Saturday, August 22, 2015

Finishing Up In Puebla

I am like, the worst ever at this whole maintaining a blog business.

And I never have any idea what to write about. That issue persists. I put, "Blog post" on a post-it note and sit down at some point to find, yet again, I've no idea what I'm doing.

So this should be more of the norm: my giving a hasty summation of things that've happened, and then rambling about whatever I decide to ramble about halfway through.

I'm home in the States again, having arrived nearly a month ago now, on July 31st. Yes, a month ago, on top of the month of not posting anything for July while I was in Mexico. That's a two month period of being lazy about this. Shame consumes me.

Overall, I can say that I am very glad I went to teach in Mexico, and I think I made the right decision in doing what God wanted me to do. That's always a good feeling to have, when you're safe in your retrospection. I think I was better prepared for this trip than my YWAM venture (as if I could have prepared for YWAM), and things had a much less surreal quality about them as I sat on the plane heading home. I knew I would learn a new skill in teaching, and I think I did alright. At least, the students who weren't doing so well in the beginning were definitely more capable in speaking English by the end. I knew I would see a new place and culture, and I think I did an okay job at that too. Although, my Spanish could (and will, God-willing) be better.

I knew I'd meet new people, and of course that happened. The Reyna family were crazy good to me, helping me when I was sick, giving me a place to sleep when I needed it, and generally inviting me into their family. I learned so much from Shereen, who taught me how to be effective in the classroom, as well as a thousand other things that usually started with, "Do you wanna hear something weird?" No matter how often or in-depth I thought I'd prepared myself for her catching me off-guard, she surprised me every single time. If you ever want an off-the-wall conversation and someone who's up for anything, it's Shereen. Last but not least is my roommate for the time I was there, who I won't name out of respect for his crazy disapproval of leaving a virtual trail. I seriously lucked out as far as roommates go. We could so freely pray, worship, exercise, work, do whatever with the other around, and there was never a time I felt I wouldn't have a place to go and decompress. So many good conversations about God and life, I lost so many hours of sleep. Throw in all the other people, 1-2-4 Project, the Basiles, Olaf, the Crossroads Fellowship team that came down, those who served at El Pozo, and the people even rank above tortas and climbing volcanos in the list of things that I loved about my time in Puebla. And tortas are tough to beat.

So in the end, I have to look back and ask myself what God was teaching me, why he brought me there, what I know of him I didn't before, and things that he changed in me through the trip. So what was he teaching me? Well, patience, for sure, the kids I taught made that a necessity. I also know that it was valuable practice in picking up a challenge I wasn't quite prepared for, and adapting to a culture that I'm not used to. Generosity was another thing, surrounded by the people I worked with, and it was really cool to see something I've asked God for be developed in such a way that I could see the difference.

I was surprised when, some time in early July, I thought that God was telling me he was sending me to Raleigh whenever I prayed. At first I was just excited, "Yes! Sending me home sounds so easy." I just sort of passed by thinking it might be more than just permission to go back to where I came from. But, as time went on, I think he got pretty adamant about the fact I wasn't just, "going home", he was sending me to Raleigh. NC was the platform he sent me to Mexico by, and Mexico was going to be the platform he sent me to Raleigh.

Which brings us to the present (almost). Relationships and opportunities he's opened up for me since coming back fill me joyful hope, and a curious feeling of being small. How he chooses to use me is up to him. Of course, I get to be a part of it and that's awesome and I can't grasp yet how good he is to me, but it sort of makes me feel small in a very comfortable way. I am an instrument, I'm not the main character, it's not my story. It's interesting how you can learn the same lesson but with a different flavor. With YWAM the major theme was that I walk my path with God and it's just me and him and whoever he brings along the way for certain times and places. But this time, it is that I am really very small in my own path with him, and this is his walk we're going on, not mine.

Now that July's post is actually done, I suppose I have to give a post for this month too, before it's over. Which means, time to write myself a reminder on a post-it note, this way I can be prepared.

Don't get your hopes up, but I'll try my best.

P.S. - A very big thank you goes to all the people who supported me, you can expect a more personalized token of my gratitude in a bit by mail, now that I'm back in the swing of things here. To have people willing to pray for me as well as support me financially is ridiculous to think about, and there were many times when I would rest in the knowledge I wasn't alone, that the family that Jesus has given me was with me the whole way. You all know who you are, and God knows who you are, and I pray for and fully expect him to bless you for it. If you need any prayer from me, don't be afraid to let me know somehow, it would be my privilege.

Adventure is out there.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Alright, a brief catch-up:

I taught class, Shereen and I have been slaying lesson plans and class schedules, I’ve been doing my level best to learn Spanish (I start with a personal teacher June 1st), as well as find time to exercise and find a pattern to get comfortable with. No such pattern has been found. There has been more good food, more seeing new things, more bus rides. Got a haircut that involved a straight razor, which was new and exciting.

I got to explore a church, as well as the ancient pyramid ruins it was built on top of yesterday, which was a ton of fun, and I find I am still at home underground. If only Moria was an actual place, I’d totally go. I got to see four guys spinning around a huge pole, suspended by ropes they carried up untethered. Saw a movie that translates to “The Big Little”, or something like that. I don’t have wifi at the moment, otherwise I’d just look it up. An excellent movie, but I think I got something in my eye, because they were quite watery at times.

There we go. Caught up.

…I’ll just be honest, I haven’t kept a record of the specific days, so I had to do a highlight reel. I find it amazing just how reliant I generally am on a set pattern of living. At home, I had work on specific days, then school, then sometimes an afternoon/evening activity, and all ran according to the minutes of an hour, once that time was up, I could move on to the next thing. “Nay, nay,” says Mexico. Times here can have a 30 minute “maybe whatever it is will be soon…” period. For everything. Well, except the movie theaters. I still love the movie theaters.

So I’m wondering just how much of the way I handle the world ought to change in the face of such a challenging non-schedule. Contrary to what most people think, I do have the introverted tendency of completely removing myself from things in order to cope with life. So what happens when those times are less frequent than I would prefer? Do I need to try and take a stand for a solid schedule, or adapt to how loose things are at the moment? What does it say of my character to be stressed out by not having things as I’d like them? Is it understandable, or is it a trait that needs to go? I suppose it could be a little of both, perhaps, but it’s certainly something for me to spend time thinking about.

Ah, I forgot a couple highlights of the week. I almost had to drive here in crazy Mexico, and I definitely did eat chili-powdered grasshoppers. It’s true that the legs get caught in your throat.

I bet my mom will be thrilled to read this.

Ah, another thing. A heavy storm showed my roommate, Oliver, and I that the ceiling in our room is very much leaky. Which was pretty funny, and though we do have to deal with that when it rains, it’s like we’re braving the elements, and we’re both still very thankful to have a clean space to call ours. Not sure if I said it in my last post or not, but he’s a German and we took great joy in our holy crusade to clean the place up for ourselves.

There, that one will make my mom proud.

Just two more struggles to write about, the first being that I miss those back home, which I’m pretty much certain will continue for the rest of my life as I meet and build friendships with people all over the world. YWAM showed me that, and know it’s a beautiful but uncomfortable thing to miss others. Just because we taste the bitter does not mean the sweet is not worth pursuing.

Second struggle is that candy and ice cream here, like all food, is ridiculously cheap by American standards. At any one moment I face the crushing temptation to go and drop like, 30 dollars and stuff my face with sugary goodness. I must stay strong.

Adventure is out there.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mexico Already Has Me Super Busy

So it's the end of my fourth full day in Mexico. I'll try and sum up the events thus far.

I landed on Saturday night where I was met by Shereen, Mrs. Betty, and José, and we went out to eat immediately. I was quickly impressed with the quality and cost of the food. This place is great when you're hungry. After that we got to the BAM Center and I got a quick tour, then I stayed up talking for a while before crashing into an amazingly comfortable bed.

Woke up for church in the morning, which was in Spanish, and there were headsets available for translation. I hate having to use them, so I have decided to make it a goal of mine not to need them by the end of my time here. Met a lot of people (names are so difficult to remember, but I'll get there), called my mom for Mothers Day, and then I got a tour of Puebla and the adjoining town, Cholula. We went to markets and central courtyards and parks and restaurants, and I found that the area is fairly well off. Something was strange to me as we went, and then I realized, I didn't see any homeless people in the inner city. I asked why, and Betty said that it was different here, that I could find them on the outskirts of the city, rather than the center. It's kind of strange to me, not at all what I've come to expect.

We came home and worked on some school stuff, and then came packing. I helped Shereen get her things together for quite a bit, and it was really cool to share our testimonies and get to know each other better. She has packed what looks to be literally everything she owns, so we had ample time for conversation. I crashed and was once again deeply grateful for my bed.

Which brings us to Monday. Time here doesn't feel like separate days, but like one long day where we just take naps when it gets dark. I sat in on Shereen's English class, trying to pick up how the class should run. I also moved to a new place called Casa Verde that Mrs. Betty had checked out for me before I came (she is pretty fantastic), after having to jump dripping out of the shower and throw all my things together in three minutes flat because they needed to clean the room for a new team that was staying at BAM. Flexibility. Which brings us to a fiasco of a bus ride...turns out that it's very easy to get lost here in Puebla. But, we made it to Casa Verde in the end, and it turns out we made it pretty close for not knowing where we were.

Which brings us to hotcake night. (This entry is not chronological, by the way, as I cannot remember Monday due to the fact it was Monday. We visited Casa Verde earlier in the day so I could see it and meet a few people.) The house is next to a college, and the ministry here is for that demographic, which means lots of people hanging out late into the night eating pancakes with all the fixings possible and having a rather loud overall volume. I had some great conversation, met some more people, and didn't sleep for quite some time.

Tuesday was another blur, but this time it included sitting in on Shereen's Spanish class. I thought my brain was going to explode. But, I was very grateful for the practice of listening to conversation and actually understanding it. We were also invited to have dinner with the family that runs the BAM Center, and that was certainly enjoyable as well. Then I showed up for another hotcake night.

Wednesday was another English class, another Spanish class (this time much easier to understand), more looking for bikes (and not finding any), and Mrs. Betty's last day before taking off for Raleigh again. So, we hammered out some more stuff for the school, and fit a sushi lunch in there too. She will certainly be missed, but I'm glad to know she can enjoy seeing her family. Also, hotcake night.

Thursday was another day at BAM, and I honestly can't remember a whole lot about it other than there was another English class to sit in on, and we jumped on a bus with José's kids as our guides to figure out the routes, this time successfully. Later on, Shereen, Becky (one of José's daughters), and I went to the movie theater and saw the new Avengers movie. I've decided I'm actually resentful of the movie theaters in the U.S., as a ticket here was a mere, like, $2.50 or something. And the theater food was actually reasonable, I could get a bag of skittles for like, a dollar. C'mon, America. Also, never eat the super sour powdery lemon "candy" that they sell here. I'm 95% sure the stuff is basically Comet toilet bowl cleaner, and could clean the rust off a car that's been hauled out of the ocean. Needless to say, my innards despised me for the next two days.

Friday we didn't have class of any kind, but I was definitely sick. Pretty much ate nothing all day, and Shereen and I spent a lot of time trying to finish out a bunch of lesson plans. I have found that I have an intense dislike for lesson plans. We also picked up a cheap little cell phone for me (it was only $18, super cool) so I can call people here in Mexico without it being an international call for them. I was hurtin' for certain at the end of the day (loudest stomach rumblings of my life, it was actually kind of funny). So, José's wife, Enma, was ridiculously generous, bringing me to their home and giving me medicine, some soup, and a flippin' comfortable place for the night on their couch. I've found I don't know how to appropriately thank people for generosity and care like that. Perhaps it's not something I'll ever feel I can adequately respond to.

Saturday rolled around, and I felt much better than the day prior. So, I taught my first English class. It was two hours of practice for me, and while I am keenly aware there are things I need to work on, I'm certainly hoping to adapt quickly. My stomach still gave me trouble throughout the day, but it was overall much better. So, after coming back to the house and Shereen and I did one more lesson plan, then we went to the mall with Becky. I'm not one for malls, but this was actually super cool, on account of the way the place was built with plant-covered pillars, a pet store, and a 4D movie theater.

Again with my dislike for American theaters, this ticket only cost what a normal ticket in the U.S. would be. COME ON, AMERICA, get with the program. I got to see Mad Max in Spanish with 3D glasses on seat that moved around like a rollercoaster, with wind blowing through the theater, mist when the dust was kicked up in the film, blasts of air next to my head as bullets zipped around the the characters, and water spraying at my face whenever a water tank got shot or a bad guy gets his at close range. It felt like going to the movies for the first time again. It was super intense, fairly scary, and had the whole theater giddy with laughter at how much of an experience it was.

I came back to Casa Verde and found a Harry Potter marathon in the room I was to sleep in, so I said "what the heck", and watched two of those before closing my eyes at 1:00, when they started the third movie. Mexican time seems to be, "wake up when you want, eat frequently enough that you're never hungry, work at some point, and stay up as late as you can." That brings us to today, Sunday, when I woke up to a woman and her five year old son cleaning the room for a church service I knew nothing about, so I got off the couch, helped set up, and packed up my things so they were out of the way in a corner. I went upstairs to find that two girls had spent the night on the floor as so many people seem to do here at Casa Verde, so I gave one my spare tooth brush, and then Andy (I'm surrounded by giants here, by the way.) took us all to a place just down the road to eat breakfast. Came back, ran into another group of new people who invited me to lunch, and out the door I went again. Finally, I came back, and here on the couch I sit.

Like I said, life is super busy, but it's certainly entertaining and enjoyable. Spanish, Spanish everywhere. I'll post again at some point, perhaps with a little bit more of what I think of things around here, if things calm down.

Adventure is out there.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Puebla Bound

It’s been a while.

I’m not even going to try and catch up to life as it’s happened since my last entry. To sum it up, I worked and took three classes at Wake Tech. Life has marched resolutely forward, leaving me quite breathless, but I have managed to make it this far, and I type this post as I sit in a plane on my way to Mexico.

I suppose I ought to explain a bit about the whole Mexico thing. I constantly forget people don’t know what I’m doing with my life (insert obligatory “I don’t have any idea what I’m doing with my life either” blog snippet here), and apparently that carries over into blogging. Also, the word, “blogging” still makes me feel weird when I apply it to myself.

So, I’m flying to Puebla, Mexico, being sent my 1-2-4 Project to teach English with English4Life at the BAM Center (Business As Missions) until July 31st, starting today. Which is still really weird to think about. I don’t feel like I’m leaving for three months, I just feel like I didn’t plan out my Saturday and this seat in the sky is simply where I found time to open my planner. Teaching is a new adventure for me, so I’m praying that I manage to hit the ground running and adapt quickly, though I do anticipate a lot of learning I’m going to have to do. A common theme in life, I see.

So far, the trip seems to be going well. As soon as I got to the airport, I found my ticket was messing up somehow, and then that it was because the flight was overbooked. To fix this, they just cut out the unnecessary flight from Raleigh to Washington, and bumped me up to a first class seat on the way to Houston. This is why I sit eating a complementary banana along with my usual choice of tea. And on top of it all, I didn’t have to pay for my checked bag. Heck yeah.

Side note though: Having to sit in first class while everyone else shuffles past me, looking at the ample foot room as I’ve done in the past, feels super awkward.

Upon landing in Puebla, I am under the impression that I will meet up with my friends at the airport, and they’ll show me around a little bit. I’ll live for a couple days at the BAM Center itself, and then I may or may not be frequently moved until I can rent a place in two weeks or so. Flexibility is important, as is being comfortable with packing and unpacking quickly. I hope to sit in while others teach for a bit, to get the feel of the class before jumping in myself. We’re still not sure about how many classes I’ll be teaching, or when those classes will be. Again, flexibility is important.

I just got a fig newton type treat from the flight attendant that actually tastes delicious, and it was lemon flavored. I love lemon. What is this place? Also, these clouds are legit the coolest. But I digress.

I really have no idea what else to share, as that’s really all I know for now. Teachers wear business casual in the classroom. I might get a bike at some point. Bus rides could be a regular thing. Flip flops are frowned upon. I need to wear sunscreen because I’m white and it’s Mexico.

Of course, prayer is a pretty big deal to me in this venture, and I would like to invite any who would to pray for me and for those I meet while I’m here. I want to be following the Spirit and listening for what he has to say, to see the needs of those around me, and learn of things to work on in myself. The goal for me here is to teach English, yes, but it is mostly to fill the needs of others and share the love of Christ with them. I will post more specific requests to pray about as I go along (I hope to put one post out a week), but for now my requests are that I stay healthy, that I learn quickly, that I don’t get too frazzled from so much new stuff, that I find favor regarding financial support, and that I don’t get a wicked sunburn.

Should anyone have specific questions for me regarding anything at all, or if you would like to help me out financially, feel free to get in touch with me, I’d love to talk. I won’t post my contact info here for the masses of the Internet to find, as I trust my base of readers to already know me personally, or know someone else who does.

As per a request from a friend of mine, I shall now list a couple things that came into my head just sitting in the airport:

“For whatever reason, airports make me sad. Not like, depressed sad, but ‘The bird that’s been raised from its hatching just learned how to fly and has joined his people in the great migration and is gone forever’ sad.”

“Wouldn’t it be so cool to run on a massive treadmill sped up to 45 m.p.h., but go in the same direction? You would be flying, but if you fell, it would only be like a normal fall, not getting smacked into oblivion by the Earth whizzing past you.”

That’s all I’ve got, folks. I end my scatterbrained monologue here. I would not be surprised if I read this post later and find it to have been written horrendously, but as it is, I’m lucky it’s getting posted.

*Munches pensively on lemony fig newton while gazing out first class window into the horizon* Maybe someday I’ll write in a way that's less like a rambling squirrel with attention issues.…maybe someday.

Adventure is out there.