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A traveller's diary, part one

Posted on:October 11, 2014 at 04:13 PM

Sipping a Chai Latte in that same Starbucks coffee where everything started, six days ago. Many incredible things happened since then… thinking back, ordering thoughts, trying to write everything down, knowing that whatever I write down now will become my memories, will become my true story.

Saturday evening: The super airport shuttle drops me off in front of the Melbourne Hostel, my chosen-because-it-didn’t-look-too-shabby-on-Wikitravel place for tonight. Three other guys, around my age, are already in the room. James comes from Illinois, John from Moscow. The third guy simply says “I come from the father”. Grin on my face.

He’s up before six the next morning, trying to catch a Greyhound bus. Jetlaggedly awake, I watch him pack and ask what he meant by coming from the father. He asks me whether I have a bible, and leaves after a short discussion.

Ten minutes later, the guy’s back. “Can’t checkout before seven. Want to grab a coffee?” — “Sure,” I say, can’t sleep anyway. We walk downtown to the aforementioned Starbucks. Sipping coffee and Chai Latte, we discuss about God and the world till he has to hurry for his bus. I learn his name only as we part — Fryman.

Strolling back through town. Streets are closed because of the Hot Chocolate Marathon. As I come past a church, an elder man starts talking to me: “Are you a racer?” — “No, just visiting town” — “From where?” — “Switzerland” — “Ah, dann können Sie Deutsch sprechen?” He opens up like a flower in the sunlight, and tells me that he had learned German at school, lived in Germany for a while, and that I absolutely should see the organ of the church because there’s nothing like it elsewhere. “And if you hear it… it will blow your socks off, as we say here.”

I got time, so why not? Following the man into the church, I learn that his wife plays piano for the choir, that it’s the oldest church in town (founded 1859, a few months after gold rushers built Auraria, the later Denver), and that the couple comes here every Wednesday to clean the church interior and ensure everything is ready for service.

Trinity United Methodist Church -- Organ and interior

The organ at Trinity church — picture from their website

Indeed, the organ could be the pride of any Swiss cathedral. The organist arrives after we’ve marvelled at it a few minutes, and starts playing a modern Amazing Grace. I continue talking and greeting people, and ultimately decide to stay for the 8:15 service.

The methodists seem to be a mix between protestants (what they call “Christian” in this country) and catholics (a category for itself :-S). Some elements of the liturgy are fixed and written in an hymns book. For the Eucharist, everybody comes forward to the sanctuary and kneels down to receive bread and grape juice.

There’s breakfast after the service, and I stay until I realize that 10:00 was check-out time at the hostel. I pack my bags and plan the day. The last-millennium computer in the hostel office tells me that Washington park is not too far. There’s a recreation center there, with swimming pool and showers. Perfect for shaking off jetlag.

Washington park, Denver
"Washington Park Denver" by Jeffrey Beall

On the way there, I reflect about the country I’m in. I’m on my way to a computer science conference, where the most brilliant people of the systems world come together to discuss the true pearls of computer systems research. Yet as I’m walking through this country that strives for excellence so much, I find that most Americans seem to be content with a small house, a small lawn, a car, and occasionally choosing whether they like their chicken wings with BBQ sauce or lime&pepper. Two worlds…

One more noteworthy event on this day. After a refreshing swim and a ride in the lightrail train back downtown, I end up in the Tattered Cover Book Store. Imagine a large floor full of bookshelves, sofas, and a small café. You sit down, sip your smoothie while leafing through books… just perfect. I leave the place with a copy of the hunger games as well as volume two and three of Ian Doescher’s excellent Shakespearean Star Wars, and take a bus to Broomfield.