January 31, 2005

So long 2004

Since I am already a month into the New Year, I figure now is as good of a time as any to recap last year. I correctly predicted that 2004 was going to be a big year for me. It wasn’t that hard of a prediction to make. The huge life changes that were inevitable and inherent with the whole college graduation thing made it easy guess work.

I am not disappointed in 2004. It was a good year. I am maybe a little disappointed in who I was during that year, but it’s not 2004’s fault. I look back on some of the decisions I made, some of the things I said, some of the things I didn’t say, some of the stuff I did, and a lot of the stuff that I didn’t do…and it makes me wish I had a do-over. But that isn’t an option this side of the movie screen, so there isn’t much I can do about it except tuck it under my belt as experience gained and try to learn from it.

I just know that some things happened like I thought they would and other things completely threw me for a loop. Sitting on the couch last year, whining about my surgery and itchy casts and crutches, I would have never guessed that a year later, I’d be ringing in the New Year with all my college friends, minus one (which is definitely a failure of 2004), in an apartment in Louisville. I would have never of guessed that it would have happened while I was on a vacation from my life as a youth intern at a church in Guatemala. I would have never of guessed that I would still have no idea where my life was going. I certainly would have never of guessed that I was rethinking entering into the ministry full-time. In fact, I am pretty sure the whole scenario was completely beyond my comprehension.

In a way, I find that comforting given my current mindset. I keep trying to figure out where 2005 is going to take me, and every scenario that I can imagine seems far-fetched or upsettingly boring. So, the fact that my current life was beyond imagination a year ago somehow gives me hope for the future.

This all sounds very despondent, which should not be the theme for last year. Last year’s theme has to be CHANGE. A lot of it certainly happened, so it seems a fitting title.

To begin with, the shape of my right foot changed. Now really, how many people get to write that? It makes me special. It also made for quite a few unplanned trips to the ground during an icy KY winter, but even those were mostly laughable.

My status changed. I can no longer write Student under occupation. When I had to fill out the paperwork for entering Guatemala, I wrote down student under occupado automatically. And then tried to figure out if I should get a new form cause I didn’t want to get caught lying to the government, even if they could care less. (FYI, I left it there. I know. I’m a rebel.) College graduation loomed, happened, and is now in the past.

It doesn’t always feel like it’s in the past. It still kind of feels like I have just been on a really long summer break. But it is over. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion and a minor in church music. I’d like to be able to show you the diploma as proof; however, between the moves from KY to TN to TX, I lost it. I’ve been living out of a suitcase almost since the day I moved out of college, and somewhere among all the shuffling, I lost my college diploma. Not exactly my proudest moment. (I also thought I lost my passport, but I ended up finding it 4 months later in the top of my closet. I then proceeded to clean out my entire closet in hopes of finding the diploma, but no such luck.) I wonder how long they will laugh at me when I finally swallow my pride and call the alumni office at school and ask for another one.

Anyway, back to the theme. My relationships with my college friends changed. No longer can I walk across the living room or up the stairs and be guaranteed listening ears and a kind heart, or a person who will simply watch Pirates of the Caribbean with me and laugh when I do my best “Argghh!” Ah. Good times. Since I pretty much stuck with the same group of friends the entire 4 years, at graduation we all headed off in different directions. At least initially…until they all wussed out and moved to the same two cities! Punks. I’m still holding that it’s important that I move some place different so they can come visit me on vacations. It wouldn’t be terribly exciting to pack for a week across town, now would it? But even someone like me, who needs a large amount of alone time to function, can admit that it is amazing to live so close to such an amazing group of friends. I miss them a lot.

My address changed. No longer do I get to go check my little 4x4 box, praying that Jenny put an orange card in there that morning. I don’t even get to check my mail. It gets couriered over from a PO Box in Miami to the church, where I usually find it laying on my boss’s desk, 2-3 days later.

My family has changed. I lost my first grandparent while I was home for Christmas. I haven’t dealt with this fact and I will continue to stubbornly hold out on dealing with this fact probably for a few more months. I almost had a crack in the wall this past weekend, but I am having a hard time overcoming the anger and guilt I feel about this man and I’m just not ready to let it go yet. I know that is a sin. I know. I know it’s only hurting me and that he is beyond hurt now. But I am not ready yet.

There are a lot of things that have changed over the last 12 months. Those are some of the major ones, but it would take me days to cover all the things that have changed.

I’m sitting here on the couch, overlooking a bright, colorful Guatemalan afternoon, while listening to Josh Kelley sing Home to Me. And I am in awe. In awe of life. In awe of God. In awe of change. In awe of music and the ability it has to reach deep into our souls and move us. In awe of the amazing amount of noise the peacock the neighbors have can make (at ALL hours of the day…just try to wrap your brain around how freaked out I was the first night living here). When I was younger, like most teenagers, I hated change. But now…now, I’m just in awe. 12 months isn’t really that long of a time in the grand scheme of things, but so many things can be packed into it.

I am worrying a lot about my future these days. The decision not to go to grad school this fall becomes final tomorrow. Things like that freak me out. Some days I know to expect the freaking out to happen, but some days, it just jumps out of no where, and before you know it, I am consumed with worry and stress…all over something I can’t really control and something I daily try to give to God. I usually can make it until about 2-3 in the afternoon…but by then, the caffeine has worked it’s magic through my system and I am awake and alert and my brain is really kicking into gear for the day (I never claimed to be a morning person), and I then snatch it back out of God’s very capable hands and try to carry it around for the rest of the day. Makes for a heavy load some days.

The change of the past year is still catching up with me. But this I know for certain: I am sure that wherever I am on December 31st of this year, it won’t be where I expect it to be.


January 26, 2005

Oh, Bother!

An email I just got from my big sister:

Just as an FYI - Josh saw the commercial on TV for the new Winnie the Pooh movie and the FIRST thing he said was "Aunt Tori go with me to see it". (Because we went to see The Polar Express over Christmas) So you need to know that you are expected here on or after February 11th to take him to see it. I tried to tell him you were busy, but he said you had to get the popcorn and his Sprite, so I think he's pretty much expecting you to take him. Think you can swing a trip home for that weekend?? ; )

If only I had wings...

January 25, 2005

Back and Better Than Ever

Coming back wasn't what I thought it was going to be.

I was slightly troubled about coming back, to be honest. I cannot express how wonderful it felt to be in the States for those weeks. To feel safe. To see my family. To see my friends. To have those great, fun conversations. To be Aunt Tori in person, and not just over the phone.

I obviously was reluctant to leave all of that behind.

But being here again, well, it's not so bad.

I really like the family I am living with right now. It's fun to sit down at the dinner table with them and hear about the highs and lows of a kid's life. The girls are a little older than the kids at the last family I stayed with, and it really does make a lot of difference in those dinnertime conversations.

My job is kind of crazy right now, but it's a good crazy. I come in and I work hard and I go home feeling like I've accomplished something. This is in direct contrast to how I was feeling last semester. We are taking the kids on a retreat this weekend, and as soon as I got back, I've been busy with all those details. It was an excellent thing to happen. I was so busy immediately upon my return that I didn't have time to get homesick or spend weeks adjusting back to life here again. I just jumped in with both feet and hit the ground running.

I also started back to Spanish classes at IGA. I had been debating on whether or not to go back, for a couple of reasons. One, I hate getting up early to go. Two, I really didn't have the money in my budget. Three, I spend the majority of my day speaking in English, so it is a struggle for me to keep up with the people in my class who go and practice all day.

But once I got back, I realized just how much Spanish I had already lost in the few weeks I spent in the States. I didn't want to waste this opportunity I have to work on it every day, so I signed back up. It helped that the family I am staying with didn't want to charge me any rent, so I had the cash for classes. It's actually really cheap to study here, but on my budget, even a little extra makes a big difference.

Coming back wasn't what I thought it was going to be.

And that's a good thing.

January 13, 2005

The Shortest Distance Between Two Lines Is...

Day 2 on the journey back to Guatemala. Posted by Hello

It wasn't when I was delayed in Nashville by thunderstorms that I knew. Nor, was it the first time they took us off the plane in Houston. It wasn't even when the pilot came over the intercom to tell us we had two options: back to Houston or ahead to El Salvador. No, it wasn't any of those. It was when instead of getting to stay in the Hilton or the Radisson, I was being shipped off to La Siesta, Hotel and Casino thatI knew for certain that I was in for one long and crazy day.

But I am here, safe and sound and exhausted, in Guatemala, after a 25 hr delay through El Salvador.

Apparently, the air traffic controllers in Guatemala wanted better working conditions, so they went on strike...just as my plane was supposed to take off from Houston. We waited around in IAH for a while, but then they let us get back on because they had been guaranteed landing in GUA. But...of course, that didn't work. This is Guatemala, after all. So we were half way here when they had to decide where to take us: Back to Houston, or on to El Salvador. They opted for El Salvador. So we got in, they assigned us to hotels, and then we waited for about 4 hours for buses and taxis to come and pick us up for the 40 min ride into the city. I got a room at about 4:30, where I took a shower and put back on the clothes I'd worn all day because I didn't have anything with me. I got to sleep about 3 and a half hours before they woke us up for details on the situation. They decided to bus us across the border. It took them about 4 hours to work out the logistics, so we didn't leave the hotel until close to 5. There are many more hilarious details, but I'm skipping them for now. Just know that I had to be the one lucky individual who was last for everything, and every bus was full, and rode around town in the back of a pick-up until they found a bus that had room. And I am not even going to tell you how many Embassy warnings are out about riding on the Road to El Salvador and riding in buses that say Turismo on them. Suffice to say, I prayed the whole 5 hours, while my fellow Americans still traveled in their bubble of American safety.

Anyway, I made it into the airport in Guatemala around 10:15, and I went to my boss's house to crash for the night.

The only thing I have to say really is that I am so glad this didn't happen the first time I was coming to Guatemala. I think I might have curled up in a ball in the Salvador airport and refused to get up. At least I understood enough Spanish to know what was going on, and I managed to be on the same flight as a couple of American tourist groups who were pushy and loud and typically American about things when they don't get what they want...so I was able to get information that I otherwise would have been too meek to ask about.

What an adventure.

January 11, 2005

Heading Back To The Solitude

You know how sometimes 3 weeks seem to go by in like 3 seconds? Like someone hit the fast forward button on life and while you were taking the time to blink, the world sped by?

Well, that's how I expected this break to go, but looking back, it really feels like I've been here for a long time.

People keep asking me if I'm ready to go back, and I keep shrugging my shoulders and hesitating. I don't know if I'm ready. I was really hoping for some clarity while I was home, but I stayed so busy and occupied that I just haven't had time to think about it. My family here was here from the day I got home and stayed for a solid week for Christmas. Then I went to Kentucky to see my wonderful college friends for New Year's. Then I was graced by the presence of my Wisconsin kindred spirits and we went camping. So, I was really hoping this past weekend would give me enough time to process some of what's going on, but it ended up being more quality family time.

Not that I'm complaining about family time, because they are amazing and I am thankful that I had some only-kid-time with my folks.

But I'm wiped out...emotionally and mentally. I need some alone time. I need a LOT of alone time. I guess it will even out. When I was in Guatemala, I was craving family and friends, and now that I've had boost of that, I'm ready for some alone time again.

There are all these things swirling around in my brain, but I'm tired and I still have so many things I need to get done before my flight tomorrow. I know that soon I will have ample time to process all of this, and when I do, I'll be back.

Until then.