Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It's the People


I arrived in Paris 8 months and 2 days ago to set out on a trip that was, more or less, around the world. A lot has happened since then and I think this blog does a pretty good job of documenting that. I didn't set out on this journey to "find" anything... as many well-wishers assumed ("I hope you find what it is you are looking for"). I set out to take a break from the grind and figure out what my next steps would be in my career. I set out to experience new cultures, see some of the world's most beautiful sights and meet new people. But I didn't set out to change who I was. At the same time, I wasn't naïve to think that I would set out on an adventure of this scale without some changes taking place in my life. And I believe I'll continue to ponder what I've learned about the kind of life I want to live as I move forward.


In the meantime, what I am struck by most is the people I've met along the way. I realize now that I didn't travel the globe to smell the fresh gardens of Versailles, to hear the cowbells on the bucolic trails of the Camino de Santiago, to see the highest mountains in the snow-capped Himalayas, to taste the flavorful cuisine of the Middle East, or to feel the weightless sensation of the underwater world. I traveled the world to share a slice of life with incredible people who have blessed me in ways they can never know. Some of these encounters lasted a few minutes, others a few months.


I traveled to be enamored by...
Nicole
Jim
Chuck and Kimber




I traveled to share life along a long trail with...
David
Basti
Betty
Bernard Junior and Senior ("B1 and B2")
Lauren, Ande and Deborah
Valentine and Benedict
Arnie
Jan
Ofir, Katz and Tomer
Gorka and Inigo
Mapi and Juan
Pere
Ken
Margaret




I traveled to learn what life is like for...
Ram
Shanti
Sonam
Wenduk
Bob
Miriam
Kamal
James
Kyipa
Phonus
Muktuk and Lopsang
Pasang
Sonam
Thering
Dawa
Ruth
Pemba
Daisy
Lhakpa
Peter (Phurpu)
Dawa
Thoduk
Mikma
Nawang
Sangay
Thering
Jamu
Sangung
Lhakpa



I traveled to share an adventure with...
Lisa
Rishi
Amir
Matt and Bex
Indra
Bilka
Garrett
Bob
Steve
Ryan
Connor
Sam
Eugenio
Michael
Ernesto




I traveled to experience a new culture with...
Katie and Simon
Jackie
Robin
Kuhl
Steve and Steve's mom
Nicole
Leah and Lutz
Basti
Mariella
Joel
Oliver
Lisa
Aurora and Ben
Hamish
Pastor Scott
Sam
Carl and Susan
Pam
Pastor Narj and Sharmi
Arjun and Asha
Ho
Jeremy
Brian and Kristen
Ash
Ayar and Ayar's mom
Jean and Marie
Brendan and Gabrielle
Daniel
Jan
Cass
Tim
Eric
Binay
Sangmu
Rick
Josh
Jake
Brendan
John




I traveled the know the kindness of...
Krypa
Prina
Prianka
Munna
Ruth
Kamana
Namunna
Anjali
Sunu
Susmita
Kritika
Mahima
Muscan
Ashmita
Samita
Bheaana
Neeta
Sonjun
Ashmita
Taichug




I traveled to celebrate Christmas and family with...
Sarah and Tom
Sam, Viv and Teddy
Chris and Astrid
Todd and Jackie
Brian and Daphne




I traveled to be blessed by the encouragement of...
Laura
Honest
Rafael
Dismas
Jalilu
Elinama
Jifte
Jackson
Richard
Yousef




I traveled to understand more about the complexity of life for...
Boaz
Matan
Moshi
Jeremy
Ori
Garrett
Matan
Yogi
Shira
Elan
Lance

I traveled to experience a holy place with...
Bob
Richard
Rob
Becky
Jake
Lisa
Joy
Peyton
Natalia
Eric
Caroline
Phillip
Clemon
David
Lester




I traveled to live life with...
Lacy and Matt
Rusty
Lola
Giancarlos
Juan Carlos
Pablo
Epi
Nelly
Gloria
Sonia
Holly and Brent
Fernanda and Caio
Dan
Charles
Jack
Diablo
Reagan
Arnelle
Patrick
Bri
Bryan
Nate
Katherine
Clarise
Martha
Jessie
Omri
Idan
Thomas
Lauren
Nate
Jaqueline and Christian
Angela and Soen
Angela and Joanne
Gilles
Benjamin
Arno
Jeffrey
Gloria
Vicki
Nora
Esther
Aracely
Rosita
Luz
Yaneth
Zenaida
Camilla
Nichole
Miley
Jessenia
Evelyn
Eli
Sue
Mari Luz
Geronimo
Vecar
Maete
Nohelia
Henry
Pierre
Jessica
Andrea
Vivana
Steve
Gweno
Baptiste
Marianne
Gunter
Alyssa and Resilience
Kevin
Marc
Stein
Carmen
Daniel
Hannah
Gen
Sarah
Scott
Jen and Ted
Ysa and Chris
Diana and Wayne
Johannes
Edit
Jordy
Cesar
Maida
Jimena
Jeremy
Scott
Caitlin




I traveled to share nature and wonder with...
Sydney and Stewart
Will and Hannah
Luz and Javier
Marten and Jost
Chris
Ivan
Esteban and Claudio
Ann
Sherwin
Patty
Robert
Ha-pril
Lars and Jonas
Duda and Pamela
Benoit and Genevieve
Miguel
Lys and Lauren
Dori
Ivan





I traveled to enjoy the good life with...
Claire and Tim
Jonathan
JJ and Tina
Dave
Nate
Kaitlin
Eva
Ernesto
Bryan
Stuart
Hans
Amanda and John
Uhrs and Monica
Bama
Commander John and Cindy
Ryan
Jungle
Aura
Rob
Ariel
Bar
Belji
Jose David
Bella




I traveled to soak up incredible culture with...
Gunnar
Rolando and Marisol
Eric
Ana
Ramiro
Olga
China
Alex
Jorge
Lazaro
Mel
Rafael
Aurelien
Cori
Pepe
Anita and Caesaro
Jordan
Omar
Yary and Francy
Dianella and Juan
Fabio
Gilberto
Yasmin
Yiero
Giovanni
Jose Angel
Miguel




And I traveled to be cared for by...
Jessica and Jose Manuel
Dr. Carlos del Valle
Reyna
Michele
Don Roberto
Melvin



And I would not have traveled to all of these poeple had it not been for...
Annette




As I reflect on each of these faces, I can't help but be grateful for the Lord's provision for each of these people in my life. I'm especially amazed at His provision this past week. So many times when unexpected events happen, we try to understand why. Often it is only with the passage of time that the "why" becomes clear, if it ever does. But in the midst of this crazy Achilles tendon mishap, I can't help but wonder how I happened to be in a place with a friend I could rely on for help when I was the most helpless. Jessica was gracious in making sure I got where I needed to go, helpful in getting the best care possible in Guatemala, giving up her bed for me and making sure I was well fed.

Jessica and I go way back. She was my first cross country athlete that I coached, and the main reason I became a coach in the first place. Back in the day, when Eagle Valley didn't have its own cross country team, Jessica and a handful of other Eagle Valley kids ran for the Battle Mountain (cross-county rival) team. In an effort to minimize the 60 mile round trip drive to practice, we had a small practice in Gypsum a few days a week. This is where I came in, to help facilitate practice. I got to know Jess during those practices and race days and then on into track season as a dedicated athlete who had a teachable spirit and a compassionate heart. Years later she made her way to Guatemala to serve as an intern with International Justice Mission. Being able to share our experiences in a country near and dear to my heart was something we bonded over during coffee in one of her visits home. She has continued to make a life in Guatemala City, now teaching English at the Colegio Interamericano. Last night as I had my leg propped up on pillows and she was cooking up some fajitas we talked about cultural understandings, where our faith fits into those experiences and the joys and challenges of teaching. And I realized how blessed I've been by so many students who have come through the doors of Eagle Valley High School.... Jess and her brother and sister being three of them.

Which reminds me of a story. An embarrassing story.

Jess's younger sister, Casey, was gracious enough to invite me to her graduation party. In the meantime, the Medsker family was also celebrating Jess's graduation from Harding University as well. When I arrived to their home, there were a few cars parked in the driveway. I rang the bell and Casey welcomed me into her house. She led me to the kitchen where the family was gathered around a cake for Jess. Trina, mother of Jess, Mike and Casey, offered a piece to me. We all moved out to the patio to enjoy the cake. But in my head, some things weren't exactly adding up. I was confused that there weren't other people joining in Casey's celebration and we were celebrating Jess instead. I'm not sure if I started to put 2 and 2 together or if someone in the Medsker clan gently broke the news that Casey's party was the week before. Regardless, I turned ever shade of red and was adamant about leaving the Medsker's to celebrate without an uninvited guest. They would have none of it. Their hospitality was wonderful and made me feel as unawkward as possible in this awkward moment. And so I find myself at Jess's house again, in a rather awkward turn of events and yet she has welcomed me into her home with graciousness.

This is just one of the many instances during the past 8 months where the Lord has provided for me just when I needed it. Whether it was crashing at Gorka's home in Pamplona, hitching a ride through the Negev Desert with Elan or finding a great traveling companion in Dan, I've continually been amazed at how His presence has constantly been with me.

And so this is one thing this journey has taught me. The Lord did an amazing work when he created humanity. None are perfect. But there is so much good. And my prayer is that each of these people, including myself, would come to know the fullness of life that exists in faith in their Creator. No man is an island. We need one another. The Lord knew this when I set out on this journey. And we need a Savior. He knew this from the beginning.

"I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly" - Jesus


Post Script

I find a seat at Gate 10, waiting for my flight to Dallas. I gingerly prop my foot up on the seat next to me. Carlos looks down at my bare toes peaking out from my foot casted in an ACE bandage. He asked what happened. "Did you fall?" I answer, "bailando". Dancing. He laughs and says in heavily accented English: "Ganam Style?" I knew what he meant and couldn't help but laugh.

Carlos left Guatemala at age 18 with a few amigos to see NOLA. They're short visit to see the French Quarter turned into a career in the US military starting with service in Vietnam. He was flying back to Dallas to see his daughter graduate from UT Arlington. "My daughter says she is studying something called criminology. Whatever that is."

I'm the first to board the plane, taking advantage of the offer of boarding early for anyone needing extra time. I have the aisle seat. Alice takes the window with a seat in between us. Perfect for elevating my foot, albeit with my foot almost in her lap. She starts to speak to me in Spanish, asking what happened. I respond in English as her white hair and accented Spanish gave her away. I gave her the short story.

Alice tells me she is a Bible translator. I ask if she was with Wycliffe, the only Bible translator I know of. She responds with surprise, "cinquenta y cinco años." 55 years. Alice has been coming to Guatemala since 1963. As we were taxi-ing down the runway, she looks away from the window to tell me "I may never come back." Her voice catches. "I love this country." Tears well up in my eyes. Oh sweet Alice, I can't imagine how you and your late-husband have blessed so many.

Alice blessed me in the short time we chatted before take off. She said "You love The Lord, don't you?"
"Yes, ma'am!"
"We will pray for complete healing of your foot. So you can dance again."

Then she tells me she is reminded of an old hymn. "These clouds use so much dread, shall break with blessings on your head."

As we take off, she reaches over and grabs my hand. I've seen couples do this on flights before. I imagined this was a habit between she and her husband. I was glad to stand in for him. As we reach the clouds, she gently lets go of my hand as she continues to soak in her last views of Guatemala.

After we reach cruising altitude, Alice reaches down to get her journal from her bag. She leans over and tells me, "As I was looking at your toes I was praying for you."
I tell her "I'm sorry you have to look at them for the next two hours."
She says "Oh no, they are precious toes."
"My mom would say the same thing."



Alice told me I was crazy for taking this picture as we were waiting to be wheeled into passport control.

---

Merica! Dallas. Lunch at Chilli's. Hobble to the gate. Who do I see? Laurel Ivaska. We both look at each other with looks of "Is that who I think it is?" It is! Laurel graduated a few years ahead of me from Richwoods. We knew each other from cross country and Bradley basketball camp days. She's also been a faithful blog follower and a source of encouragement throughout this year. It was fun to catch up for a few minutes at the gate. Cool chick.

The world has become much smaller.

And my favorite small person in the world was at the airport to greet me. Huddy!

  

Blessed to be home!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

"No pasa nada"

I've come to love this phrase. It literally means "nothing happened" but it's used more like "no big deal" or "it's ok". I use it quite frequently. Like at the restaurant last night where they charged me for food I didn't buy. I pointed it out to the server. She apologized. I said "no pasa nada."  

But I'm choosing to embrace the "no pasa nada" mentality for the unfortunate string of events that have recently occurred. I'll give you three examples.

1) I just discovered my debit card number AND pin were swiped sometime in the last month. 10 separate transactions worth $1550 were made at various ATMs in Lima, Peru from April 27-30. I left Lima on April 9. But, after 30 minutes on the phone, I'm confident Capital One 360 has my back. I hope. No pasa nada. 

2) My Achilles' tendon is no longer attached to my right foot the way it should be. The extent of the damage is unknown to me at this point and I'm not sure when I will have further knowledge as I consider my medical options at this point.  But I'm guessing I look pretty ridiculous as I attempt to walk judging by stares I get from almost everyone and the occasional suggestion from total strangers that I go see a doctor.  I've taken the first step (no pun intended) by finding a list of orthopedic surgeons recommended by the US Embassy in Guatemala and may consider paying them a visit on Monday to see the extent of the damage. If I wait until I arrive home, I will no longer be covered by my travelers insurance.  Anyone know anything about getting health insurance on the cheap in the States? I hear there is some wildly popular plan in place. 

But that's the boring stuff. You probably want to know how my Achilles' tendon became damaged.  Well, it started back in 1994. My family went on a cruise to celebrate my mom's 40th birthday, a gift from my Grandma B & Pa. I spent much of the time with the "teen club" which included nightly visits to the disco. It was there that Melanie Paffinger from 3 Lady Slipper Lane (we were pen pals for a few months - hence the memorable address being engraved on memory) taught me this super sweet dance move. I can't really describe it to you and I will never again show it to anyone as the dance move that should have been retired in 1999 resurfaced on April 30, 2014 with tragic results. All I know is that I was confident that someone kicked me as hard as they could, right in my Achilles. I tried to play it cool in the middle of the disco (which happened to be in a cave), but that lasted all of 30 seconds as I could barely stand. Since then, I've come to believe that no one kicked me, it was just the sensation of my Achilles snapping (or tearing in an effort to be more optimistic).  I paid a visit to webmd.com and have done my best to carry out the RICE method of tending to injuries. Rest has happened on long bus rides and flights.  Ice is a little hard to come by in some parts of the developing world. A tank top has sufficed for Compression. And I'm Elevating the foot as we speak... as the swelling has come to its worst on day 3.  All I know is that 3 weeks from today I will be wearing some sweet cowboy boots for my brother's wedding and that is non-negotiable. Well, as long as my foot agrees. No pasa nada. 

3) Let's just say I have some passport issues.  These issues require that I visit the US Embassy in Guatemala City on Monday to apply for a replacement passport.  Looks like Monday is going to be a busy day. No pasa nada. 

And truly, maybe sabbatical has caught up to me, as each of these events could be seen as rather significant inconveniences. But somehow, the peace that surpasses all understanding is upon me at the moment. I'll embrace that too.