Stereotypical Summertime

This summer has, thus far, been very stereotypical of my recent life.

I flew back to the states on a Wednesday, looking forward to a relatively empty month and a half before starting at my new job in Florida. It’s incredible, though, how quickly things fill up!

After arriving Wednesday at midnight (thank you, 11 hours gained due to time zones!), I headed back to the airport 8 hours later to spend a long weekend in Vermont for my cousin’s wedding. It was a beautiful day, and a well-timed opportunity to catch up with family that I hadn’t seen in a few years.

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We got back to Ohio on that Saturday, and within 6 hours of arriving I had somehow agreed to act as an advisor on a missions trip to Peru… on Monday. I spent a hectic couple of days unpacking, packing, and spending time with my family before leaving for South America.

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While I can’t say that I was particularly happy to see another airplane, I am so thankful for the way that the Lord worked things out for me to go. His hand was so clearly in every step of the process, from the big things to the small details.

We took a group of 81 students and 13 adults to Iquitos, Peru, which is the largest city in the world that has no road leading to it. Chronicles of the trip and pictures will follow, but even the fact that I got there was really a blessing.

The group traveled in two masses, with groups of forty-something taking charter buses to JFK and flying out from there. My group was the second, driving through the night and arriving around 7 am in the morning for our 9:30 flight. I was the first to check in, just in case the airline ticket – which had been switched to my name from that of a lady who couldn’t go last minute – didn’t go through. It indeed did not, though the travel agency had already made the switch.

I waited two hours while all of the students checked in, then went up to try again. Still nothing. The lady helping me seemed very eager to help, but her supervisor did not. They repeatedly switched into Spanish to discuss, not realizing that I could still understand their conversation.

The next hour was full of false excitement. They informed us that they could not help us, and the travel agent had to be the one to make the changes. The issue was that he had done so, but did not have confirmation from the airline and could not get an answer from them. We tried to buy a new ticket, but the flight was oversold.

Finally, our agent came through with my ticket. We sighed and relaxed, just to find out that the ticket hadn’t been appropriately linked. At one point, we were told that I had four minutes left to get checked in, or I wouldn’t make the flight. With about two minutes remaining, the ticket finally came through. Once again we rejoiced, only to find out that there were no seats left.

My friend went ahead through security or he wouldn’t make the flight, and I remained, nervously glancing at my watch. The line was getting long. The supervising worker, who originally had seemed so disinterested in our problem, looked at me and said, “Don’t you worry, I’m not leaving you.” From that point on, she really fought to get me on the plane.

Because there were no seats left, they gave me the final seat in business class! With that ticket, I was able to skip the security line and get to the gate just as they finished boarding.

What was really incredible to me is the peace that the Lord gave throughout the entire process. Though I was tired and pretty done with traveling and the issues that it entails, I knew that it would work out and that He would continue to provide – after all, He had gotten us that far!

God is good!

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2013 in Review

Last December, I took a look back at the year that had just passed and everything that had happened.  It was quite the year!  It amazed me, looking at it all together, everything that had gone on and some of the crazy life changes and incredible opportunities that I had embarked on.

So here we are again..

2013 in Review!

January

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Opened the year in Thailand with my family
Rode an elephant!
Went to Medan, Indonesia and Penang, Malaysia for a long weekend


February

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Hosted Junior Unity Cup with the Student Council
Went “camping” with the grade 7 students in Suka Bumi
Repelled down water falls and completed a high ropes course

March

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Went on a crazy bike tour through Cambodia and to Angkor Wat
Spent an absolutely wonderful spring break with my Japan family (including cherry blossoms in full bloom and Mt. Fuji!)

April
I have thought and thought and determined that nothing of note happened in April! 

May

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Ventured home for my best friend, Mandi’s, wedding!
30 Hour Famine
Took a trip to Jogjakarta to see a lantern festival, but it rained so there were no lanterns 😦

June

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Students at my school put on the incredible Be brave and shave event
Friendship Day with the student council
Returned to Thailand for a week
Spent a long layover in Ethiopia
Headed back to America for the summer

July

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Spent lots of great time with my family
Road tripped from Tulsa to Cleveland
Headed back to Indonesia
Started year 2 of teaching!

August

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Went to Vietnam and cruised through Halong Bay
Met a wonderful new group of students
Had a great week hosting Bekah, a friend from home

September

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My mom and dad came to visit me in Indonesia
Hung out at Support Staff Appreciation Day with the SOC
Got my track coach on at the Jakarta meet

October

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Took a Friday off from classes for Athletics Day
Judged a student sate-cooking challenge
Spent ten days in Sri Lanka during which we went on a safarimodeled saris, and climbed a tall mountain

November

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Bought a DSLR camera!
Celebrated Thanksgiving with the wonderful “family” I’ve made here
Began the Community and Service program with my awesome homeroom
Watched my student council kids initiate a beautiful new Hospital Visits program
Took three days from school for a grade 7 retreat

December

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Enjoyed a homeroom reunion with my kids from last year
Dressed up for Outsiders Day with our 8th grade English students
Celebrated Christmas with so, so many wonderful people
Spent a day in China
Ended the year fulfilling my life-long dream of visiting New Zealand (and went black water rafting!)

It has been a wonderful year!

Thanksgiving

Recently, I have been especially thankful for the community that I have here.  Indonesia is very far from home, but I have been blessed with some pretty incredible people to do life with here!

Most recently, we had a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner.  32 people squeezed into my neighbor’s apartment, hailing from six different countries and bringing all kinds of comforting Thanksgiving-y food.  Though I missed my family for the holiday, it was so special having people to celebrate with and laugh with and simply enjoy the night with.*

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Additionally, I am hugely thankful for technology.  For the majority of my time here, I’ve been able to simply pick up the phone and call my family.  Skype and FaceTime have allowed me to see them and “be a part” of things.

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Living abroad now is definitely different for me than it was for many who came before me! I am so thankful for every one of you from home that prays for me, reads my blog, or keeps me otherwise connected to little pieces of home!

Have a beautiful Christmas season!

*Not being home was made slightly more okay by the fact that my family had no mashed potatoes… what!?

Japan: Sakura

Being in Japan for cherry blossom (“sakura“) season has been a life long dream of mine.  

When I moved to Asia in the summer, one of the first vacations I knew I wanted to take was a trip to visit my family in Japan.  Unbeknownst to me, our spring break coincided almost perfectly with sakura season!  I expected to see the blossoms for a few days at the end of my trip.

Incredibly, the trees bloomed a few weeks early and were in full form the entire week that I was in Japan!

I’ve included a (rather large) small selection from a photo collection that turned a bit obsessive 🙂

I’ll be writing about the rest of the trip soon – it was absolutely wonderful on so many levels… a huge thank you to my fantastic aunt, uncle, and cousins! – but, for now, I hope you can enjoy even a little bit of the unbelievable beauty that I was blessed enough to witness.

I definitely see another trip to Japan in my future!

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Loved in order to Love

During my vacation with my family, we were blessed with the opportunity to work with an incredible ministry.

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Remember Nhu is a beautiful program that takes in girls that are at risk for the sex slave trade.

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The home that we visited is home to 42 girls aged four to twenty.  They all sleep in one large room full of bunk beds – it’s a Madeline-esque feel.  42 beds, 42 sets of drawers, 42 laundry baskets, 42 bathroom caddies.

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I was so challenged by the joy and servant-heartedness of these girls, from youngest to oldest.  They were impressively self-entertaining, and all took care of each other.  The older girls watched out for the younger ones, the younger ones looked up to the older ones.  They hit volleyballs back and forth, played with a Chinese jumprope, sang worship songs together – it was really beautiful!

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As soon as we walked in we were offered chairs, waters, and hugs.

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My sister Anna is on a jumprope team, and we brought a jumprope for each of the girls.  Within seconds, the small room was dangerously full of spinning ropes.  The girls copied the tricks that Anna had shown, and their natural athleticism saw that they were soon more competent than I was!

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We stayed for dinner, and we communicated as best we could with a language barrier.  It’s incredible, though, how much can be communicated without words.

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Our final night, we took the girls to the night safari.  The best parts of the evening were the shrieks of laughter and excitement as giraffes, deer, and zebras stuck their heads into our trolley cars.

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It absolutely broke my heart to think of the kind of life that these girls would have been living if not for the home finding them.  They were so precious, so innocent, so full of love and joy and happiness.  It hit me on the night safari train, as I loved on these girls, that so many like them are stuck in a living hell.

My friend Hannah, who volunteers at Remember Nhu, mentioned something interesting to me that I had noticed, subconsciously, but not stopped to think about:

This place was not an orphanage, but a home.  This was something that they were insistent about.

And it was so, so clear as soon as she said it.

When I’ve traveled to orphanages, the children have been clingy, starving for love.  They run up to you and don’t let go.  These girls were different: they were warm, friendly, and inviting, but did not need us.  They were content with their home parents, their fellow ‘sisters.’

They had enough love given them that they could focus on loving each other and on loving us.

We talked about the fact that many girls eat until they vomit for the first few weeks that they live in the home, not used to having the next meal guaranteed.  After a while, though, they realize that they will not be going hungry anymore and that they can eat in a healthy manner.

I assume it’s the same thing with the love and attention.  Although girls may be clingy or love-hungry when they first arrive, they soon realize that there is always love available for them here.  That they don’t have to binge.

And the more I considered the fact that they could receive and give love in a healthy manner, I realized that it was a lesson that each of us can learn from.

Despite the fact that our situation is so different from these girls, we respond the same way to an insecurity in whether we are loved or not.

When we do not feel loved, we become clingy, we binge on any opportunity at receiving love.  We become jealous and don’t want to share; we’re willing to sacrifice too much for approval or attention.

On the flip side, though, when we are comfortable in our relationships and in the fact that we will continue to be accepted, we are freed of our worries to love others well, to make sure that they are taken care of.  We become willing to leave our safe-zones, to venture out and be away from the people that we love and love us back.  We are less scared of rejection and able to talk to new people.  We have received love and can therefore pass it on to others.

Wouldn’t the world be beautiful if we all lived this way?

Hill Tribes and Dr. Seuss Gardens

I’ve already mentioned the beauty of Chiang Mai, but I just have to say it again.

The area is gorgeous, the weather was perfect.

I loved this place, and it was such a retreat for me from the hot weather, crowds, traffic, and constant attention of Indonesia.

One morning while there, we headed up into the hills to see the way that the tribes there lived.  I actually wasn’t that interested in the culture there, which was really strange for me – usually I’m a culture addict.

I realized, though, while contemplating, that it simply wasn’t out of the ordinary after my time in Indonesia.  Communities very similar to the one that we were visiting are not far from where I live.

Instead, I was focused on the incredible view as we drove up the mountain in the back of the pick up trucks and enjoyed time of the view from the summit.

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We made the trip with some awesome girls who were on the World Race, a neat ministry that visits that sends missions trippers to 11 countries in 11 months.  I loved having the opportunity to talk with other believers about my age with the same love for traveling.

Side note:  Andrew lost a tooth to commemorate the event.

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On the way down the mountain we stopped for lunch at a sweet restaurant that had a strawberry farm and to-die-for strawberry smoothies.

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Despite a stressful ride with the world’s potentially most erratic driver, we made it back to our resort with enough time to explore the grounds a bit.  The owner had given his wife acres and acres of beautiful gardens for a birthday, and we were able to enjoy them as well!  We all felt like we were traipsing through a Dr. Seuss scene, surrounded by expertly shaped trees, bushes molded into animals, and serene lakes.

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How blessed I feel to explore this beautiful part of the world, and with my family to boot!  It was hard to return to reality, though it’s a pretty good reality 🙂

Next stop: Penang, Malaysia, January 23rd!

Ode to Thai Pants

I have a confession to make.

Of an obsession.

Admitting it is the first step, right?

I’m in love with Thai Pants.

During our vacation in Thailand, we were able to spend some time exploring the culture and goods of markets in both Chiang Mai and Bangkok.  Having a fair amount of markets at my fingertips in Indonesia, I went in with a singular goal:  find and buy Thai pants.

Now, in case you aren’t familiar with Thai pants, let me explain to you that they are basically the most wonderful thing in the world.  They’re made of thin material and are loose and flow-y. Usually made of fun material, they cost about $5 in the market.  They function well for pajamas, house wear, wearing out or basically anything.

I not only met my buy-Thai-pants goal, but ended up walking away with 5 pairs in varied styles and colors.  My sisters ended up with 5 pairs combined, too.  When my mother and grandmother realized the excellence of our new wardrobe items, they rounded out the purchases with their own pants.

My sisters did not remove theirs, night or day, for the first 48 hours that they owned them.

I’ve been struggling with having to wear a uniform for the first time ever (like I would be able to wear Thai pants otherwise?), and have been inhabiting my comfy new favorite-souvenier-ever since I got home!

You need a pair.

You can either come to Thailand, hire a friend to smuggle them into the States for you, or wait until I get back and open up a Thai pants store.