12.31.2010

Give me that eraser

On my flight this evening from Puno to Juliaca, Peru, a million thoughts came at me. Bombarding me with all the force that my little brain could muster. Such thoughts as: What the heck am I doing flying through the air? Really, flying? How can this huge chunk of metal filled with people be soaring through the air? What kind of age am I living in? Profound, I know. But then something else started to hit me. I allowed myself to remember back to all of the sights that I had seen, just days before. The ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo. The little village on the island of Taquile in the middle of Lake Titicaca. The floating island people of Uros. The faces of the locals came back to me. I remembered the hut that was so dark and smelled like a bale of hay. I remember watching the woman in the hut embroider a pillowcase that she would later sell - her only source of income. Her hands and feet were extremely swollen for the fact that she lived on a floating island and it was so humid.  I asked if I could sew some stitches. My fingers fumbled with the needle. So ungraceful compared to her nimble and skilled dedos. She smiled at me through her gums as I attempted to stitch with the same ease as she did. The thread came out of the needle. Failure.
The thoughts kept coming. This time, deeper. The ones that cut straight to the heart and make you question everything. Why are there kids sleeping on the cold streets of Cuzco? Why do they just wear sandals when it is freezing cold outside? Why am I sitting in a nice airplane right now being served orange juice that tastes like Tang and a rubbery meat sandwhich? How did this turn of events come to be? Why I am in the position that I'm in, and they are on the streets?
The answers came slower than the questions had rushed in. They came, but resembled the process of trying to get the last bit of honey out of the bottle - slow. Painstakingly slow. But nonetheless, they came. I am where I am to do something. I was given all that I have to give it to someone else. I was born to help. WE ALL WERE.
If I don't help? Failure. Just like my dumb fingers trying to sew.
I'm still trying to work out the details of how to go about this. Like I said before, the answers are just dripping like honey. Slowly, and just one drip at a time.

12.24.2010

Twenty

I can hold my breath for twenty seconds before starting to feel like I'm going to die. It takes me twenty minutes to wash my dreads and to make rice for the boys at Km 38 (not at the same time). In twenty hours I arrived in Lima on a very long and trecherous bus ride from Pucallpa. And today, I have lived for twenty years. Weird.
When I woke up this morning I didn't feel any different. Same as every other birthday. I always wake up and it just feels like Christmas. Not a birthday. But I guess I don't know the difference because I was never born on any other day before. Interesting how that happens.
I started thinking today as I was riding the train up to Machu Pichhu about all of the things that usually happen to people in their twenties. Lots. I don't know if it was the altitude or all the thoughts jumbling through my head, but I started feeling sick. But I'm only entering the first year of this crazy decade of my life. 
I still have so many questions though. So much that is unknown. I don't even know what I'm going to be doing next year for sure. "But You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." 
The future is scary. Getting older is gross. But it's all a part of this journey called life and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Happy Christmas, family. Times twenty.  

12.16.2010

Leave

You need a series of  events (both fortunate and unfortunate) to pass in your life before you figure out the point. Or before you learn anything. For me, I think it took getting a new baby sister at the age of 14, my mom getting sick for 3 of my high school years, moving across the country to go to college, falling in love, learning how to rock climb, trying to surf and failing miserably, having my heart broken, making amazing friends, and finally...leaving. Right when everything was fine. Leaving all that I loved and all that I was. Or so I thought. I craved the change. And it has been the best decision I´ve ever made in my almost 20 years. 
God didn´t create us to stay the same. He didn´t create this whole world so we could just stay in the same city forever. Just look at the seasons, or the weather. It needs to change. Or else the universe would implode. My soul would have imploded. 
When you leave home, you can return and love it in all new ways. 


If home is where your heart is, then is it okay to have my heart in two places? 
Or does that get too confusing? 



11.30.2010

One million words, probably more




I think pictures of kids are worth more than 1,000 words. They're just too freaking cute. 

Pumpkin spice potatoes n' eggs

This morning breakfast was pretty usual. Arroz con leche, platanitos, mandarinas, pan con mermelada, and papas con huevos. The surprise came when I bit into the potatoes and eggs. They were abundantly seasoned with the pumpkin pie spice that Jenessa's mom had sent us for Thanksgiving. Jenessa and I looked at each other, thinking the same thing. But we didn't say anything to Elias, our Peruvian friend had woken up early and completely against his will to make us breakfast. I looked at Elias. He was just sitting at the head of the table eating his potatoes contently. I looked down at my plate. I had dished up too much. Mmm, pumpkin pie potatoes and eggs. When I walked into the kitchen, I figured out the mystery. The black pepper tin and pumpkin goodness tin look exactly the same. I have come to this conclusion about food mixing: Pumpkin pie is good. Potatoes are good. They are better together. 

11.12.2010

This face

This is the face of a little troublemaker. She had a lot of fun running around the classroom and coloring on the chalkboard behind my back when I was substituting at the school at Santa Elvita. But then she ran up to me and gave me a huge hug at the end of class. And it made it all better. It was all worth it. Those are the moments that I live for. 

So far away

Yesterday I was listening to my iPod. The first time I had busted that thing out since I got here. It was because I was working by myself and I wanted some tunes. This was my job. Background: That morning during breakfast, the Doctor had come bursting in (he always bursts into a room, never walks) with a bag in his hand. A huge bag of keys. “Quien puede organizar las llaves y hace un plan de las llaves tambien?” My big fat mouth opened and I said I would do it. So the rest of the day was spent going through every key that we own and trying them in all the doors. And making little stickers to put on them saying which door they open. And then hanging them all up in the key cupboard. I’d say that’s a pretty excellent job. Anyways, that was my day yesterday. Trying out keys. And I so since I was going to be walking around by myself all day, I decided to listen to some music. As I was listening, I began to miss home. I’d listened to lots of music before yesterday. My computer is usually playing some sort of tunage while I’m working on the newsletter or board informs. But it just felt different yesterday. I think when you listen to music in headphones it becomes more personal. Cause only you can hear it. But yesterday, when it was just me, the music, and all those hundreds of keys, I started getting really homesick. Pretty much every song that came on reminded me of someone. Someone that I loved, someone that I missed. Someone that wasn’t with me right now. And I couldn’t share the song with them. This song called So Far Away by Donavon Frankenreiter came on and it was exactly how I was feeling. The lyrics are something along these lines:
Remember those times on the telephone line
Trying to break through to you
I’m on the other side of this world
I wish I was there with you
All these days and all these nights
Thinking about you my friend
I can’t wait to get back home
And do it all over again
Even though I can hear your voice
Don’t you know that touch is my choice
Even though I can hear your voice
You’re still so far away
So far away
Remember those times driving down the coast
Stopping at the stops we love the most
Watching the wind blowing through your hair
And living our life like we just don’t care
All these days and all these nights
I’m thinking about you my friend
I can’t wait to get back home
And do it all over again
Even though I can hear your voice
Don’t you know that touch ifs my choice
Even though I can hear your voice
You’re still so far away
I know that you’re still
So far away
Yeah, I have to say that yesterday I felt pretty far away. Maybe I shouldn’t listen to my iPod anymore. But I still have a whole bucket of keys and a whole lot of doors to check. I guess today will be another day of missing home.

Drips of heaven

“I think heaven overflows and drops on the earth sometimes. This is one of those drips.” ­­­—Dr. Matson talking about mango smoothies.
I love that. Drips of heaven. That got me thinking about other little things, other drops that are dripping down from above.
Jenessa and I just got back from Lima. I had to apply for a new passport, because mine was stolen. Jenessa is such a good friend to come all the way with me. Just to keep me company and make sure I was safe. Chris Clouzet was also there to make sure that everything was okay. He even came along to the Embassy with me. And waited outside for a couple hours because he forgot his ID. His hospitality and humor are amazing. His taste in cookies, however, I beg to differ. People like Jenessa and Chris, good people whom you can have a good time with, people who care; those are drips from heaven.
The trip to Lima went really well. We rode 15 hours on the bus from Pucallpa over the mountains. There were so many twists and turns on the route that it felt like the whole bus was spinning in circles. I got a little nauseous along the way, mostly thanks to the guy who was sitting right behind me, barfing in my ear. We had bought some altitude sickness medicine in Pucallpa before we left, only to later find out that it was basically just a giant dosage of Benadryl. We all conked out and didn’t even know what hit us. So after our severely drug-induced bus ride, we arrived in Lima. We got to Chris’s apartment around 6:30 in the morning. I took my first hot shower in 2 months and then curled up in my sleeping bag and fell asleep on the tile floor. We went to the Adventist Union with Chris and saw all the work that he does. Jenessa and I got Starbucks, we met up for a way-too-expensive lunch at Chili’s, and then passed the afternoon walking around the city. It was just like being at home again. Except not. Something was different.
Observations: Lima is a lot like America. Which, I guess, was a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing was that it kind of reminded me of home. The bad thing was that it kind of reminded me of home. I realized that I don’t know if I even want that anymore. Example: We went into a supermarket in Lima. It was just Walmart. Only all in Spanish. I was so overwhelmed by all the food choices, the selection, the excess. I couldn’t handle it. In our little market in Campo Verde, there is one type of cooking oil. It comes in a water bottle without a label. And that’s our oil. Well in this supermarket in Lima, we walked down an aisle full of cooking oil. Different brands, different labels, different prices, different sizes. But all the same thing. Immediately I longed to be back in Campo. Back at our little market, talking to our friend Saul who works there. Back to our home. The big city is so impersonal. And then I got to thinking, America is so impersonal. No one really cares how you are or even who you are, for that matter. You mind your business and I’ll mind mine. And we never have to cross paths. Because it’s better that way. Even within the church. That’s the mindset and I can’t stand it.
I’m not saying that I had a horrible time in Lima. I had a great time. I ate a lot of really good food. And I bought some cool pants at an Incan market. I guess it was just a time of realization. All of the things at home that I take for granted. Like hot showers. And Walmart. And Wi-fi. That was all in Lima. Being there quenched a little bit of my homesickness for the States. I definitely miss the convenience of things back home. Like how here at Km 38, I can’t just get online and Skype my friends. But in Lima, I was able to. But more than that, going there made me realize that something inside me had changed. Something has changed. I realized that our simple way of life in the countryside – how we wash all of our dishes by hand, how it takes 2 hours to prepare a meal, how we go to the bathroom in outhouses, how we take freezing cold showers, how we burn our trash, how we play futbol and voleibol together on Thursday nights, everything – is good. It’s a good way of life, something that, after growing up in the city, I prefer. I like the simplicity. I even like how everything takes forever to do. And everything always breaks. It gives life more character. More spice. So, at least for me, right now, I know that I’m living in a drip from heaven. 

Gross things

Everyone has things that bother them. Things that they find gross. Disgusting. Revolting. Sicky and icky. Insert your choice word. Por ejemplo, my good friend Jenessa cannot stand it when people clip their nails without using a bag or trashcan. She also has a thing with bathrooms. And not wanting to sit on dirty toilets. That’s her thing.
Gross Thing #1: My thing is dirty dishes and stacking food on top of food. I can just hear the nasty squishing sound. Especially food like oatmeal, which we eat a lot of here. I cannot stand looking at the food stuck to the plates after a meal for very long because there are so many flies. Millions, if I dare say. And I think they have all called their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and nephews to take up residence in our dining room and kitchen. So when I see the flies crawling all over the dishes left on the table. And all over the pots. And all over everything, for that matter. Being gross, cleaning their little dirty poop hands. Yeah, I can’t take it.
Gross Thing #2: Imagine walking your kitchen late at night. You see that a stalk of celery has been left out on the counter. I should probably put this away, you think to yourself. You reach for it to put it in its rightful place, the refrigerator. You think that this should be a very simple task. The moment you pick up the stalk of celery, time seems to commence in slow motion. The soundtrack of your life is playing in the background. At the very same instant that your hand makes contact with the vegetable, about 50 cockroaches come crawling out of every crack and crevice of the stalk. Disgusting. Gross. You put it in the fridge anyway. We’re going to have to eat it. Oh well. That’s life here. I’m sure your kitchen probably isn’t like that. I’m sure you don’t have roaches living in your fridge. But we do. As I’m typing this, there is a roach crawling on the hymnal next to me and one about to crawl on my leg. I don’t even try to kill them anymore. There are just too many.
Gross Thing #3: Spiders. Our house has an open ceiling area, so that means that we’ve given the spiders plenty of room to cozy up and make themselves at home. There are spider webs everywhere. Cleaning the spider webs with a dishtowel at the end of a broom is scary. They all come crawling and falling. I take the broom outside and wack away at the sidewalk like a raging maniac. These spiders have huge butts. And so when you squish them, a lot of guts come out. It’s gross.
Gross Thing #4: Not flushing toilet paper. Yeah, even the number two stuff. It’s really quite lovely. If the person who uses the bathroom before you for some reason doesn’t put their toilet paper face down, there is a nice little gift waiting for you when you come to use the bathroom. And while we’re on the subject of bathrooms, I can easily transition into Gross Thing #5.
Gross Thing #5: Frogs in the bathroom. So it’s 4 o’clock in the morning. And I’m peeing. I’m barely even awake. I see a couple little frogs hopping around the walls of the bathroom. All of a sudden, Splat! One of them is on my back. Oh great.
Alright, I’m done with all my complaining. I guess from this you could probably deduct that I’m not a huge fan of the creepy crawlies here. Maybe we can cohabitate. The thing is though, I don’t want to. I want them all to die. Well, maybe not the frogs. They’re kind of cute. But the rest - the rest can all die. 

10.15.2010

Only one life

It’s funny how most days start exactly the same. But so much can happen in just one day. Your life can completely change in one day. In one hour. In 10 minutes. It can. And mine did. It was just supposed to be a boat ride home. Yeah, it was going to take 5 hours, but after those hours I would be able to sleep in my bed. We would be back at home at the base. I would get to see my chicos again. I would get to cook in our cockroach infested kitchen. I would get to take a shower. After 4 days of traveling on the river with only one “bath” there was nothing I wanted to do more than take off my dirty, stinky clothes and take a shower. Stephanie, Rachel, and I were in the front of the boat. Rachel was sleeping at the stern, and Stephanie and I were on the first bench. We talked for a little bit, read for a while, and then I decided to take a nap. As I was falling asleep to the hum of the boat,  I heard a bang on the opposite side of the boat. I whipped my head around and there was a double-barreled shotgun pointing at me. There were 3 or 4 men with masks and paint on their faces. Shouting in Spanish. “Por la playa! Por la playa!” the leader ordered our boat driver. As we pulled up and stopped at the beach, the guns still pointed at us, they began to go through all of our stuff. One by one, I saw my things being taken out of my bag. I saw him take my camera with all of the pictures from our river clinics. I saw him take my wallet. Time didn’t feel like it was moving. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. Then he came for our pockets. He went through each of our pockets. He looked right at me and asked me where my cell phone was. “No tengo nada! No tengo nada!” It was all I could spit out. I don’t think I have ever had so many thoughts flying through my head at the same time. It felt like they were all bouncing off of each other, going a million miles an hour. I was thinking about my family. I was thinking about each of my friends that I love. I was thinking about my future. What would happen to me if he pulled the trigger? The funny thing was that even though all of these things were going through my head, I felt strangely at peace with it all. If my life were to have ended, I had faith that my life was in God’s hands.
But back to the story. The robbers kept going through our stuff. They threw stuff out of bags – searching for anything of value. I guess they ran out of time or something because they didn’t search Rachel’s, Stephanie’s, and my bags. They just threw the whole thing on their little boat. The whole thing lasted probably only 10 minutes. There are a lot more details I could add, there are a lot more things I could say, but I don’t really see the point. My point is not to tell a sob story to make people feel bad for me. My point is not to tell you an adventure story. I guess you could call it an adventure, but it was terrible. And I would never wish the same thing on anyone that I know. My point is to inform you of the value of your own life. Look around you. Look at the people who you surround yourself with. Look at the kind of life you are living. Right before the assault happened, I had just started a book called Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Even though I only read the first few chapters of the book, I really liked it. In his book he quotes a small poem.
Only on life,
‘Twill soon be past;
Only what’s done
For Christ will last.
That little sentence hit me hard. Especially right after the assault happened. At the end of this journey that we’re all on, all we have to show is what we’ve done for the cause of Christ. Everything else is in vain, really.
My parents called me right when we got back to the base late that night. As I was talking to them, crying just at the sound of their voices, just wishing that I could be home just for a moment, just to give them a hug, my dad told me something. He told me that he wasn’t worried. He told me that he prays for me every morning and every night. And he knows that God is going to take care of me. He told me, “Hanna, if anything, this experience is going to build your character.” Fathers always give the best advice. My earthly father and my Heavenly one, too.
Cherish your life. Life it to the fullest. You only get one, so be immensely thankful for it with every ounce of LIFE that God has given you. 

The river

And I thought last week was crazy. I pretty much think that I’m a bad luck traveler. I always bring the wrong thing. Always lose or forget some important document. Always miss flights. Something. Something always happens. But that’s just me. I guess it makes my life more exciting. Every trip is always an adventure. Always. Moving on. This trip down the river was unlike any other trip that I have taken in my entire life. For one, I’ve never taken a trip on a boat. Well actually I take that back. I’ve been on a cruise once. But I don’t think that really counts. Cruises are like big resorts floating in the middle of the ocean with lots of food. Yeah, this was different. We got a late start per usual. I think the Doctor told us that we were going to leave at 7 in the morning. Around 10, we headed out. The whole medical and dental teams, all of our equipment, lots of food, and all of our bags. I have to admit, I was quite proud of my packing job. For 4 days down the river I only brought 2 scrub pants for clinics, 2 other pairs of pants, and 3 shirts. Along with my hammock, sleeping bag, mat, and some water bottles. We loaded up on the boats and headed off. I was really tired so I started nodding off. When I opened my eyes about 40 minutes later, I felt like I was going through that one ride at Disneyland. You know the where you go through the river on a boat with all of the fake hippos squirting water out of their mouths and wiggling their ears. It was unreal. So beautiful. Exotic birds were calling out, the sun was shining, there were huge trees everywhere. We were in the jungle. Around 2 in the afternoon we arrived at our first village. We climbed up a big hill. I went pee and then we got started on our clinic. There were only 20 families in this little village so we got finished relatively fast. The Doctor wanted to move right on to the next village that same night so we packed up the boat and were on the river once again a couple hours later. I fell asleep again, the motor and swaying of the boat was lulling me. When I woke up we at the next village. It was a little fishing town that reminded me of Mexico. Jenessa and I set up our hammocks between some poles in the sand and we fell asleep to the sounds of locals playing cards and drinking beer at the corner store. The next day we had a big clinic. As we walked through the village, a loud speaker announced our arrival. “Algunas personas de los Estados Unidos estan aqui por una clinica medical. Aqui vienen! Ellos son 200 metros de la communal local!” It was all very grand and we all felt more important and more competent than we actually knew we were. We’re just a bunch of college students from the States. We don’t know anything about medicine. We’re not really dentists. But I guess to these people we are. We’re experts. And they don’t hesitate to ask us all of their questions. They call us Doctoras and Doctors. It’s really quite flattering. Anyways, after a long day at that clinic the boys bought a monkey (whom I do not like), and we made some pasta with the river water. Entonces, after eating those yummy parasites we went to the next and final village. This place was definitely my favorite. It was filled with indigenous people. We arrived at bath time. The kids were all running around naked playing in the water. The adults were watching themselves. Mostly everyone was naked. Rachel, Stephanie, and I met the chief of the village and his wife and helped them carry their market bags back into the village. We asked them if there was a place where we could sleep for the night and so he offered us the little school. I have to say, when we first started walking back to the village in the middle of nowhere, I thought it was going to be broken down and dirty but it was the complete opposite. It was clean; the houses were very small but very well built. There was a little community center, a well, lots of fruit, cute abuelitas, and more. We were woken up at 5:30 in the morning by a person on a loudspeaker saying, “Hola. Hola Hola. Hola Hola.” The clinic went very well. I listened to about 150 people telling me about their dolor en todo sus cuerpos. Seriously. Everyone in Peru has the same symptoms. “Ah, me duele mucho mi cabeza,” they say.
“Y que mas, amigo?” I say.
“Oh, y todo mi cuerpo le duele,” they tell me.
“Y necesita usted medicina para bichos?” I ask them.
“Oh, si. Tambien. Claro. Medicina para los bichos,” they all say.
It’s so entertaining to listen to the really old people tell me their symptoms. They’re my absolute favorites. The abueltitos and abuelitas with only 3 or 5 teeth, horrible breath, wrinkly skin, and just the sweetest hearts in the world. The indigenous people were super cool too. With their language and pretty skirts. This community, called Nuevo Saposoa was like a little paradise nestled in the river. After a long hot day, us girls all ventured down to the river to take a bath like the locals. In the piranha waters. After I went out in the water and got bit by a fish, I decided it would probably be best to just sit on the little dock and dump the warm water over me. You have no idea how good it felt to bathe. I don’t think I have ever smelled so bad in my life. Unfortunately, our bath was cut short when the boys decided to come down to the water to go fishing without telling us first. Our next day was just spent packing up and loading up the boats to head home.
To be continued.

10.03.2010

I can do all things


I hate fire. I know it does many important things – provide warmth, cook food, yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. Fire is cool when it is where it belongs, like on the stove. Or in a campfire. But when it’s raging in the rainforest right behind our house, or burning up our cow pastures, or threatening our little church at Yerbas Buenas, I hate it. This week was our first week of clinicals and as such, after a long day of doing triage, taking blood pressures and temps, and pretty much everything else – I was exhausted to say the least. It was Wednesday afternoon. Halfway through the week. We were all tired, but still going strong. And then we got the call. Pack everything up right now and come home. There’s a fire and the chicho’s need our help. We rushed home, threw on jeans and long sleeved shirts, grabbed bandanas for our faces, got wet in the showers, and then loaded up in the truck and drove out to the jungle. As we started driving I could already see and smell the smoke. These fires were huge. When we got there, the chicho’s were hard at work throwing water on everything and hacking down the brush with machetes to contain the fire. Stephanie and I grabbed machetes and followed the boys deep into the jungle. I felt like I was an Amazon woman. We got those two fires put out just after dark and then we headed back home, exhausted but accomplished. The thing that we didn’t know was that this same thing would happen every single night this week. The next fire was by the road in front of the house. I had just taken a shower and gone to bed. Fuego! Fuego! So I put on my nasty fire clothes from the night before that were still on the line and we went out there and put it out. The next night it was in the jungle right behind the house. We had gone out there earlier in the evening to put out a fire and then the dreaded words. Fuego. Another one. At 11 o’clock on Friday night. I had just taken a shower. So we put on our dirty clothes. Again. And then there was yesterday. The fire started around 2 o’clock that afternoon in the cow pasture. And then another one was burning in the jungle behind Hector’s house. And then there was another one out by the Yerbas Buenas church. And yet another one across the road near our neighbor’s house.
Let me tell you something about firefighting in Peru. It’s not like you just see the fire, call the fire department and wait for it to be put out. No. If there’s a fire, you fight it yourself. You and whoever else shows up to help. So here’s the drill. 1) Someone yells FUEGO! 2) Grab your smokey clothes off the line. 3) Gather all of the buckets in the house. 4) Fill up the huge tank on the tractor with water. 5) Go.
Fighting fires is a very slow process. We have to haul our lemonade buckets through the jungle to the boys at the front lines. Sometimes we have to chop up a tree if it has too many dry leaves. There are always embers everywhere. It’s smoky and dark. I got lost in the jungle once. The smoke was burning my eyes and lungs, it was hot, dark, and I couldn’t see where anyone else was.
The amazing thing about the fires this week – yes, I think there was actually something positive that came out of it – was the attitude of cooperation and togetherness that our team had. The Doctor is one of the most amazing people I know. There he is in the middle of a forest fire still cracking jokes, still laughing. We were all still laughing. One night in particular, I think it was Friday, we had just finished fighting the fire and so we were heading back to the house. The Doctor was leading his weary troops. Leading them in circles around the jungle. He started laughing so hard when we realized what he had done. Que chistoso. I love that though. Amidst a tough time, there is still laughter here.
I remember sitting in SM class and being told to be prepared for anything and to be flexible. Boy, I never would’ve guessed that that would have included fighting rain forest fires. Philippians 4:13 has an all new meaning. Yes. I can do all things – give shots, pull teeth, be a triage nurse, put out fires, preach in Spanish, and more – but only through Christ who gives me the strength.

Just a teaser: We’re leaving tomorrow for a 4-day clinic up the Amazon river. We’re going to be going to different little villages and passing out meds, performing surgeries, and pulling teeth. It’s going to be a real adventure. I’ve heard stories about mosquitoes the size of hippos. Oh yes, a real adventure. We’re going to be eating rice, beans, fish, and fruit. I’ll probably get diarrhea. 

Boys


Pienso que yo hablo como una niña chiquita. Sometimes I think that the locals just look at me and decide to rattle something off in Spanish just to laugh at my blank face. I’ve been smiling a lot. And nodding. I like talking with kids because they actually help me. There are these two little boys in particular – Gian Pier and Alex. They live here at the base in a little house with their dad, Hector. Their mom died a year or two ago. Gian Pier is 10 and Alex is 8. They are the most precious boys ever. One morning the first week I was here, while I was supposed to be doing something else, I went on a fruit scavenger hunt with those little boys. They taught me all the names of the local fruits and we just spent the morning laughing, climbing trees, and eating to our hearts’ content. One morning Gian Pier surprised me with a big tropical orange flower. He walked up all shyly, went around behind me and just threw the flower in my hair. During church Alex usually lies down on the wooden pew and sleeps on my lap. He also always asks if he can have a drink from my water bottle. And then he drinks all of it with a little grin. Whenever I sit down, he wiggles his way and his dirty little feet onto my lap. He stole my jugo de durzana after I had only had one sip. The point is: I’m never going to be able to leave these boys.

Oh, Peru.

You and your people have stolen my heart.

9.13.2010

Spit in the bag, please

Today was a day. I felt like I was given a toothpick and asked to paint the Sistine Chapel. Actually, I was given a needle, a vestibule of anesthesia, and asked to numb someone’s mouth. I have never felt more inadequate or nervous in my life. I mean, people go to school for dentistry for over 10 years. And you want me to give injections and pull out teeth? After only 4 days of training? Wowzers. All I can say is, Dear God, Help me. Ayudame, por favor. Help us all. I guess that’s kind of what being a missionary is all about. Feeling inadequate and completely scared, but then just letting go of yourself and your fears and letting God work through you. Because I know I’m no dentist. Not in the least. I’m an art major. I don’t know anything about the mouth. I know how to draw. And take pictures.
I think that’s one of the things I really like about being in Peru, though. People don’t ask you if you know how to do something. And frankly, I don’t think they care. All I know is, that when things need to get done, they do. Everyone works together and tries their hardest. Everyone jumps in even if they don’t know what they’re doing. I never cease to be amazed at the amount of things that can be strapped to the top of a motocar or truck. You don’t have to be an expert. You just have to give your best. I guess it’s just a little more scary when you have someone’s mouth in your hands.
I typed up a paper of things that we’re supposed to learn how to say to our patients in Spanish. Stuff like, “Voy a ponerle una inyección para anestesiar la encía.” Which roughly translates into, “I’m going to give you an injection to put your gums to sleep.” And also, “Escupa en la bolsa, por favor.” Meaning, “Spit in the bag, please.” The dentist told us today that if we don’t specify that la bolsa, or the bag, is the place to spit, the patient will just spit on your feet. Or on you. Or on whatever is near. Tomorrow the dentist is bringing in a pig’s head. A big dead pig’s head to practice extracting teeth.
“Hello, I’m going to be your dentist today. The only other patient I’ve had was dead. And it was a pig.”  But seriously, all I can say is God, help me. It’s not going to be easy, but I know You will go with me where ever I go. You promised me that You would. So I believe it. 

Ormigas, sudado, y ampollas

Even though I’ve only been here for a week, I already feel at home. We have a schedule. We are a family. We work together to prepare meals. Morning and evening worships are my favorite times of the day. Culto, as it is called here. This week has been kind of slow as far as my job goes. I went with the boys to la selva. Deforestation at its finest. They handed me a machete and I went at it. I learned some new words in Spanish: ormigas, sudado, and ampollas. Ants, sweat, and blisters. Which pretty accurately described my morning. It was the greatest feeling in the world though, to be able to chop at thick vines and plants and have them fall at your feet in a heap. But when the ants come pouring out of the trees onto your back and down your pants – yeah, not such a good time. But nevertheless, I feel like I got a lot closer to the boys after going to work with them. It was cool to be able to just sit and talk with them. Even though my Spanish still sucks. Yesterday and the day before, I designed a new newsletter template, took lots of pictures, and just helped around the house. There’s a lot to do before the first health campaign and clinic. This morning I got a little distracted from my work and played the two little boys that live on the base, Jean Pierre and Alex. We ran around together and they showed me how pick and eat all the fruit on the grounds. We have guavas that don’t look like the guavas I’m used to at all, mangoes, cashew fruit, and ubillas which are a kind of big grape fruit. They were so squishy and gooey and so so good. And the best part: they’re right outside my front door. Right now, I’m sitting in the airport in Pucallpa and all the locals are crowded around a window watching the planes come in. The internet is painfully slow today so I don’t even know if I’ll be able to post this today. Oh well. Next time. My next goals are to learn how to ride the motorcycle and to make papusas for dinner.
I will never take internet for granted again. I feel like I wrote this blog ages ago, but I haven´t been able to post it until now. 

9.03.2010

A prayer and naked people

Dear God,
I have many things that I am thankful for. I am thankful for taxi drivers who will take us all the way to the front door of Km 38. I am thankful for air conditioning at the corner market. I am thankful for homemade tortillas and freshly harvested honey at every meal. I am thankful for Rut, the owner of the vegetarian restaurant in Pucallpa, who makes amazing food. I think I had the best meal of my life today. I am thankful for soccer, the sport that brings us all together. No matter what language is spoken. I am thankful for calling cards and satellite phones. Hearing the voices of the people I love made my day. I am thankful for squat pots. ¨Less mess, no stress.¨ I am thankful for the Spanish language. It flows off the tongue so smoothly and sounds so beautiful. Of course not from me. Yet. You´re going to have to help me out with that one. I´m thankful for your love and grace that keeps me going and keeps me sane everyday. Y finalmente, gracias por mi famila nueva aqui en Peru.
P.s. This is not part of my prayer. But today when we were in Pucallpa, we saw a guy walking down the street. Naked. Just walking around. And then we saw him a little bit later just sitting on the ground. I never in one million years would have guessed that I would have seen such a sight when I woke up this morning.

8.31.2010

Details

Motocars, taxis, buses, and trucks flying every direction. Honking. Swerving. The doctor was driving over 100 mph. I was a little scared. This is Peru. I am here for real. Traveling was a huge blur. And then I crashed under my mosquito net atop my wiggly bunk bed and woke up two hours later to roosters crowing. Who cares that I didn't sleep at all last night? I'm here and there is lots of learning and exploring to do. Km 38 is a beautiful place. There are lemons the size of my face, a lovely outhouse, cold showers, and warm people. 
The rest of my first day in Peru consisted of venturing into Campo Verde, cramming 7 people in a motocar, playing Uno, deciphering Genesis 1 in a Spanish bible, eating a fabulous lunch prepared by the doctor and his wife, and lots more. First, let me tell you about this food. Arroz con frijoles (the staple food). Ensalade de pipinos (cucumber salad) with a lemon dressing. And a big bubbling pot of chicken. I wasn't brave enough to try the chicken just yet, but I'm sure it was good. It smelled good. It was a real fiesta. The doctor gave an introduction of the various projects that we would be working on throughout the year and I am very pleased to announce that I understood everything that he said. Now I just have to learn to speak. My mind always draws a blank. I guess that will all come in good time. After eating, the doctor and other Peruvian workers decided that it would be a good idea to go the the lagoon for a swim and some futbol. So all 15 of us got into Doctor's tiny pickup. It was a painful ride to say the least. But well worth it.
There was a sort of peace down at the lake. The sun was about to set, the water was warm, the mud in the water was extremely squishy, it was serene. There were cows and chickens and dogs and kids running around. We were trying to catch little fish with plastic cups. We played volleyball, futbol, and some Peruvian game called "Murderer" that was kind of like dodgeball. 
I then got my first taste of what my showers are going to be like for the rest of the year - cold. And good. So good. The hot, sticky air mixed with a cold shower is pure bliss. There was a little frog hopping around by my feet while I was bathing.
Details. I know it's a lot of details. But it is these things - the smells, sounds, tastes, sights - these things that I don't want to forget. 
Necisito practicar mi espanol.
Badly.

8.25.2010

No school? I like the sound of that.

School is starting tomorrow. But not for me. This is a brand new thing. I don't think I've ever not been in school. Since I was 4. It's crazy. And I kind of like it.

8.17.2010

Worrier or warrior?

Lately, I've been a worrier. I don't know what my future holds, so I think about it. And I think some more. And it doesn't get me anywhere or gain me anything. Here's how Matthew puts it: Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes (The Message).
I like how he adds the part about not worrying about missing out. Because that's exactly what happens when you worry. You miss out on the beauty around you.
In his book I Don't See It That Way, Ken McFarland points out five truths about worry:
Truth #1: Worry never works. Worrying about the past doesn't change it. Worrying about the future can't make anything happen or not happen.
Truth #2: Worry paralyzes. Worrying about something makes us freeze and hone into that particular problem. So why not come up with solutions and take some action? Ol' Kenny says that "Action is worry's worst enemy." True dat.
Truth #3 (My favorite): Worry is a choice. Just like happiness. Just like love. We have to make a conscious decision not to worry. To hand everything over to God. To step out in faith onto the wildly amazing ride that He has planned for our lives.
Truth #4: Worry is the child of fear. Having peace of mind is the child of trust. When we internalize the promises that God has made to us - worry just slips out the back door. Promises like Jeremiah 29:11, 1 John 5:14, Psalm 55:22 tell us that God has our absolute best interests in mind. Just trust.
Truth #5: Worry is a hand shadow. A hand can cast a shadow on a wall many times its size. Likewise, worry can make things seem a lot bigger and scarier than they really are. I remember when I was younger being scared to death that there was something under my bed. I would hear a little creak from the house breathing or some other noise from my cat running around and become undeniably convinced that there was a person under my bed just waiting for me to fall asleep. So they could get me. So I would stay up and not move a muscle. Listening for any other little sound that they might make. I was too afraid to get up and run out because I thought they would grab my feet and pull me under the bed. I was too afraid to call out for help. I was too afraid to move. Eventually I would work up enough courage to jump out of bed, run to the other side of the room and turn the light on. Then I would look under the bed. No one. Nothing. Nada. How bo-bo.
So, I am making a decision. I don't want to be a worrier anymore.

I am a warrior.

What I like

1.) Minimalistic magazine spreads. Less really is more appealing.















2.) Portraits. Especially candid ones. Black and white, please.





3. Wood floors.



4. Apple chips



5. Scribbly drawings.



6. Mmmmmmmate.



7. Typography. Especially hand lettering.







8. Feet shoes. Yikers! :]



9. Architecture.



10. Dreadlocks.





11. Yarn and all crafty things pertaining to yarn.



12. Forts.



13. Mustaches.





14. Good ideas. New and fresh ways of thinking.



15. This. Great album. Great art. It doesn't get much better.



16. Nice hands.



17. Christmastime. Don't mess with Christmas.



18. The wash behind my house. A great place for thought, rotting citrus, graffiti, longboarding, and just an all around good time.



19. Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. I'm not finished with it yet, but it's an awesome read. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out.



20. Drawing lines.



And the list goes on...

8.02.2010

Fish tacos


I can say that I have been a vegetarian my whole life. Up until this point. I was just introduced into the delicious and almost unreal world of fish tacos. Oops.

8.01.2010

Oh, crap

I haven't written anything in a very long time. I guess that's what happens when I get busy, I neglect the things that I like to do in order to do the things that i 'have' to do. I can really tell that God has been actively working in my life this summer. I must admit, the beginning of the summer was rough. But I cannot say enough times how good God is. First, a camp story.
It was Adventure week. These girls were hard work. Ten girls from completely different backgrounds - some very broken ones. How can we live in a world where seven and eight years old girls are being neglected and sexually abused? These girls are princesses. Daughters of God. It especially broke my heart when one of my campers started complaining about jeans making her butt look big. What are these girls hearing through the media and from their parents? Not only was this little girl very petite, but she was in fact, very beautiful. And yet she didn't think so. Eight years old.
Disclaimer: This is a poop story.
And then there was Kendra. She had hair cut like a boy, a big goofy smile, and a very smelly problem. This girl was a mess. She was always rolling around in the dirt and mixing her chocolate pudding with cheese. Or ketchup. Or cottage cheese. Whichever tickled her fancy. She was in her own world. All week I was running to the bathroom with this girl only to find out that most times, the damage had already been done. Or sometimes we would be sitting at camp fire when all of a sudden my nose would receive a scent that was all too familiar. Oh, crap. So I would have to get up with Kendra and take her to the bathroom and get her cleaned up. Over and over and over again.
Interjection - the absolute funniest moment of the week was when I was heading back to line call with her after a successful backroom run. Kendra was in her own world, per usual. I was watching her wander aimless around singing to herself. I noticed that she was about to walk right into a parked car. I just let nature take it's course and was pleasantly amused from her startled reaction. I really needed a good laugh after all the literal crap that she had put me through.
Back to my story...The funny thing about Kendra was that she never admitted that she had had an accident. Even though it was blatantly obvious. She would fight and deny and kick and scream.
I never thought that my job description as a counselor would include dirty diaper duty. But it did. Six times. And even though I didn't exactly love the mess that this girl would make, I loved her. Kind of reminds me of how we are as humans in our sins. We mess up big time and we know it. We stink and we're gross. Just sitting in our own mess. And yet we don't want to admit it. Ever. We don't want to fess up to our nastiness. But God has made it so simple. All we have to do is ask and God will clean us. And even if we mess up again, He'll still clean us. Talk about amazing grace!
"Come. Sit down. Let's argue this out. This is God's Message:
If your sins are blood-red, they'll be snow-white. If they're red like crimson, they'll be like wool." Isaiah 1:18 - The Message
"If we claim that we're free of sin, we're only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won't let us down; he'll be true to himself. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we've never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God." 1 John 1:8-10 - The Message



6.23.2010

Yavapines

It's dry here. My heels are cracked beyond belief. The cracks have become filled with dirt. My feet are always dirty. The cabins are cinder block. My mattress sags. I get to sleep outside, though. Because there isn't enough room for me in the cabin. The people here are amazing. I feel at home.
Last night I kept waking up. I had no idea where I was. It was scary. I also had an dream that my little sister Emma died. And it was my fault. In my dream I couldn't stop crying. It was the worst feeling ever.
So far this week has just been preparation for the campers to arrive. It's pretty chill. Lots of volleyball! I gave this guy dreads. I've cleaned a lot of bathrooms.
I helped with the Earliteens during campmeeting. It was such a blessing to see God working in the lives of the kids throughout the week. The theme for the week was 'Jesus on the Streets' and so the kids were learning about how to take Jesus and make Him real in the real world. At the end of the week on Sabbath we took the kids to downtown Prescott and they stopped people on the streets asking to pray with them. It was really interesting to see the reactions of some people. It was like they were ashamed of the very mention of God's name. Or prayer. They all had excuses. "We're late for a birthday party" "Oh, I'm meeting someone right now" "I don't want to" "I don't need prayer" No one wanted to have anything to do with us. Except for one man. He was a homeless man named Jerry. He was obviously hung over. He was dirty. But the kids took an immediate liking to him. I stood back in shock as they took complete initiative to witness to this man. They crowded around him on a bench and told him that Jesus loved him. No matter what he had done. He could never go to far from God's love and forgiveness. Then it hit me. These kids got it. These same kids who I thought weren't paying attention. These same kids who were always goofing off in class. They were sharing the plan of salvation with this homeless man. Tears found their way to my eyes and I was immensely thankful for my sunglasses.
Now I know why Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the little children (or earliteens, in this case). They weren't passing any judgment on this man. They didn't care that the people walking by were staring and making remarks. They just wanted to share Jesus. One of the boys in my group gave Jerry his Bible. After we got back to the parking lot he prayed a beautiful prayer that Jerry would read the Bible and come into a personal relationship with Jesus. I hope we see Jerry in heaven.

6.06.2010

God and dreads

Last night I watched some videos on YouTube of people taking out their dreads. When it comes to dread removal, there are two ways to go - the 'comb out' or the 'cut out'. Both are difficult for different reasons. The comb out method is rather painful and very time consuming. You also lose a lot of hair. This girl at Rock Creek complimented me on my dreads, telling me that she used to sport the do herself. She decided to comb hers out after 3 years and said it took over an hour per dread. So there's that. The cut out method leaves you with very little tangles and knots to deal with, but also with very little hair. I have always wondered what I would look like with short hair, though.
It was so crazy to watch some of these people with their various dread tales. Some had had dreads for over 5 years. And then 60 seconds later, they were all gone. Their whole appearance had changed completely. I was thinking today: Maybe our spiritual lives are kind of like that. If invited, God comes in with His super-duty scissors and cuts off all of the heavy dreads that we've carried around with us for years and years. There is a noticeable change. The people around can definitely see that He's been at work.
But this haircut isn't just a one-time-fix-and-everything-stays-peachy haircut. If we don't do anything to take care of ourselves (if we use the 'neglect' dreading method), our hair gets tangled and knotted again. Little baby dreads start to form. Slowly they'll start to knot and lock up once again. Maintain that daily relationship and that all-the-time connection with God. It's so important.
It's been over a year and a half since I've had a haircut. And a couple days since I've washed my hair. I really like my dreads, but I think they might have to go soon. I don't really want to stand out even more than I know I already will next year in Peru. It was pretty cool to do something completely different.
And soon it will be time to do something else, once again, completely different. I guess that's just how I like things. Gotta keep it fresh. Change is good. Change is needed.
It's just hair. Sheesh.

5.26.2010

Peru

After much thinking and praying and hoping and worrying, it looks like I'll be heading to Peru in August. It was actually a pretty crazy turn of events that caused this. After receiving the phone call from AFM canceling Turkey, I applied to go to a few other places. Out of desperation, really. I can't believe that I was scared that God wasn't going to take care of me. But He exceeded my expectations - like He always does. So God got me a graphic design/project promotion position for Touch of Love in Peru. I couldn't be more stoked. It's like He knew where I really needed to be.

I got my shots last week. All 5 of them. Yellow Fever, Typhoid Fever, Polio, Hepatitis A, and Tetanus. I don't mind getting shots at all. But getting 5 at once was a rather painful exp
erience. Especially 2 days later when I couldn't raise my arms at all.

I found this picture of a nativ
e Peruvian woman. Probably the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. I love the face paint and the necklaces.

I also can't wait to see Machu Picchu.

Next year is going to be crazy, to say the least. But I'm ready.


Now I just have to raise $4000. Any takers?

5.09.2010

Curl up and dye

I was recently driving around Chattanooga and saw a sign for a salon. It really grabbed my attention because its name was Curl Up & Dye. Really? I thought it was morbidly hilarious, but really? I want to go in there some day and ask what kind of business they get. Or just go in and see what kind of business they get.

"I need a haircut."

"Oh, just go Curl Up & Dye."

Haha.