Posts Tagged ‘travel’
It has been so good to be back.
Back to grocery shopping, swerving for pot holes and waiting in line at the bank.
Back to saying buenos dias and buying fresh squeezed orange juice from the stand with the green umbrella.
Back to my messy desk and piles that make sense only to me. Back to a dog that likes to sleep as much as I do.
Back to sunny mornings, and church bells and fire crackers.
Our car needs new tiers, the house is dusty, and I feel a little behind on everything, but we are home.
And home feels so good.
I don’t exactly remember when Guatemala started to feel like home. I came here for the first time in 2007, and didn’t want to leave. But it wasn’t really home quite yet. I visited in 2008 and 2009, and was tempted to move, but that seemed too crazy. What I do remember is for about a good two years while living in Santa Barbara I had this consistent, quiet heaviness that lived buried underneath layers of busyness and stress. I kept my schedule full and my heart just slightly disengaged. I thought I could be the best teacher, run an after-school program on the Westside, make it to the gym, meet with my small group, do some emails and cram in a quick dinner and get by.
But if you have ever tried to keep anything buried inside for too long than you know how this goes. Things buried inside eventually do come out, and often not in the prettiest way. Mine came out through tears on Friday afternoons while sitting in my white Honda and then, eventually in a counselor’s office. I had to learn to listen to myself. And to stop being so damn, practical. My life looked great on paper and I was trying my hardest to convince myself that it was. But I’ve learned that a life that looks good on paper, may not necessarily be the life that I want.
I knew deep down I wanted a change. I needed a change. Something was missing from my life. And it scared me because I knew that in order to find it I would have to take a risk. To let go and leave.
And for me that risk was Guatemala. Maybe for you that risk is starting a grad school program, or making the first phone call, or being willing to move even when it makes sense to no one else. Risks are hard. Especially for pragmatic, controlling people like me. Risks don’t always make sense in the process, and maybe not always in retrospect either. I think that’s the nature of a risk.
It would be misleading not to mention that dating and marry Gerber was a huge part of this “something missing.” My longing for a partner and to be married for most of my twenties was obviously part of my journey, but it wasn’t everything. For years in Santa Barbara I had this ache to be settled, to feel at home. And for a reason I may never understand…this tall, white, California girl found it here, in Guatemala.
I guess 5 weeks away makes me appreciate it all the more.
Where do you feel most at home? Or with whom?
P.S And yes, I will get around to posting a few pictures from our travels- even though it is wonderful to be home, we did have a great time in the states!
New Years Eve was spent in Santa Barbara, recovering from colds, sipping soup and watching movies. I didn’t even make it till midnight. So very adult-ish and boring, huh? We have spent 3 weeks in southern California, staying with dear friends, seeing family and spending many hours on the 101, 405, 55, 57 and 134. If you’re not from the SoCal area- those are some of our freeways names.
(side note: watch this SNL video clip, The Californians. It’s hilarious and partly true.)
I got to visit some of my old favorites; Panino, the Boathouse, Butterfly Beach and the Mission lawn. And Gerber declared his Santa Barbara favorite: Blenders. We enjoyed some In-N-Out, his FIRST time. (I know, I know… he has been in CA three times and I have never introduced him to this California deliciousness. What kind of wife am I?) We visited with churches, met up with water filter project consultants and shared meals, and coffee dates with good friends.
We have been so thankfully for lazy mornings and comfortable beds and gracious hosts who have let us make a home away from home. We have had fun meals out, great conversations with friends, time to rest and explore some of California’s best cities, and lots and lots of car time to talk about baby names. Things that most people would probably envy, and we are grateful. But we’re both ready to get back….back to our home, to walking the dog and running errands and doing work we enjoy. Back to regular exercise and hanging up clothes and really, just a sense of normalcy.
I will forever and always be a list maker. I like goals and I like to write down my goals. But I have learned I need to let my lists of goals be more like prayers, with room to grow, change and shift…probably this year more than ever. Usually every January I choose one thing I want change or start to incorporate into my life, like flossing or only using reusable bags. But this year I’m not choosing one thing, but one word.
My word for the 2013 is appreciate.
- To recognize the quality, significance, or magnitude of: appreciated their freedom.
- To be fully aware of or sensitive to; realize: I appreciate your problems.
- To be thankful or show gratitude for: I really appreciate your help.
- To admire greatly; value.
• • •
When I appreciate what I have, I complain less.
When I am thankful for those around me, I don’t compare or become critical.
When I am fully aware, I appreciate my healthy body and the growing baby inside.
When I appreciate what my husband does for me and not nag him for what he didn’t do, everyone is happier.
When I am able to admire God’s endless creativity and grace, I don’t feel the need to be judgmental or change people.
When I recognize how much of my own life is a gift, I am a better version of myself.
So, will you join me in the year ahead and remind me to appreciate?
I am not sure if this is normal, but I love airports. In fact I secretly enjoy when I have extended hours in an airport because it feels like this bubble of uninterrupted time to be super productive. So, thanks to American Airlines and a few extra hours of delays I have read, had breakfast and a latte, checked email, painted my nails, checked in on the twitter-world and now I’m blogging. All before 11am…thankyouvermuch.
It’s probably a good thing I love airports because I spend more time in them now than I ever have. Cross-cultural living and marriage will do that for you.
Here’s what I’ve found to be a few successful airport travel tips for unexpected delays and possibly overnight stays:
-Always pack a toothbrush and extra pair of underwear in your carry-on. My mom taught me this one on my first overseas flight to Ecuador. I was wearing overalls and sporting braces at the time, but I was so thankful for these essentials when we had to stay an extra night in some shady hotel in Florida due to weather.
-Scope out a good wifi spot and if there’s a password save it in your computer or phone for the next time you’re at that some spot. I realize if you’re in the continental U S of A you can just use your fancy 3G and be fine, but cross any international border and you’ll be looking for wifi. stat. (hint: Guate readers: Use Pizza Hut in the airport. Once you past security it’s on your left. It has the best wifi in the airport. Password is: 0123456789. I believe sharing is caring)
- Always, ALWAYS update the time on your phone or computer manually. Trust me I know from experience that sometimes they do not update. Once (not so long ago) I may have been sitting at an airport Starbucks, content as could be because my computer said 4:15pm and my flight didn’t even board until 5:30… yes, imagine my shock when I walked to the gate at 4:45 “my time” and learned that my flight had already left. Oh, yes. Imagine how I tried to explain that one to the ticket counter #lessonlearned
- Do some stretches on the airplane. Anyone who has traveled with me has probably been slightly embarrassed to look over and see my feet up in the air or arms reaching up to touch the ceiling, but I tell you it makes the world of difference on long flights. Stretch those muscles, people.
- Bring some kind of scarf/shall thing that can double as an accessory, blanket or be folded into a makeshift pillow. Due to some poor planning on my part and another American Airlines delay Gerber and I spent TWO nights in airports on our honeymoon. Once in Switzerland and once in Peru. Both times I was so thankful that I had this with me. #notthewayyouwannaspendahoneymoon #hestilllovesme
-Snacks always make waiting and in general life…better. And snacks from home are always better than airport food. I may like airports, but I’m not that fond of airport food.
-International travelers, memorize your passport numbers. It’s so much easier than always having to dig in your bag to pull out the passport. Sad truth I use my passport number now more than my license or SS #.
-My dad taught me many things. One is: IT NEVER HURTS TO ASK. So, I always ask about a window seat or an exit aisle and I may have been known to use my curls and ask about first class. It worked…once.
- We don’t have kids yet (and no I’m not pregnant) but three of my closest friends are and I now think about international travel with a baby in a different way. But all of my friends who are MOMS—get this….on my flight today from Guatemala to Texas there was a Guatemala-mom sporting her hooded jacket, yoga pants and backpack with her 3-month old in one arm on their way to Canada, where she lives with her Canadian husband. We chatted. She sat across the aisle from me. The little guy fussed as everyone got on the plane. But, then she sat down, held him and he fell asleep before take off. Then, she laid him on the open seat next to her, swaddled up, and took out a BOOK. I was already wow-ed at this point. Thirty minutes later, she left him to go THE BATHROOM. I was half-impressed. Half shocked. Thinking I want to know what magic sauce she has and how could she just leave him there and go to the bathroom? It reminded of my friends Lesley’s post. Clearly, I have a lot to learn before motherhood.
Ok, frequent fliers what are some of your helpful tips and hints?
P.S I’m attending a conference this week called CCDA and am super excited. Partly because my sister is leading a workshop (yeah, she’s kind of a big deal), my parents are also attending, and it’s a chance to learn and hear about how other Christians are doing community development work across the nation. Check back for updates.
Perhaps the best part of a vacation is who you choose to spend it with. And I just got to spend a week away with one of my favorite people at one of my favorite places. In 2007 I experienced Lago Atitlan for the first time, and I said a little prayer that one day I’d get to take my future husband there. Fast forward 5 years later; and now I’m living about just 2 hours from that lake with a man from the country I fell in love with 5 years previously.
Since being married we’ve taken a few day trips, then I went to a writing conference and he to a water filter conference, but we have not taken any kind of real vacation. Since September and October tend to be our slower season for hosting groups from the states, we seized the opportunity.
We packed up our backpacks, strapped on our helmets and I left any sense of fashion at home because G convinced me to wear his motorcycle jacket. I objected for all of 3 seconds until he muttered something like…safety, padding, and protection. My mom would be pleased. I have come to enjoy riding the motorcycle and we have developed a series of hand signals to communicate while riding, things like, “You, ok?”, “Look at that,” “I love you” and the all important, “Bathroom break.”
And riding a motorcycle has taught me the art of packing less clothes and only bringing two pairs of shoes. My dad tried to train us girls on every family vacation. He always told us, “You can only bring what you can carry.” Luckily, I was a pretty strong 10 year-old girl so I learned to carry A LOT. However, Gerber’s rule: we each get one small backpack. Thankfully, my man is pretty low maintenance so I got to use 3/4 of the space in both backpacks. Yes, he gets major good husband points for being willing to carry my crap.
Thanks to a very generous friend, with an incredible lakeside property this was our home for the week. It’s the perfect combination of cozy, rustic and romantic. Most walls are made of windows which means you can see the lake and volcano from literally every point in the house. You can wash dishes, read in a hammock, wake up in the morning, and take a shower all without compromising the view. The bottom right photo is the view from the bed pictured to the left. I have never been so happy to wake up.
We made and ate most meals right here on the patio. I mean if you saw the view and the garden you would as well. Breakfast was fresh yogurt and granola with papaya, piña and sandia, oh, and coffee. I have converted from my former tea-ways to be come a full-fledged coffee drinker. Dinners were pasta with spinach and artichokes or tomatoes and cheese. Simple, delicious and goes good with a glass of wine. A few nights dinner consisted of homemade chocolate chips cookies while we watched a movie. Hey, it was vacation, now : )
I recently read something that said, every couple should have an outside game and an inside game. We have lots of outside “games” that we do together, but nothing really for the inside game. Gerber, was shocked to learn that I didn’t know how to play Checkers, or Damas, as it’s called in Spanish. Yes, truth be told somehow in my southern California upbringing I’m not sure how I missed this. So with the lake as our backdrop, and candles on the table I had my first lesson. I was Paperclips and he was Rolled-up-pieces-of-napkin. It was perfect, except I lost every game. But the good news is I think we found our inside game. Just need to buy a real Checkers board, now.
I think one of the challenges of vacation-ing with someone else is when you have different vacation-ing styles. Anyone who has vacationed with a person who has a different vacation style knows just what I mean? Thankfully, we both like the same kinds of places- outdoorsey, simple, close to nature, but within walking distance of cities and towns. However, I have a pretty high tolerance (read: enjoy) for sitting and reading and only getting up to change locations based on the direction of sun. G on the other hand needs to physically DO something. He’s active, adventurous and gets restless if I suggest we sit and read for longer than 20 minutes. So we learned to do some things on our own.
He explored the town, kayaked for a few hours and rode his motorcycle. I did some of those things, but I spent a fair amount of time rotating between the dock and a hammock upstairs where I finished a book on my Kindle and read a Vegetarian Cookbook that was in the kitchen from cover to cover. Did I mention I think this house has the best library in all of San Marcos? There were 3 different bookshelves full of titles from the NY Times Best Seller list, some old classics, and some obscure titles. I copied down quite a few to add to my, “Books to Read” List.
One morning we took a 2 hours hike up along the cliffs over looking the lake, wound around through some corn fields, crossed a few streams and ended up with lunch at this gorgeous hotel. I often am reminded in Guatemala what a luxury it is to “take a hike” for pleasure. We chose to explore and walk and climb this trail, but the truth is many local men and women do it daily for their livelihood, not for pleasure. They harvest their corn and look for firewood on the same trail we took for fun. I am reminded that things like exercising and hiking are really a privilege, not a necessity or a right. It’s easy to confuse those things.
These are a few of my favorites because the capture the peacefulness, fun and love I think we felt that week. Not just for each other, but for the opportunity to get away, and to appreciate the beauty of people and a part of the country that we have both been to numerous times separately, but never together.
Perhaps the best sign of a good vacation, is when you are eager and ready to get back home. I will always love weekend trips and vacation get-aways, but there is something so good about coming home to ordinary days, simple routines and meaningful work.
Here’s to Lago Atitlan, my husband and many years ahead of coming home from vacations.
* * *
P.S. If you are seriously interested in coming to Guatemala or renting this lakeside house email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can send you the vrbo web-address. It would be the perfect house for family vacation, a group of friends or just a couple. The house sleeps 6-8 and there is a tree house and little cabana that are also for rent. It’s about a 10 min walk to San Marcos La Laguna and a 2 hour drive from Antigua.
Do you know your vacation-style? Is it compatible with your family or spouse?
I introduced you to Yumbo and our first date here last August. And now 1,56k later I’ve fallen in love.
It was really a practical decision at first. A scooter is much cheaper than a car and since the home we bought is about 5K outside of Antigua I needed a way to get around town. But now I can’t imagine not having a scooter. I was surprised when I was back in Santa Barbara to see just how popular the little two wheelers have become. I realize it may not make sense for everyone to have a scooter; kids, winter weather, and Costco trips are all factors that do not lean in favor of scooting around.
However, here’s how having a scooter has changed my life and how I think about the privilege of transportation:
+ There are limits to what I can do. Having a car gives you the impression that you can go anywhere, anytime, whenever you want. A scooter changes that. I don’t drive it at night. And if it’s raining I can choose to stay at home and wait until it stops or put on rain boots and a huge tarp like thing. Usually I opt for option 1.
+ I find by by losing a little independence and control, I learn to ask others for help or just wait. Neither of which are my forte.
+ That being said, I do love that I can pass buses and scoot around long lines of cars #yessss
+ I spend 21 Queztales every week on gas – that’s about $3 – THREE dollars, people. That’s pretty good, huh?
+ I can only buy what I can carry* and let me tell you I have gotten very, very good at packing my little scooter full after a run to the grocery store.
(* to be totally honest, I should disclose that G does have a truck that we share and we use when it is raining, or when buying big things or making long trips.)
+ Most Guatemalans don’t own a car or a scooter, so their transportation is limited to when the bus system runs. I learned that rather quickly when trying to host a small group at my old apartment at 7:30pm- no one came unless they owned a car, because they didn’t have a way to get there. It reminds me that having transportation is a luxury, not a right.
+ It’s fun! What could be better than scooting along a cobblestone road under the Antigua sun, with views of coffee plantations and volcanoes in the distance.
+ Makes me very aware of other drivers on the road. I read the manual: Always assume cars can’t see you.
+ Parking is free and if you live in Antigua…or really any city… that is a major bonus! #ilovefreethings
+ I have learned to master road conditions that would never be permitted in the states. Mud puddles, dirt roads and small boulders are no problem. #makesmestronger
Now on the wardrobe front:
+Dresses and skirts are not scooter friendly. Most days I opt for jeans or yoga pants.
+I have quite a few pairs of flip flops and sandals that are collecting dust on the bottom of my closet floor. #thisisntsantabarbara
+I have traded in any kind of fashionable purse for my trusty, Northface backpack. 0 points on the style front, but a perfect 10 when it comes to carrying my computer, groceries and a rain jacket.
+Now, if I could just figure out how to not have helmet hair like I would be a happy camper:
Besides the helmet hair, have I convinced you to become a scooter owner?
Destination: Ixcán, Guatemala
Km from Antigua: 427
Driving time: 12+ hours
A Weekend Away
Somewhere nestled in the northern part of Guatemala, between tropical jungle canopies and tumultuous dirt roads are hundreds of small villages in an area called Ixcán. It was an area deeply affected by the civil war and in many ways families and entire communities are still rebuilding their lives. For the past 6 years Hechos 2:8 (one of the projects of Mission Impact) has been doing community development work in this area building water filters, latrines and providing education and pastoral training. So when I had the opportunity to go visit the project I said “Why not?”
I did not know that saying why not meant saying yes to a simpler pace of life and an adventure that I could not have planned: no running water, no hot showers, cooking with a wooden stove, and sleeping in a tent to avoid both the mosquitoes and the scorpions. I learned to appreciate the natural composting latrines. I watched women kill and de-feather a chicken that later ended up in my bowl for lunch. I attempted to make tortillas by hand. And I washed dishes in the pilla. We endured lots and lots of warm rain, muddy roads and flooded rivers. But what I was most impressed by is that none of this even fazed the Guatemalan men and women. They handle life with an ingenuity and calmness that I envy. Even when the water level was too high and we couldn’t cross the flooded rivers, and my natural response is to freak out, Guatemalans know how to work together, construct makeshift bridges and rafts from plywood and inner tubes and then charge people a fee to cross. They are both resourceful and creative. What may have felt different or uncomfortable for me, is normal every day life for them.
We made it back safely, a little tired, and with a tad more mud on the truck then when we started. I realized, what if I had said no? What if I had missed out on this? What if instead of saying “Why not?” I had asked, “Why?” Why should I go? Why should I take time off work? Why should I leave my comfortable home? Why? Why? Why?
The Why and Why Not
I have spent a lot of my life asking the why questions. For me why questions are rooted in fear and distrust. Why by the nature of the word implies a certain doubt or skepticism. I have always been a gifted why asker. Why should I let go of that expectation? Why should I move? Why should I try something new? And I could do on. But I am learning sometimes maybe the better (and yes, harder) question is why not? Why not take a risk? Why not do something that feels hard or uncomfortable? Why not make a change? Why not share your dream with some one? Why not ask her out? Why not tell him how you really feel? Why not run the marathon? Why not______________? (and you can feel in the blank.)
I don’t think why questions are necessarily bad. No, quite the opposite. I think they are necessary and healthy. Just spend time with any human under the age of five.They are excellent why askers. It’s how they learn and make sense of their world.
But if why questions are the tools used to build an understanding of our world, then the why not questions are like a blank canvas inviting us to crate something new.
Any artist or architect knows that sometimes staring at a blank canvas or a piece of paper is the worst feeling. It stares back at you empty, daunting and filling you with the burden of too many possibilities. And this is where the why not questions come in to play. Why not start? Just dream. Start with something. Go with your idea. Trust your intuition. Listen to that still small voice inside. I think sometimes God wants us to just start drawing. Pick up the crayon. Start dreaming. And start asking, why not?
Why provides structure and boundaries, but why not allows room for creativity to flourish.
What are you going to say why not to?
Last week I spent 5 days with my sister in Boston. Bundled up in coats and scarves we wandered through the rain around the streets of Cambridge. When we were younger our relationship centered around doing gymnastic routines in the front yard, playing 20 questions at night in our bunk beds and arguing over who took whose schruchie. I kid you not. I was the bossy, commanding, older sister and she was the sweet, easy going, middle child. And even though we sometimes still fall into those constraining birth order roles, I think we have come a long way in learning to be both friends and sisters.
We spent a lot of time just talking; curled up on the couch, sitting over a cup of coffee, or sharing appetizers at dinner. We managed to fit in some dancing one night and shopping the next morning- both equally enjoyable especially when there is this wonderful thing called the free “coat check.” I had never experienced that before. And did you know there is no sales tax on clothes in Boston? yesssss. We spent a good number of miles walking which is a great in a city that caters to pedestrians. Imagine 4-way stops where floods of people cross every which way and the cars just wait. ha. We managed to take every form of public transportation possible- yes, we hopped on and off the T, waited for the bus, and hailed a taxi. Steph took me to one of her favorite cafes, Flour and I wandered around little bookstores with stacks of books and cute greeting cards.
I was so impressed by my sister, Stephanie. She has a meaningful job working with people from all different cultural and religious backgrounds. She creatively started and now organizes yearly events like Soccer Nights for the entire city of Cambridge (check it out here). She has incredible friends who love her and an adorable apartment on the 5th floor of a charming building right by Harvard Square. Not only did I get to enjoy Boston, but also I got to see part of Steph’s life. There is something about being present with someone that brings together what cell phone conversations and text messages cannot. Now if only I could have brought the sunshine with me.
When I was little this is what I wanted to be when I grew up. I kid you not. Most little kids imagine being a doctor or superhero or maybe even the person who flies the planes, but no…I wanted to be the person who directs the planes and tells them where to go.
For as long as I can remember I have loved airports and airplanes and all things that have to do with traveling. Before I was even able to read my parents would take me down to Ontario Airport where we would sit in the parking lot.
And just watch the planes.
Land and take off.
Land and take off.
What wonderfully, patient parents I had. For some reason I called planes be-bos and to this day I am not sure why. My parents helped foster my love (insert: obsession) of airplanes by reading me books from the local library about airports and airplanes. In fact they sent me on a plane by myself when I was just seven.
And remember how before the feds cracked down on airport security, it was common practice to actually go to the gate to meet someone? When my grandma would fly down from Seattle for her yearly visit the best part was waiting at the gate for her plane to arrive. With my hands glued to the metal gate I watched these airport workers with fluorescent vests and long flashlights “tell” the plane where to go. I decided that is what I wanted to do one day.
Fast-forward 20 years later
I am not in fact directing airplanes, (although I am sure this odd desire says something about my personality and my desire to be in charge, arranging and directing and telling students what to do) but I still do love airports.
I love airports because they remind me that traveling is about the process. I am convinced that if we could magically zap ourselves through some wrinkle in time to another city or country in an instant it would not hold the same appeal.
Traveling is about the process of packing and preparing. There is an anticipation and that looking forward to feeling. Traveling is contingent on lines and waiting and walking and then more lines, waiting and sitting. A process that sometimes feels inefficient and tiresome, but it reminds me that sometimes it’s not about me.
At any given time there are hundreds of passengers wandering around the airport, going a million different places, and you know what? We all want the same thing. We all want to make our flight and leave on time and get a good seat on a perfectly functioning plane that will arrive safely at our desired destination. So it’s not about really me and where I want to go per se. When I remember this I look around and notice what a fascinating place airports are- people of different cultures and countries and languages congregate in the same place for a few short hours: weary business men, adventurous backpackers and love struck honeymooners all wait for the same flight.
Contrary to how I usually do life, I actually enjoy this process.
And the watching.
And the sitting.
This is where surprising conversations happen with strangers and observant people watching skills come in handy. This also becomes my favorite book reading, magazine perusing and journal writing time. This process invites me to relax and let go. I cannot control the weather or make the line move any faster. I cannot hurry up the boarding process or change my seat. All I can do is enjoy the process and in that, there is a kind of freedom.
Tomorrow I get to embark on this process. I will greet my first of three airports before the sun rises. And then arrive in Boston sometime tomorrow evening. I am looking forward to a day of travel, but even more so I am looking forward to spending 4 days with my incredible sister, Steph.
(And yes, I am still holding out for my dream: maybe one day I’ll get to sport the florescent vest and over-sized flashlights so I can “tell” the planes where to go)
photo credit: curly girl design (one my favorite greeting cards companies)
It’s been a while since I have taken time to write. Usually, when my blog post stays the same for weeks on end it either means one of two things:
a) Life has been too busy or b) Pure avoidance.
In my case it’s been a little bit of both these past few weeks. I notice these patterns. When my schedule is too full, and I spend more time trying to save the world than take care of myself, all of my creative energy gets buried somewhere between stacks of paper, my ever growing inbox and the lack of adequate hours of sleep. But that’s only part of the equation. The truth is when there is something nudging at my heart and being tossed back and forth in my mind I actually (almost purposefully) try to avoid it. Sometimes I wonder if my refusing to commit words to a page is my way of pretending that this thing, this internal voice, doesn’t exist. I can try and keep it at bay, where it is out of sight, but eventually it washes back up to shore.
Usually I don’t even notice it, that is until I get away. And then it whispers loudly, clearly and purposefully, echoing in my heart and head; and my whole being:
I am longing for some change.
So, I spent the weekend away- away in Portland, visiting a wonderful city with some truly fascinating people. I mean what’s not to love about Portland…no sales tax, buffalo exchange, cozy coffee shops, scarves and boots worn out of necessity, instead of an attempt to make a fashion statement, neighborhood churches in bars, autumn leaves, Laurelhurst park, cool bridges, 3 dollar movies, and places to walk to from almost every point on a map.
I got to see some friends from Westmont and spend a few days with Whitney. We’ve come full circle- I met this lovely girl when I was a college freshman at Westmont and she was just a little, bundle of 5th grade joy. Fast-forward 9 years and now she is a college freshman and I am, well…just getting older, but you get the point. I got a chance to re-live college dorm life and remember why I don’t think I will ever miss sharing a bathroom with 16 other girls.
Sometimes it takes being away-literally away- for me to get a glimpse of what I am really longing and hoping for. It’s almost like some switch goes off as soon as I leave the comfort and conveniences of familiarity, the responsibilities of work and the ever-growing list of should-do’s and could-do’s.
I listen. And I slow down. And I settle into a different rhythm. And it’s only then that I realize I am craving something new, some kind of change.
I wish I knew exactly what kind of change, because if I knew then I would obviously follow a three-step process and voilà, change complete. done and done. check it off. But I think, I, and probably you too, know that change doesn’t happen like that. Change is a process. And the more and more I pray through and listen to this process I wonder how much of my desire for change is based on changing my external surroundings or rather changing my internal state of being. And maybe it’s a both/and, not an either/or. But I still find myself wanting to make sense of it all; trying to find the “right” words to justify and explain the longing. I am learning that it is hard to give words to some internal feeling that is not grounded in any ounce of clarity, nor does it come with the slightest bit of convenience.
What I do know is that something needs to change in my life. I am just not sure what.
The truth is I really don’t have any clarity. The dots have not been connected. But Portland did something good for me. It reminded me to listen and not avoid that gentle, whisper that longs for something more.
Thank you, Portland. I will be back one day.
I am back. Well, I have actually been back for over a week now, but I spent the first week back drowning in papers to grade, work emails, meetings and piles of laundry. Now, I feel like I am at least treading water. I have no complaints about Italy, but taking a week off a work in the middle of September is not exactly convenient.
But maybe convenience is overrated, right?
I had a wonderful time in Italy. It was so good to be with my sisters- it beats texting, gchatting, and using other forms of technology enhanced communication by far! Parts of out trip felt like a scenes straight out of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants-and if you have no idea what I am talking about, well then you probably don’t have sisters.
Christine lives in a cute, little apartment right by the Ponte Vecchio and even though she had art classes most days, Steph and I were quite content sleeping in, drinking coffee, walking around Florence, sitting in cafes, reading, shopping and oh, eating. We successfully managed to get at least one cappuccino and gelato every day. We spent one day on a bike tour of Tuscany and another few days hiking along the coast in Cinque Terre.
One of my mentors, a wonderfully wise woman who appreciates life in ways I can only dream of, will often ask me to give her a word to describe a recent trip or an event that I attended. It seems a little simplistic at first, but try it. It’s actually unbelievably difficult to try and capture an entire trip or experience in a single word. But for some reason I like the task of trying.
So, when I think about my time in Italy the one word that comes to mind is: growing.
There was a moment one night at dinner where the three of us sat around and shared a bottle of wine and it hit me, wow, we’ve grown up. We had honest conversations about issues that don’t have simplistic Sunday school answers, and we laughed (mostly thanks to Christine’s undeniable gift of story telling) and we even cried a little (well, I did). What’s ironic about sisters is that even in these “grown-up” moments, we still have countless other moments where bickering, arguing and mocking each other are the go-to form of communication. I think part of the challenge for sisters, or maybe for all family for that matter, is learning how to see each other for who we are, not who we were. I think is this is part of the growing process.
In a lot of ways my sisters and I could not be more different. (Although Stephanie and I do look more and more alike every time we’re together, which is odd considering when we were growing up we looked nothing alike.) Stephanie has this beautiful balance of strength and gentleness that draws people to her. She can make the best out of almost any situation; it is almost like positivity flows through her blood. I somehow seemed to have missed out on that genetic trait. Christine has this creative spunk and empathetic spirit that makes her dream big dreams and care deeply about people–and animals for that matter. And she can make me laugh harder than anyone I know.
We decided that we should do an Italy reunion trip every 5 years. I’ll cheers to that!