Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New York City

On Tuesday I went to New York City with my family.

The weather was perfect - sunny, not too cold, and yet just cold enough to make me want to bundle up in fuzzy socks, scarf, and gloves.

I love New York. Although I've only been there at Christmas time so maybe I'm a little biased, especially since I love love love Christmas and everything about Christmas.

I got to see the Rockettes for the first time! And of course we saw the big Christmas tree and Time Square :) Enjoy these pictures of our trip!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I'll be home for Christmas...

{Written on December 7th}

Well, right now I’m sitting in a cute little restaurant, Atlanta Bread, in the Atlanta airport, halfway home from Belize! And Christmas music is playing :) I still literally can’t comprehend that the semester is over and that in five hours I will be in Philly and hugging my family! And that it’s December and actually cold outside! What an amazing, incredible four months it has been!

It certainly has been very challenging, but in good, growing ways. Throughout the semester we learned a lot about social justice issues and environmental degradation and the complexity of both the problems and the solutions. We talked a lot about how we, in the US, are able to sustain our lifestyles at the cost of poorer countries, whose workers are grossly underpaid. Factory workers, banana farmers, and the like are being taken advantage of so that we can buy imported items and food at a cheap price. At times realizing the immensity of the problems was very overwhelming and I was tempted to harden my heart and block it all out of my mind, but my prayer is that God will continually work to soften my heart and use me to have compassion on those in need. Some of the changes I hope to enact are to reduce the amount I consume and also to shop locally. More importantly, I want to be informed, not just naively living and breathing. I want to live intentionally. I’m still working on figuring out in my own head everything I’ve heard and learned this semester and the exact reasons for doing certain things, such as shopping locally, but I trust that this is only the beginning of a longer journey that God has me on. So feel free to ask questions, but I can’t guarantee that I will be able to answer them!

One of my friends shared 1 Peter 1:13-16 in our last small group devotions, and it was a huge encouragement to me. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Another thing that God has been teaching me a lot about this semester is just how incomprehensible He is – and that it’s okay that I can’t wrap my mind around who He is. Seeing so many breathtaking aspects of creation – rainforests, kinkajous, fer-de-lances, spider monkeys, coral reefs, angelfish, octopuses, jellyfish, Caribbean islands and seas – and being surrounded by so many different views on exactly how God created the universe kind of overwhelmed me and I became aware of new aspects of who God is that I’d never been aware of before. At first I didn’t know what to do with this knowledge. But now God has assured me that He is incomprehensible and I shouldn’t be able to understand Him because He’s just too great to be understood by my human mind. So I just have to keep loving and trusting Him and seeking to discover who He is as much as I can.

I can’t forget all the adventures I’ve been on! From living in a jaguar preserve for a few days, to releasing baby sea turtles on a black sand beach, I did some seriously awesome things. I hope I’m not bored having a “normal life” again haha. I’ll try to list some of the highlights: tubing in the rain on the Macal River, exploring ancient Mayan ruins at Xunantunich, kayaking and snorkeling in the Caribbean off of Caye Caulker, a local homestay in the village of Succotz, multiple trips to Mountain Pine Ridge and the incredible streams and waterfalls there, ATM caves, playing with Garifuna children in the old fishing village of Hopkins, an entire week of adventures in Guatemala during travel week (highlights include hiking and roasting marshmallows on Volcan Pacaya, eating key lime pie by candlelight and starlight on a rooftop overlooking the gorgeous town of Antigua, releasing baby sea turtles on the black sand beach of Monterico, and an absolutely insane long day of travel to a beautiful location called Semuc Champey, which is a series of natural waterfalls and pools), several field trips to local farms, Vaca Dam, and Belize Natural Energy, ziplining in the rain through the rainforest, a two week internship in the local hospital, and five days having class and snorkeling in Glover’s Atoll. I probably forgot a few things, but take a look at all my pictures on Facebook and ask me about it – I’d love to share :)

But it wasn’t just the crazy one-time adventures that fill my mind with happy memories – the everyday things of living in a community of seventeen students near the town of San Ignacio are just as precious to me. Some of my favorite times were spent in local restaurants where we got to know the staff; my favorite restaurants were Hode’s and Greedy’s. All of the restaurants are open to the outside and so relaxing. I think a favorite of everyone includes our group trips to Cayo Twist, a soy ice cream shop, all shoved into Harvey, our beloved white van, jamming out to music and just laughing hysterically and enjoying each other. Movie nights were the best! We’d pop popcorn on the stove – butter & salt and kettle corn – and all curl up on the floor in front of the projector, leaning against our dining room tables turned on their sides. There were always games being played as well – “the bean game” was a particular favorite. And of course just spending time with all of the awesome students and staff. I have made some amazing friends. Let’s just say last night – our last night – I was up super late and ended up dragging my mattress into my friends’ room to have a sleepover :)

Leaving today was very emotional – for everyone. Like I said at the beginning, I really can’t believe that I’m in the airport on my way home. I’ve been waiting for this day for so long, but at the same time I’m sad to see this chapter of my life come to a close. Knowing that I might never see some of these people again is a sad thing. Waking up and not being immediately surrounded by all of my friends and getting ready for a new adventure each day might be kind of strange. But it’s definitely time to be coming home. Especially just in time for Christmas, my favorite time of year :)

So please have snow, and mistletoe, and presents under the tree ;)