Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where I've Been

I'm up to 40 states!

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And 6 countries.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Now that school is in full swing, I'm not doing much traveling. I'm not allowed to talk about work so that takes away all my fun stories. Here are my upcoming travel plans:

Thanksgiving - NY to see the fam. Very excited about the stuffed mushrooms.

Christmas - Obviously, NY with the fam. Still working on final details. Waiting to see what life holds for Janelle. I work until the 22nd so I won't be with my family for too many pre-Christmas festivities.

Spring Break - My friend Mary and I are hoping to visit the Baja mission. She was very interested in my Peru trip and would love to go somewhere overseas to work with special needs kids. Of course, I already know the perfect place! We are just waiting for the final ok from the mission. It should be really fun. I never realize how much I miss that place until I start making plans to go back.

June Break - Anna and I want to go somewhere fun and warm. It would take a lot to top our Costa Rica trip. Any suggestions?

August Break - Most likely in NY. I'm sure there will be some "camping" involved. I think Mom and I should go while the boys are at camp. Sounds pretty relaxing to me!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Some recognition...

Check out what Elim is doing in Peru and around the world. Pretty cool to be recognized by a huge organization like Food for the Hungry. Too bad all the pictures are from last year's trip.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 4 - Family Festival - Saturday

Saturday was the Family Festival in Los Cipreses. Basically, it was a fun way for us to spend time with the community and a good way to bring them together as a group and with the FH staff.

The morning involved some crazy, crazy games. The games themselves were crazy enough and the fact that we played them on the side of a cliff made us all a little nervous. I'm pretty sure every game we played has been banned in US gym classes---dodge ball, poison, potato sack races. Poison was especially painful. It involved putting a rope in a circle in the middle and everyone holding hands around it. You pulled each other until someone lost their grip and broke the chain or stepped into the circle in the center. I ended up being one of the last ones in there which meant I was being pulled in multiple directions by the men on our team. Needless to say, my shoulders and arms were very sore the next day.

Somehow, I got all the pre-teen boys on my team. They were a bunch of little cheaters but they seemed to enjoy themselves. This picture shows them declaring they won the relay race when at least 2 more boys still had to go. Oh, well.

After some organized games, we broke into 3 groups: crafts, volleyball, and soccer. Jenna wanted to play volleyball so I volunteered to run around and take pictures. Little did I know, the soccer field was on the other side of the mountain. It was fun to watch them play soccer. One side was a rock wall and the other side was a cliff. Yoda was never the one to kick it over the cliff but he was always the first one to run down and get the ball. The kids were pretty good at keeping the ball on the side of the mountain.

After lunch, some clowns came to put on a show. They were actually pretty good and the kids loved it. They were definitely into audience participation---both from the kids and from our team. Six members of the team were chosen to dress up like chickens and dance for one of the skits. I'm still thankful I was not one of the ones chosen!

After the clowns, we had a chance to sit down and talk with the leader-mothers from the community. I shared a little bit about my family experience and how I feel that acceptance by the family, church, and community is the most important thing you can offer the family of a child with special needs. We then facilitate a conversation with the mothers about what they can do to help the families in their community that feel so isolated because of their special children. It was a great conversation and I really think they understood how they can reach out to these families without needing a lot of training or experience or money.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 3 - Home Visits - Friday

On Friday, Jenna, Michelle and I established a new morning routine---conducting our morning meeting while walking to and from Starbucks. Our hotel was definitely in a very Americanized part of Lima: Starbucks, Fridays, McDonalds, Chilis---all right around the corner.

Friday morning we conducted home visits with leader-mothers and their families in the community. At first, I really didn't understand the point of these meetings but we found the same things with these families as we did with the others we visited: they all had stories and they loved sharing their lives with us.
My team, once again, hiked all the way up the hill. We visited Elva, her son Mikiar, and daughter Grace. Elva shared her sewing business with us. She also shared about her hometown in the hills. She was definitely proud of her heritage. Elva is also quite the matchmaker. She asked each of us if we were married, how many kids we have, etc. I am set to marry her 33-year-old brother. I just have to come
back in October for her son's baptism so I can meet him. Apparently, he also sews. She also asked me to bring my 18-year-old brother with me so he can marry her sister. I think she might end up being pretty disappointed in that situation. Kyle was instructed to take her 3-year-old son back to the States with him since he only has two daughters. I think she really loves her family but is looking for a better life for them than she has. At the end of our time, she invited us to have lunch with her family on Tuesday. She would prepare a traditional meal from the highlands. Of course, we had to accept but looked forward to that meal with anticipation and dread.

After our visits, we stopped by the preschool in the community. The teacher shared with us what her day looks like. The kids were adorable, of course.

We then headed off to an amazing lasgana lunch at the FH offices. Yum! We had about 20 extra minutes to kill. So, in true Janelle fashion, I introduced the team to High/Low. It was good to sit and think about the good moments, the rough ones, and the funny ones.

The FH staff used our visit to have a conversation with the community about family violence. (This is their current focus.) Before they started, the Kooyenga family was able to share a little bit about their story and their two sons, both of whom graduated from Elim. Kathy said that, eventually, she learned that she didn't need to try to fix her sons, she just needed to teach them about Jesus. God would fix them when they got to heaven. What an amazing perspective! To end their time, we sang Alabare--our one attempt to sing in Spanish.

During the majority of the workshop, we were able to visit more families of children with disabilities. I was thrilled to learn that I would get to visit Yoda. (We thought his name was Jordan for a while but finally saw it written out in his school notebook.) His mother is a hard-working woman who loves her son but struggles with what his future holds. Yoda has technically aged-out of the school system at 15. He was still in 3rd grade and the school did not welcome him back this year. I was able to chat with the mom about what the future could hold for Yoda. While school is not really an option for him at this point, I encouraged her to help him find a purpose in life: whether it be helping her at work, running water up and down the hill for people, assisting the FH staff. He needs to find something that he enjoys doing and something that keeps him out of trouble.

For dinner, we were able to take the 5 families from the community that had children with disabilities out to dinner. It was a special time for everyone involved. It was a HUGE treat for these kids. Yoda's little sister announced this was the best restaurant in the whole world. (It was a chicken place a little nicer than KFC.) I think it was also really nice for the families to realize that they are not alone. I think most of them knew the other families existed but they
didn't seem to really know each other. I was especially excited to see Ashley's family there. They had been at doctor's appointments all day but still made an effort to make it. I think that just shows how desperate they are for community. We all had tons of fun eating, chatting, hanging out, and taking lots of pictures.

One of my favorite moments was when dinner ended. Everyone at the table asked for a plastic bag. They each took all their bones, leftovers, salads, etc and put them in the back. There was not an ounce of food or scraps left on the table. The bones went to their dogs. (Dogs chocking on chicken bones must be an American myth because they have tons of dogs that seem to be surviving just fine.) The salads to their pigs. They didn't waste anything. Definitely something we Americans could learn from them.

Once again, we came arrived back at the hotel rubbing our eyes and ready for bed. I think it's safe to say that Friday was a highlight for a lot of the team.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Some info on our team

I should probably mention at some point all the amazing people that traveled with us each day:
We had our team of 13 from Elim. Our group included two recent Alumni with their parents, a client from adult services, and people from pretty much every other aspect of Elim - teacher, parapro, advancement, adult services, Bethshan, volunteer, spouse.

We also had a missionary from Nicaragua who works with children with special needs. Michelle was a huge asset to our team.

We always had three translators with us. Jordan (on the left) and Abel (on the right) were always with us. The third position was shared by a couple of different people. These guys did a great job jumping in to conversations and helping people build relationships. It seemed like just when someone would need help, one of them would appear. (I really didn't get to spend much time with them but I was really impressed with what I saw and heard.)

The final member of our team was Pilar. She is the groups coordinator for FH but she's so much more! She has her own amazing story of living with a family member with disabilities. This was a major asset to our mission since she definitely understood our purpose and was able to help us advocate for these children. She was a hostess, tour-guide, translator, encourager, nurse, toilet-paper supplier, advocate, singer, and anything else we needed. Pilar also allowed us to meet two of her amazing children. I wonder if they know how they lucky they are to have her as a mother.

We always had our wonderful driver, Roni and were always joined by several FH staff when we were in Los Cipreses.

It's interesting that one of my biggest concerns going into the trip was that I didn't know anyone. That very quickly became a non-issue. I wouldn't trade any member of the team for someone I had already known.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 2 - Welcome to Los Cipreses, Lima, Peru - Thursday

Thursday (Day 2) started off with a late breakfast and some get-to-know-you-games. If you know me at all, you know that I HATE things like this. Sadly, I seemed to be the only one that hated them. Ugh! Not my idea of a good time but they did break the ice a little bit so I guess they served their purpose.

After our games, we met with the head of FH in Peru and the head of FH in Lima. They welcomed us and told us a little bit about their mission. We then headed out to Los Cipreses to a welcome ceremony in the community. (We must have had lunch but I have no idea where we ate or what.)

Los Cipreses is a small community in San Juan de Lurigancho. There are approximately 1 million people in this region in Lima. It's one of the largest urban neighborhoods in the world. It was formed when people fled out of the highlands during guerrilla warfare there in the 1980s. People moved in so quickly that there wasn't time to plan or construct an infrastructure. People just built "houses" where ever they could find a spot. Most of the people lack running water and basic necessities in these areas.

When we arrived in the community, the kids swarmed the van. I was prepared for a mass-chaos situation like we usually faced in the work camps in Baja. I was shocked when the kids just wanted to welcome us. We each got hugged and kissed as we got off the bus. Not once during the week did anyone ask me for something or try to get into my pockets. They were just excited that we came to visit. They wanted nothing from us but some time and attention---and to take about a billion pictures.

At the welcome ceremony, the preschoolers did a dance for us. Of course, after a few minutes, they started pulling members of our team into the dance. We were all trying to get out of our comfort zones and enjoy ourselves when we noticed the words of the song. It was all about being drunk! This definitely got us laughing.

After the preschoolers, Johan and his sister did a traditional Peruvian dance. This was, of course, a highlight for me. I fell in love with him instantly. (He reminded me so much of my Angelito in Mexico.) His sister never wavered or lost the beat---no matter how silly her little brother got. She was obviously proud of him.

After the ceremony, 4 of us and a translator went to visit a family with a child with special needs. I asked our team leader as we were leaving what the point of the meeting was. She told me to visit with the family and hear their story. That didn't sound like much of an agenda to me but we set off up, up, up the hill. (This is the nice part of the path. It was a bit treacherous!)

At the top of the hill, we met a beautiful young family with a 5-year-old daughter with special needs. You can read Jenna's version of the story here. Ashley is a beautiful little girl with limited speech but tons of personality. Her parents continue to visit doctor after doctor to get a diagnosis for their precious child. When we first arrived, they were very quiet but after a few minutes, they opened up and told us their story. We sat with them for 2 hours while they went through details of therapies, doctors, schools, and family rejection. They told us how they feel awkward and unaccepted in the community. I began to realize why we were there. We were there to listen. I'm pretty sure this was one of the first (if not the first) time someone had sat and listened to their entire story. (After all, how often do people sit and listen to someone talk for 2 hours.)

At the end of the conversation, I was able to encourage them from a professional and personal viewpoint. They are doing a lot of things well. They both love their daughter and they love each other. They are searching for the best schools, therapies, and doctors they can afford. They are working together to help their daughter be independent and working with their families to encourage acceptance of Ashley. We ended the night by inviting them to go to dinner with our team and with some other families from the community who have children with disabilities on Friday night. I thought it would be really important for them to see that they were not alone. Ashley had doctor's appointments on Friday so they weren't sure if they would make it or not.

By the time we made the hike down the hillside in the dark, we were all ready to head back to the hotel. We stopped for a light dinner at a local restaurant and then, once again, crawled off to our beds and collapsed from another long day.

Day 1 - Travel Day - Wednesday

I've decided to blog my Peru trip by days. I don't want to miss anything. Even if no one else reads it, it will be a good way for me to remember the trip in the future.

In all honesty, I wasn't that excited about the trip. I've done TONS of traveling this summer and I was (and still am) exhausted. The thought of going on another trip with a really long flight was not appealing to me. I had missed the last team meeting and just felt really unprepared for the trip. Also, I didn't really know anyone on the team. Our team meetings had been pretty quiet and a little bit awkward. It seemed like a really random group of people to me and I wasn't sure if I would really connect with any of them. The morning of the trip, I was really nervous and wondered what would happen if I just didn't show up.

We met at Elim at 7:45am to load the van and change into our matching shirts. After all, it wouldn't be a short-term missions trip without matching shirts! (I guess that's what I get for laughing at all the other matching-shirt-groups I had seen in the airport all summer.) We said a prayer and headed out. It was pretty quiet in the bus and I continued to be super-nervous.

Everything went smoothly at O'Hare and we were soon on our way to Houston. In Houston, we found out that the man from Food for the Hungry that was going to accompany us had a family emergency and had to back out. This concerned Jenna a little bit but didn't seem to affect the trip from my experience.

From Houston, we boarded a 6 1/2 hour flight to Lima, Peru. The plane was huge! I had no idea so many people flew to Lima. We all got to know each other a little bit better during the flight. (Sitting so close to each other for so long has that effect!) By the time we landed in Lima, it was 10:30pm. We cleared immigration and customs and were exhausted by the time we met up with Pilar. (She is the groups coordinator for FH and an amazing woman.)

We piled into our bus and met our driver--Roni. We learned a lot that night about driving in Peru. It involves a lot of near-death experiences and very few rules. Stop signs are optional and the first person to honk gets the right-of-way. We only saw one accident during the week so it seems to work for them. I will say that they all have an amazing knowledge of the dimensions of their vehicles. They routinely come within inches of each other but very few cars showed signs of being hit or side swiped. It was pretty crazy!

By the time we got to our guesthouse (kind of like a bed and breakfast), we gladly took the rooms assigned to us and fell into bed. Traveling is exhausting!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Follow My Peru Trip

Here are a couple of websites where you can follow my Peru trip. I won't be writing on either of them but someone is supposed to be!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ohhhhh...Amtrak.....Such a good idea in theory.....

Every few years I eat Taco Bell because I somehow think that its effects are not as bad as I remember them being. I am quickly reminded why I don't eat Taco Bell. Amtrak seems to have the same effect on me. I think it's a good idea. You go to sleep in Chicago and wake up in Buffalo. What could be better than traveling with little effort, little money, and no day lost to travel time? Then I remember the truth. Here are some highlights/lowlights from my recent Amtrak experience.

1. The schedule put out by Amtrak is merely a rough estimate of when they may think about arriving or departing. You should in no way make plans around this schedule. It's usually a good 2-3 hours off.

2. Train personnel are not responsible for informing you of stops, delays, or changes in plans. You are just supposed to guess when your ride should be ready for you. (Thank goodness for my Blackberry!)

3. No matter how many footrests they put on those seats, they are not comfortable. You will not get any actual sleep. However, the guy across the aisle from you that snores like a banshee will get a solid 8 hours.

4. Since you will inevitably be stuck in the train station for endless hours in the middle of the night, you should try to do so with a 100-member gospel choir. Their antics, songs, and dances will keep you well entertained until the train shows up at 2AM! Have you ever seen 30 people dancing the Cupid Slide in a train station? I have.

5. 1 usable bathroom is more than enough for 2 train cars full of people. And, you should know which ones are broken and which ones are actually in use. It's definitely not the responsibility of anyone who works for the train to tell you or put up a sign.

6. If you have a really good book, your seat-mate will talk for hours on end. This will cause you to be grateful for the 2 hours after he gets off the train when you can read in peace.

7. Weird people take the train.

8. There are so many different takes on the proper attire for an overnight train ride. I am of the running pants/sweatshirt camp. It's overnight--why wouldn't you want to be comfy? There are also people that believe in wearing your Sunday best. Some are dressed for a night at the club. Others go all out with pajamas and face masks.

9. There is no set temperature on the train. Our train car fluctuated between 60 and 85 every 5 minutes or so. I think it's too keep you busy putting on and off layers so you forget to look at your watch to see how late the train is.

10. The one think Amtrak does really well is outlets---two for every seat! Brilliant since I killed my phone battery checking to see what time the train was going to actually arrive....

Next Trip: Peru with a team from work. I'm sure this will be good for some stories.

Someday, when I'm home for more than 48 hours. I'll blog about some of the fun stuff I did the last two weeks in WNY.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Baja Trip - Part 2

The second part of my Baja trip turned out nothing like I had planned but was still great. My main reason for going was to visit Angel and Martin - the two little boys that I worked with for the 8 months I lived there. When asked to describe it, I use words like bitter-sweet, great, boring, fun, healing, exciting, nice. You get the idea---lots of conflicting emotions.

This half of my trip started when I was dropped off at the bus station in Ensenada. The staff member from Genesis Diez wanted to wait with me for the bus to come but I assured her that I had taken the bus dozens of times and that I would be fine. I got there about 11:45, having just missed the 11:30 bus. I bought a ticket for the 1:00 bus. About 12:30, I went outside to wait for the bus. At 1, it still hadn't shown up. I asked and was told that it hadn't arrived yet. I asked again at 1:15, 1:30 and 1:45 and got the same response--not here yet. About 2:15, the 2:30 bus showed up. I asked the guy in a very American accent if he was going to Vicente Guerrero. He said that he was but tried to explain to me that this was not the bus that I had purchased a ticket for. The number on the bus and the number on my ticket didn't match up. I knew this, of course, but I pretended not to understand his Spanish at all. I finally smiled at him and just got on the bus. He was so flustered with me at that point, he let it slide. There was no way I was going to continue to wait for a bus that was apparently never going to come.

The walk from the bus station in VG to the mission is a mile down a dirt road. While I have taken the bus countless times, I have never made that entire walk. Someone always picks me up and this time was no exception. I was certainly glad to see Sean and Cristin at the corner--especially since Sean was the one that had arranged a trailer for me to stay in.

Saturday night I hung out with Kevin and Dan and got some yummy Quesatacos---something that you can't find in Chicago or Oaxaca.

Sunday I went to English church. After the service, Dirk and Mary took the visitors over to the new day home to see the amazing new building.
Sometimes, it seems like just yesterday that we were making a wish-list of things on the frig that we wanted in the new building someday. I loved seeing the new building but was saddened to learn that Dirk and Mary were leaving for a much-needed vacation that afternoon and that the program would be closed for the week.
I hung around after the rest of the group and had a really good conversation with Dirk and Mary. It was a very healing time for me and just, once again, confirmed to me that I am right where God wants me to be. My time in Mexico was for a purpose but it was also for a finite time. It's taken me a while to really get that truth. (Sometimes, I'm a little dense.)

After visiting with Dirk and Mary, I got the chance to catch up with my dear friend Sharon who happened to be visiting at the same time. I was thrilled when I learned she was going to be there.

Monday I got the chance to work in the clinic with a group of Eye Doctors that was there. I spent most of the day translating in the reading glasses room (while carrying around Kate--Cheryl's beautiful baby). It was a pretty simple job but I enjoyed it. I loved that almost everyone we talked to wanted (better) reading glasses so they could read their Bibles!
I floated to a few other areas when things got slow in the afternoon. I watched a bit of an eye surgery and did some consultations with one of the eye doctors. It was exciting to tell some of the people that their eyes were going to be fixed with surgery but very discouraging that a lot of people were beyond help. The dirt in Baja is very rough on the eyes. I was glad that there were better translators than I that had to deliver the really hard news to people.

After 9 hours in the clinic, I went out with Dan to visit some kids. On the way back from seeing "his" kids, we stopped to see Lupita. I can't believe how big she has gotten. I think I'll always get a little bit chocked up when I see her walking without her walker. I actually heard her coming but assumed it wasn't here since the person was running. How far she has come in 5 years! While I didn't get to see most of the kids I wanted to, her huge hug made the long bus ride all worth it!

A piece of my heart will always belong in Baja but I'm excited to see where I'll leave my next piece.

Next Trip: Amtrak through the night tonight to Buffalo, NY. Oh, boy!

Saturday, July 30, 2011


This is the only other picture I took on the first half of my trip. I mainly took it because the two people I was with were so grossed out by it. Apparently, they've never seen a pig in real life before. Seemed like a great use of the leftover camp food to me!

Baja Trip - Part 1

Last weekend, I flew to San Diego with two coworkers to check out some organizations in Baja California, Mexico that are hoping to open some orphanages for special needs kids in the fall. This was my first trip like this with work so I had no expectations whatsoever. It turned out to be a pretty cool trip.

The two coworkers that I went with were pretty nervous to go into Mexico. I kept assuring them we would be fine. Their nervousness was what allowed me to go on the trip---I went as the official Baja expert and Spanish-speaker. We were supposed to be driven into Mexico by someone from California but he backed out at the last minute so we rented a car. I assured them there was really only one turn and as long as you didn't miss it, you couldn't get lost. Well, we missed it and took a little tour of Tijuana. I thought maybe they should conquer their fears early.

Our main contact was at Genesis Diez ( Their main ministry is a summer camp for kids from orphanages in Tijuana and Ensenada called Rancho Genesis. We were told that there are 98 orphanages in Baja California Norte. Most of these children are placed by social services and are not true orphans. We got to be at the camp for their Friday Night Bonfire. It was really special to share that moment with the campers and with the work group that had come down.

In the fall, Genesis Diaz is hoping to open a 6-bed home for children with special needs. Kim and I stayed in the home that isn't quite finished yet. (It was interesting to shower with no shower curtain in a bathroom with a door that doesn't close.) We were able to meet two of the kids that will be a part of the home. (I really wish I had taken more pictures but everyone else was taking so many. I didn't want to look like the paparazzi.)

On Saturday, we met with two other groups of people that are starting group homes for kids with special needs. One in Rosarito called Catherine's home and the other in Ensenada on the property of the Calvary Bible Chapel Bible Institute. (Sadly, I can't remember the name of the home. Both groups have great visions that will really help the children of this area. I'm really excited to see this partnership develop and to see these dreams come to fruition.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Here is a blog I tried to post from my phone on Friday. Guess it didn't work. (More to come later....when I fully wake up.)

When working with kids with special needs in Mexico, it's always hard to get a hold of diapers. So, when my mom mentioned that she was getting diapers that don't fit my brother, I gladly offered to take some off her hands. Each of the three people on the trip are checking a box of diapers along with their luggage. (Got ta love 2 free bags on Southwest!)

When I was checking in, the lady asked what was in the bag. I confidently told her diapers. She lowered her voice greatly and told me she was really sorry. She must have thought they were mine and that I had just revealed my deepest, darkest secret! I quickly explained that I was going to Mexico to work with kids with special needs. This elicited all the comments that I hated about what a wonderful person I must be. Nope. Just love my job!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Leaving Again Tomorrow

It's hard to believe but I'm headed back to Mexico early tomorrow morning. I work for a Christian, special education school that is starting to get into international missions. They were looking to send a couple of people to Ensenada, Baja, Mexico to check out four small programs that are working with children with special needs in the area. The goal of the trip is to see what the school can do to support these ministries and how the school can help these ministries work together and support themselves.

When the "powers that be" found out that I used to live in Baja, that I speak Spanish, and that I was familiar with one of the ministries involved, they asked if I'd like to go along. I never say no to a trip--especially one that comes with free airfare--so I quickly agreed to go. I changed my ticket to return a few days after the rest of the group so I can go to Vicente Guerrero to visit friends and the children I used to work with. There was no way I was going all the way to Ensenada and not to the mission!

I'm excited to see these ministries and to see what God is doing in Maneadero. I'm also super-excited to see these two adorable little boys again.

The trip should be pretty interesting. The people I am traveling with are very nervous about going to Mexico and even more nervous about leaving me alone in such a scary place! They hate the idea of me taking the bus to VG by myself. Maybe I'll wait until I get back to tell them all my travel stories.....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Week in Oaxaca

I had a 2 1/2 week gap in my summer that I had planned on filling with a trip to Oaxaca. I looked for tickets multiple times a day, every day, for months. The prices wouldn't budge and they were just too far out of my budget to be seriously considered. Last Thursday, I found a great price on a last minute ticket so I packed up and headed to Oaxaca late Monday night/early Tuesday morning.

My time in Oaxaca is generally pretty relaxing. I get to spend time with my sister and some of my favorite people from my time in Baja. Since my last visit, several new little baby boys have been added to the group. I spent a lot of time with each of them and with their amazing mothers. It was fun to both catch up with them and to relieve them of their adorable babies for a while so they could get their other jobs done.

The weather was not ideal. It poured every single day that I was there. (I definitely did not come back from Mexico tan!) Every morning and evening, I walked from the visitor center to the main part of the mission. It was always a little tricky to decide what the best path through all the mud was.
I brought so much mud back on my shoes I thought I should probably declare it at customs.

I am continually amazed at how quickly Celina is growing up. She's come so far since she was brought to the mission as a sickly baby. She has the best Spanglish I've ever heard. She can constantly be heard saying things like "Voy a teach him" or "Solo mi mama puede reach it" She defaults to Spanish until she doesn't know the word and then switches to English. I also love when she translates for herself. She was carrying a milk carton and told me: "Natalie, pesa mucho." I just looked at her because I didn't believe the little milk box was heavy. She then said "Is heavy." She will do the same thing if she asks you a question and you say no. She'll translate it to English hoping you didn't understand.
Celina: "Tia, miramos una peli?"
Janelle: "No. It's late."
Celina: "A movie, Tia!"

I had some minor issues with traveling:
*The security guy in Mexico took my contact solution because it was 105 ml and you are only allowed 100. Ugh! That stuff is expensive.
*I had some major delays in Atlanta yesterday but that's almost routine with me. At least they gave us food vouchers.
*I got sent to secondary inspection while going through Customs in Mexico City. The lady there mocked me for bringing coffee into a country known for its coffee.
*The Immigration guy in Atlanta asked me several times what I had purchased in Mexico. Apparently, he didn't believe me when I said absolutely nothing.

Next Trip: Baja!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Post coming tomorrow. All about Delta and their eternal delays.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I wonder if I could travel without packing....

I am surprisingly bad at packing. You would think I'd be good at it. I do it all the time. I'm not and I hate it. I've gotten better at packing my carry-on. I used to bring more things than I could possibly do in a flight. 3 or 4 books; magazines; ipod; snacks; portable dvd player; movies; work stuff---and whatever else I could fit in there. I now bring an ipod; 1 new book; 1 snack. My suitcase is another story.

Last June, Anna and I went to Costa Rica for 8 days. We knew that we would be bussing it and staying in hostels so we wanted to pack light. Plus, we had to be able to carry our backpacks. I packed a little better than Anna. (She somehow neglected to bring enough underwear.) We had both decided that we would only need one pair of jeans since we were going to a tropical country. We didn't realize that it would be cold and wet each night and we would need those jeans. We also needed them for zip-lining and horseback riding. Because it rained every night, EVERYTHING we owned was damp and would never dry. After the horseback riding day, the jeans were pretty rank and we paid dearly to do a load of laundry.

Even after the load of laundry, our luggage still stunk. I felt bad for the lady that had to search our bags at customs---and the friend that picked us up at the airport.

This trip was followed closely by a trip to Baja, Mexico for a wedding. We thought we knew how to pack for Baja. After all, we had both lived there. We know how hot it gets in July---except that this time it wasn't hot--at all. We froze. We both took cute little summer dresses to wear to the outdoor wedding. Then, we put hoodies over top of them until someone wanted to take a picture. We would peel off our layers, smile for the camera through our chattering teeth, and quickly re-layer. Packing failure strikes again.

My most recent packing failure involved my last trip to Oaxaca to visit my sister over spring break. She and I were spending a few days at a resort before going to the children's home where she lives. I had never been to a resort. (I travel a lot; I don't vacation.) I had no idea what to pack. I did know that I would need different clothes for both parts of the trip. I ended up WAY over packing. I didn't realize how much I had over packed until the airline lost my bag for 8 days. I had a multi-page list of items that were in that bag. I pretty much needed a whole new summer wardrobe. Thankfully, the bag was recovered after being declared hopelessly lost.

Maybe I should stop blogging and start packing....

Saturday, July 9, 2011


The problem with traveling as much as I do is that I leave a piece of my heart everywhere I go. A huge part of me will also be in Vicente Guerrero, Mexico. The mission had a huge part in my life for almost 5 years. The amazing people I worked with and the wonderful children I got to serve will be in my heart forever.

Today, I mourn the loss of Javier. He was one of the first "students" in the day home and I'm sure the first one of the kids to introduce himself to me when I started working in there. Javier was probably the most genuine person I've ever met. He truly understood faith and love in a way that was amazing to watch.

By our standards, Javier had a very rough life. His family was poor. He and his brother both had Muscular Dystrophy. His mom wasn't around. The only time he ever left his house was to come to the program 4 days a week. Despite all the odds being stacked against him, Javier was one of the happiest people I've ever met. He got genuinely excited each day when he saw his friends--and everyone was his friend. He loved to talk about God and loved to sing praise songs. He had an amazing faith that was and is an example to us all.

Javier joins Katy and Krzysztof in heaven and in a special place in my heart. The losses never get easier but I have learned from each of these amazing young adults. May they never be forgotten.

Javier refused to say "goodbye" to anyone. You were only allowed to say "Hasta Luego" because he knew we would always meet again.

Take Two...or Maybe Three?

I used to be really good about blogging. Then I went through a major life change and didn't feel like sharing my thoughts or ideas with people for a while. When I got over that, I moved the operation over here and blogged a few times about my crazy job. Well, now I'm not allowed to mention that crazy job ANYWHERE. EVER.

So, I'm going to try and start again. The current plan is to blog about my crazy travel experiences. I read a book recently about bad travel experiences and most of them didn't stack up to some of my stories. My crazy summer travels start Monday night/Tuesday morning. Yep, that's right. Once again, I fell for the awful flight because it was a little bit cheaper. Who gets on a plane at 1 in the morning???

Stay tuned.....