Monday, March 13, 2017

Snowstorms and not yet half done

Well they are calling for at least 12 inches of snow tomorrow and the greatest doomsayers are bandying around 3 feet.  I don't think my plane is going to get off to Cuba Wednesday morning as planned but time will tell.  Crazy New England weather, that's for sure!

I've been doing a spiritual and physical health and wellness program called Nineveh 90.  It started almost a month ago and goes on for 90 days.  You commit to daily exercise, moderating electronics (like TV, computer, phone), not eating sweets, morning/night prayers and fasting on Wednesday/Friday in an act of penance/preparation for the 100th anniversary of Fatima.  In the beginning weeks it went by quickly but now with still two more months to go: this is taking forever!  Sunday is a day of relaxed discipline but instead of just relaxing: I ate oatmeal cookies for breakfast and ice cream for dinner.  Yes I went a little crazy.  But there's a reason why this plan is doable: it's just a healthy way of life!  If I lived this way 90 percent of the time...well I'd be doing pretty good!

I just finished a book a friend gifted me called the Happiness of Pursuit.  It was good.  It was about finding a quest, fulfilling a quest, and what to do afterwards.  The author traveled to every country in the world.  I spent a year working with kids in Guatemala.  Although I don't know if the author would consider my year in CA a quest, I identified with a lot of his qualifiers (a quest takes sacrifice, a strong desire, and causes the people around you to wonder what in the world you are doing).  It also helped to read about when you're done...where do I go from here?  I'm afraid of cramming my life so full again of busy-ness that I lose the big picture: what's really important to me (which basically revolves around my friends, family and God).  I think I'm going to start scheduling down time...days that I don't have planned and make myself slow down.  Is that pathetic?  Oh well.  :o)

I feel like something is coming for me to do but right now I don't have a clue what that is.  I have my own dreams and desires but the best things in my life ALWAYS come from God (and yes, usually coincide).  So I guess I'm back in a holding pattern to see where He takes me!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Six Ways My Life Was Changed

I can't seem to stay put.

After visiting my parents and family, I went off this past week for a ski trip to Stowe, Vermont.  Vermont is beautiful this time of year: all that snow and everything...(for any White Christmas fans)...and we were blessed to have one great day of skiing.  The other day was more like being lost in a dark storm cloud with zero visibility and icy slopes...basically only dumb people or diehards were up there...and yes, I fell into the dumb group.  At least we had fun and there were no injuries!

Someone asked me this past weekend, "How did NPH change your life?"  

1. Money: Well obviously I learned to let go and trust God when I took a year off from work.  Every penny was leaving my account and nothing was coming in.  Without worrying, things worked out.  I learned how little money I needed to live...and how much I could do with just a least in Central America!  I find now that I'm home, I spend money more easily...which obviously might not be a good thing!  But I'm also very careful to weigh if it is something I really, really want so hopefully that will balance out my lack of buyer's remorse!

2. Possessions: Not having many possessions was actually pretty freeing.  It was a drastic change, but living with one suitcase full of clothes (most of it scrubs) taught me how to simplify.  I had one pair of running shoes, a pair of church shoes and two pairs of flip flops (because inevitably one would break and I'd need the other before I had a chance to replace it). I had one dress, two skirts and two pairs of jeans.  And you know what?  I didn't miss any of my stuff that I had left behind! All those boxes and bags I put into storage before I took off?  I didn't need them.

3. Drama: It taught me that the drama in life is relative. So I was late to work, spilled my coffee and a guy cut me off in the parking lot.  So what.  My husband didn't leave me jobless with two kids to feed, my mother's not dying of cancer without treatment and no one shot all of my family members in front of me when I was only twelve years old.  It's a good day.

4. Appreciation: It also taught me to enjoy the small things.  Did I appreciate being able to get a latte or piece of carrot cake every other week after taking a 25 minute chicken bus scrunched with six people across into town?  You bet!  Way more than if I got it at a drive thru in my car every morning.

5. Smile first: In Guatemala, greetings are of the utmost importance.  How you act when you see someone, from a person on the street to a teacher to the President, tells them exactly what kind of person you are.  Coming from New England, where we don't make eye contact until we've known each other for at least five years, this was a big adjustment for me...but one that I've found increases my smile return.  Now that I'm more willing to make eye contact and smile at people first, I find those smiles coming back to me ten-fold!

6. Looking ahead: After experiencing first hand going out on a limb and trusting God, I've learned to look forward with hope.  I'm sure that God isn't done with me yet.  After finishing what turned out to be an amazing adventure, I'm ready for whatever comes. No matter how daunting, I'm sure He'll see me through it!

This blog doesn't touch on the people who entered my life, the friends I've made and expect to have for a long time to come, or the kids who will forever be in my heart.  It's more about how I've changed my way of living after being in Guatemala for a year.  

Off to Cuba on Wednesday (God willing and they let me in!).  My path might not be typical but that's typical of God, huh?  Moving on...thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Back in the swing of things

So I definitely feel like I'm back in the swing of things.  I just worked three shifts in a row (12 hours each) and, well, that was so pre-guatemalan life that it was like I'd never left...except of course I had five patients that were Spanish-speaking and I could talk directly to them which was SO COOL!  

It wasn't easy!  Two of them were Puerto Ricans and spoke very quickly but then a couple from the Dominican Republic showed up and that was like a different language all together!  I remember one of the doctors from NPH that came to our conference last year from the DR spoke like just sounds very different and I, for one, have trouble understanding!  The family from Mexico was much easier to understand and the mom and kid from Peru were the easiest of all!

I'm headed to Cuba in less than a month.  I've been told their Spanish is SUPER difficult so that will be interesting!  I'm adjusting but I have the travel bug just as much, if not more, than before I left.  I am so grateful to have a family that understands, a job that is flexible, friends who want to go places and a passport!  God is so good!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Savannah, Paula Deane and Flannery O'Conner

I'm so glad I took baby steps returning home.  After Costa Rica I stopped in Florida to visit one of my dearest friends.  She took me up to Georgia for the day and we took in the most haunted city in North America: Savannah.

Savannah definitely has it's own charm.

The streets are lined with cute stores and coffee shops while connecting little parks together.  The parks are built at the site of former militia gathering squares.  Savannah never actually participated in a war...but they were always ready.

tea and spice store

collins quarter

the book lady

We found some amazing places to eat.  Since it's winter and cold, even down south, we used pretty much every excuse we could find to stop and eat or drink something.

zunzi's (free lunch to first customer of the day: us!!)

paris market: my favorite store

one of the small parks

paula dean's store

forsythe park, biggest one in the city

lavender mocha: collins quarter signature drink

one of the graveyards...need lots if you are going to be Savannah is

the cathedral!!

and can't forget the spanish moss!

Old-world charming yet with a spirit of youth and enjoyment, I loved our day in Savannah.  Definitely will visit again!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Costa Rica

Costa Rica...or rich coast as it is aptly BEAUTIFUL!  I visited 6 or 7 years ago for a quick trek to Arenal and Monteverde (volcano and lake region inland) but I never actually made it to the know...of COSTA RICA!

I met up with two dear friends who are just as travel crazy as I am in San Jose.  We hiked Poas Volcano (on a paved walkway with people in wheelchairs), toured a coffee plantation (did you know dark roast coffee has less caffeine than light roast?  The longer it cooks, the less caffeine there is in the beans!), visited an animal refuge in the rainforest and climbed down a ravine to take in five or six waterfalls.  And that was just the first day!

The next day we headed out to Manuel Antonio, the famous National Park of Costa Rica that conserves the shore line and forests.  In a weird twist to my very low-budget trip so far...we were upgraded to the penthouse suite of the boutique hotel where we had originally booked a small double bed room.  We could see beaches from both sides of our room...and stand outside to see them from two different balconies.  

We also took in another surfing lesson up the beach at Dominical and went parasailing off Manuel.  We trekked three miles to another awesome waterfall and then trekked three miles back.  Worth it but boy was it hot!

We finished with an awesome dinner at a cute little tapas bar overlooking the ocean and shoreline.  Fun?  Yes.  Peaceful?  Yes again.  Blessed?  Yes, yes, yes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

5000 footers in Ometepe, Nicaragua

Early start!

Ometepe is an island in the middle of a huge lake in Nicaragua that is famous because it has not one, but two volcanoes.  The larger one, Concepcion, was my goal for a very quick stopover.  Over 5000 feet, it reportedly has the best view of all of Nicaragua.  You know.  When the clouds blow over.

I was super blessed to meet up with two friendly and enthusiastic hikers from Holland my first evening on the island.  They quickly latched onto my plans to hike the volcano and signed up with the same guide for the following day.

Since I didn't have a backpack, the guide lent me one.  Since I didn't have my hiking boots (already sent home with my friend), I wore sneakers.

Similar to hiking Tajumulco, we were racing a moving cloud but unfortunately unlike Tajumulco...the clouds beat us to the top. It was windy and dark and scary but we did it!  The other side of the crater wasn't visible and that was a bit of a bummer....

But the view on the way down was worth it.  The clouds sat just on the tip of the volcano, so they only obstructed our view of the inside, thankfully!

Looking down at the island and the lake...I was on top of the world.  It's funny no matter how tired you are or how hard the is always worth it at the top.

There are more volcanoes in the distance...hikeable ones.  I'll have to go back.

Hard to believe a little cloud like this kept us from seeing anything!

It was kinda neat because even though my Spanish isn't that strong, the guide's English was weak enough that he would ask me to translate for the other two felt pretty cool to understand enough to go back and forth between them.

We saw monkeys on the way up and on the way down.  

Later that night three of my friends from NPH arrived on the island and we celebrated our last night together in Central America before I took off again.  I wanted to stick around but I had a deadline to meet.

I boarded the ferry at 5am the next morning in order to make it to the bus on the mainland.

A taxi driver dropped me off on the side of the road under a bus stop sign where I waited for my ride to Costa Rica.  There are so many other places I'd love to explore on Ometepe!  I definitely plan to revisit Nicaragua!