Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nicaragua: A Review (part three)

As you may remember, I had some bad days with my host family (you can read about it here ). That post was about one month after I arrived in Nicaragua. Honestly, things never got better in the house. I would voice my opinion when the topic came up, but I felt inadequate trying to change my host mom. I thought many days that I should just pack up and leave. After all I could have requested a new home, and there would not have been a problem. Nonetheless, I stayed. I felt a sense of responsibility to the young children, especially when they were around the easily-angered older brother. I stepped in when I could, but I think many days I cried longer than the children did as I listened to what was going on (I really learned what they mean when they say children are quick to forgive.)

From living with that crazy host family, I developed a great love for my own family. I longed to return home and see them all. Visions of walking down the airport terminal and seeing my family excitedly waiting for me often played in my head. I was so grateful for them.

I also developed an appreciation for the way I was raised. No matter how many things I might claim my parents did wrong, the truth is they did a pretty great job. I was always shown kindness and respect, and regardless of all the stupid stuff I did, I  knew that they loved me and I always felt that love. I also was very grateful for my five sisters. Although we are all pretty goofy and have had our tiffs (one of my favorite words), I love them so much.

I guess sometimes you don't appreciate what you have until you pack up and head to Central America for a couple of months.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nicaragua: A Review (part two)

My trip in Nicaragua was great! I learned so many things like how to maneuver around a market, how to navigate the many bus routes, how to accomplish all my school work so that I can spend the weekend away, and how to live on a budget. I also got to improve my Spanish, so I feel completely confident saying that I am a fluent Spanish speaker (although I do not know everything).  I got to see amazing things like monkeys in the wild and gorgeous beaches.

However, I also learned a lot about myself and my weaknesses. I am normally a very strong and independent person. I could not wait until the beginning of my freshmen year at college so that I could move away from home. I generally believe that its easier to do things myself because I know they will get done quickly and the right way (my way). Crying is reserved for church and funerals and even then its not guaranteed. I do not ask for help regardless of how useful it might be, and even my toughest, roughest days are usually masked behind a smile.

Nonetheless, being in Nicaragua all of that faded and I was exposed. I felt alone..... a lot, and the issues I had with my host family left me in tears on several days. I missed my family and friends. I missed being able to find all my favorite comfort foods and being able to just sit on a couch and watch a movie. I came to understand that I could be dependent and weak. I learned that I liked having someone to talk to, someone I felt I could open up to when I normally shut the world out.  I learned that I should rely on a support group made of family and friends, even if I am not geographically near them. I learned that that brave smile and head held high can make a difference in my day. I understood that feeling alone and upset and sensitive did not make me a weak person, it just made me human.

 Vulnerability  and loneliness are not my favorite feelings. Nicaragua made me come face to face with my weaknesses, but like I mentioned in part one, it also made me realize how much strength I do possess.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nicaragua: A Review (part one)

I just finished a study abroad meeting that focused on re-entry struggles to the U.S and "normal life". I got to meet some of the other students that went abroad last semester and hear about their experiences, challenges, and accomplishments. The advisors asked us some basic questions about our trips and I realized that I had not taken much time to consider what my Nicaraguan experience means to me. Sure, I blogged about my fun weekend trips and some of the cultural differences, but the things I learned are really what is important. I hope, through these next few posts,  to recount what I learned so that I remember what truly happened in Nicaragua.

First, I learned that I can do it! I can survive without hot water. I can wash laundry without a washer or dryer. I can eat whatever is placed in front of me.  I can live surrounded by the unknown. I can communicate in new language. I can get through days, weeks, and even months where I feel completely alone. I can be pressed up against several people in one vehicle and not feel uncomfortable.  I can put on a brave face when people are calling out and harassing me. I can try new things like zumba dancing or tiste. I can be different both in physical appearance, mindset, and beliefs.  I can be me. I can do it. Anything I challenge myself to, I can do.

 And there is such power and strength in that statement.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bike Ride Around Downtown

It was finally warm enough to take the bike out for a short ride. I love going to downtown Flagstaff. It is gorgeous and so close to campus. I got to visit some of my favorite locations and had a lot of fun, but I cannot wait until spring so that things do not look so dead.

The train track marks the beginning of downtown. It is also the major cause of rush hour in Flagstaff. Unlike the annoyed drivers though, I still love watching the train roll by. Fun fact: the trains that come through Flagstaff carry a lot of hazardous materials, so the second disaster threat to Flagstaff (behind forest fire) is the train derailing and spilling what ever it is carrying.

 So my favorite place in Flagstaff is this place: Wheeler Park. I do not know what is so special about it, but I always found myself coming to it last year. Something about the peacefulness and nature. It is so beautiful and there is normally something going on. Yesterday it was pretty dead looking but there were some people throwing around a Frisbee which was fun to watch since it was pretty muddy.  

On my way back to my apartment I saw Sugar Mamas bakery coming into view. It has always looked so cute but has never been opened when I walked by. Of course I had to take advantage of it being open, and it was so yummy. I bought and devoured a salted caramel and almond brownie and a couple of these poppy seed shortbread cookies with raspberry jam. So delicious!

Flagstaff is such a cute place. I enjoy so much about it!

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Weekend and Windshield Wipers

Hands down, the impromptu trips home are the best parts of going to school in state. My hometown is only three hours away and when my roommate mentioned she was going home for the weekend, I was so on board

The East Coast got attacked with a vicious storm this weekend (named Nemo, I think), but the cold streak reached all the way to Flagstaff. As a result, as Arlene and I pulled out of town, a snow started to fall. We decided instead of taking the I-17 all the way home to take the much more scenic route through Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona to see the red rocks covered in white. I witnessed some of the most gorgeous sights I have ever seen. Anyone traveling through Northern Arizona should take the Sedona-Flagstaff (Highway 89A) route regardless of the season; it is always beautiful.

Anyways, both my roommate and I had forgotten our cameras and the snowy road kept us on edge so I quickly tried to snap photos with Arlene's phone camera as she drove cautiously down the canyon. It was breathtaking the entire way; I spent most of the trip racking my brain, trying to decide if I had ever seen something so majestic. I concluded I had not.

After a quick lunch in Sedona and finishing the drive to the valley, I finally arrived at home sweet home. I was glad to have even just a couple of days away. Plus, I made sure to stalk up on homemade salsa and bread!
I also got to spend some fun time with my littlest sisters making Pumpkin Nutella cookies for the neighbors. We had a blast and the cookies turned out pretty good too. 


After just a short two days, it was time to head back to Flagstaff and the reality of school work. The ride up was really cool. I got to drive since my roommate was tired, and for the first time I drove through falling snow. An inch of snow covered the road and the falling flakes reduced visibility to about fifty feet. All the cars stuck to the right side of the road and moved slowly carving a route through the snow for the cars further behind. The truck in front of me splashed water and the snow landed on the windshield, reducing my visibility even more.                                                                      My mind was drawn back to a talk I had heard in church just yesterday. A family had moved back to Arizona after spending several years in Oregon. The wife related the constant Oregon rain to the trials of sin in our lives. She said  that we all sit in the driver's seat trying to maneuver through life the best we can. The rain may arrive subtly, drizzle, or just downpour onto the windshield and road. The windshield wipers were compared to repentance that can wipe away the water and give us increased visibility in life. They help us start anew. We can chose the speed of the windshield wipers  that we believe will keep us the most safe.
Now twenty-four hours later, here I was sitting behind the driver's wheel trudging through snow and always wanting to increase the visibility of the road and vehicles around me. I turned on the windshield wipers to clear the flicked-up water and snow from the glass. Unfortunately, as is common in Arizona, the windshield wipers needed replacing, so instead of clearing the glass, they rose up and wiped water. Then as they went to lay back down, they brought much of the water back with them. Therefore I had about half a second of good visibility, and then water quickly entered the scene again.  
I thought that this experience reflected some of my personal experiences too well to be a coincidence. There have been times in life when I turned on those damaged windshield wipers pretending to give a full effort of seeing clearly again. Although to the cars or people around me I seem to be working really hard and doing what I should, I in the end fall short. The half second of visibility, produced by my damaged wipers and half-efforts, was quickly covered up as the wipers drug the same limiting water back onto the windshield. Not until I got the right help and some working wipers did any lasting visibility occur, and I was truly grateful. I am sure we can all admit that although we may be able to drive around for months with damaged wipers, when the rain or snow storms do come having working wipers is much better and safer.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Red Rocks Rock!

Almost exactly a year ago I traveled down to Sedona, Arizona to hike (read about it here.) Today, I did the same although I went on a different trail. Sedona is so gorgeous. It is famous for the red rock beauty that surrounds the touristy city. There are hundreds of different trails that bump into each other all over the place. I was just doing normal hiking, but our group also saw lots of mountain bikers.

I was debating whether to go or not this morning mainly because I had to get up at seven am! Maybe I have just been spoiled with school not starting until later, but seven on a Saturday was early. However, as I rolled out of bed, I knew it would be a great experience, and I was not wrong.
One of my roommates and I ready to start the hike.

The views from submarine rock are amazing. It was our destination and was so beautiful. The hike was pretty easy the entire way through. It would do uphill a bit and then go downhill, so we always switched up the muscles we were using. We saw all age groups and abilities on the trail, so everyone should give it a try!

I love the contrast of the red and green. Some areas had small patches of snow, which really added to the beauty.

This is a view from chicken point. Aww, everything was so gorgeous; I could not get over it. It was another fantastic day in Sedona.