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".....it 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 mileage...it 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 8th...so 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 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:
idratherbetraveling2.shutterfly.com. 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".....it 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!