Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas in Cambodia

It’s hot here. What a change from cold, cold Shaxi where I had an electric blanket, wore my coat constantly, and reheated bottle after bottle of water to stay warm. I am no longer eating wayyyy too much food with my Shaxi family, nor am I washing my face every morning and night (as well as my feet at night).
No, I’m in Cambodia now. And boy am I glad.
This place is amazing in so many ways.
Did you know that in the 1970s half of the population of Cambodia was killed? The communist Khmer Rouge committed a brutal genocide—killing completely innocent men, women, and children. As a result, this country has a very young population and a very poor population, most of whom live in the country on less than a dollar a day.
On Monday we went to the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng. Tuol Sleng is the high school turned prison that held about 16,000 innocent people. In the classrooms which became prison cells, there are now hundreds of pictures of faces. Beautiful Cambodian faces.
Then there were the Killing Fields. They are just outside of the city of Phnom Penh, not a long tuk-tuk ride. The Killing Fields are the invention of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader, and they are the site of the memorial which holds 8,000 skulls.
As you walk around the Killing Fields, it’s quiet. People are respectful. After passing the memorial, there are paths which lead you to a few mass graves—one holding 400 bodies, another holding 150. Then you’re led on to an area where there is pit after pit after pit. I stopped counting at 50.
As I walked around, I was horrified to see scraps of clothing lying around. Clothing from the thousands of people who were executed and died there. You see, only 14 people survived Tuol Sleng. 14 out of 16,000. Everyone else was taken by truck to the Killing Fields.
Sorry for the gruesome details, but it’s just such a huge part of history, and I feel like it’s been ignored. People here still suffer from the memory, from the fact that landmines are still a danger, and from poverty.
But in spite of all this, Cambodia is an incredibly beautiful place full of incredibly beautiful people. They have the warmest smiles and genuine hearts.  I have absolutely loved my time here, and I wish I had more time—I think we all do! The food is amazing, the hotels we’re at are really nice,  and we ride tuk-tuks everywhere! (They’re little carts that usually hold 4 people and are pulled by a motorcycle. Favorite form of transportation thus far.)
We also have encountered two amazing NGOs (non-government organizations)—Mith Samlanh in Phnom Penh and Sala Bai here in Siem Reap. Both of these NGOs take either street kids or disadvantaged kids from their respective cities and they train them in hospitality services. So both places have restaurants where the students are waiters—and there’s excellent service and really excellent food! If you are ever in Phnom Penh, you HAVE to go to Friends (the restaurant) or Romdeng (their other restaurant). Friends is near the riverfront, and right next door there is a store called Friends ‘n Stuff—everything in the store is recycled (AWESOME) and made by the students. I got so much stuff from there. The money from the restaurants and the store go directly to the program that helps the street kids. It’s pretty amazing, and the kids are pretty amazing too. I say kids, but they’re really young adults—my age.
Cambodia has been a fantastic experience so far. I have been reminded again and again how completely blessed I am to have a whole and living family, to always have more than enough of what I need, to have friends who love me, support me, pray for me.
So I’d like to ask you to pray for Cambodia. These people are wonderful, but they need the gospel.  Pray also for sweet Alek—I met him in Phnom Penh trying to sell books to Rachel, Connor, Mary, Jon, and Rayn.  He was ten years old, on the streets, trying to make money for his mother he said. He was hilarious and a clever salesman. I bought a bracelet from him, his favorite one (I just couldn’t resist). He said he wants to be a lawyer when he grows up. Please pray for Alek that he would hear the gospel and allow the hope of Christ to fill his heart. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of him, but he was so precious.
Thanks for all your support and prayer for me—I am so grateful for it! Be praying for my team and all our families as Christmas is going to be difficult for all of us.
Thanks again—love and miss you guys a lot!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Inca Trail

*These are excerpts from my journal entries throughout the 4 days on the trail, and then one from AFTER the trail. These were my thoughts and feelings--don't judge me!* :)

The Climb, Day 1 Starting Out

WOW. That was hard. I am tried. So tried......I don't remember what time we actually started. But I know I've been up since 5:45.

I was at the back all day. My bag is too heavy. My back hurts and my legs feel like jelly. But wow. It is so......beautiful here. I can't capture it in words or pictures.

God's creation is so incredible.  It's what is keeping me going.

Tomorrow we hike 4.5 miles UP....It's Halloween tomorrow. And I'm gonna die. It's gonna be a very long day. But I'm trying to remember that this is the chance of a lifetime. So many people want to do this trek and I'm getting to.

I read Psalm 19 today: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." (v.1) SO true......

[Just as a note of interest-the first day while I climbed, to distract me, I listened to the entire Sound of Music soundtrack, over and over. Thanks Sarah Beth for reminding me to "Climb every mountain" was a source of inspiration and encouragement! :) I love you!]

The Climb, Day 2--The Most Awful and Awesome Day of Life

I just experienced the most physically challenging day of my life. No joke. It was awful. So awful.

The first 30 minutes of the hike (which were NOTHING compared to the last bit before the pass), I really didn't think I could make it. Seriously. I knew it wasn't the hardest part, and I was just so tired. I was on the verge of just breaking down and sobbing (Scott would have LOVED that); tears were literally in my eyes and it was all I could do to keep them from streaming down my face.

I was having this internal battle--I kept thinking there was no way I could do it and I HAD to stop. But then I kept telling myself that I HAD to keep going--I couldn't quit. I started feeling better when we (Kasha, Mckinley, Scott and I--the A-Team, that is) stopped and talked to some people. But it only got more intense and grueling throughout the day. Even coming down the mountain was hard.

Here's where I tell you it was all worth it though. I mean don't get me wrong---I really REALLY do not like hiking. It's just not my thing. But there were moments today that I enjoyed SO much: we made friends on the trail (2 of them were Brazilian, and we beat them to the top....)

[note-Mckinley has a very amusing story about them:)]

hahahaha.....Mckinley fell over in her pack......the incredibly ancient "mountain god" stopped us on the way down and played us the harmonica (badly...SOOOOOO badly.)....

There were so may moments when I thought I couldn't go any further. I honestly don't know how I made it. I owe so much to Socrates (our main guide), who switched packs with me (us 3 girls switched with the 3 guides--they're amazing), and to Scott. He was such an encouragement, and stuck with us pretty much the whole way. Scott could have been the first to the top. But no matter how much we complained, he was always positive. So thanks Scott! And the four of us had so much fun together despite how intense it was (for us girls at leastl!).

A really good thing about going slow was that I really took in all the scenery. There were moments where I just stopped and looked (and then I took some pictures MOM. :) No worries!) But seriously. God's creation is just incredible--He is so gracious to have made something so beautiful....

I'm definitely going to (I already DO I guess) have a love-hate relationship with the Inca Trail.

[Another note of interest--on this day, I listened to Daniel Renstrom.....ALL DAY. I listened mainly to his first album, Vaunted Pleasures with the H2O band from Providence, and then to his newest DC, On the Incarnation, which is probably my favorite of his so far. It's technically a Christmas album, but it encouraged me to meditate on Christ, the gospel, and the glorious news of the incarnation. So THANKS Daniel for allowing God to use you and your gifts to encourage and further the gospel! Now if you haven't heard Daniel or his music, GO LISTEN NOW. IT will be worth every second of your time. :)]

The Climb, Day 3--The Long Day Down

Today wasn't so much difficult as LONG. We hiked the most today...I don't remember the was a lot. At first it was up and it was cloudy the better half of the day. I got some cool pictures I think, but I wish it had cleared up. I stuck with Mckinley pretty much of that day--she felt sick, so we stopped some. We saw a few Incan ruins: Runkuraqay, Sayaqmarka, and Phuyupatamarka. They were pretty amazing, built so high in the mountains. After lunch I felt really sick, like I had to throw up. I think I just ate too much or something, I dunno. So after lunch was hard for me. We got up to the pass (the 3 of us weren't last-YAY!) and from there it was downhill. A lot of it was steep--our feet hurt SO bad. I rolled my ankles so much today....

Tonight I looked at the "chascas"---the stars (Chascas is the Incan name for stars AND the name of our group!) They are gorgeous. It made this whole day worth it. Then I thought of Psalm 19 again and some other Scriptures....I ended up looking at God's promise to Abraham though, and I thought of how Abraham, on a clear night, would have seen SO many stars. So when God promised him a multitude of offspring--more than the stars--he must have been blown away.

Praise God that he fulfills his promises!

[Note of interest--my iPod was dead today. Sadly. But Alex kindly let me use her solar charger, so I had it for the next day! Thanks Alex!]

The Climb, Day 4--Praying up to Machu Picchu

Well, I did it.

I successfully finished and climbed the Inca Trail....I survived! I just told Mckinley that that's something I never would have made myself do. And it was SO hard. Like wow. I am beyond exhausted, and my patience is definitely at the limit. But what an amazing experience--and a huge accomplishment for me!!

[For those of you who don't know, my mom was thoughtful enough to make a journal for me before I left--she gave it to some of my closest friends and family who all wrote in it. It has something written for every day until April 29th (except for March and April weird. only those two days. I don't understand.) {ed. added--her Mom is typing this for her in blogger, and she (mom) didn't realize that two days were left blank, or she would have made sure something was written there---and she apologizes profusely}.

Anyway, it's been so awesome to have, and I read it every day, day by day (by day by day....), and it's a huge source of comfort for me. And laugther. it's quite hilarious. ANYWAY.]

In my journal, today, mom had reminded me to pray for certain things--friends, family, my new friends--as I climbed.

And so I did! I prayed for my old friends, for my family....for my new friends, for my host families...that God would give me grace to be faithful on this trip....It was a sweet thing--thanks Mom for encouraging me to do that!

After we finished the tour of Machu Picchu (which is incredible, by the way), we had about an hour to explore. I was with Rosi, who wanted to go up to the very top, the highest point that looks out over Machu Picchu. So I started climbing (AGAIN) with him, and pretty close to the top, I saw a secluded spot....I can't really describe it, and don't have any pictures of it. But I just sat there, by myself for about 30 minutes. I prayed, but mostly I looked at the beauty around me, trying to take it all in. I listened to some Keith and Kristyn Getty songs as well as Daniel Renstrom again. It was a beautiful moment for me, and one that I'll remember when I think of Machu Picchu.

I have several pictures of the Inca Trail, but haven't been able to load them onto a computer yet. When I get the chance, I will, and then I'll load them to my new picture site: About half my Ecuador pictures are up, so check it out!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm in China!!

Mulan. Fried rice. Asians! Pei Wei. LOTS of people. People who eat dog. People who speak the amazing language of Chinglish. Communist.

This is probably what the average American thinks of when they think of China. And this is kind of what I thought of before I landed in Kunming on November 6th, after 40 hours of travel, during which I and my group never experienced November 5th, 2010.

We arrived exhausted, sleeping the entire way thought the 3 hour bus ride to the smaller city of Tonghai.. After getting "orientated" (yes, I know that oriented is the correct term) and spending some time with some Chinese students, we drove back to Kunming and met our host families. We were all pretty nervous for this one I think--you see we're all staying alone here in China, and none of us speak the language. And then we settled in and began figuring out our individual routines--bus routes, bike routes, which way to walk, what to do when we get lost. We are getting used to seeing Chinese characters everywhere, not using words like, "Esta bien," "Gracias", and "Aqui!" We've also been spending time figuring out where the good "Western" restaurants are, as well as where a movie theatre is to see the new Harry Potter movie (which we now all have tickets to. We will be seeing it at 7pm tomorrow, our time of course. Everyone in the group is going. It's going to be a truly epic event on this trip. We might even dress up!) We now have a general idea of how to make a 40 minute lesson plan for middle and high schoolers because we just finished our first week of teaching.

I'm not sure how to describe my time here in China yet. It's actually been quite a rollercoaster. I've experienced completely absurd moments--mainly Chinese class, when we find out that we've been saying something completely wrong for a week (for example, Eirann interrupted class yesterday when she came to the realization that whenever she'd asked her family for "hot water" she had actually been asking for "water people" was an excellent moment). I've been incredibly frustrated---from missing home, to hating the food, to not being able to communicate with my host mom, to feeling like my students will not gain anything from my teaching. I've also had moments where I see how incredibly blessed I am--like this morning at breakfast. I sat there with my host mom, eating oatmeal, a sweet potato, a boiled egg, a tiny purple potato the size of a large grape, and a peeled apple, and I realized how utterly ridiculous and unbelievable it is that I am on this trip. I've had moments of deep sadness---when I read emails from my family and friends, when I saw pictures of my sister and her pregnant belly, when I want to be with them on the holidays coming up, but know that I can't.

I've had times of confusion--as I think about education and what it means to have an oppressive or liberating education, as I think about the purpose of education and how that can vary across cultures. And I've had moments of joy---telling a joke today about a squash and a boiling pot of water, seeing the excitement for Harry Potter build, going to KFC three days in a row with Mckinley and others, understanding something in Chinese, and having an incredibly fun and successful class with some of our 7th graders.

This is the nature of the trip. You never know what the next day is going to be like. It may be a really hard day, it may be one where you're exhausted, it may be one where you can't stop laughing with everyone here, or it may be one where you're simply content with where you are.

I'm trying to remain content with where I am. As I've stated in other posts, I'm learning so much: about relationships with others and how to have patience, to let the little things go, how to be more globally minded, how to be wrong, how to use my education as I think about these issues, how to get around a large, foreign city, how to be alone, but not really alone, and how to depend on Christ.

I hope I can keep these lessons at the front of my mind. And I hope that when the days are hard here--when I'm sick and tired of the bus, the cold, and the Chinese food---I will remember what an amazing blessing this trip is, and how fortunate I am to be here.

I have probably 3 or 4 more posts coming up (The Inca Trail, teaching here in China, and one about some books I've read lately) so bear with me! :) Thanks for reading, and everyone back home---thanks for praying and supporting me! Love you guys!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

There's a Spear in the Bathroom

We started a writing group here. This poem came from the prompt: Make a creative story starting with "There's a spear in the bathroom..."
Mine turned into a poem.
This poem is based on true events.

There's a spear in the bathroom.
Why is it there?
Was it left by a monster?
Or maybe a bear?
Some Wild Thing left it.
Yesterday I think.
It's there in the bathroom,
Right next to the sink.
Move it, I say!
It's dangerous, you see!
Someone might grab it
and stab you or me!
This spear in the bathroom,
an object of fright,
could really scar one
in the middle of the night.
Again I must ponder
Why is it there?!
It's not there to brush teeth
or comb someone's hair.
It's oddly misplaced,
Let's go return it.
But the question is:
Where do we put it!?
This spear is so frustrating,
I think I may scream!
I woke up.
It's all been a dream.

A Summation of Ecuador

***I wrote parts of this on the 19th of October in Los Naranjos. We arrived in Quito yesterday, the 25th. So it’s a hodge podge of writing from the 19th and today (the 26th). Just some context!***

“I need to get some chocolate. I need a hot shower. I need to finish this reading. I need some quiet. I need you to leave me alone. I need a moment.
I need to get out of here.”
Need, need, need.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I need versus what I want. AND what I should or shouldn’t want. It’s just kind of something you’re forced to think of in a place like Los Naranjos. Those people have to think of that all the time.
Tonight we had a fiesta. We were celebrating my little sister, Nayely’s birthday—she turned 8! I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I started decorating the house with streamers and balloons.
What I got though was a night of pure joy!
We ate, danced, sang, and laughed SO much. It was, for me, a beautiful display of family and love—something I am missing dearly!
God has been so gracious ever since I arrived in Ecuador—through my roommate, through different conversatons with people. Through my host family and finding out that my host mom believes in God. Through what He has revealed in His Word to me. I feel as though I have learned so much already.
But in thinking about what I need versus what I want, I have realized that all I really need or should want is Christ. I finished 2 Corinthians yesterday (I’ve now read through 1 & 2 Corinthians), and I loved reading the familiar passage that says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” as well as, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” AND, “ Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come! All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Throughout various situations and conversations here, I have praised God that he chose to reveal himself and the gospel to me. I am a new creation, reconciled to the perfect God of the universe, the God whose grace gives me strength in my weakness. I am seen as righteous, and I am being prepared for an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison.
What more should I need or want than that? What more should any of us need or want when we have a Savior that loves us that much?
So I have a lot to be grateful for. Thank you to everyone at home who has been so faithful to pray for me and encourage me. Today I have been acutely aware of just how much I miss being at home. So thank you for every comment, like, Facebook post, email, or message—they mean so much and I LOVE getting them! I’m really sorry if I don’t respond—please don’t be offended, I just have limited time and internet!
Also, a special thanks to Mrs. Edwards’ 4th grade class for my birthday letters—they each wrote me one, and my friends here were so jealous when I got…what 20 something letters? They thought it was adorable, and I loved them!
So to sum up Ecuador I’ll make a list of praises:
-that even though this was the country I was most nervous about, I MADE IT, and I not only made it, I loved it so much
-that God gave me several opportunities to share
-that my roomie Alex and I got along so well and that I learned a lot from rooming with her
-that my time in Los Naranjos made me more grateful
-that I am treasuring the gospel more than ever before
-that I dearly loved my host family
-that my host mom believes in God
-that my birthday was amazing!!
-that I’ve grown closer with everyone here
-that the church wasn’t actually closed last week and I got to go for about 30 minutes before I had to leave! (I didn’t understand any of the Spanish except when the pastor said “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” and then everyone said “Amen!” It was like being back at home! J)
-that God gave me grace to keep an open mind about the issue of the environment and that I have learned a lot in this section
-that I am relying more every day on Christ as my Savior and comforter.

I could go on and on—like I said I have a lot to be grateful for!
But there are some things I’d love for ya’ll to pray for:
-that the gospel would be revealed and become very real to my host mom and family. They have a couple very old Bibles, as well as the one that I gave them, and the Jesus film. Please pray that God would use something to pierce their hearts with the truth of God’s grace.
-that God would protect our health—we’ve had a lot of issues in the past couple weeks (some parasites, weight loss, and general sickness). Just pray that we would be wise about taking care of our bodies.
-that we would become closer as a group—that our relationships with each other would grow deeper.
-that our group would take what we learned in Ecuador about the environment and think about some serious, practical ways to change our lifestyles to be more environmentally friendly. Or that we would be able to think of ways to educate others on environmental issues.
-please begin praying for my Chinese host families (as of now I have two—one for Kunming and one in Shaxi). The language barrier could prove to be a struggle, even with the Chinese lessons we’re taking (by the time we’re done, I’ll have had 20 days worth of intensive Chinese classes! We’re taking them every weekday morning in Kunming.). So pray that God would provide a way to share with them, and that they would receive the gospel well.
-lastly, please pray for me! The Climb, as I like to call it, (aka the Inca Trail) is coming up! We start on Saturday, and most of you know that that is what I’m most nervous about at this point. Pray that I would have a positive attitude and the strength to climb—that the altitude wouldn’t give me too much trouble! And that I would just enjoy every minute of that experience.
Again, I am so grateful for all of you, and that I can share this experience with you. I am really missing everyone today (I started crying this morning). But I am having a fantastic time, and I am so excited to see how God uses the rest of this experience in my life. Praise God for His glorious gospel!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Los Naranjos!

Well. Here I am in Banos, Ecuador. It’s a cute little tourist town in the mountains—very cold, and today it’s very wet. Awesome. No, it’s pretty great! It’s our Independent Student Travel (IST) weekend, and we all heard great things about Banos, so everyone’s here except for 5 people from our group (including leaders!).

We’re all in different hotels though, and I’m at a hotel with Kasha, Mckinley, and Jon. We’re going to walk around town some and then get a massage later (at least the girls are). Because I’ve been planting trees for 3 weeks, and I can!

So it’s been what? Two weeks since Bahia? They have flown by! I am enjoying Los Naranjos more every day—from the bugs tearing my feet to bits (I’ve been rockin the socks and flops look to keep them safe) to taking TONS of pictures with my host siblings to staying up late watching Mexican soap operas (so dramatic. Really quality TV there.) (Oh and late being like…9:30 or 10 haha)…I really love it here. Mainly because I absolutely love my host family. My kids (I call them my kids, haha—my host siblings!) give me hugs every time I come home from anywhere. They love to take pictures and draw things and show them to me. Andy is 3 and can be rather annoying at times (praise God that I had “practice” with Joshua!!), but then he comes up to you and gives you a HUGE hug and won’t let go. Nayely loves to sit with me and just watch me read or write. She holds my hand when we walk and asks questions (in very fast Spanish!). My mom is so sweet. She does everything around the house. She laughs really loud (makes me miss you a lot Mom!) and laughs at EVERYTHING. She’s fantastic. My dad is really nice—he’s pretty quiet though. But our family has a great sense of humor, so we laugh a lot together.

A typical day for me in Los Naranjos:
Wake up at least 3 times at night. Two potential reasons: Alex is rolling into me or the rooster decides to hate us and wake us up at 3:30. Stupid rooster. I wake up at 6 to my mom working—making coffee, cleaning and such. At 6:30 my sister is usually up watching TV (SO different from Caitlin—never mind the age difference!). I’m usually up at about 10 til 7 so that I can have my face washed by the time breakfast is ready. Usually that’s at 7. We walk 30 minutes to work (unless by God’s grace, we meet at our house—favorite days!). Then we meet up with everyone and get to work late—not just Ecuadorian time, but Tsa’chilan time.We usually work til 11:30 or 12 (it’s been ending earlier). We’ve gotten much more efficient with the way we do things? Then we head home, shower, eat lunch, cram in seminar reading, and at 2:30 we walk back to the Cultural Center for seminar. I usually go home right after, journal, hang out with the kids, eat dinner, and hang out some more, watching TV and stuff. Then bed time!

I’m learning so much here. The seminars have been really challenging for me—it’s just interesting seeing how responsible I am for adding to environmental destruction…just through the clothes and things I buy. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to change my lifestyle when I come back…and it’s hard.

But God is also just teaching me so much. I have been really struggling with the lack of fellowship—I miss the Church!! And it’s honestly been quite exhausting and very difficult. I mean everyone here is so awesome, and I love them, but it’s just hard not being at church. But by God’s grace, the lack of fellowship has made me read and study more Scripture and meditate on the gospel. I’m reading 2 Corinthians now and it’s just so encouraging. I’m going to try to memorize chapter 4. It will take a while, but I’m super excited about it.

I’ve had a lot of opportunity here among my friends, which I am so grateful for. Keep praying for everyone here—we’re tired! Emotionally, physically, mentally…
But it’s so awesome to see how faithful and gracious God is to me daily.
I need to go, but thanks again for all the prayers—ya’ll are the best, and I am constantly reminded of how blessed I am to have friends like you!
Much love—and read 2 Corinthians 4 sometime this week.

(ps--mom posted this for Hannah and took the liberty to put in the two pictures---they are from Jess Elisberg's facebook page. Hannah still hasn't been able to upload photos---These are pictures where they are planting trees....obviously!)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Hardcore Jungle Trekkers!

NOTE--This post is incredibly long. I just kind of wrote a bunch of thoughts. I hope you enjoy it (and please just comment something, I love hearing from people!), but I apologize for the length!

Hey everyone! I am writing from the small town of Bahia de Caraquez. We arrived here at about 6pm—by the way, I am safe. If you heard about the riots in Quito, we were far away from them. So Mom, DON’T WORRY! ☺
Wow. So let’s see. We were in Los Naranjos for almost a week. We arrived there last Friday, and we pretty much immediately went to our host families.
Gosh, it’s hard to sum up everything I’ve experienced in the past week.
I’m rooming with Alex, the baby of our group. ☺ She’s 16 and from California. We’ve been having a lot of fun together. We’re living with Carlos and Anjelica—they are pretty much the sweetest couple. They are so great and generous to me and Alex. We have two host siblings: Nayely (or Michelle….but she introduced herself as Nayely), who’s 7, and Andy, who’s like…4. They are adorable, and I’m kind of obsessed with them.
It’s really difficult for me to process all that’s happened. Already, I know!
We started planting trees on Monday. It’s really hard work. They are literally cutting paths for us with a machete so that we can plant the trees. We’re planting along three different rivers. This week we planted probably 1000 trees….only 7000 to go! ☺ I’ve gotten tons of bug bites—ants, sand fleas, you name it, I probably have it. (Yes Mom, I’m taking my malaria meds.) So yeah, the work here is hard, but it’s good.
And just FYI—you know how I’ve been nervous about Machu Picchu? Well no worries—Alex and I (along with Connor and Eirann who live 5 minutes from us), have figured that we walk at least 10 miles a day. Up and down hills! At this point, Alex, Connor, Eirann, and I live the farthest from everything. As we work down rivers and stuff, we’re hoping we’ll get closer to home.
So Machu Picchu, here I come!
Our seminars have been interesting so far. We’re studying the environment and natural resources, so we’re looking at what it means to conserve the environment and be environmentally responsible, all while considering basic human needs and energy needs…Personally, it’s been really challenging (Hahaha Ty, I miss you!). Being environmentally responsible for me usually means giving up a lot of creature comforts. Or at least feeling guilty for the things I have that are environmentally destructive. I dunno. It’s something I am struggling with, and I’m interested to see how my mind changes over the next three weeks. I’m realizing that I am stubborn on this issue and I don’t want to change my mind. So I’m praying that I’ll be open to new ideas and ways of living. (For those of you who are concerned, NO, I am not becoming a vegetarian, haha.)
I’m really enjoying myself though. I think Alex and I are really blessed with our host family. We are having a great time with them. My host mom is so adorable. She laughs a lot, and I’ve actually had a conversation with her by myself! I can understand a lot more Spanish than I can speak. But yeah, Anjelica likes to joke around with us a lot. A few nights ago we watched one of the Anaconda movies. So ridiculous. Yeah by the way, we have TV and a DVD player. Our house is a one room hut, but it’s warm (not too warm though) and dry. There are two queen sized beds with awesome mosquito nets, and the first night they told us the beds were for us and they would sleep on the floor…Alex and I immediately told them absolutely not, thank you so much, but they needed a bed.
I was really convicted the first night in Los Naranjos as I was walking to our house with my family and Alex…I was carrying my two backpacks—my packs that have made everyone say, “That’s ALL you’re taking for EIGHT MONTHS?”—and I was thinking about how heavy they are. And then I realized, walking next to my sister and Mom, that I probably have as much as they do in their whole house in those two bags. And it’s a lot more expensive. I don’t know. These people have so little and seem so happy. Sure they have to walk a while to get places, and they don’t having running water, but you know what, they have a toilet! And they have a place to shower (we use two buckets, it’s actually pretty nice). And they have food and a TV and movies and school. They seem happy.
And here I am with all my STUFF. We watched a documentary called The Corporation (I definitely recommend it—Jaron especially, you’ve got to see it), and we’ve been talking about how ridiculous our consumer culture is.
Anyway. Sorry for how disjointed this post is. I feel like these posts will only get worse, haha.
So yeah. I’m having a grand time. But please pray for endurance, patience, and positive attitudes as we’re planting. I’ve been drawn to 1 Corinthians since I’ve been gone, and God is teaching me a lot. Please pray that I would continue learning and digging deep in the Word. Also pray that I would have grace to be humble and bold with the gospel.
I miss ya’ll a lot! Sorry for the long post. But thanks for the prayers and concerns. I may have internet next weekend (I’ll be on my Independent Student Travel—probably to Banos). By the way! Everyone here is SUPER excited for my birthday tomorrow. No worries Mom, I will be well loved on my birthday. ☺

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pinto and Rain

Costa Rica. Home of beautiful beaches, whales, rainforest....LOTS of rain, and LOTS of PINTO!
Oh Pinto. It's become a little joke here. Every morning we had the same thing for breakfast--pinto (beans and rice) and eggs (scrambled or fried). Or we could have toast. We actually had a lot of options, it's just that pinto was a constant.
So I'm in San Jose right now. We fly out to Quito, Ecuador tomorrow where we'll be for a few days before heading to the Tsa'chila community in Los Naranjos. I'm super excited to meet my host family and to figure out who I'm staying with!
Costa Rica was a great way to start the trip. We had some great seminars and did some awesome things. After I last blogged, we went kayaking in the mangroves! So fun. My kayak partner was Mckinley and we had a grand time. Seriously, we probably had too much fun haha. We sang and laughed hysterically because we had to duck to not hit branches and we got stuck and there were bugs and it was so great.
We had a really neat ceremony last night. We lit candles and talked about what we hope to gain from this year, a powerful moment in Costa Rica, and someone we wanted to thank from our time in Costa Rica. We're already becoming like family, I think. I mean we'll definitely be family by the end of this. But it's been really fun having conversations and getting to know people.
Thanks to everyone who continues to lift me up in prayer--please continue to do so! I was able to listen to a sermon by David Platt today, which was great. It was on the freedom that comes from grace, which is something the Lord has really been showing me this week. He taught from Galatians 1, and I was so encouraged. Platt said that the gospel is FREE and that it is FREEING. Praise God! Because I don't talk openly about the details of what the Lord is teaching me, I've been journaling a lot. It's going to be really neat looking back at what God teaches me this year.
So anyway. Ecuador is going to be great. We're going to be doing reforestation--planting trees in the morning! So fun haha. And we'll be bathing in the river. Yayyyy! With snakes. I won't have a lot of internet in Ecuador. Sooo this is goodbye for now! Please pray for endurance; grace to love Christ, the gospel, and everyone here more; that I would be diligent in taking my malaria pills and in applying sunscreen (haha); and that I would be bold with the gospel.
I love you guys! You are all so wonderful, and I am really grateful for your support.
PS Check out my facebook for pictures!

Monday, September 13, 2010


Sorry it's been so long since I've blogged! I only have a few minutes, so here's what I've been up to!
1. Orientating--I know this isn't a word, but we've been doing various team building activites (Bucket of Dreams--crazy.) and having discussions. Seminars are really interesting--everyone wants to be here, so our discussions are meaningful.
2. People--my program leaders (PLs) are awesome. Like so great. It's gonna be a fantastic year with them. We're all a "nomadic family" (as my PL Loren says haha). Everyone is so nice, and we're laughing all the time.
3. Surfing--honestly, not a big fan. I am SO NOT GOOD at it. I was getting killed by waves and my swimsuit was bothering me and I never got up. However, I'm really glad I tried it. It's just one of those things I'm glad I did.
4. Rainforest hike/waterfall--we did a hike up to a waterfall. It was SO humid and hot, we were all POURING sweat. So great. Then we jumped in this really cold pool underneath a waterfall. It was amazing. We ate lunch there too!
5. Ziplining--we did that today. So. much. fun. Holy cow. Half the fun was the people who are in charge of the zipline business. And the trip up the mountain. We were ALL in the back of a truck that essentially had no back. All 19 of us. So crucial.
6. The Man Cave. This hasn't actually been something I've been doing. However, I hear things from the Man Cave EVERY. NIGHT. We only have 3 guys on this trip (not including our PL, Scott). They form the Man Cave. And they all get along SO well, it's absolutely adorable. And totally ridiculous. And LOUD.

So basically, i'm having a great time.
Some prayer requests:
-that when I'm lonely or homesick, I would continue to go to God's word. I am hoping to have quite a bit of Scripture memorized by the end of this. Pray that I would desire to study the Scriptures.
-that I would love my teammates, regardless of any circumstance.
-that I would remain healthy and well rested.
-the same for my teammates.
-that I would be a humble servant to those around me.
-that I would always enjoy and appreciate God's creation around me!
-that I would love Christ and by his grace, become more like Him.

I love all of you & really miss ya'll! Thanks for your prayers! Hopefully I'll put up some pictures next post. :)
PS Sorry for any spelling errors, this was typed so quickly!
PSS this PSS is for Raisinets. You should totally be here. :)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Safe and Sound in Costa Rica!

Sooo I´m here!! I´m on the computers at our hostel--we´re only staying here for a night. I´m updating this because everything is in Spanish and no one can figure out the at symbol, so we can´t get on Facebook or email. Encouraging right? :)We go to the coast tomorrow to where we´re staying the rest of the time. Everyone seems really nice & we´re having a good time! I was on the same flight to Miami as Connor, so we got to talk. I sat next to Mckinley and Kasha on the flight to Costa Rica and we had a good time. They are super fun! Okay, I´ve gotta go eat DINNER. I´m hungryyy.
Love you guys. Miss you already!!
PS--Annetta I missed my phone today.
PSS--Jaron this PSS is specifically for you. Thanks for the Raisinets!!
PSSS--SB i almost cried when I read your thing. I love you.
PSSSS--Mom and Dad (and Josh and C&C). I love you lots and miss you tons. Mom, could you send this update to people?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Gospel

“The saints’ delight is in Christ: He is their joy, their crown, their rejoicing, their life, food, health, strength, desire, righteousness, salvation, blessedness: without Him they have nothing; in Him they shall find all things. ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Gal. 6:14). He has, from the foundation of the world, been the hope, expectation, desire, and delight of all believers.”

–John Owen, Communion with the Triune God, Eds. Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1657/2007), 236.

quote courtesy of Tolle Lege, and John Owen of course.

"Avoid a sugared gospel as you would shun sugar of lead. Seek the gospel which rips up and tears and cuts and wounds and hacks and even kills, for that is the gospel that makes alive again. And when you have found it, give good heed to it. Let it enter into your inmost being. As the rain soaks into the ground, so pray the Lord to let his gospel soak into your soul." - Spurgeon

So this is it. I'm leaving tomorrow (today technically!). I am beyond excited. And it still won't sink in until I'm walking away from my family at RDU.
I have been completely packed. Repacked some tonight. I'm trying to stuff some last minute things into my carry-on (I swear, it's heavier than my big pack). Finished up readings as best I could. I'm getting nervous. Incredibly excited, but really started to realize the weight of what I'm doing.
But I am so grateful that I know John Owen's words are true: Christ is my delight, my salvation, my righteousness, my life. Without Him I have nothing, and in Him I find everything I could ever need or want. He fulfills every desire and provides immeasurable hope.
And you know...I still worry. I worry that I will trade the power and beauty of the gospel for other things. That before I know it, I won't recognize the gospel I believe in. And that it will be farther from the truth than I can imagine.
I'm not just worried about this because of my trip. I'd have these same concerns if I were heading off to college.
But the Lord has given me, and all my friends in college, and honestly every believer, the incredible opportunity to make choices and to be refined. So I am praying that I would make choices that glorify God and reflect the love of Christ. I'm praying that I would love every person I meet with a love that can only come from Christ. I am praying that this year, I would allow the gospel to soak into my soul like rain. That I would let it fill the places where it has torn away sin. That it would cause me to completely renounce myself and to only proclaim Christ. I'm praying that because of the gospel, I would desire to read and memorize Scripture so that I can sharpen my mind and heart. I'm praying that by God's grace, I would be bold with the gospel and live in light of eternity in each experience I have. And I'm praying that I would be continually grateful for the life God has blessed me with. I am amazed at the love I've been shown the past week saying goodbyes. My family, friends, and the Trinity community have gone out of their way to show me how much they care--I love all of you and I am glad to know each of you!
Anyway, I know that many of you will be praying these things with me--please know that I am grateful! I am blessed to have supportive friends and family who are also believers in Christ. The body of Christ is something that we should not take for granted, and I hope and pray that after this year I will treasure the church even more.
So here I go. I am leaving everything up to a God who already knows everything that will happen to me this year. He knows when I am going to rejoice, when I'm going to grieve, when I'm going to be lonely...But He is sovereign, and He is faithful.
I'll update here as soon as I can! Please pray for safety and health for the rest of my team: Rachel, Rayn, Eirann, Jon, Connor, Mckinley, Kasha, Mary, Lauren H., Luisa, Alexandra, Faith, Madeline, Lauren K., Jessie (leader), Scott (leader), Loren (leader).
I love you guys!! Thanks for everything--see you in eight months!! :)

"But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior
--Isaiah 43:1-3a

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Good Stuff

I love being able to talk to people about issues and things with substance. One of my professors on my trip to England two years ago called it "ruminating conversation." I am going to miss many different people while I'm gone, but there are two people that I find particularly understand my interests and tastes in...well everything. And we always have ruminating conversations. I'm sure I'll find other people on my trip to have deep and intellectually stimulating conversations with on a regular basis (when we're not having seminars of course), and these conversations will certainly sharpen me. But I always find it a joy to discuss things with people who have the same worldview and similar ways of thinking.
So I will miss those conversations and people a lot!
Anyway. Here are some things from the past few weeks (mainly books and music and such) which have raised discussions between me and some of my friends. I hope you find them somewhat interesting!
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. This book is excellent. It's thought-provoking, interesting, well-written, and eye-opening. It has really made me think about what I believe and how I view the world that God has given us. I personally think it's worth everyone's time.
Ben Folds. He's making a new album apparently and Jaron Moore (click on the link to check out his blog--it's pretty great!) posted this video on my Facebook today. I really like this song, as well as the spoken bit. And the video is cool too!
Artist a Day. This website comes up on my google homepage, and I love it. Some of the art isn't my favorite, I guess, but every once in a while, a piece comes up that I just sit and stare at. I love that about art. When we're in NYC for TBB, I'd love to go to the Met for a day. I didn't take the chance to do that when I was last in New York, but I should have. If I had time to just do what I want (wouldn't that be wonderful?), I would spend time going to museums and learning about art. Right now it's more interesting to me than music. (If you know me, that's a big deal-ish.)
columbinus. One of my best friends, Victoria Oliver, was in this play this summer. She's a senior in high school at UNC School of the Arts this year. She's marvelous. Anyway, a friend of hers who is also going to UNCSA as a senior this year directed this show. It's about the shootings at Columbine. The cast was young (17-21 years), but they did a fantastic job. I was really impressed, and I saw it twice. columbinus is a powerful show. And everyone should see it. Literally everyone. It's raw and emotional, and exposes the stereotypes and labels we subconsciously (or even consciously) give each other. It's humbling, terrifying, and heartbreaking, all at the same time. But it was completely worth it for me.
Last, but certainly not least, I will leave you with a poem I found a couple weeks ago. It's by Emily Dickinson. I found it randomly--I believe a friend of mine brought up Emily's poetry (yes, Emily and I use each other's first names), and I just googled her. A website came up with her poems, and I saw this one.
"There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul."

I love the language she uses and the way she capitalizes certain words. This is basically why I want to teach English Literature. Books and writing can say so much. :)

Thanks for reading my random thoughts!
One week!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Forget Me Not!

I've been thinking about a lot of things lately (obviously), music being one of them. I currently have about 10 CDs that I need to load onto my iTunes, and I just realized that I won't really be getting any new music until APRIL. Brooke Fraser's new album, Flags?? It'll have to wait. Won't be getting any new stuff from Coldplay or Ingrid Michaelson either.
But anyway. I'd never heard of The Civil Wars until like...last week when I heard they were doing a concert in downtown Raleigh. But I'd never heard any of their stuff, so I didn't go to the concert. But then I saw this video (which you should watch immediately) that my wonderful (and he would tell you favorite, of course) cousin Clayton posted on Facebook.....and now I'm just a tad obsessed.
I sort of hate people like that. Who are just that insanely talented and have voices that blend so well together. I mean I can sing and play some piano, but I just don't think I could create music like that. But it's too awesome for me to really hate them.
Anyway. I thought it was good enough to share with you good people.
I went and visited Trinity today (my old school, if you don't know). I took Joshua lunch--5 Guys. Yes, I was the cool sister today. Although Caitlin is definitely becoming much cooler since she's the one having his niece/nephew.
But yeah, it was weird. I had to sign in, and I wasn't wearing a polo (YAY!), and I sat and chatted with some of my favorite teachers while everyone else was in class.
I have to be honest, it was pretty awesome. I loved my time at Trinity (I could talk for hours about the great things I learned there), but it was just time. I am super excited to be an alum though. And I'm actually attending my first big TAR event tomorrow night! We finally have a gym (it's AWESOME)! And it's being dedicated tomorrow before the annual Back to School Picnic. Sarah Beth is coming over beforehand to help me figure out some packing stuff and then we're both going to the school for the evening. It will be great!
So yes. Life is good. I am incredibly blessed. Every time I visit Trinity, I'm reminded how grateful I should be to be surrounded by the body of Christ. It is so sweet to know that I am so loved and have so many people supporting me and praying for me. So thank you! God is good! :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

addresses! and other random things

So a lot of people have been asking about whether or not they can write me or send me things. The answer is yes! However, there are certain dates to send things by and in some countries there are taxes on packages. So. Be mindful of that if you are going to send me something. But I would love some letters! Or if you don't want to write me, please email me or comment here--it will be so great to hear from everyone back home while I am gone. I will need all the encouragement I can get! :)

I had to take the addresses down for security my mom to get addresses!!! :)

A few notes from TBB:
-Ecuador taxes things heavily and I can't pick up anything that is sent to me without paying taxes in person.
-Don't send items through Fed Ex to China.
-S. Africa also taxes items.
-It may be best to send holiday gifts or packages to China or India--I'll be in Cambodia over Christmas.
-When you're sending things, take into account weekends, holidays, and program travel.

Agh. I leave so soon. Soooo soon. I really am so excited. But its like in the past week life has hit me over the head like a great wooden bat. Not very comfortable.
Nearly all of my friends have left for college. Which is great! But it's bizarre. I've just realized that they are moving on to college--meeting new people, trying new things! And I was a little jealous for a while there. And scared, honestly, that they'd make all these new and better friends. But I realized, that's sort of how it should be. I'll stay really close to a few people I think. But most people...if you think about'll be good for them to make new friends. People who really understand them. And this experience will be good for me!
It's two weeks from today. Exactly.
Two weeks. Til I am gone for eight months. GAH.
For those of you reading this, please be praying for my funding--it's definitely not all here yet. I basically just need a miracle in one week. I know the Lord will provide a way. He always does. Nevertheless, I'd appreciate your prayers!
Sorry for the length of this post...more rambling. :)

Friday, July 30, 2010


Wowww so things are moving quickly--not too much longer now! Part of me is so ready to just GO already. But then I think of all I have to do, and of all my family and friends, and I am grateful for another month.
I got a backpack finally! It's an Osprey Kestrel 48. I really like it; it has some cool features. It's adjustable, so other people in my family can use it. I got some pants and socks and such....So I am working on a packing list and looking at what I can realistically take. It's a bit overwhelming.
I got our entire itinerary today! It's crazy. The flight to China takes two days because we're leaving from Peru....I don't think many people go from Cuzco to Kunming. So we go from Cuzco to Lima to San Salvador to LA to Hong Kong to Kunming! I also had a Skype call with two other students tonight, one of TBB's founders, and one of my group leaders. It was really cool to talk to people and get to know them a little better. Both of the girls seemed really cool! Everyone is so different with all these different interests. I can't wait to meet everyone.
I've been reading some blogs from people that went on the trip last year--there are a couple alumni who are helping us out on facebook...answering questions, calming fears, etc. It's very helpful. :) Anyway, as I read these blogs, I finally realized exactly what I'm getting myself into...
You might be reading this saying, "Yeah, you should have realized that before." But it's 30 days left. Exactly one month from today, I will be on a flight from Miami to Costa Rica. I'll have left my family and friends for eight months. Eight months of new families, new religions, no real bathrooms (except in SA), poverty, sweat and nastiness, intense discussion and debate on topics I have really never studied, the same clothes all the time, no peanut butter or Dr. Pepper, and very likely, no Christians.
And to be honest, I'm terrified. Three people went home early last year. I'm not sure why, but they did. I'm terrified that I won't raise enough money. I'm terrified that I'll get sick or injured and I'll have to go home. I'm terrified that my host family experiences will be miserable. I'm terrified to meet all these new people--especially after leaving my friends of 12 years. I'm terrified that I will just become so spiritually exhausted that I won't be faithful to pray, to be in the Word, to love people. I'm terrified that I will put Christ to shame (more than I already do by being a sinner).
But I guess that's normal. And healthy. It would be a bad thing if I went in thinking that this trip would be a piece of cake or just all vacation. It will be physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually wearing. I know this. But I also know that it feels so right to be preparing for this trip. I am at complete peace with the fact that I am supposed to be going on this trip. And all my fears and worries--simple unbelief. God will provide money. He will keep me safe. He will teach me through my homestays. He will provide good friends--different friends, but new ones and friends that will teach me. He will sustain me through each situation because He is a gracious and loving God.
Sorry this post is so personal. But I had to put these thoughts somewhere, and it all just kind of came spilling out. Did I mention I have one month left?!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Next Year

This is a long post--I apologize in advance! There's just so much to share! :)
So recently we got an email with country briefings--now I know exactly what I'm doing in each country. In each of the four core countries (Ecuador, China, India, and South Africa), we do service projects in the communities we live in (we live with host families by the way!). We work during the day and have seminars in the afternoons usually and spend time researching for our Presentations of Learning (POLs) at the end of the year.
SO. Here's my itinerary!
COSTA RICA (Sept. 8-20):, we have orientation: seminars, communication skills, some training stuff, and team building. Then we have some fun outdoor stuff: kayaking, snorkeling, a rainforest/waterfall hike, yoga (that should be interesting haha), and a boat trip.
ECUADOR (Sept. 20-Oct. 28): We'll be working with the Fundacion Yanapuma. We're working in the Bua community doing reforestation--planting trees. :) The people in this community are from the Tsa'chila tribe (apparently pronounced like "spatula" without the p!). I think I'll be in Ecuador on my birthday.
PERU (Oct. 28-Nov. 4): We hike the Inca trail! We go all the way to Machu Picchu. It's gonna be awesome. We also stay in Cuzco for a bit.
CHINA (Nov. 4-Dec 17): We'll be working in schools teaching English and such in the Yunnan Province (in the southwestern part of the country--bordering Laos, Vietnam, and Burma). Our partner is the Yunnan Center for Cultural Learning and Development. We'll stay in Kunming most of the time, which is the capital of the province. The other part of the time, we'll stay in the Shaxi community. I'm in China for Thanksgiving.
CAMBODIA (Dec 17-Dec 26): We're in Cambodia for an "Enrichment Week," like Peru. It's like vacation--full of sight-seeing. We're going to Phnom Penh, which is the capital. We'll see sites from the time of the Khmer Rouge like the Killing Fields and Toul Sleng. There are other sites like museums, palaces, and markets that we will go to. After Phnom Penh, we'll go to Siem Reap, which is the home of famous Angkor Wat (huge, ancient temples). I'm in Cambodia for Christmas!
INDIA (Dec 26-Feb 12): India will be very interesting. We study agriculture while we're there, so we're going to be farming and doing research....yeah. :) Our partner is the Indian Network for Development Exchange. We'll be staying in Jaipur, the capital of the state of Rajasthan. We also will be working with a local social enterprise in Jaipur, Go Seva Sangh. We'll be taking a "weekend excursion" in Pushkar, which is a pilgramage site for Hindus. There we'll be visiting the Brahma Temple and taking a Camel Safari! (Jaron, if you're reading this...there is NO camel safari AT ALL. :) Haha)
For our enrichment week, we're staying in India--but going to Delhi and Agra! In Delhi we'll go to the Red Fort, Jama Masjid (India's largest mosque) and Humayan's tomb, as well as different markets and museums. In Agra we'll go to the Taj Mahal, the Old Fort, and Fatehpur Sikri (a fortified ghost city).
SOUTH AFRICA (Feb 12-Mar 31): Our partner in SA is Willing Workers in South Africa. But we'll be spending our time in Plettenberg Bay, working with careworkers from PlettAid. Plettenberg is in the far south of the country on the Indian Ocean. It's pretty much directly in the middle of the country. We're studying public health and HIV/AIDS in SA, so we're going to be shadowing careworkers as they work with sick people. We'll also be doing some service projects in the townships (working in orphanages, gardening at women's shelter, or a building/painting project).
Plettenberg is such a cool area--it has SO much to do! Part of our enrichment week is just in Plett. We can go sky diving, bungee jumping, shark diving, canoeing, ziplining,go to the beach....We're also gonna go to Monkey Land, Birds of Eden, and a couple different hikes. For the rest of our enrichment week, we'll go to Addo Elephant National Park for a safari.
We return to the states April 1st! While we're in the states, we work on our POLs and meet with people from places like World Bank, the UN, and other development organizations. Our first stop is New York City! Family members are allowed to visit April 1-3 (Mom is so pumped to take a trip to NYC :) haha). We're in New York April 1-8. Then we head to DC, April 9-17. In DC we'll spend a day lobbying Congress from RESULTS (scary...). We spend April 18-30 at Bear Creek Lake State Park in Virginia. That will be a time to process (or try to) the experience and perfect our POLs. May 1-6 we split into groups and go to places like DC, NYC, or Boston to give our POLs. Then graduation is May 6-8!!
I can't believe this is actually happening, haha. Looking at everything I get to do, I realize how blessed I am. I am so excited! I'm especially excited to get to know my host families--I am already praying for our time together. I will have so many opportunities to share the gospel, and I'm praying that I will be bold and clear. I'm going to learn so much--about the world and all these issues, and about myself and how I can be an advocate for these people. Agh! This is craziness.
Fifty-seven days...!!! :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Work, Shots, and the BEACH!

So...I realized today that I'm leaving in a little less than two an Italian Tyler Lucas would say..."FWHAT?!?" This is insanity.
I've gotten some responses to my support letters and I'm still working on all that. But I recently got a job at Aeropostale! My good friend Kelsey Wiggs works there and she recommended me and basically got me the job. I'm really excited, everyone I've met so far is really nice. I've only worked one day, but it was good!
TBB sent me my departure prep package! I got all the information about where I'll be and when. I'm getting so excited. But I have all these forms to fill out. So I've been filling out visa applications and signing things and all that jazz. Great fun.
One of the things I got from TBB was the list of SHOTS I need to get before I leave. Yay. Haha. I have received 7 shots to date, and I will probably be getting 3 more, and I have to take a pill for one vaccine. I have my malaria prescription. So I'll have had 10 shots by the time I leave--worth it if I don't get sick though!!
I also have my reading list, and I've started reading the first book: Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It's a little strange, but very interesting.
So the family's been at the beach since Friday--we're at Holden Beach and it's so nice. Caitlin and Carson were able to come down for a few days. They left today. I've been reading the whole time. Joshua is having the time of his life--kayaking, fishing, swimming, spending time with the family--he is loving every minute of it! We haven't been to the beach in about 4 years, so we are really enjoying ourselves.
Next post will be my itinerary for TBB--it's sort of exciting. :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ah Summer...

I love summer. I love being able to sit at home and reread books (that I've already read ten times...). I have rented six movies from RedBox (I love that thing)& watched all of them (I didn't rent all 6 at once though). I love being able to randomly go to Starbucks with my friends throughout the day.
So I still have TONS of Italy pictures that I'm still going through. I think I have....3 albums on Facebook, and I'm not even done with Day 4 of my trip!
Anyway, here are some more of my favorites. I was really happy with the pictures I got from this trip. (I feel like I'm starting to sound like a blogger...) (I know I am after that comment!)

These are 3 of my best friends from school, Annetta, Kristin, and Sarah Beth. We're on top of the Duomo in this picture. I'm not really sure what I'd do without them. They have kept me sane (mostly) through the years at Trinity.

This is me and my good friend Kelsey at the Trevi Fountain. Kels was my first friend at Trinity. We both started in 1st grade. I will miss her so much next year. Kelsey has so much joy and always finds a way to make me smile. She also is REALLY funny when she's tired: she cries every time she laughs and gets really punchy. Love it.

This is me and my friend Daniel in the gardens at the Pitti Palace in Florence. Daniel is hilarious (isn't his laugh just precious?!), and there's an inside joke in my class that he and I are married. So I call him Hubby and he calls me Wifey. He's mad that I'm not going to UNC with him next year.... :/

This is my good friend Tyler. We decided our Senior Superlatives as a class (because there were only 14 of's not that difficult), and Tyler's was "The Butt of Every Joke." Which is doubly amusing because one of our favorite jokes was that Tyler (affectionately called Ty) has no butt....No but seriously, Tyler is one of the funniest people I know, and he's super sweet. I will miss him a lot next year!
OH about this picture....Annetta, Sarah Beth, and Daniel shaved Ty's head while we were in Italy and had the BRILLIANT idea of doing the Martin Luther look before it was all gone...They brought Tyler in wearing a sheet and carrying a Bible. Daniel had everyone sing the Doxology and then Annetta "unveiled" Tyler. It was SO funny. Definitely one of the best moments on the trip. :)

So I have sent out my support letters! And I am getting my TBB information soon (they call it a departure prep packet). Today I had the sudden desire to just GO, which was really exciting for me because...well between a wedding and graduation and Italy, I haven't had much time for it to really sink in that I am actually doing this. And it's finally starting to and I'm so excited! Which is a relief! I was pretty homesick at one point in Italy and I kept thinking, "What if I hate it? What if I shouldn't go? What am I thinking?"
No worries though. I'm looking forward to it so much, even though I know it will be an intense challenge.
More pictures later. :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Gondolas

So I got home from Italy this past Wednesday (after a couple delays in the airport that is...)! I've been enjoying my time at home...mainly catching up on sleep. :)
Anyway, I have been uploading pictures to the computer (and Facebook, of course). I got an 8 gig card before I left for Italy & I had over 1800 pictures on just that memory card! So I think I have about 2000 total....
So here are some favorites from the 8 gig card:

This was the view from our room in Florence.

This is a side of the Duomo--one of the largest cathedrals in Italy. It's the pride of Florence

The David by Michelangelo

This is a view of the Duomo and other buildings from the Piazza de Michelangelo which overlooks Florence. So beautiful!

Sarah Beth, Daniel, and I LOVED Venice. It was so laid back and beautiful. We wanted to stay longer. We met this guy, Fabrizio, on the way to San Marcos Square. He had these beautiful watercolors and was SO nice. So we took a picture with him!

This is the view of Venice from the Rialto--the biggest bridge out of the 400 something in the city.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Mamma Mia!

I am writing this from Firenze (Florence!) We left for Italy on Monday, arrived early Tuesday morning in Rome and took a train to Florence. We leave for Venice at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Tuesday we went to the Academia and saw the David (it's HUGE!); yesterday we saw the Duomo, Santa Croce, and a few other major spots in Florence. We also spent ridiculous amounts of money shopping in the market yesterday. Or at least the girls did. :) Today can be summed up in one word: STAIRS. First, we climbed the Duomo--460 something stairs, I believe. And then of course, we climbed back down. The view from the top was incredible though. I'm so glad we did it. After the Duomo we walked over to Pitta Palace, which had the most beautiful gardens! Annetta, Daniel, and I walked to the very top of the gardens and (once again) enjoyed the amazing view. THEN we walked over to the Piazza de Michelangelo and hiked up to the top. And again, gorgeous view. Possibly my favorite view. My mom luckily let me bring her long lens (thanks, Mom) :) so I went a little crazy with the pictures! In fact, my camera is now dead. I wish I could upload pictures because I got some really great ones. They will come later though.
Anyway, I really like it here. Florence is a fun city with nice people. I can't say I'd like to live here though. I'll save that for England. But maybe Italy can be my vacation spot when I am a professor at Oxford! :)
I am going to go nap & freshen up for dinner. (OH by the way--we had the most AMAZING dinner last night. Wow. It was so good. I want to eat there again & get the exact same things. Except I think I would probably have a heart attack because it was all so rich & unhealthy, haha).
I can't wait to start TBB. Seriously. I am getting so excited!
I'll post pictures of Italy as soon as I can.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


So this is my first post! And it's really weird. I hope everyone reading this (all five of you) know that I am doing this for you. Definitely not for me!
Anyway. I graduated yesterday! This is my class (of 14 people. Yes that's 14, not 140, not 1400 haha). We sang "So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersen, Goodbye" from the Sound of Music at the reception. :)
After 12 years at the same school, I am finally done! It has been a bittersweet weekend. But it hasn't really sunk in yet. I've sort of been distracted by the fact that my senior class (10 out of the 14 of us) is leaving for Italy tomorrow! I'm also sort of freaking out that I actually get to go on the Thinking Beyond Borders (TBB) trip! It's sort of unbelievable, especially since a few weeks ago, I was SO clueless about what I would be doing next year.

That's really why I am starting this blog (I feel so conceited right now writing this....)--it seems like the easiest way for everyone to stay in touch/keep up with me while I am gone for EIGHT MONTHS. That is crazy to think about...I am so excited though! I can't wait to see the way the Lord provides during this whole fundraising process. It will be such a neat experience.
Well, I have to go pack for Italy! We leave tomorrow at 12:30 & get home on the 9th! Ciao! :)