In a way – it didn’t matter.  I was a person clearly part of their world, even for just a minute.  Everyone told me I must come back soon.

I love this city.

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Rice and Responsibility

rice

I have internet access here.  And I do have my phone.  I’m still going with my massive love of coffee.  (And the coffee here?  Fantastic.)  It’s just life.  Different, to be sure, but still fairly normal.  Everywhere I go, though – I’m constantly looking for everything not-American I can find.  All the flavors.  The views.  The shops and décor.  This is why I love traveling.  I want it to be as different as possible from my daily life.  I don’t want to come in and just observe everything from afar while staying so comfortable in my American ways.  The world is so big, so open, so different.

I’ve realized over the last ten years that I’ve been overseas for some of the biggest moments in recent American history. I was in London and Cape Town during the election, as the world waited to see whether President Obama or Mr. Romney would be taking over the White House for the next four years.  (And believe you me, the American election is massive news everywhere else in the world.)

And years ago, I was sitting in Ruth & Sandy’s living room in Dundee, Scotland, in March 2003, when President Bush declared war in Iraq.  It was the middle of the night, but we sat up and waited.  And waited.  And watched.  I was still in high school.  It was my first time out of the country, and here there I was watching everything change overnight for my world.

I think that moment completely colored my entire view of the war, honestly.  Instead of being surrounded by what I’d always been surrounded by, I was sitting with people who were asking – in all seriousness – What happens if the United States decides they don’t like the government of Ireland next? 

What do you say to that? 

It wasn’t that they were against the US fighting injustice around the world.  They were very much for it, in fact.  But – it was also that they were very cognizant of the fact that our ways of doing things might not be the best thing 100% of the time.  Maybe they were right.  Or maybe the US did all of these amazing things overseas that we’re never going to hear about.  Maybe – in some alternate history universe – we averted nuclear war.  Maybe we averted the entire meltdown of Iraq.  Maybe we brought at least the beginnings of freedom to a world that was so closed off before.  I don’t know.  And I think all the questions like that could kill a person.

But it made me realize that – in everything, not just in the government or international relations – that we can’t just fling ourselves into something without first taking the time to step back.  Is this truly what’s best for the region?  Is this truly what’s in everyone’s best interests? 

Food drops & feeding everyone.

I was talking with a friend of mine recently about all of the UN food drops around the world.  In one hand, they’re SO helpful, and in so many situations, they are SO needed.   Feed the hungry.  It’s not that hard, and we have been blessed with SO SO SO much.  When we hang on to everything we have with razor-sharp claws, our hearts get all twisted up and ugly.  Mine.  Not yours.  Not ever.  We become the worst versions of ourselves, the school bully gone extreme.  We become grasping, greedy misers who not only refuse to meet the needs of those around us, but refuse to even see or acknowledge them.  We become the worst of humanity.  So – for crying out loud – go feed people.  But – there’s another level we have to look at.  And in a lot of ways it’s the most important one.

Let’s look at rice. 

Sometimes in a way, we think we’re being all awesome when we swoop in with a million pounds of rice and start handing it out for free.  And in so many situations – like after emergencies or bombings or in very war-torn lands – those million pounds of rice is literally all that’s standing between little kids and complete starvation.  So you hand it out with the best of them. You’re taking care of part of the problem.

And as always, fixing some of the problem is better than fixing none of it. 

But what comes next? 

Do we keep handing out the rice, ad infinitum?  Is that helpful?  Yes, maybe we feed a lot of people for a long time.  But what about the local rice growers providing for their families who are now completely out of business?  Why pay for your rice when you can get the same rice just down the street for free?  It also creates this very weird power struggle where – instead of bringing true long-term health to a region – it ends up being this savior-savee relationship that totally strips local people of their culture, their heart and their dignity.  Total fail.

This is a whole thing I can get into… the different cultures of the world are incredibly valuable and beyond needed. To destroy those cultures is to destroy part of what makes us a human race.  It’s part of the beauty and variety that make up the whole planet.  We’ll save that for another blog.

But just imagine what the world would look like if we worked from both sides of the issue.

It’s not just about feeding people once, it’s about working with them in the confines and spirit of their own cultures to create a stronger future for them.  For instance, let’s say you’re going into an agricultural community that’s just been wiped out by flooding.  So – you bring in food to meet the immediate needs of the community. Of course.  But then – instead of looking around and going, “You know what the world needs?  A manufacturing community.  Or a community that grows corn, not other vegetables”  — you invest in what’s already happening for them.  You show them better ways to grow what they’re already growing.  You help them invest in better farming equipment and better compost.  You give them ownership in creating the future for their own community.  You give them the chance to fix things and celebrate when they have sorted it out and made the world better for their kids. You don’t just keep handing them rice and wondering why everyone’s spirits seem devastated.

Short term, the rice brings life.  Long term, the rice brings death to a region – physically, mentally and spiritually.  Something in the system is broken.

Even as an American coming into this beautiful city, I was terrified of coming in as the loud, crazy American and totally screwing everything up.  I wanted to blend in, to simply absorb myself into the culture so deeply that I could just learn and basically sit at the feet of these people who’ve been living here for so long.  And I’m quickly falling in love with Cape Town in so many ways.

But I want Cape Town to change me, not necessarily the other way around.

I’m incredibly grateful that I live in America.  Like crazy grateful.

Don’t get me wrong.  I can travel pretty much the world over with no issues at all.  I can live out my dreams of being a writer, working in Hollywood without having to reassess my visa situation every year.

But quite seriously – in the words of Peter Parker’s uncle – with great power comes great responsibility. 

And that responsibility is one we can’t overlook or take for granted.  We are not the savior of the world, that’s for sure.

But neither are we responsibility-free.

And it’s in that fine, razor-edged dichotomy that we get to live.

And now it’s our move.  What’s next?

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So So Far South

so so far south

I woke up this morning to a sound I couldn’t quite identify.  It sounded familiar, though… Wait a minute. 

Rain. 

Oh my… I love the rain so so so much.  It took everything in me to not run outside immediately and just stand in the gloriousness of it all.  It so rarely rains in LA that it almost feels like a treat.  It’s all beautiful and cloudy, and I’m so glad we went to Simon’s Town yesterday for lunch and to see across the bays.  Oh, and there were wild penguins.  For reals.

My favorite part of yesterday was in our drive… We were looking out over the Indian Ocean – all gorgeous and expansive.  And then the road curved away from the ocean and we went up over a hill.  Two minutes later, the ocean appeared again – stretching out again as far as you could see.

Except this was the Atlantic Ocean.

Holy crap, I am really really really far south.  

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Oh Yeah, That’s Right. This is Africa…

this is africa

Cape Town is beautiful… 

In a lot of ways, it feels like LA.  It’s incredibly diverse.

The coffee’s wonderful, and the food?  *Swoon* Alli and I went to a mall just outside of Cape Town yesterday and had cappuccinos and milk tarts – this custard pie that’s really popular here in SA.  We just watched everyone walk by – listening to all different languages and just catching up on life.  And in that moment, everything felt so modern, so urban, so normal.  But at the same time, everything is SO different.  The people.  The food.  The accents.  The way people think and act and the way they see themselves in the world. The sense of community here is just… amazing… There’s a whole blog coming on that one later.

We drove along the edge of the ocean, through Fish Hoek, for quite a while.  The sand is so white – and the sea itself is this deep jewel blue and greens.  But it’s not until you start seeing signs warning for baboons and these broccoli-looking trees that you really remember oh yeah, that’s right.  I’m in Africa.  I’ve met amazing people so far – some who have these horrific stories of broken lives and broken bodies, some who are just like Alli and V – these people who have come into the darkest place of the world to bring light.

Honestly, it’s a so overwhelming. 

The back and forth and the home/townships/home/flats/home of it all is so jarring.  There aren’t even words.

Inadequate. 

All I can do is smile and hug people.  I’m here to love and support Alli – and she’s the one who actually has the words for all of this.  She’s the one who knows what to say and how to react to everything.  She’s spent years developing strong relationships with everyone here. We drive down the street near the flats and the Yellow House with the windows open, and everyone waves.  “Hi Alli.  Hi Alli.”  (With their awesome accents, it actually ends sounding closer to ‘Hi Ellie, Hi Ellie.”)  She’s vital to this community, and all of BabySafe has just gone in and said –

There is hope.  You are not alone.

And there’s nothing in the world that can beat that.

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South Africa – Day 2

IMG_3168

It’s hard.  I’m not going to lie.

But the world is so much bigger here. So much brighter.  So much more beautiful. And these people, even in the middle of these really dark places, there is joy.  God is so evident here, and people are actually open to him in little bits and pieces.  It’s so amazing to see Alli and the relationships she’s built here.  People trust her and love her.  She’s so straightforward with them, and BabySafe has this amazing way of just telling people the way that it is – but with grace.

I feel like I have so much to learn. 

I feel like I have nothing real to give.  Like I’m this crazy Hollywood girl with absolutely no concept of how the world works.  I just keep walking with Alli and meeting everyone and praying I don’t say or do something stupid.

But I feel like I’m drinking from a firehose.  I haven’t even processed anything yet.  I feel like I’m just filing things away under “I’ll think about this later.”

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South Africa – Day 1

day 1

It’s so dark and so quiet here at night.

There’s almost no traffic noise here, at least at Alli & V’s flat.  All you can hear at night is the wind, blowing every which way. And after so long in LA, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be somewhere that’s completely absent of light.  Even at home, in the middle of the night, the lights in our courtyard and pool still flood into our apartment.  And I’m so used to it that I don’t even give it a second thought.  But I turned off my light last night, and even five minutes later, after my eyes had adjusted, I still couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.  The wind whipped around the house, and as I laid there praying I could finally go to sleep – thank you jet lag – I think I finally realized it.

I’m in Africa. 

I am so happy. I landed about 11am Wednesday morning, and once I got through immigration and customs, Alli was there waiting for me!  Alli & V live a little outside the city, so we just started driving.  It was amazing.  I felt like I was in absorb-everything, total-input mode.  There was so much to see.  Everything was different.  Enormous.  Vibrant.  Beautiful.  (I feel like I’m going to be using those words a lot this trip.)  There’s just no way to completely capture what it feels like to step off the plane in an entirely new city and country.  At least in the places I’ve been, it’s not anything big that gives it away right up front.  You walk off the plane with the same people you’ve been sitting with for 11 hours.  There’s little cafes and signs for baggage claims.  You’re in an airport.  You’ve done this before.

But it’s there.  Gently whispering in the air – new.  different.

Welcome to somewhere you’ve never, ever been before. 

This time, it was the accents.  These beautiful paper flowers that decorated part of a wall.  The beautiful austerity to their airport that is so unlike every other airport I’ve been to before.  And when you look out the window, you can see for miles. 

Welcome to Cape Town, South Africa. 

Alli, V and I spent yesterday afternoon and evening at their super cute flat, just hanging out and catching up.  There is so much to say and so many stories to hear.  We watched all of the election coverage on the news (oh yeah – the US presidential election is massive international news) and I just listened while Alli & V caught me up with everything.

My favorite part of the day was realizing that it feels completely normal to be here.  Sometimes, after you don’t see friends for a long time, you have to take a little bit of time to get reacquainted and figure out how to really talk again.  You have the slightly awkward conversations about the weather and new movies before you get down to the real stuff.  But from the second I stepped off the plane, it was like no time had passed at all.  It was just Alli & Lynn, jumping in a car together and going for a drive.

We had dinner at one of Alli & V’s favorite places close by – a restaurant called The Toad.  We stopped off at the video store and rented The Debt (the parts I saw were great!  Hahaha – jet lag definitely arrived and I wasout.)

And so ended Day 1 of my Africa trip.

The adventure continues…. 

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My Crazy Trip – Day 1 (The London Part)

I’m here. Cape Town is beautiful.

I left my house at 3:30 in the afternoon on Monday.  Luke took me to the airport after stopping for coffee, and I left US soil at 7 that night.

First stop… London! 

big ben underground

I landed in London 11 hours later on a very long layover – and I couldn’t wait to get out of the airport and straight into London.   I took the Heathrow Express (the world’s most expensive train ride – haha!) but I was standing in Paddington Station 20 minutes later.  And it was cold.

Somewhere along the way, I totally forgot to check London weather. 

And yes – I can hear everyone’s thoughts now.  November in London!  I know, I know.  Those thoughts sound remarkably like the voices that said London in December??? when Luke and I got married.   Public service announcement – if you’re in London anywhere in the fall/winter – it’s cold.  Consider yourself warned, and dress appropriately.  You’re welcome.  J

It had been 90+ in LA this whole time, and I knew Cape Town was going to be 75-80 while I was here.  Thankfully, I had a little light jacket tucked into my carryon suitcase, so I whipped that out in the middle of a Costa Coffee (hello, free wi-fi) and off I went.  I found an art store and bought a set of colored pencils because what adventure is really complete without the ability to draw whatever you’re seeing?   And then I went back to Paddington, got on the tube (after a slight misadventure reloading my Oyster card) and set off for Charing Cross.

And is it weird that I kept hoping David Tennant was just randomly going to be sitting on the tube next to me?  Does the Doctor take the Underground?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Charing Cross. 

Earlier this year, I wrote a feature script set in London – GLIMPSE. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, actually.  (Love!  Danger! Guns! Biological warfare!  An Aston Martin explodes! And did I mention London???)  The last time I was in London was 2006, so I was writing the entire thing from memory and an occasional Google Maps street view.  Trafalgar Square plays a huge part in the story – and so despite the fact that the voice in my head was screaming NOOO!!!! You’re going to miss your flight to Cape Town!!!  I made a run for it.  I popped up out of the tube station, and there – so close I could touch it – was Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery and Nelson’s Column.   My story came to life in front of me, and I spent almost an hour walking through the Square, taking pictures, meeting people and walking through nearby streets.

I live for moments like that.

And I forgot that if you stand on the National Gallery steps and look towards Nelson’s Column, you can see Big Ben.

So I was off again.

Wesminster and Big Ben

 That’s quite a long walk, actually.  But you can see the Eye on one side, and the city was just full and beautiful and bustling around me.  I took some great pictures (including one angle of Big Ben and an Underground sign together that I’d found a photo of a couple years ago.  I painted it, and it’s been hanging in our living room ever since).   The people walking all around me on the streets are this vibrant mix of everyone.  There were businessmen just exiting their offices for the day – pondering what they were going to do with their Tuesday evening.  There were friends out, heading for the pubs together.  Soccer and rugby matches were on several of the screens as I walked by.  There were girls out shopping.  Tourists out taking a gazillion photos – speaking so many different languages I couldn’t even keep up.  There’s just this spark in the city, this totally beautiful LIFE feeling there, and I can never get enough of it.

 London.

I made it back to Paddington on a different line, and I ran for the train back to Heathrow.  I knew if I missed this train, I could easily catch the next one and make it back with plenty of time, but it just seemed like so much more fun to sprint through the station.  J  So that’s exactly what I did.

 Heathrow’s all decorated for Christmas – opening scene from Love Actually, anyone? – and it’s gorgeous, of course.

 But here’s the thing about London.  I adore that city.  Luke and I have talked so many times about moving there – short term, of course – but the thought of living in that beautiful crazy city for even a few months just fills my heart with joy.  We’ve been praying for years that one of us would end up on a project in London and the other person would just get to come along.  So maybe one day… just putting it out into the world – Team Maxcy is available for any and all London-based projects!

That was the first 20 hours of my trip. 

 And then, at 9 that evening, my flight took off for Cape Town, South Africa….

 And the adventure continues….

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