Archives for category: life

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Old Man Ocean and I, 2013oldmanocean-5

(More photos after story, as well as on Instagram: lindsbrunsman. Click on photos for higher resolution view.)

The man I know and call Old Man Ocean, otherwise known around Kailua-Kona as Freddy, passed away this week. I had hoped I would get to see him again, but am very thankful and honored for the two times I was able to engage in conversation with him, in addition to the privilege of capturing his portrait both times.
I’m learning much more than I knew about him through many talking about him on my blog post from four years ago and through emails from his friends – he seemed to be a generous and genuinely humble man.

In his words, when asked why he was always by the ocean, “The ocean has a calming effect; it helps me to reflect on the good I’ve had in life, and it reminds me that with every breath I take there is a rhythm to my heart beat. When I was a young man, as long as I looked to the ocean, out past the horizon, I was reminded that I could accomplish more than I could dream of, with or without people’s help. When there was a tree in front of my ocean view, it showed that there would always be obstacles on my journey, but there would always be a way to get through life…” God bless you, Old Man Ocean. Thank you for sharing some of your stories with me and the gift of your photos.

— original story from 2013 —

This is a man I’ve always known as Old Man Ocean. Five years ago I was going through the School of Photography at the University of the Nations in Kona, Hawaii. My class and I often encountered this man wandering around town, and one thing he made clear to everyone was that he never wanted his photo taken.

One particular day, I was walking around town with my camera, turned a corner around the back of a building, and there he was. As I approached, I held up my camera asking if I could take his photo. He unexpectedly motioned me towards him and communicated that I could snap shots of him. While doing so, I carried on in a short conversation with him, and remembered him telling me how he had once lived in Texas. The photographs I captured that day remain very valuable to me, and I have sporadically wondered about him, his life story, and how he got to where he is now.

This time while in Kona, I took a day away from the beaches to walk around town with my camera. Old Man Ocean had been on my mind, and I wondered if he was still around. Just as soon as that thought came and went, I happened upon him. Astonished, I exclaimed, “Hey, Old Man Ocean! You let me take your photo five years ago…” He replied, “How much did you pay me to do so?” I answered back, “Nothing, you let me take your photo for free!” We exchanged a few more words, then parted ways.

I immediately felt burdened with a strong desire to talk with him more, but felt awkward to just run up to him and start talking… so I followed him a bit, and got to a point where I caught up with him, and looked over and said, “Hello again!” This sparked our journey walking around town and exchanging stories.

I asked him what his actual name was, his response, “I have many names.” 

I followed with questioning which he preferred, and he told me that he doesn’t like any of them because they put a label on him. I thought out loud, “The man with no name!” He retorted with a smile, “That’s a label.” I quickly evaluated his response, then agreed. Our conversation jumped around from questions of him asking me things like, “What river are you?” Confused, “I’m sorry, what? I don’t understand… what river would you say that I am?” With a smile and glitter in his eyes he responded, “You would be the river of purity and perfection!” Taken by surprise, “…Wow, thank you!… that’s a compliment…” 

He shared with me stories of how he hears voices, and of one particular time when he was scuba diving off the coast of California, he heard a loud voice command him to stay out of the water. We talked more about water, and he informed me that we can all live without water… that it’s not really a necessity. We exchanged thoughts about marijuana after he asked my views on it. He also instructed me to always think positive thoughts and never allow negativity to come near me, and he shared how many people who come near him are full of negativity and he has nothing to do with them.

His eyes… they are such a crystal clear blue. I affirmed to him that his eyes captivated me, and every time he smiled they would light up and twinkle. I followed with asking if it would be possible to capture more photos of him, and focus on his eyes. He agreed, so we walked to a spot where there weren’t as many people walking around. We neared upon a sweet lady, that for the life of me, I can’t remember her name, but her smile was warming and inviting. She waved and exclaimed, “Freddy!”, so we walked over to join her company. As I prepared settings on my camera, she lit up a joint and kindly asked if I smoked then proceeded to offer a drag. I politely declined, then informed that I was ready to take photos. Old Man Ocean started out playfully engaging with the camera with different poses, but then seemed to transition into being camera shy.

He asked me as he pointed to his hair, “Do you know what I call these? What would you name them?” Nothing came to mind, “Uhhh…I’m not sure what I would name them… I just know them as dreadlocks…” “They are warlocks.” he educated me. He shared that many years ago a man came up to him with a knife and slashed him from his ear to across his face, and that the blood that gushed from his infliction is how his warlocks were birthed.

At the end of our time spent together, the man I will continue to know and label as Old Man Ocean rested both his hands upon my shoulders, leaned in and gave me a kiss on the cheek goodbye, then wandered off idly roaming through town.

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Being in the midst of this present day refugee crisis and just around the corner from many places of news interest, I recently chose to go to Munich, Germany and Tovarnik, Croatia to experience this history in the making for myself.

It has been a complex task to organize and articulate the mass array of thoughts, emotions and opinions I’ve experienced and gained as a result of these journeys. Nonetheless, and without further ado, I offer a handful of my stories and thoughts…

MUNICH, GERMANY,  12/SEPT/2015

September 12, 2015, Munich Hauptbahnhof. The arrival of 12,200 refugees made for a total of 63,000 arriving Munich in 13 days. It was the next day, days before the world renowned Oktoberfest was set to commence, that Germany started to become concerned and halted trains coming from Austria that were bringing these refugees in by the masses.

September 12, 2015. The arrival of 12,200 refugees in Munich Hauptbahnhof (the main train station in the city) made for a total of 63,000 arriving Munich in 13 days. It was the next day, days before the world renowned Oktoberfest was set to commence, that Germany started to become concerned and halted trains coming from Austria that were bringing these refugees in by the masses.


On the evening of September 12th, 2015, as I documented some of the newly arrived 12,200 refugees in Munich Hauptbahnhof sleeping on the floors of the train station, one particular family of six (husband, wife, one boy, two girls and an infant) stood out. The children revealed darkened-rimmed eyes, delirious and dazed from exhaustion, while the parents stood silent, starring blankly into the distance. I approached them and quickly found out that they spoke only a few words of English, but they made it understandably clear they did not want their photo taken. This family was from Syria, fleeing war and IS, and they were waiting for their next train to Dortmund, Germany. Because of the language barrier to communicate, I stood there in silence with them. I looked over to the wife carrying her infant in a baby sling, and she began to well up with tears. All I could do was grab and hold her hand, stare into her grief-stricken eyes, cry with her and pray a silent blessing upon them. Half a minute later it was time for me to move on and let them be. I couldn’t stop my tears from resurfacing the remainder of the night.

A few minutes in that family’s presence has completely changed and humbled me in ways I still cannot put into words. I know absolutely nothing of what these refugees have been through, but I literally felt a bit of their grief and fear, and it continues to be overwhelming to me.

A family of five, almost six, is cleared to board the bus after completing the registration process at Munich Hauptbahnhof.


TOVARNIK, CROATIA, 17/SEPT/2015

On September 17th, I set out alone for a very long and interesting bus ride from Stuttgart, Germany to Tovarnik, Croatia. Eighteen hours later, after trekking through Austria, Slovenia and a great deal of Croatia, being pestered by a young Croatian man sitting next to me, seeing two body bags lying beside an unrecognizable mangled automobile on the highway, being the only American passenger who held up the trip at border crossings, and at our last stop, sitting over a cup of coffee with the two Croatian bus drivers, I finally arrived.

The line of refugees arriving by foot into Tovarnik from Serbia faded far into the  horizon. They were parched from the intense heat the sun provided, and happily relieved and cooled themselves off with a running garden hose hanging from a farm fence along the way. Many relief workers were also handing out countless bottles of water.

Tovarnik, Croatia lies about 800 meters or a half mile away from the border with Serbia. It is where the refugees were pouring in and making their onward journey North, since Hungary hastily closed and fenced off their border with Serbia days before. In a matter of three days, an overwhelming 20,000 refugees unmanageably poured into a willing but unequipped Croatia. Dumbfounded, Croatia quickly resorted to closing their borders, yet were futile in preventing the thousands of refugees fraught with survival on the Serbian side from overtaking the guards.

Tovarnik, Croatia lies about 800 meters or a half mile away from the border with Serbia. It is where the refugees were pouring in and making their onward journey north since Hungary hastily closed and fenced off their border with Serbia days before. In a matter of three days, an overwhelming 20,000 refugees unmanageably poured into a willing but unequipped Croatia. Dumbfounded, Croatia quickly resorted to closing their borders, yet were futile in preventing the thousands of refugees fraught with survival on the Serbian side from overtaking the guards.

Because of the shade many trees provided in this particular spot, it made for a good rest stop, allowing families to regain a bit of strength and energy before continuing on. It was there that I met Samira and her family, making the journey from Iraq. Samira, being an elderly woman, was sick from the long trek and lying down to rest on the heavily littered grass. I was invited to sit with them and immediately taken aback to see Samira taking her rolled up sleeping bag that she had been using as a pillow, and insisted that I use it as a cushion to sit on. Next, she and her family members all offered me their fresh bottles of water that they had just received. I was caught off guard by their caring and generous hearts to offer me the best of what little they had. The family spoke very broken English, so it was difficult to for us to understand each other, but every time I made eye contact with Samira, her face illuminated with a smile and she would squeeze my hand as she held onto it.

After about 20 minutes, it was time for them to move on, and I joined in the next part of their journey. We found a volunteer with a van who offered to drive Samira about a mile down the road to where the refugees were stopping and waiting for instruction of what to do next.

Thousands of refugees filled the once empty farm land; sitting, resting, rehydrating and waiting. Many charged their phones in an electricity station provided by volunteer relief workers in order to communicate to family and friends.

Walking dazedly, wondering how to capture the weight of this scene, my attention was interrupted by a group of young men who wanted me to take their photo. One of them, Hashem Hamed, from Damascus Syria, on his way to Germany, spoke fairly good English. He kindly escorted me around the grounds, as like a guard, assuring people it was okay if I took their photo. He informed me that many of the refugees did not want their photo taken because they were ashamed of their current state of unclean hygiene from not having access to bathing for days or even weeks. In addition, particularly for the women, it’s a cultural shame and disgrace to be shown publicly in photos.

We sat with a pair of ladies on their way to Denmark, before being invited to sit with some of Hashem’s family sitting nearby. Again, like with Samira and her family, I was offered the food and water that they had, and directed to sit on the blanket.

Hashed Hamed, his sweet 10-year old cousin, Shanguin Lasmall, both from Damascus, Syria, and I sitting together among 6,000 other refugees waiting further instruction of what next.

Hashem Hamed, his sweet 10-year old cousin, Shangul Lasmall, both from Damascus, Syria, and I sat together among 6,000 other refugees waiting further instruction of what to do next.

Sitting with them, watching as dusk took over the sky amidst thousands of despaired, exhausted souls wondering what was next in their journey, I, too, was burdened with the same unanswered question. Then suddenly there was loud disorder and a mad rush of movement pushing down the road. Two buses had arrived to transport a lucky 150 of the 6,000 refugees. Where to? Nobody seemed to know.

Imagine the desperate scene: rallied cries of “WE NEED BUS! WE NEED BUS!” came from determined young men to make it onboard, babies and children crying, families scrambling to gather their belongings, find one another and stay together, women pleading the chance for their families to board, truck loads of Croatian police officers arriving to keep order and peace, and a multitude of media photographers and videographers franticly moving around to capture the new development.

Rallied cries of,

Rallied cries of, “WE NEED BUS!, WE NEED BUS!”

The scene remained calm. After the two packed buses departed, the thousands of remaining refugees lined up nearly a mile down the road continued standing in hopes that more would arrive. Of all the reporters I asked, no one knew where the buses were going, nor if any more were coming that evening. Nobody seemed to know anything the entire day – it was mass confusion causing increasing anguish and anxiety amongst the refugees.

I’m not sure if more buses arrived that evening; I had arranged to be picked up from my hosts at a certain time. I was thankfully able to relocate Hashem and his family, bless them on their journey and say goodbye. I felt a heavy burden of guilt and sorrow as I walked away from them, knowing that I had access to a ride to get to where I needed to go and a bed to sleep on that night, while all of these refugees were likely going to sleep on the ground, continuing to wonder what next and if they were ever going to make it safely to their new home.

Thousands of refugees remain lined up nearly a mile down the road in hopes that more busses would arrive.

Thousands of refugees remain lined up nearly a mile down the road in hopes that more busses would arrive.

(Slideshows of more photos at end)


PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

The mass swarm of refugees fleeing war from Africa and the Middle East to seek a new life in Europe seems to be multiplying with no plateau in sight. It is a crisis gaining momentum in numbers and largely out of control, which has sent an unprepared, unequipped and divided European Union chaotically scrambling to hold onto the reigns of control.

What was once advertised as open, welcoming arms, has now gone to suspicious, closed doors and inspecting through the peep hole. Consider when Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. Peter went without thinking because it felt right and he had no reason to fear. After a few steps he became afraid, realized he was doing something humanly impossible and he began to sink as he doubted. In the same way, a handful of EU countries, primarily Germany, genuinely welcomed the refugees because it was the right and good thing to do, but they didn’t think ahead to how many could possibly come, nor did they communicate and agree upon a plan of action together. As the EU has realized they’re “walking on water” with their generosity, they’ve been quickly sinking in fear.

There are predictions and opinions circulating that the real numbers have yet to show their face, or in other words, this is just the beginning of the crisis. Many EU countries have a “hands off” attitude and will not consider taking in any of these refugees. This is leaving countries like Germany in a vulnerable and tough spot, having to step back in order to catch their breath, redefine their boundaries and figure out a solution.

I admire and respect Germany’s soft and warm heart of being willing to generously take in so many of these refugees under their wings. I find this an interesting visual in stark contrast with much of the world’s impression of the German people as unfriendly, cold and harsh. Germany is the only country known as the father land, while many others are referred to as the mother land. What a powerful picture this illustrates of a father taking in adopted children and covering them in provision, refuge and love.

These refugees are human beings, people like you and me – men, women, children, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters… They are people who have been faced with a tough decision to either stay and face death and persecution in their war-torn homeland, or let go of utterly everything they know and embrace the gift of life. They are taking the biggest leap in risking everything to survive, and who of us wouldn’t do the same?

And now it is as if they have become burdensome numbers who have crossed well beyond the line in wearing out their welcome. What other choice do they have? The EU is desperate for help and a solution in this crisis. Closing the borders is not the answer – the refugees will find another way in. It’s like damming up water; you can’t stop the flow of water – it will find an alternative way to flow. Saying no to these despaired souls only fuels their determination and passion for survival. If they don’t make it in, then they are going to die trying. They have nothing to turn back to.

I, personally, have been stumped on what is a good, balanced and healthy solution to this crisis… I have absolutely no idea. I can, though, see from both sides. My heart is with these refugees, especially after spending time with a small number of them, yet I see it’s not possible for only a few EU countries to healthfully handle this surge without drowning. All I can do is pray and hope for much wisdom and unity upon our world leaders in working together to find a resolution.


Munich Hauptbahnhof Slideshow (for a higher resolution view of the slideshow images, please visit my website here.)

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Tovarnik, Croatia Slideshow

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This is perhaps not my most flattering foto, BUT this is how I feel every day learning the brilliant language of German… Ha, I think this is a good representation of how I look and sound speaking it too.  ‪#‎theyloveeeemyamericanaccent‬

Nonetheless, a short story from my walk today:

Eine deutsche Geschichte für dich!… meine erste deutsche Geschichte habe ich geschrieben.

Heute bin ich in Ohmenhausen spazieren gegangen, und auf dem Weg habe ich zwei alte Männer gesehen. Sie haben mich aufgehalten und haben mich fragen gefragt und mit mir gesprochen. Ich hatte keine Ahnung von was sie geredet haben. Ich habe gesagt, “Entschuldigung, ich weiß nicht von was du fragst…” (ja, informal, ich weiß 😒)

Ein Mann hat mich gefragt, “Wo wohnst du?”

“Oh, ich wohne in Ohmenhausen, aber ich komme aus USA, aber ich wohne jetzt in DE!” Er hat gedacht ich wäre 19 Jahre alt, und ich habe gelacht und gesagt, “ICH?!?!? Danke, aber bin ich 32!!!” Sie waren geschockt und ein Mann hat gesagt dass mein Hut mich jung machen. Der andere Mann hat gesagt, “Er ist dreimal 18!…” Anyway, dann haben sie mir den Weg nach Ohmenhausen gezeigt, und dann trennten sich unsere Wege. Es war sehr lustig.

EINE GUTES NEUES JAHR meine Freunde und Familie!

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Ich hoffe euch allen sind gut und gesund! Mir geht es gut… Ich nehme jeden Tag nach dem anderen.

Okaiiiiii, jetzt auf Englisch…

Time escapes me quickly here, so these are raw and unedited thoughts coming from me to you.

It’s been a really good, extremely blessed, interesting and somewhat complicated time so far.

The process of moving to another country and getting all of the logistics completed is a drawn out process. I can’t accomplish some big/important tasks without first some very small yet key details. For example, I have not yet been able to open a bank account because I first had to get proof of where I am now living. I can’t get a new SIM card until I get a German bank account with a German Visa card. I’m still waiting to get a response from the bank. In addition, so many German holidays in the past week have painfully slowed this process. Ein Tag nach dem anderen – one day at a time.

For the next three months I am living with my friend Melina’s family, in Reutlingen. I have been beside myself with how incredible and generous they have been in helping me with EVERYTHING. For an independent gal like me, I have been repeatedly humbled several times in each day and deeply impacted by the abounding love and grace I am immersed in.

A very unexpected surprise came to me when Papa Martin und Mama Dani said to me, “Lindsey, instead of you taking the bus to the train station, and the train to another bus to get to school, you take one of our cars!” Yes, I have a car to drive back and forth to school for the next three months, which not only saves me money, but also at least 2 hours of commuting a day! Simply, WOW.

I am moved by the true love in this family. I am transformed by how they include me so naturally as one of their own. It is something special to eat breakfast, lunch (on the weekends) and dinner together every day, and for Papa Martin to lead off in a time where we all pray, give thanks and acknowledge our Lord before we embark upon each day. Family is so uniquely different in Germany. As I continue to spend a lot of time with the Link Family, I experience the gentle touch, endless love and holistic healing of Abba Father through them.

Yesterday, I received an email from the police station in a different city, “Dear Ms. Brunsman, Your wallet and passport were found in the “Ranitzky” restaurant in Tübingen. Now it is at the police station…” WHAT?! My heart stopped – I had no idea that it had fallen out of my purse, and I have absolutely no idea how that could have happened, but it’s a true miracle that it was safely found and given to the police with nothing missing from it. Colossal provision and protection from the Lord.

Today was my first day of German class at the Sprache Institute in Tübingen. It went very well, although it was also very difficult. I really like my teacher. I definitely have my work cut out for me the next few months… and actually this will be my next to last English communication for a while (I have another post almost complete) because many people have advised me to have very limited English communication while I am learning German. Today my German teacher told me absolutely no English. Going back and forth between the two is a huge set-back and prevents me from being able to excel in learning, thinking, listening, writing, reading and speaking German. So I told her that I would send a long English message to all of my friends and family today, then follow her advice. I will STILL be in touch with all of you, aber auf Deutsch, and you can translate with Google, ja? And please, it fills my heart with a sense of home and encouragement to hear from all of you – so be free to get in touch with me (in English).

Here are some photos of where I am now living, of my time here so far, the city where I’m going to school and a photo from my last trip with the Link Family.

I mean this with every bit of my heart when I say that I miss each of you greatly. Your absence from what was my normal-daily-American-living life is deeply felt. It’s definitely a vast challenge stepping into a new country, culture, language, but everything is more than okay. Ich nehme jeden Tag nach dem anderen mit meinem Gott. Er ist genug.

I send much love, hugs and smiles to you all. Sei gesegnet.

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I have been profoundly blessed with a home that I call my place of peace and refuge for the last three years and two months. This particular spot will forever be etched into my heart and my story… countless hours of sitting before the Lord: undergoing radical surgical procedures of my heart, soul and spirit, releasing buckets of tears, fighting to let go, observing and smiling in awe at the beauty, movements and sounds of nature, receiving endless healing, hope and empowerment, engaging in hours upon hours of prayer and basking in the embracing warmth of His glory. I have been so romanced and amazed even on the most overcast of days by the sun, who always found a way to peek through the clouds and shine in on those moments, even if only for a few seconds.

In exactly 14 days, I will continue forward in my journey, letting go and flying free out of this nest of a home, with many tears of joy intertwined with tears of grief that come with change. I am reminded that for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3‬:‭1‬-8)

My heart is full of endless gratitude for these 1,171 days of goodness and blessing. May it be doubly so for the next young gal who is coming in right behind me.

“Steh Auf!” – 14.Sept.2014

A demonstration led by Angela Merkel against Anti-Semitism took place a couple of days ago at the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin. There were about 8,000 protestors gathered to show their support and listen to what Mrs. Merkel had to say. However not everyone was there to support the cause. There were some distinct “firecrackers” who had their own motivations of using the Anti-Semitism stage to stir things up by protesting, “Free Palestine” and “No war”. As you can imagine, this caused some very strong conversations. The expression, “Schämt euch!” – Shame on you!, could be heard loudly encircling them.

One particular young Jewish man was very bold in confronting these protestors, exclaiming that it was the wrong stage for flaunting their political/war frustrations, when this was clearly an event to show support against the racist acts towards the Jewish population. It was interesting to observe the change in body language and facial expressions of the pro-Palestinian protestors the more this Jewish man made his point that this wasn’t the time or place for them to raise their voice. He and another opposing man even exchanged phone numbers in order to meet for a beer and talk further about the topic.

Although there were some people who tried to start some commotion, everything remained peaceful.

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…I recently had a vision for a brother of mine who is across the sea and in the land of Germany, so I decided to pull out my old books, paint, wood stain, brushes, pencils and erasers and go to the drawing table.

Through the duration of working on this piece, a few of the powerfully prophetic lyrics of one of my favorite songs by one of my most-liked artists kept repeating in my mind along with this vision:

when the night comes, 
and you don’t know which way to go 
through the shadowlands, 
and forgotten paths, 
you will find a road  

like an owl you must fly by moonlight with an open eye, 
and use your instinct as a guide, to navigate the ways that lays before you, 
you were born to, take the greatest flight…

—White Owl, by Josh Garrels