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!

Reading Together

Recently my friend Rachel and I were discussing our classes – incredible groups of students in the 3rd and 7th grades – and decided it would be fun to pair up and read together.  I had never done this before, since I never attended elementary school and only recently started working in a K-12 school, but have always been drawn to the idea.  Our plan was put into action yesterday, and the kids warmed up to each other within minutes.  Their engagement and concentration was really sweet!

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These girls slowly grew their crowd, attracting everyone around with their laughter.  I stopped by to check it out, and learned that they were taking turns reading.  The rule was that each person had to read in a different funny accent!

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After the books were done, Rachel’s kids were preparing to go to lunch.  Before they left, though, her boys decided that they wanted to take on one of mine in an arm wrestling competition.  When that proved futile, they worked together toward success 🙂

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My first year here, the school’s focus for the year was “Welcome Home”.  That’s one of the things that I really love about working here – it so often functions as one big family.  I love that my 7th graders and these sweet 3rd graders can spend time together, and that it’s a positive influence taking place.  I love that the kids have an atmosphere in which they feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them.  It is so neat to see them grow and learn and lead!

New Zealand: Queenstown

Queenstown was the part of our trip that I was probably the most excited for, mainly because it’s been named the adventure sports capital of the world.  I’m a total adrenaline junkie, and love anything that involves speed, flying, jumping, or falling.

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I mainly blame this on my father.  My dad started this trend when I was about five years old and he rented a jet-ski.  My mother was worried, naturally (we often joke that she is the reason we’re all still alive!)… but she wasn’t out on the lake with us 🙂  So, as five-year-old me urged my equally adventurous father to go “faster, Daddy, faster,” we eventually maxed out the jet ski.  And I loved every second!

Ever since, I’ve had the desire to feed that daredevil side of myself.  Whether it is bungee jumping, sky diving, white water rafting – whatever! – I thrive on thrills.  As we planned for our time in Queenstown, I excitedly searched for something new, and found something that I had always been fascinated by: hang gliding!

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I talked Patrick and Grace into joining me, and booked an appointment for our first morning in town.  Unfortunately, when that morning arrived, it was raining and therefore hang gliding was canceled.  We rescheduled for the afternoon, and were sure things would work because the sun had come out and even the clouds had disappeared.  They canceled due to wind.  We rescheduled for the following day.  They canceled again.

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Overall, Queenstown was the most disappointing part of the trip for me.  This was in part due to my crushed skydiving dreams, but also to the general atmosphere of the city.  It may have been because of the New Years season, but it was a lot more crazy than the other, more relaxing cities in which we spent time.

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Despite spending most of our time waiting around to attempt hang gliding, we did get to see beautiful things and have some fun while we were there!  We drove up into the mountains in the area, then hiked up beyond that, which gave an incredible view.  While up high above the city, we visited Skipper’s Road, the 7th most dangerous road in the world, which was originally used by miners.

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Later, we took a gondola into the mountains closer to the central part of the city, and road luge carts down.  It was a blast!  It started raining part way through our runs, making things a bit more treacherous and exciting.  The view from the top was unbelievable, allowing us to look down on the city and the water, and out onto other mountains.
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If you’re ever in Queenstown, make sure you fit the gondola and luge into your itinerary, along with eating at Ferg Bakery, but don’t make the mistake that we did of depending on adventure sports to work out!

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New Zealand: Baby Seals and Almost Dying

Our final night in Blenham, we ate at an excellent Brazilian restaurant, where everyone was very kind and helpful.  One of the women that helped us had grown up in Kaikoura, where we were headed the following day, and gave us lots of helpful advice on things to see and places to eat!

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One thing that she told us about was a waterfall on the way.. with baby seals.  We were very excited, and glad that we had talked to her about it, though we weren’t entirely sure what to expect.

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As we were driving, we saw a really beautiful view of the coast and stopped to take a couple of pictures.  As Patrick headed onto the beach, he was startled by the seal right in front of him!  We didn’t end up finding any seals at the waterfall, but Grace and I absolutely fell in love with the baby seal on the beach.

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There were probably 15 seals hanging around on the beach, but we mostly looked at the ones on the edges.  We were grateful we hadn’t ventured deeper into the pack, because of what happened next.

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We had struggled down a slippery, steep path to get down to where the seals were.  We gained confidence in how close we got to the seals as we edged closer and they lay around lazily, barely recognizing us.*  The craziest moment of this particular adventure came when one of the larger seals suddenly started charging us!  He had been nearby for a while, but apparently decided that he had had enough of us hanging around.  He hopped toward us in a strange fashion, but was actually rather quick.  We scrambled away over slippery rocks, but were thankful he gave up his pursuit since getting back up the cliff would’ve been challenging.  The scariest part of all of this:  we heard about a seal attack on a podcast later that day!

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The baby seal looked a lot like a puppy, but with flippers.  We were totally getting our National Geographic on, taking pictures of wild animals 🙂

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*This with the exception of the baby seal, with whom I quickly made friends.  He talked to me, true story!

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Sri Lanka: Negombo

We started off our stay in Sri Lanka in the city of Negombo, one of the most populous cities next to the capital.  Negombo is a quaint town on the water, and we really enjoyed it!

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The fishing industry in Negombo is huge.  Although I don’t like fish, and I definitely don’t like the smell of them, I have always been inexplicably attracted to fishing boats.  I think that they are beautiful.  The bright colors, the comparison that shows the vastness of the sea, the channeled power of the wind and water – I find them fascinating!

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Sri Lanka: My New Identity

I’ve always secretly wished that I could don saris wherever and whenever I wanted.  I think that they are simply the most beautiful piece of clothing, and have always loved the bright colors and exciting patterns.

Therefore, traveling through a country in which everyone was sari-clad was quite exciting.  And made me jealous – I wanted a sari of my own!

So, naturally, we bought ourselves saris!  It was fun to learn about the different ways to wrap them, and I had to be quite intentional about not letting myself buy an entire collection.  I loved the whole shopping process of trying on the saris and sifting through all of the bright colors and sequins and embroidered designs.

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Unfortunately, we didn’t get to take any pictures while shopping and trying on our new outfits.  So, when we had a free morning next to a pretty lake, we decided to do a photo shoot!

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Presanna, our beloved driver, helped us figure out the process of re-sari-ing ourselves, and we had a great time parading around in our new outfits.

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Everyone else seemed to enjoy it as well… we had crowds watching us, stepped into a wedding photo shoot, and conceded to pictures with a very excited group of tourists from Egypt.

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After we changed back into clothing that we were more used to, we at lunch at a small, lake-side café.  The whole thing was very charming, and our favorite part about being on the lake up in the mountains was that it felt like fall!  Fall is one of the things that we miss the most about home, so it was a huge blessing to get to sit and enjoy the weather.

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We were even a bit chilly! We bundled up in our scarves, laughing about how Indonesia had dulled our midwestern I-can-survive-the-worst-of-winters edge.  Jokingly, we commented that it was probably only 70 degrees and that our blood had already thinned that drastically.  Eventually curiosity got the best of us, and we looked up on my phone what the temperature was…

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I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to handle Chicago again!  I’ll have to retire to Florida for the winters when I move back to the states.

This place was one of the little things that turned out to be one of the best memories!

Sri Lanka: A Dream Come True

When I was young, my mom read to us all the time.  I remember sitting on the couch underneath our window, curled up reading while the rain tapped on the glass.  Some of my fondest memories are of our time cuddled up with books!

One of the books we read was called How To Make an Apple Pie and See the World.  If I’m being completely honest, I can remember close to nothing about this book.  But, I love apple pie and I love seeing the world, so apparently it had some impact on my childhood.

The only thing that I can remember about this book was that the girl making the apple pie went to Sri Lanka to get her cinnamon, and that I have had an inexplicable desire to go to Sri Lanka ever since!

I never did much research on the county or pursued a trip until I came to live in Indonesia. Now, I can proudly say that I have been to Sri Lanka.  And that I bought cinnamon there 🙂

Sri Lanka is an absolutely wonderful country.  I quickly fell in love with the climate, the people, and the breath-taking views every way that I looked.  Their civil war ended just a few years back, so, while the country is tourist-friendly, it has not yet been overrun.

We hired a driver and saw an unbelievable amount of the country in the one week that we had there.  As impressive as the destinations were, I was just as struck by the beauty along the way. But I guess that’s a bit like life, isn’t it?

The country was quaint, peaceful, and inspiring.  It will be well documented by the time that I’m done writing about it, but I wanted to first share a few of the shots that were of the moments that were expected to be more routine, of the beauty that accompanied us as we traveled from one emphasized site to another.  That is what really made the trip incredible for me!

These shots are from our car rides, our hotel rooms, and the small places we stopped along the side of the road.  What a beautiful world God has given us!

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Our driver took us to a waterfall that was on our way to our next location.  We journeyed through the halls and down the elevator of a random hotel, ran down some steps, and ended up here!

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These few pictures are from our porch at the hotel that we stayed at that night.  In the rainy season, a lot more of this basin fills up with water.  It sounds like Sri Lanka would look very different in rainy season than it did when we were there in the dry season! I guess we’ll have to go back 🙂

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One of our favorite view points was a stop along the road just after we visited a tea plantation.  I could’ve stayed sitting there all day!

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Another stop that was really meaningful to me was a precious little church that we originally stopped at because I liked the colorful tree next to it.  As we explored the area, though, we fell more and more in love with the still-functioning 1800s church.  It was an interesting perspective for me, the sense of peace and joy that came along with this place.  We visit so many temples, but I’ve toured few Christian churches.  It struck me on a much deeper level than many of the places that we go!*

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One of the most wonderful blessings of this trip was our fantastic driver, Presanna.  He is one of the kindest men that I have ever met, and absolutely bent over backwards to make our time special. If you are considering a trip to Sri Lanka (which you really should be), you simply must do it with him.  Write me a message if you’d like his information!

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And, as if the trip wasn’t already perfect enough, the Singapore airport (our layover) had pumpkin spice!  My life is officially complete.

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*Also, I want to have my wedding at this place.  I was absolutely in love with it.  Get ready for the most interesting destination wedding you’ve ever attended!

Also, a big thank you to Janna, Rachel, and Jon for sharing their pictures from this trip with me!