Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A cousin connection

The past two weeks of the journey have taken me to Köenigstein, Germany to spend with my cousin Sarah, her husband Tom and their 3 awesome kids: Sam - age 4, Vivienne - who turns 3 in 2 weeks, and Teddy - a sweet 5 month old little guy.  I'm so thankful to have had this time with them!  And I'll tell you why. 

But first, some background.

I have lots of awesome cousins but Sarah is the cousin I've spent the most time with growing up. I remember being excited to spend night after night at Grandma and Grandpa's house but it was even more exciting if Sarah was staying as well. I recall making keys from paperclips and strips of paper to play hotel, singing Billy Idol's Mony, Mony in Uncle Chuck's old bedroom, dishing up Ruffles and ranch dressing for Gramps on motorhome trips and years of horse show memories with Grandpa, Grandma and Aunt Karen.  And through the years we haven't seen each other more than once a year and maybe for just a few hours at a time. But we have a great history with each other and we just seem to "get" each other. 

Sarah and Tom moved to Germany in the fall of 2012 because of Tom's job with Price Waterhouse Coopers.  They had previously lived for 2 years in Moscow about 5 years ago and then started their family in Chicago before packing up last year. I love that their sense of adventure and passion for traveling and experiencing other cultures has not changed even with the arrival of children. This summer they spent a week in Paris when Teddy was just a month old.  And only got around using the Metro!  Impressive!

And so I shouldn't have been surprised when they proposed a weekend trip to Bruges, Belguim with an overnight in the Netherlands. Sarah found an amazing hotel the day before, they packed the kids in the car and away we went! We made a quick stop at the Haribo candy factory.  I may have been just as happy as the kids to be able to stock up on the best candy in the world. (I do believe this is at least the 5th blog post this candy has been mentioned in.  I do wish I could share this candy with you all.  Instead you will have to imagine the sweet and sour and creamy and gummy candy that I call "red rope.")

We had planned next to make a stop in Cologne but instead made a game time decision to check out the charming village of Valkenberg, Netherlands. The remnants of the Christmas market were left behind... including some awesome apple benigets and brats.  I also got my first glimpse of the famous Dutch canals. But the highlight may have been snuggling little Teddy in the Baby Bjorn all day. So sweet!  

We ventured another hour to our home for the evening at the Hotel Winselerhof  Immediately we were in awe of the grounds and started to dream up some Bed and Breakfast dreams. The grounds were made up of an old barn and stables surrounded by a vineyard. We had an awesome little family friendly suite that was perfect for the company. 

And the menu of the restaurant on the premises seemed as though the chef asked himself, "I wonder what food Ashley likes the most?  Let's put that on the menu."  It made the choice difficult but I settled for the carpaccio on focaccia, mushroom ravioli and finished with tiramisu. I do have a rule that if tiramisu is on the menu, I must order it. I know it's a cruel rule that I've made for myself. Not gonna lie, the tiramisu was far from the best but the rest of the experience was wonderful...amazing ambience, fantastic flavors and cozy company. 

The next morning we were awaken by a soft pitter-patter of rain that Sarah and I loved the sound of. Unfortunately we planned to be walking around Bruges that day... not the most fun in the rain. After an amazing breakfast spread we made the trek to a little town that I had just heard of this year when both my best friend from high school, Kristen, and best friend from college, Annie, both happened to be visitng this spring at the same time. I heard it was fantastic so I was excited to be experiencing it myself. As we arrived, the sky cleared up and as we exited the crazy high tech parking garage, we were immediately captivated. The Magisto video I made doesn't do it justice so you'll just have to visit yourself. But maybe this can inspire you. 

We all decided that 4 hours was FAR to short to experience the amazing architecture, food and ambience of this Belgium town.  But I quickly declared my misson for the day was to accomplish the consumption of the self-declared "Belgium Trifecta": Belgian Waffles, Belgian Beer and Belgian Chocolates. I had no problem accomplishing this task, even considering our time constraints. (If you are wondering, the "I'm in the best shape of my life" comment from 3 posts back has become an innacurate comment temporarily. But, I'll be working off my Frankfurt physique in two days as our trek up Mount Kilimanjaro begins. The timing couldn't be better.)  And again, I was on Teddy duty again, happily! This kid is amazing! A combined 7 hours in a car seat and 4 hours in a Baby Bjorn and he didn't make even a whimper. And Sam and Viv were major troopers in venturing all over the town. 

In the end, it would be an understatement to say that our excursion was delightful!  At the same time, I was just as delighted to spend time at home with the Ouimettes.  Living the solo life allows for great flexibility and independence. But it's also nice to be plugged into a family unit.  Sarah and Tom might not feel the same, but I came to love the routine of family life.  Breakfast for the kids, coffee for the adults. Doing dishes. Doing laundry. Coming up with a dinner plan.  Winding down the evening with a good movie and a glass of wine. And sitting on the couch. I didn't know how much I missed just lounging on a couch. It hasn't happened in 3.5 months!  That would be another to add to my list of "small things." 

And yet again, the theme that its "all about the people" holds true for these two weeks here. 

The kids sporting their snazzy North Face Jackets from Nepal!

I love that I got to experience, first hand, Sam's love for trains. He got a big boy train set, including a "high speed" train for Christmas.  On car trips, his sixth sense is spotting any train in the vicinity. And he anticipates his first job will be a train driver. Personally, I think he will be designing a high speed rail system to bring the United States up to "speed" with the rest of the developed world. I also got to experience his depth of knowledge on volcanoes and lava in a twenty minute monologue last night that was quite impressive, creative and entertaining. The kid is sweet AND smart!

I love that I got to experience, first hand, Miss Viv's "sass" as Sarah and Tom call it. "Sass" indeed. On the car ride home from Bruges, she informed all of us that she was "in charge."  There is not a doubt in any of our minds that she believes this to the fullest extent. And just when she takes the sass a bit to far, Viv turns on the "sweet" and melts your heart. She'll run up and give you a big hug, say "I Love You!" or just give you the cutest glance with her sweet eyes and mouth. Did I mention she turns 3 next month?  AND she gets to start school next month. Get ready Frankfurt International School. I know Viv is!

I love that I got to experience, first hand, what Sarah has long claimed to be the happiest baby in the world. Sweet Teddy and I bonded. I felt like I could be the most helpful to Sarah and Tom by holding him as much as possible, but really I was just being selfish. I loved his laugh as much as his snoring as he fell asleep on my shoulder. I'm so thankful to have gotten time with him, especially at this fun baby stage. I can't wait to see what he grows up to be. 

I love that I got some quality time with Tom. I know that he works hard, but I admire the way he makes the most of the time he has with his family during his time off.  It was fun to see him down on the floor with Sam teaching him how to play with his "big boy" train, naming Viv's pink Barbie pony "Pinkalicious" and snuggling with little Teddy during the Bears game... (Sore subject... Sorry Bears fans).  And when the kids were asleep, he expanded my musical library as always.  I now know about great music from Brad Mehldow, Red House Painters and Blakroc. I shared the joy of TED talks with him and he reciprocated by sharing some of his favorites from "This American Life." He also declared that 2014 would be a great year to reinstate the FIEE, "Family Intellectual Expansion Exchange" which was this amazing virtual dialog that took place among many family members by sharing thought provoking articles and then creating a platform for discussion.  (Yes, this family is perfect for me.) I'm in! Who's with us??

And, of course, I love the time I got with Sarah. Her life is full with three little ones but she manages to keep things in perspective. Despite being pulled in every direction, she manages to be a great listener with an amazing memory. She managed to do whatever she could to make me feel at home... chocolate and fresh flowers in my room, free reign to raid her fabulous closet and treating me to many of her culinary favorites.  

So yesterday, as I began to pack my bag, it hit me that this was the first stop on my journey that I was truly sad to leave.  That's not to say that I enjoyed my experiences everywhere else any less. I think it's clear that I've loved every stop on the itinerary. But this one was different.  It just goes to show that the bonds of family can run deep and that being with people who "get" you can make any place feel like home. 

Sarah and Tom, thanks for opening your home to me these past two weeks. Your extreme generosity can never be repaid but I'd hope to be able to offer my hospitality to your family for a Colorado visit when you return to the states!

Although sad to be leaving, I have a grateful heart for my blessed time in Germany. 

Oh. And I also loved my king sized bed with crisp, clean sheets, four pillows (although I could get by on 3) and a fantastic down comforter. But now... It's back to sleeping bag / sleep sack living for the foreseeable future. Such is life. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Real Christmas Spirit

I arrived in Frankfurt a week ago.  My first thought was "Wow! The developed world is so sparkly!"  That observation was enhanced by the Christmas "sparkly" decorating the airports as well.  I was missing out on the Christmas "sparkly" by spending almost 3 months in a predominantly Hindu/Buddhist country.

And my cousin, Sarah, has gone over the top in making sure that I was getting my Christmas fill.  She picked me up at the airport late last Tuesday night and Amy Grant's Christmas Album was queued to my favorite Christmas song, "Breath of Heaven."  We wasted no time hitting up my first Christmas market in Weisbaden. I was definitely put in the "spirit" here...

(And I got to share the best candy in the world with sweet Vivienne.) 

A few days later I was completely captivated by the Christmas market in Rüdesheim. The village reminded me of Vail Village and it was good to feel "at home." I especially enjoyed perusing the food huts and partaking in the amazing German culinary delights of glühvein (a hot mulled wine), brats, Bailey's roasted pecans, chocolate covered marshmallow clouds and an amazing dish of sautéed mushrooms covered in a garlic sauce. We joined Todd and Jackie, friends of Sarah and Tom and went to the Kloster Eberbach (vineyard, former convent and setting for the old Sean Connery movie "The Name of the Rose") for a wine tasting.  

For more of the action, check out this creation on Magisto!

Sarah and I spent a day in the kitchen, whipping up some family favorites of sweet and spicy nuts as well as cranberry pistachio biscottis. Christmas tunes were rocking and the Christmas "spirit" was oozing. 

A few nights later Sarah, Tom and I became gift wrapping machines while watching "White Christmas". (I won't tell you who was reciting every single line of the movie... but it wasn't one of the two chicks in the room.) Nothing like Bing to put you in the Christmas "spirit"!

On Christmas Eve, Sarah and I concocted a menu reminiscent of our Christmas Eves on the farm. I was melancholy considering this would be the first Christmas Eve of my life that I would not be spending at my Grandma and Grandpa Weaver's. But being in the kitchen with this girl, gave me plenty of Christmas memories to put me in the "spirit."

And how can you not feel anything but Christmas joy from this "bundle of joy", little Teddy?

Carolyn and Zack, please cover Huddy's ears and know that no one can replace his spot in my heart, but little Theodore is the happiest baby I have ever had the joy of being with. I'm so thankful to know him and spend sweet time with his brother, Sam, and sister, Viv who are full of Christmas energy, which I'm guessing is not just limited to Christmas time. 

Then I got to thinking... I love the feeling of the Christmas "spirit." And it seems like I'm not alone. We all seek out the "warm-fuzzies" whether it's parties with friends, enjoying our favorite Christmas carols and classic movies, setting the mood while decorating the tree and idealizing the perfect Christmas morning with the family.  But those feelings are often fleeting or the thought of these feelings don't live up to the reality. 

And then an amazing moment came from an unexpected place. Tom has done a great job of sharing the Christmas "classics" with Sam and Viv. A few days ago we were watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas."  My ears perked up when the play scene came on. My mom's favorite Christmas ornament plays this very scene and I know how much she loves it so I loved feeling a little closer to her in this way. 

As Charlie Brown is trying to figure out what "Christmas is all about", Linus enlightens him. 

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:8-14 KJV)

I believe we seek the "spirit" of Christmas for a reason. Whether we realize it or not, we were created to seek after this baby who was born in a manger who grew to become the Savior of the world and is the embodiment of the true love that only our Heavenly Father is able to show. This is a more than just a fleeting feeling that passes with the coming new year. This is where I find the meaning of my life and true fulfillment that will not pass away. 

May you know the fullness of our Father's love through the gift of his Son on this Christmas Day. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nepal: Expect the Unexpected

Ten weeks in Nepal has come to an end. I now find myself trying to boil down all of my experiences into a few coherent thoughts to share with you. This seems to be a daunting task.

My first blog post from Nepal described many of the things I experienced upon arriving in Nepal that I had not expected. I quickly learned to expect the unexpected and appreciate these unique experiences (the good, the bad and the ugly) instead of being caught off guard.  

And so if I pick up where I left off from "Crossing Cultures", I did not expect to experience the level of hospitality I felt from the Nepali people. This country does not run short on hyperbole as evidenced here...

But I truly do not believe I'm exaggerating when I say that the people of Nepal must be the most hospitable in the world.     But I'll let you decide or maybe inspire you to experience it for yourself.

When we arrived in Kathmandu on September 28, we were greeted by a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend. Literally. Shanti and her uncle Ram waited two hours for us at the airport, took us to their home, fed us and gave us a place to sleep for two days and helped us to set up our next arrangements for our time in Nepal. Let's be real. If a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend called me for some suggestions for their friend visiting Vail, I would recommend High Mountain Taxi to pick them up at the airport and take them to a hotel recommended based on their budget and share that Larkburger and Sato's are not to be missed and hang with the locals at Tuesday night Burger night at E-Town. (No, I'm not getting paid to advertise for these fine establishments, but a free meal would be awesome!)  I might suggest a few of my favorite ski runs in the winter or recommend hitting up the free Tuesday night concerts in Vail in the summer. And if you are looking for a church, Pastor Tommy and Friends at Calvary Chapel have got it going on. And then I would say, feel free to call if you need help.  To think that I would actually be your personal tour guide in all these endeavors, probably wouldn't happen.  But that, my friends, is exactly how the Nepali people roll. 

Exhibit "B":  We planned to work with First Love Ministries Children's Home. We arrived at the home in Boudha on relatively short notice and our living arrangements were not quite ready yet. An hour or so later, we were shown our room which we later discovered had been quickly evacuated by Kyipa and her sister Jamu to give us a place to stay for the night. They had moved out all of their clothes, books and other personal items your average teenager might have for room decorations in order to provide us with our own little space.  We, of course, were humbled by this hospitality, but felt, at the least, slightly guilty about displacing the girls and ended up staying at the Nobel Peace Hotel for the rest of our time in Boudha. And here we had the opportunity to experience the hospitality of Sonam, the 18-year-old front desk worker/nursing student who showed us around her town. 

A month later, we arrived in Pokhara just as the 5-day Hindu festival of Tihar was going on. On the biggest festival day of Deepawali, I was invited to experience the festival at the home of one of the servers at a bakery I happened by. Two minutes after being seated, Dim offered to take me to his village on the other side of the lake to share in the Tika (rice dyed red on the forehead) being ceremonially placed on the brother's head by the sister. For various reasons, I was not able to accept his invitation, but I know several travelers who were able to take part in the festivities because of similar invitations. 

And then there is my Nepali wedding experience!  I had tracked down a pastor for a local church who also ran a hotel I walked by everyday. When I told Pastor Narj I was looking for a fellowship to be a part of, he invited me to his church and told me to come to the hotel the next day and that I could get a ride to church.  That Saturday, I joined an amazing missionary couple from Mumbai, Pastor Karl and his wife Susan as well as Pastor Scott from Mountain Life Church in Park City, Utah and a member of his church, Sam. We had a great worship service and then I joined them for lunch back at Pastor Narj's hotel. It was there that I learned about a Nepali wedding reception taking place in a few hours. They invited me to join them. I declined as I had never been a wedding crasher before and didn't think that Nepal would be the place to start that practice. They assured me it would be fine as they didn't even know the bride and groom. An hour later I'm sitting in the spot reserved for the mother of the bride in American weddings. Little did I know that a month later I would be spending two weeks with these beautiful girls who were dancing in celebration of the marriage of one of their own from Sunshine Children's Home.

After singing and dancing to celebrate Kusi's marriage, we were fed and then taken to the home of Arjun and Asha, the amazing couple who have founded The Organization for Himalayan People, of which the Sunshine Children's Home is a part of. Arjun hosted us for tea at his home, while the reception was still going on. He was essentially the father of the bride, hosting a group of people he had never met. I was blown away!  Nepali hospitality at its finest. 

And then there were the amazing girls from Sunshine Children's Home. Upon my return from trekking the Annapurna Circuit, I spent time over the next two weeks getting to know the hearts of these sweet girls. I arrived to the home after school was done, hung out with them as they did their homework, asked them about their lives as I answered their barrage of questions about life in the USA. "Sister! In your country do students wear uniforms to school"? "Sister! In your country is everyone on Facebook"? Sister! In your country do people eat with their hands"?  When I showed them pictures of my family, there was a chorus of "coos" at how cute of a baby Huddy Bobby is and a roar of "oohs" at how pretty my mama is.  Munna taught me about threading (an amazing alternative to plucking eyebrows) and Kamana even offered to "plait" my hair for church one morning.  

I taught them how to play spoons and shared with them during their nightly fellowship time about the Fruit of the Spirit.  Their knowledge of scripture was humbling, and their hospitality right on par with the rest of their country. Shortly after my arrival they would always bring me a warm glass of water. Ashmita, Mahima and Samita proudly taught me the proper technique for eating Nepali style.  Pour a little dal (broth) on a small portion of rice, mix with your fingers, form into a glob that you bring to your mouth on your finger tips and shove off with your thumb.  Repeat until all the bhat (rice) is gone or you have been offered refills on either the dal or bhat. 

Then, as the evening ended two or three of them would escort me to a taxi waiting for me nearby. I cherished my short time with these girls and wish I had found them a month earlier!  Regardless, I've been blessed by the time I did have with Krypa, Prina, Prianka, Munna, Ruth, Kamana, Namunna, Anjali, Sunu, Susmita, Kritika, Mahima, Muscan, Ashmita, Samita, Bheaana, Neeta, Sonjun, Ashmita and Taichug.  

They are bright. (Kritika asked me to tell her about Nelson Mandela...two days before he died. If she was asking I told her she probably knew more about him than I did.  She did.)  They love The Lord.  And they love each other. And, they've told me they are praying for a husband for me.  Taichung said that when I get married, she wants to be invited because she will be praying for this.  You have no idea how this warms my heart. 

And so, I'm challenged. I want to bring Nepali hospitality home with me. If I see a tourist looking lost in the maze that is Beaver Creek or the expanse of the Back Bowls of Vail, I want to stop to help. I want to invite a new friend I meet on the chair lift to my Sunday night dinners.  And if any of you have a friend of a friend of a friend coming to the Vail Valley, I'll pick them up at the airport, well... maybe not the Denver airport but Eagle... no problem.  And if they need a place to stay, mi casa es su casa. (I wonder how that translates in Nepali?)

But if I'm blown away at Nepai hospitality from an earthly perspective, imagine what awaits us from a heavenly perspective. 

After Jesus ate dinner with his friends the night before he was to be handed over to be crucified (also known as the "Last Supper") he told his friends, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (John 14:13)

I have tears in my eyes as I reflect on this verse. Our Heavenly Father is the ultimate example of hospitality. He is preparing for our every need in eternity. I would like to think that I will expect the unexpected when that day comes. But that too is an understatement. For I am reminded that: 

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart of man has imagined, what God has prepared for those that love him."  - 1 Corinthians 2:9

I am humbled and blessed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Small Things

I love the small things:

Being in a country for a month and running into people you met 8 hours away. 

Keeping in touch with my new friends. 

The immediate connection of long-term travelers. 

The moment when the pashmina sellers stopped asking me: "Are you cold? Special price on scarf for you!" and started asking me my name once they realized I had walked by 4 times a day for the past week. 

Being the only westerner on the microbus and walking through the REAL Pokhara, just a few minutes from the tourist Pokhara. 

The simplicity of life yet purposefulness that the trekking life brings. Eat, walk, play cards, sleep, repeat. But constantly moving towards a goal. 

One line emails from back home. And the paragraphs my mom and Aunty Nancy send. 

When a Nepali asks me where I'm from and the smile they crack when I ask them where they are from. 

"First Time Nepal?" The more I'm asked this question, the more I realize I'll be returning someday. 

Seeing parents and siblings standing on their door stoop teaching the toddlers to clasp their hands together and greet trekkers with "Namaste!"

Adopting the Nepali way of greeting everyone you see with "Namaste" but it sounds more like "namaSTAAAYYY" as though they are pleading for you to enjoy your time in this unique little piece of the world for a little longer. 

The immediate comfort I feel when I'm greeted with "Jaymasi", the Christian alternative to "Namaste" that translates "Victory in Jesus!"

Discovering that I like my eggs "fried one side" (American translation: Sunny side up).  There is lesser room for error than "over easy."

Learning the perfect Trekkers breakfast is hard boiled eggs and chapati with honey. Thanks Ho and Ash!

Riding on a motorcycle four times in my life...all in Nepal...all coming and going to children's homes. The things we do for kids...

The perfect weather of Nepal from October to December. I've seen clouds about 6 days in the last 2 months. 

My iPhone speakers started working again after a one month hiatus. 

Eating at a different breakfast place every morning during my time in Pokhara... That's about 30 mornings. 
Finding the best vanilla latte in Nepal made by Sangmu at the Paradise Cafe. 

Getting weekly, if not more often, check-ins from my Camino Amigos on What's App...the texting app all the world uses, except the US. Thanks Israelis and Spaniards!

Earplugs and the fact that I MIGHT be cured of my 15-year dependency on white noise to sleep. 

Finding the best hot shower in Nepal. No exaggeration... It might be my best shower ever.

Beginning to be able to distinguish a British accent from an Aussie accent from a Kiwi accent from a South African accent. But sometimes I'm still wrong. 

Waiting in line with the locals at the water tap at the end of the street to fill up on safe water for the day. 

That Nepal might be the cheapest place to live on earth... Hence making the sabbatical budget stretch far... But will make sticking to a budget for next 5 months outside of Nepal that much more crucial. 

Frequenting 3 or 4 different restaurants... by noon. 

Trekking for 2 weeks out of every 4 to 6 weeks has put me in the best shape of my life. 

No longer being phased by various agricultural animals roaming the streets, but still hope I don't have to answer the question "have you been around farm animals during your time abroad?" on any customs forms. 

The sometimes decent internet connection that allows me to stream NPR's "All Things Considered" to make me feel a little at home. 

Using everything I've packed in my bag. 

The time saved by only choosing which of the three shirts or three pairs of pants I should wear today. 

Paying someone $5 to do my laundry for a week. They promise it's washed by machine and that soap is used. I'm not naive to think that not all promises are kept... But it does save me about 3 hours of work. 

The pretty decent cover band at the Busy Bee.  They don't always get the words right but the tune is pretty spot on. 

That the life I'm living this year seems completely natural. 

Reflecting on what my gifts and interests are and figuring out how to create a profession for myself that I'm not sure totally exists... yet. 

Despite my interest in current events and world affairs, being relatively unplugged makes you realize that the rest of the world does go on despite government shut-downs and failed technology.  

Taking the time to reflect on the things I love and the things I miss. 

I miss the small things:

Brushing my teeth with water from the tap. 

Waking up and not having to "get ready" for breakfast. 

Walking barefoot in my own house. 

Green salads and vegetables that don't have to be cooked. 

Cutting down my perfect Christmas tree for the 5th year in a row. 

Caroling through Miller Ranch with the Bible Study Beauties.

The Christmas spirit that everyone is sharing on Facebook... but I hope to get my fill at the Christmas Markets in Germany and sharing the season with the Ouimette family!

Black Friday... Oh wait. 

Huddy Bobby. 

The birth of Drake Douglas Leibfried  ... and missing "being there" for Gretchen. This is not a small thing... But Drake is, at a very tiny 3 pounds, 12 ounces. 

Privacy. It seems that in a place like Nepal, you are never alone. 

Sato's Sushi Philly Roll. 

Toilet paper that doesn't get wet when you take a shower, because the shower isn't actually on the wall aiming directly for the toilet paper holder. 

Throwing toilet paper in the toilet, not the trash can next to it. 

Snow. In fact... The reports of snow that has blown up my Facebook page today is probably the inspiration for this post. 

Larkburger with truffle fries and a chocolate shake... And convincing the guys at the taxi office to partake with me so I don't feel so glutinous. 

The crew at High Mountain Taxi. Have a great and prosperous season!!

Eat! Drink! dates with Claire.

Calvary Chapel Vail Valley.

My cowboy boots.

Tuesday mornings with my Young Life girls. 


Eagle Valley High School students. 

My feet before they knew what trekking was. 

My Clarisonic. 

My little home. 

Thanks for listening. The end. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How an Election Led to a 15 Day Trek...

This is a post that has been some time in the making. However, I did not want to post until the dust settled so as to not cause unnecessary worry for friends and family. 

Tuesday, November 19 was Election Day in Nepal. The days leading up to the election were quite eventful, but not in the same way elections are eventful in the United States.  And from what I've seen during the past two weeks, I'm eternally grateful to live in an country that has free and relatively fair elections.

Not long after we arrived in Nepal, we learned that the country would be holding their second democratic election in their history. The first took place in 2008, one year after the 10 year long civil war ended.  The war was essentially the Maoist rebels attempt to overthrow the Nepali monarchy. The monarchy eventually gave up power and an interim Democratic government was out in place until a Constitution could be established. After the first election, the Maoists were not happy with their representation in the Constitutional Assembly, which failed to produce a permanent Constitution.  Now, 5 years later Nepalis are again trying to select who will be writing their Constituiton. 

But a month before the election, various Maoists parties threatened to enforce a "bandh" (pronounced bahn-da) which is a strike.  The strike was to prevent all transportation, except emergency vehicles, from using the roads for the ten days before the election. This was not a government enforced strike but a party enforced strike, in an effort to protest and discredit the elections. 

Our original plan to continue volunteering after the Everest Base Camp trek changed for various reasons, but one was that we were to go to Chitwan for a few weeks and then come back to Kathmandu during the election for safety purposes. For more reasons, this plan didn't appeal to me... so I headed to Pokhara. My thought process was that it was a tourist town that would be left alone from any election violence, it was supposed to have a cool vibe (which I can now attest to) and it wasn't the madness that is Kathmandu. (Remember, I live in a community of 50,000 people spread over a 40 mile distance... I don't "do" big cities well.)

A few days after I was settled in Pokhara, I was enjoying a milk tea at a second story cafe when I saw a handful of UN jeeps roll in to town. It dawned on me that this was probably an effort to monitor elections. My hunch was confirmed when the next day another white jeep rolled past that was labelled "European Union Election Monitoring Commission."  And then I thought: "Wow! I've heard of those countries where other countries 'monitor' the elections. And now I'm in one.  This could get interesting."  

And interesting it got. 

On Sunday, November 10, the bandh started. (Sunday is actually a "work" day in Nepal. Saturday is the only "weekend" day.)  I made my daily stroll down the street to search out where I would have breakfast. It was eerily quiet. All store fronts were closed except for restaurants, thankfully for me. I had breakfast and then walked further in to town. The streets that were bustling with motorcycles and vans and Nepali tractors were empty. Kids were literally playing soccer in the street. I sent a message to Annette to see what the vibe was like in Kathmandu. (She had decided to stick to the city and pursue other volunteering opportunities there.)  Her response was that she was ready to start a game of cricket in the streets of Thamel, a typically chaotic town center. 

And then my mind switched from observation to action. I began to consider if this strike really lasts 10 days, my rupee stash might not last me that long and who knows if ATM's would be refilled. Considering they are not a reliable source of cash on a normal day, I could imagine the bandh could make getting cash tougher. And then I thought... if transport is stopped, how does food get to the stores? I made a stop in a little grocery store.  My provisions were 3 Snickers and a bag of pistachios. (If you are laughing at my choice... it's ok. It's laughable.) I think I didn't want to panic and stock up on a ton and was being optimistic that this thing would blow over. 

My next stop was lunch somewhere. I usually sit by the lake but decided streetside could be interesting today, and more peaceful than normal.  Shortly after taking a seat, a taxi with a giant megaphone blaring a Maoist candidate's propaganda drives by followed by no fewer than 40 motorcycles with passengers waving the Maoist flag. Even though I was only 10 when the "Iron Curtain" fell, there was still something unsettling about seeing the hammer and the sickle waved in front of me.  

And then a strange thing began happening. Store owners began to crack open their store fronts.  They seemed to be assessing the situation as to whether or not they were in the clear to open for business. (The first day of the strike was to stop all traffic and business, but then businesses could open after that. And tourist busses were NOT to be impacted by the bandh.) By 3 that afternoon all businesses were open and Pokhara seemed to be back to normal. 

A few days later I met with the director of a children's home about volunteer opportunities. We made a plan for me to come over when the girls were done with school, help with homework, hang out, and help the director and his wife with English.  I was psyched to finally have an open door. And then he said that I will have to wait until the bandh was over for me to start as there was no safe mode of transportation for me to get to the home. Bummer. 

I didn't want to wait in Pokhara for another week so I began to consider that maybe trekking would be a good way to escape the election madness. Everyone around seemed to be hiking this legendary "Annapurna Curcuit", a route that typically takes 2 to 3 weeks.  For a week or so I had been hanging out with my new friend Ho. I met Ho while walking around the lake one day. This was the shirt he was wearing...

You might guess how we met. The exchange went something like this...
Me: "Hey! Did you go to Illinois?"
Ho: "Yeah!"
Me: "I was born in Peoria."
Ho: "So was I."

What?!?  I would have hit him with an Elaine Bennis "Get OUT!" shove if I had known him a few minutes longer. Needless to say, we became fast friends. So it was with Ho's encouragement that I set out on the Circuit. But not without hesitation. I would say that I was reading the headlines of Himalayan Times and the Kathmandu News a little more than the average tourist. I was also checking to see if the Nepal election news was big enough to make the international news wire so I could be prepared for a concerned email from the parental units. Apparently the Obamacare fail was bigger news. News of petrol bombs and tourist busses WITH police escorts being attacked made me have to go to the toilet almost instantly. But these appeared to be isolated incidents.  My second hesitation was whether or not I was capable of doing this trek without a porter. Ho was confident in my ability and promised his own porter service if worst came to worst. We decided on Friday, November 15 to take off on Saturday the 16th. We spent the day getting our permits, provisions and our bus tickets. The ride was 5 hours from Pokhara to Besisahar, where we would start the trek. I prayed much of the way. Minus a nagging headache the entire way, the trip was without incident.  Well...any bus trip in Nepal is full of various incidents but relatively speaking, all went well. We took another bus to avoid walking on the dusty "road" to Ngadi where we began to walk. I was now able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing the election would come and go while I was walking around in the Himalayas. 

Day 1, or "Afternoon 1" we shaved 4 kilometers off the 200 kilometer trek by sleeping in Bahundanda. There we met Brian and Kristen, a couple from Virginia who had sold their house to travel the world. Check out their blog at happytobehomeless.com. We all landed at the same "hotel". The fact that the sign said this place was NOT in the Lonely Planet sold us. These people had a sense of humor. 

The next day was a haul to Tal. But when I came around the bend and saw this amazing sandy riverbed, my response was a shocked "Whaaaat??"

This would be the first of many such responses on the trip. The travel blogs don't lie when they say the views of the Circuit are constantly changing. Unreal. 

And then, once in Tal, Ashley (a guy) from Austrailia was added to the crew.  Some formation of the crew has been together ever since.  Currently we are "Ho and the Ashpurnas".  Our first CD will be released soon. We have given each other theme songs and often DJ Jazzy Ho cues up the perfect song for the moment.  We've had many intense games of "Whist", my new fave card game that Ash taught us. And the laughs never seem to be in short supply. It really is amazing how total strangers can end up traveling together for weeks and not get sick of each other. Well... I'll just speak for myself. But I've loved my time with these guys. 

Day 4 was Election Day. We had spent the night before in a village called Tamang. Our host asked that we take breakfast at 6:30 so they could go to vote. We figured that since voting only happens once every 5 years, we could oblige them. Our route that day took us 20+ kilometers uphill to Upper Pisang. Halfway through the day I noticed that we were passing many more Nepalis than normal. Then it dawned on me, they were going to vote. The law requires that all Nepalis return to their hometown to vote. This is no small task as there are villages that are over a week away and accessible only by foot. Halfway through the day, I decided to congratulate every Nepali I saw for voting. The exchange went something like this:

Me: Election?
Nepali: smile
Me: Voting? Election? You go vote?
Nepali: Yes! Yes! (Showing finger that had been inked to prove it.) Election finished. 
Me: Yay! Good job! 

These two ladies walked two hours to go vote AND two hours back. This is awesome and amazing and inspiring.  

Seriously, people of the United States of America. If 70% of Nepali people turn out to vote with many traveling days to make that happen AND enduring threats and violence in addition, our voter turnout should be at least that. 

Ash and Ho were a ways ahead of me for these exchanges. I'm not sure if they were embarrassed or annoyed.  Or it could be that they are just faster, as the "Tortuga" name from the Camino lives on. Regardless, they claim they found my enthusiasm for voter participation entertaining. That night, there were few rooms in the inns as so many had traveled so far to vote that they spent the night. 

The next morning, the Nepali police, who were ensuring security at the pollong places, rolled out of town as we made our way to Manang.  We asked a few locals about election results. No one appeared to know anything. And news indicates that results are still days away. I remember hearing how in the first Afghan elections that the votes had to be brought to Kabul on the backs of donkeys. I did see many donkeys the next day and it made me wonder if the sacks on their backs were filled with ballots.  I was having another one of those "I know where I am, but how did I get here moments."

And then the focus was back on our trek.  Ho, Brian and Kristen opted for a side trip to Tilicho Lake, the world's highest lake and the best views of the Annapurna  Range. The Ashleys headed straight for the Thorung La Pass. Ho caught back up to us 4 days later in Marpha. The scenery has been absolutely incredible. Pictures don't do it justice but here are a few attempts...

Now we have 3 or 4 days left.  It all depends on how much time we stay in Tatopani, which translates "hot water" named for the hot springs there. I'm just a little excited to soak there... for a long time...

...AND celebrate Thanksgiving. I've decided that this is the holiday I will miss out on the most during my 9 months away. I have spent the last 9 Thanksgivings in Longboat Key, Florida where Aunt Nancy creates the quintessential Thanksiving feast that is making my mouth water just writing about it. But instead of being jealous of all of your amazing Thanksgiving feasts, I've decided to imagine that I'm partaking in your feasts, just as many of you are partaking in "The Journey" with me. 

So, I have MUCH to be thankful for. I'm thankful I live in a country where voting is a right as much as a privilege that I should not take for granted. I'm thankful I'm able to travel to countries who can't necessarily say the same which makes me even more thankful for where I am from.  I'm thankful for a body that is able to complete such a trek so I can see God's creation in some of the most remote, and beautiful parts of the world. I'm thankful for the INCREDIBLE people I've met during the last 2.5 months. I truly believe that at the end of this journey, these people will be what this trip will be all about. You have blessed me greatly. I'm thankful for the INCREDIBLE friends I have back home who have encouraged me in so many ways during the planning of this trip and continue to do so each day.  This has been a very unexpected part of the experience...not that people would be discouraging but that they would be SO encouraging!  And I'm thankful for my amazing family who loves me no matter what crazy advetures I find myself in and encourages me as well.  I'm thinking of you all whether you are in Florida, Peoria or Fort Wayne. 

Wow.  I'm blessed. The end. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's My Dad's Birthday!!

My Dad is a special guy.  Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes with him knows this. He is about as friendly as they come. No one is a stranger. He knows the story of every waiter at any restaurant he has ever been to, and probably knows someone from their hometown as well. The smaller the town, the higher the likelihood this is the case because it seems he knows every family who has ever raised cattle in the country...or has at least heard of them.  I can't tell you the number of times I've found myself shrinking down in my seat at the table as I watch these conversations take place. And then my mom is quick to remind me that I do the same thing. Dang it. 

Well, today is "Big" Steve's birthday. And although no longer an original gift, this blog post is my preset to him.  I've decided to take a trip down memory lane and regale him with stories of the good times we have had together. My memory is about as good as his memory is bad, and so my hope is that these stories will sound vaguely familiar and bring a smile to his face, and a knowing smile to the rest of the readers who are blessed to know my pops. 

My earliest and most consistent memory of my dad would have to be how he would coax all of us out of bed on Sunday morning to go to church. By the time he woke us up at 7:30, he would have been up for a couple hours doing "chores" AKA feeding cattle. He would come home smelling of the farm, but I didn't mind because he also brought with him the smell of fresh donuts from Mr. Donut. My eagerness to get out of bed varied depending on if the donuts had sprinkles or not, but this tactic was guaranteed to do the trick. 

There were other memorable times of cows and my dad arriving home bearing gifts as well.  Several times a year he would go to cattle shows and sales in exotic places like Reno, Nevada and North Platte, Nebraska. But he managed to bring these faraway places home to us in the form of gifts. I recall him arriving home and rushing him at the door to give him kisses... and ask if he brought us anything. We would eagerly watch as he unpacked his bag and revealed our gifts of... hotel shampoo and shower caps!  We couldn't have been more excited...literally. But there would always be a skirmish for who got the powdered mouth wash from the Executive Inn in Louisville, Kentucky. 

And while I'm thinking about cows, some of my favorite summertime memories were going to "check" cows.  I'm sure I asked dad what we were "checking" them for and I'm pretty sure his response was something about we were checking to see what cows were "in heat". I'm sure  there were follow up questions and explanations. Regardless, talking about such things and having cow semen roll around in a tank of liquid nitrogen in the back of my dad's truck was a normal part of life. In fact, I didn't realize how ABnormal it really was until one particularly awkward dinner conversation with a guy I was dating, my parents and their best friends in the Angus breeding business.  I'll let my dad tell that story to you in person, if he hasn't told you already. But I digress. Checking cows. We would drive out to the field and dad would have a notepad to take down the numbers of the cows (identified by the tags in their ears). Sometimes it was a family affair and other times I would go alone, which meant I didn't have to compete with Zack for getting to drive the truck through the fields. I was on dad's lap as there was no way my feet would touch the pedals, no matter how much I tried to convince them they could and I could drive by myself.  And if the chance to drive wasn't incentive enough to tag along, there was always the hope of stopping at the Dairy Barn for a rainbow slushy on the way home. 

And then, there was the era when my dad was the Bradley "Superfan." This era covered most of my growing up life.  I realized somewhere in middle school that if I wanted to have a closer relationship with my dad and brothers, it would be best for me to like sports. College basketball was the place to start. More specifically, cheering for the Bradley Braves.  Well, really I think I began by cheering for the Bradley Brave cheerleaders.  For years we had two season tickets to the basketball games and I had tough competition to secure my seat.  Eventually Dad caved and got an extra two tickets. But now we had 4 tickets and we had a family of 5. But mom became the one who, so sacrificially, gave up her seat. (That's sarcasm, people.) I loved the games. Everything about them. The shiny court, the ball boys, the scoreboard, Dave Snell's "Kaboom" tally board, the nachos, Rox Bucklin on the organ, the band, the cheerleaders, the people-watching, oh yeah... And the game itself. But I loved going with my dad and I have great memories of how his face would light up when his Braves, and his best friend, Mo, were on a hot streak.  Those were the days!!

And when I said my dad was a Bradley Superfan, I wasn't kidding. There were few games that were too far for him to travel to. One particularly memorable roadtrip was to watch the Braves play Auburn in Mobile, Alabama. I pulled in the driveway, arriving home after completing my first semester at Taylor, got out of my car and hopped into my dad's car for a roadtrip to the Southland. We drove through the night and made a stop in Boaz, Alabama.  Here, I had the enligtening experience of seeing the inner workings of a chicken plant. We saw it all... chickens sqwaking in cages to being wrapped in plastic. (As a sidenote, I still eat chicken, but not the nuggets.) We kept heading south to watch Bradley put up a valient effort against Auburn. It's possible it was a heartbreaker and it's possible that we decided to forgo staying the night in Mobile and drove home that night. It's also becoming clear where I get my love for driving from...

...And my style of road-trippin'.  I didn't know this style was unusual until Spring Break 2000 to Breckinridge with the Academic Sabbatical Committee: college friends Missy, Mindi and Steph.  I thought  a 15 minute stop every 300 miles was being generous!  When they thought I was crazy I explained how Weaver Family roadtrips were conducted. We would drive...no...scratch that...Dad would drive  until mealtime.  He would drop us off at one side of McDonald's so we could all go to the bathroom. He would drive through the drive-thru and order our food, and we would meet him on the other side, just as he was picking up our food. It sure made sense to me!  Apparently this is not the norm. But pops, I appreciate that sometimes you just want to get where you are going!

And where I seemed to be going was Colorado. And now I realize that my dad can only blame himself for this move. He took our family (minus Luke) on our first ski vacation to Winter Park, Colorado in 1987.  I vividly recall sliding back and forth in the backseat with Zack as we drove the switchbacks up the mountain. The excitement of being on my first adventure to the mountains and realizing how close we seemed to be to the edge of a cliff was almost too much for a 6-year-old to handle.  Over the years we visited Vail, Steamboat and Keystone for a family ski vacation. But it was the summer after sixth grade when we visited  our pastor and my parents' mentor Ira Galloway and his wife Sally in Pagosa Springs, Colorado that I knew this was where I wanted to live. My dad took me out horse back riding and we talked about what I wanted to do be when I grow up.  I think teacher was one of my options, even then. It's funny to think how things have unfolded since then. And although I've beat out my dad my 8 years in the Rocky Mountains, it's a place I know is almost as dear to him as it is to me. 

And now, the occasion of my Dad's birthday reminds me that it's just a few short days before our family gathers together in Flordia for Thanksgiving. I'm pretty sure this week has become the week I look forward to most in the year... and a week I will dearly miss soon! It's a much needed break from the long haul that is the fall of the schoolyear. Our family is really good at sitting on the beach but my dad and I have our special spot in the sand, toes in the water, books in hand. And the most important decision that is made each day is where we will eat. Although the decisions are pretty much made for us as we always go to the same places every year, it's just a matter of which place on what day...and if we will go to Crab and Fin on Saint Armand's Circle for just lunch, or lunch AND dinner.  These Thanksgiving week feasts are something I look forward to all year... until I regret stuffing myself at about 2 am. But ten hours later that is a distant memory. My dad loves to share good food with his family. And then remind us of it a month later when he gets the credit card bill... 

But my dad really is a thoughtful guy. One of the most thoughtful things he's done I am reminded of everyday. When I was born, he gave my mom a ring that was really for her to wear until he gave it to me on my sixteenth birthday.  This ring reminds me that his love for me is great and unconditional, and started before I was even born...just like our Father's love is for us. 

To use his own words, my dad is a "piece of work."  He is a work that only The Lord could make and continues to make. My dad is continiously seeking wisdom and his generosity abounds. And many have been blessed because of his willingness to be used by The Lord. 

I love you Pops!  Thanks for loving me the way you do!  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Why a Sabbatical?

I Googled this question and found the following article considering the role a sabbatical year plays in the world of academia and it's roots.  Much of what Max Page articulates in "Who Took the Sabbath Out of Sabbatical? Worshipping real academic productivity means giving it a rest now and then." resonated with me. Here is a good chunk of the article.

"...Something seemed woefully wrong here. It made me go back to that word that is at the heart of this whole endeavor— sabbatical. As in Sabbath. As in “day of rest.” How did we make “productivity” the key word associated with a term that expressly forbids productivity?

I decided to go back to the source to make my case anew for an old idea of the sabbatical.

The very idea of the sabbatical year (yes, a full year), as opposed to the weekly Sabbath which is derived from the seventh day of creation, comes from the Old Testament, in Leviticus, chapter 25:

The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a sabbath of the Lord. Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in the yield. But in the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the after-growth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your untrimmed vines; it shall be a year of complete rest for the land.

It was not understood, at the time or by later commentators, that the sabbatical year was a year for doing nothing. (And what faculty member would, even if I proved that this was the biblical decree? At my university, a joint administration faculty union study recently found that tenured and tenure-track professors work on average sixty-three hours a week at the various aspects of their jobs. There is no danger of faculty members working less than full-time jobs.) The Sabbath was established for religious reasons: this was to be a year of dedication to honoring God, as was the weekly Sabbath. It was also established for practical ones: fields and animals worked endlessly will become progressively less productive and eventually die. The sabbatical year was a time for shifting emphases, from production to reflection and rejuvenation. The long-term goal was to produce better fields, a better harvest, and better people.

What “sabbatical” meant was that the land—your productive capacity, your brain, your heart—should not be used or exercised in exactly the same way it had been for the previous six years. It needs to be refertilized. It will be more productive and life giving (and refereed journal article producing) if it is allowed a rest from its usual activities. I found it particularly remarkable, and disturbing, that in the sabbatical seminar I attended no one spoke about improving the quality of the work of their sabbatical, only that they produce more, and faster.

My plea to my striving colleagues is to be true to the origins of the word. Don’t do nothing—but don’t focus on your usual activities either. Do not till the same soil; dare to do things differently for a year. You will be doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing— honoring your profession and the confidence placed in you— when you explore new areas, pursue projects that might fail, expand your mind with art or music or great literature, and generally upset your routine.

You will be doing what you were hired to do, renewing your capacity for thinking, teaching, researching, serving the public good. You will be doing yourself, and the very idea of the university, a favor."

Page, Max. "Who Took the Sabbath Out of Sabbatical? Worshipping real academic productivity means giving it a rest now and then." September 2010.

I like this. I love the concepts of "reflection" and "rejuvenation."  My life in the Valley is wonderful and full but I've created a life that doesn't allow much time for these two concepts.  And as I consider what my "calling" is and a possible career change, I'm finding that the time away is helping me to consider what my gifts are and figure out how those gifts translate to the right career. 

And I'm challenged by these concepts. Growing up we regularly practiced a day of rest on Sunday. After church and lunch we all came home, changed into pajamas and took naps for a good two hours, then woke for a leisurely afternoon of watching football. I recall scheduling a Sunday afternoon work session on a group project in middle school and was quickly taught that we don't do work on Sundays. I knew we didn't do work on Sundays but I didn't know it was intentional, until then.  And that lasted until 2003. 

I can make all sorts of excuses for why Sabbath rest has not been a part of my life in the last decade but I think the most obvious one is that I've chosen to live in a community that values "doing" more than "being". For example, if I'm not out taking advantage of the Rocky Mountains in the form of skiing or hiking (I'm one of the few who doesn't bike) I feel lame.  And in the last year, I've been challenged by my Uncle Chuck to take a "Day of Solitude" each month. I did a really good job for 4 months. And then I neglected to be intentional in setting the day aside.  And now I have declared that I am on "sabbatical"!  This is an entire year devoted to "rest" or at least that is what the word implies. So when I landed in Pokhara, Nepal last week, it became clear that this would be my spot where rest could happen. Very clear. I was excited about the prospects of doing "nothing."  And then 24 hours later panic set in. What am I going to DO for a month or more in this laid-back tourist town in the middle of Nepal? I had to remind myself of Goal #4: Rest. 
And so I have a routine. I leave my $8/night hotel sometime between 7 and 9 for breakfast. I eat breakfast and read for the next two hours. Then I figure I should move on so I go to my "desk". 

I get some masala tea, read, then a few hours later, I order some tomato soup. It arrives an hour later.  I watch life go by at the pace of Pokhara. Over the course of those 7 hours or so, I have usually met a new friend and heard some version of their story.  And then, the evening consists of dinner and socializing. In the midst of this busy schedule I've found time to take a few boat rides, a hike around the lake and several strolls along the path around the lake. 

But, I've found my office hours to be extremely "productive" the last few days. 

I finished the book "Banker to the Poor" by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and founder of the Grameen Bank, the original micro-credit organization. 
Take away: Although not well written, it's a captivating account of a revolutionary, yet simple idea coming out of Bangladesh in the 70's.  The evidence is there that micro-credit can help break the cycle of poverty, welfare dependency and give people dignity and opportunity. 

I began to watch TED talks. I was hoping to watch one a day on this trip. I started yesterday. The first installment was a recommendation from Camino Amigo, Gorka: Barry Schwartz' "The Paradox of Choice."
Take away: Choices can paralyze.  This laughingly hit close to home as I tried to choose from the ridiculous number of hotels in Lakeside, Pokhara. There are quite possibly as many hotels as there are tourists. After happily making my decision to stay at the Nanohana Lodge for the next month, I began to question if I 
maybe missed out on a better choice. 

This TED talk made me want to make up for lost time and go through the rest of my bookmarked list. And then I remembered I had time. So instead, I will marinate on this idea... and save another one for tomorrow. 

I began to read through my "reading list" from bookmarks on Safari. (This is a brilliant invention by the way... How many times do you want to read an article but don't have the time?  No problem!  Save it for later by "adding it to your reading list.")  I started my reading list in February. I'm just now getting around to reading selections such as... 

This is what I've been doing with my sabbatical the last few days. 

I've also learned to "expect the unexpected", which is a separate blog post. I've learned to love flexibility. And I've loved watching how The Lord works when I ask Him to use me today. 

Which reminds me... When I tell people that I'm on sabbatical (which is unpaid, BTW.  The Eagle County School district has been generous in promising a job back in the district, but the budget does not include funding my budget in this time away)
I often hear the response: "Must be nice"!  And my response is: "You can do it too"!  I'm not naive to think that some professions might be harder to take a break from than others.  For example, I think of my bro and sis-in-law who have taken years to build a client base in the field of wealth management.  You can't just leave your clients high and dry. But not all sabbaticals are the same and my guess is there are some creative thinkers out there in your field of work who have managed to make it happen. But just like the principle of the risk/reward relationship in the financial realm, it might take a little risk to do this, but I'm quite certain the reward is worth it. 

If you need more inspiration, read on. Or if you are already inspired and have any questions about this crazy Sabbatical talk, email me!  I have time...

A TED Talk where I heard the idea of taking 5 years of your retirement and interspersing them throughout you career....
Stefan Sagmeister: "The Power of Time Off"

Dizik, Alina. "The Career Value of a 'Pointless' Sabbatical."

Barr, Corbett. "10 Lessons Learned on a 6-month Sabbatical."  July 16, 2009

Quora. "If You Were To Take a Year Long Sabbatical How Would You Spend It To Enhance Your Career"? April 15, 2013.

Lazier, Meghan. "Should You Take A Sabbatical? 3 Women Weigh In."