Ahh, Summer

Summer has always been a time of growth and learning for me, and this summer had been no exception. Yet, it has felt like less of me learning new things and more of me living what I know. 

For starters, I live with a chronic illness; everyday; and it won't go away (thus the name: chronic). It's a living picture of sin, how it nags, it lives with me. It takes effort to care for it; sometimes I have to take care of myself before I can care for others. Yet I can't take care of it on my own. Some days are easier, some are harder. Some days I'm more healthy than others. Even on those bad days, I know I'm forgiven and it won't ruin my life forever. Yet the long-term choices I make and the way I live day-to-day determines my future health. Quite honestly, I could die any day. But, quite honestly, that would still be true if I were perfectly healthy. My Diabetes is getting more managable, but it's still a big part of my life. 

Another thing I've experienced is community. One community I love is my team (I'm a camp counselor). I've had this week off work, and I can't wait to get back to my team. They truly are a community of Grace. The other community I love resides in our hearts as Operation Neverland. Whenever I'm around these friends, I feel completely free. I wish there were some way I could share that feeling, but words are inadequate. (For a great attempt, read this: http://clairemdb.tumblr.com/post/91075267966/dear-humanity.) I am learning to accept love and give it. Humility isn't about hiding from attention and love or feeling obligated to return it. Humility is truly loving one another. I've been getting tastes of Shalom. 

Speaking of Shalom, I've finally been introduced to Redemption in person, and it's a wonderful experience. I don't know if I'll ever truly understand the significance of that encounter. It's a step on the journey. 

I'm still on my journey to adulthood, and some days I actually feel a little closer. I have a meagre few months left as a 17-year-old, yet I don't necessarily feel closer to figuring out what I'm doing with the rest of my life. I've seen more and more potential possibilities, but not many more actual options. By being treated as an adult and being trusted with responsibility, I've learned who I am and what I want to do with my life, but that whole money thing still confuses me... The idea of living in a commune keeps getting more and more appealing. 

I feel like I've figured out my life a little bit more as I've written this. Shout out to my two faithful readers: thanks for letting me share this with you. I need to share it somehow, and it's all psychological anyhow, right?


Advice and Hobbies

My advice: if you go on a mission trip, two weeks is a good max. Just long enough to enjoy the fun of a foreign country and be able to see the impact you're making for Christ. Much longer and you start to get into a routine and see the ugly side of missions work. My first week in Mexico, I knew it was all fun and games: going out to eat often, touring the big city nearby, etc. I was scared of what the normal routine was, because I knew I'd get to see some uglier stuff. The third week I was there, I said to myself: "If I went home now, I would have all these nice memories, but if I stay longer, who knows what'll happen."

Yes, I did see the other side of mission work--the Devil does all he can to stop the Love of Christ from being shared throughout the world. But the longer I was there, the deeper relationships I grew with the kids and staff. The more I got into the somewhat boring routine, the more I appreciated how God was using the people down there. I was planning on being there for ten weeks, but ended up coming home after six--and my last week was swiss-cheesed by emergency room visits.

If you want to pick up an expensive hobby, I recommend Diabetes. Blood sugar tester, test strips, lancets, insulin, needles, and an emergency supply of sugar. Take the number of doctor visits you currently have, and multiply it by five. Take the number of times per day you give yourself shots and multiply that as well. Now, take the total amount of time you spend preparing food, and multiply that by 10. And even though putting coins in the parking meter only takes ten seconds, you spend the next three hours worrying about when your time runs out.

Now, if you're looking for a cheaper hobby, I recently officially picked up laughter as a hobby. I have always enjoyed laughing, even though I don't like the sound of my own laughter. I figure: when life throws stuff like Diabetes at you, you can either laugh or cry, and laughing hurts less. Now, this is a tricky one, since there are times that crying is a good thing and laughter is just one way I ignore the pain. It's healthy to acknowledge how broken my life is, and mourn that.

I did truly have a wonderful time in Mexico, but it's hard to explain more than that. It was hot and dry. I worked hard. Yes, I learned some Spanish and got really good at converting dollars to pesos. I ate amazing food like fresh tortillas and frijoles and fruit. Yes, I wish I could have stayed much longer. I'm gonna go back someday.


Explanation: Lack of Pictures

I left home a month ago (already!), and I have taken barely any pictures. It was nice to have other team-members around the first week to take pictures for me, but since then...I haven't taken pictures. So now I'd like to explain why that is.

(1) Primarily, I hate being a tourist. I don't want to walk around with my camera like a clueless tourist. Tourism is a pet peeve of mine...
(2) Actually carrying my camera (iPhone 3GS) around isn't practical. Working out in dusty fields, hauling concrete, etc. isn't a great environment for the device. And even when I'm around the main compound, I rarely feel like having my camera on my person. I'd rather enjoy the moment than record it.
(3) Whether recording moments for posterity or to share with friends, pictures (and even video) are woefully inadequate. You truly have to be here to believe it. This is a weak reason, because my photos could whet your appetite to make you want to come experience it here. But in my mind, it's a good enough reason.
(4) Usually, moments I think worth recording with photography are abnormal events: birthdays, vacations, etc. Even in the course of a month, what was once abnormal to me in Mexico has become normal. It's normal to ride in the back to the pickup and nudge cows out of the way with the truck, to make enchiladas and cut avocados, to walk down the road to buy Coke. The only reason I'd share things that used to be abnormal to me is to brag to you, so that doesn't seem worth it to me.
(5) When taking pictures of people and their homes, I'm wary of privacy. I live at a casa hogar, a children's shelter, so I want to be especially careful sharing online about the kids that have come from rough backgrounds. But even aside from that, if a foreigner barged in on your home and started snapping pictures because they thought your U.S. architecture was cool...you may rightly be creeped out.

So here are five reasons I haven't taken many pictures. Actually, let's just call them excuses. Here are my five excuses why I haven't shared many pictures with you. I really am sorry.


Thoughts on Language

Hello again from Mexico! I've been here for two weeks now, and I have much to share. But I've found it very difficult to wrap it up in a package I can send you. I used to think "You had to be there" was just a throw-away phrase, but that's what it's come down to. I like words, how we use them, what they stand for. So it was a bit of a stretch for me to share pictures last week, but that's what I had to do to give you a window into where I am, and prove it's all real. If someone told me they had done all the stuff I've been doing, I'm not sure I would believe them. Part of the natural human instinct in enjoyment is to share, to prove to others that it's real, and language is one of the chief ways we share.


Mexico: Week One

Much has happened in the past week. I can hardly believe it has been only a week. Last Thursday my parents dropped me off in Grand Rapids and I gallivanted all around the city. Saturday, I flew for the first time since I was 3, and stood on foreign soil for the first time (since good ol' Canadia doesn't really count...). The flights went well, and I really enjoyed the experience. Ever since then, I have done so many things, just for the experience. This past week, I have been with a team from Blythefield, but they left early Saturday morning.

The team on our tour of downtown Guadelajara
Last Sunday and this morning, we went to church in Guadelajara, and I picked up so much Spanish just by listening to the sermon. Between what I knew, what I could guess, and what I recignised, I could gather enough to know what he was talking about, but not what he was saying about it. Something about Abraham, and something being the same as something else, and such. As we drove between the big city and the village of Camichines, I read every sign I could see. The "Reductor de velocidad" sign made me chuckle; apparently speed bumps are velocity reducers. It is easier to learn words in context, instead of just memorising their meanings.

Orange juice

During the week, I helped make fresh jugo de naranja (orange juice), ate the best tortillas, and went out for tortas at a food stand in a neighbouring village twice. La comida es muy, muy bueno. So...I've drank a lot of coffee so far, because it is a cultural thing, not because I like it. I also took Communion with real wine for the first time (tasted like vinegar). Frothed chocolate milk with cinnamon and glass bottle Coke are also high on my list of favourite things to drink.

At the little snack shop down the street
Mexico time is very different from American time. In the US, we always want more, more. We hoard more stuff and demand we get more done in the time we have. Instead of doing, Mexicans focus on being. Earlier this week, five of us guys went to pick up a machine for the corn. We thought we'd just pick it up and bring it back, but we stood around for almost a half hour, sharing glasses of Pepsi and listening to stories being told in Spanish. We came to find out it only took two of us to drag the machine, so it wasn't a very efficient use of five guys. Yet in the inefficiency, there is efficiency. I really enjoy learning about the self-sustainability of crops and animals. Even the way they build down here amazes me.

Brick laying
I have often wished to extend the length of summer. Well, now I have my chance at 6 months of summer, including the allergies and sunburn. But I'm not complaining, since there is no snow in sight! I haven't seen any tarantulas yet, but I have seen many scorpions. Scorpions are like bees and wasps: you know they're there, but you don't live your life in fear of them. Most of those scorpions were hiding in the brick pile we moved up to the roof. Brick-throwing should be an Olympic sport. The bricks break pretty easily if you drop them, because they are made from porous volcanic rock.

Outside my bedroom door
Well, there is so much more to say about the mountains, the people, the tortillas, the language, the culture, converting to pesos and kilometers and litres, etc., but this wraps up week one. Week two will be a new challenge because the team I came with left yesterday. Now I'm trying to get comfortable in a house that's not my own. I have so many highlights from the past week like the mariachi dance at the restaurant and the key engraver, but I still find it hard to believe it's all real. I have met so many amazing people and had so many conversations I didn't believe were real.


I'm Snow Tired of Winter

"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Psalm 51:7 (ESVUK)

This idea and, "It could be worse..." have gotten me this far through the Northern Michigan winter. I like having a white Christmas, but after that, I'm done with snow. It has finally come down to a choice: hibernation or flying south for the duration of the winter. I was born in Michigan, so I'm as tough as the next guy. But that's exactly it! I'm a Michigander: I enjoy being outside. I haven't been able to be outside for many months. Therefore, I'm flying to Mexico next week.

I've talked here on this blog about Mexico, so you may be aware I'm going to help at an orphanage in Camichines, Mexico for the next few months. I'm flying down next Saturday with a group who is going for a week of building projects. 

Okay, yes, I'm bored and seeking adventure. But I'm looking for more than excitement. I'm looking forward to many opportunities to learn about things like people, agriculture, and travel. I'm excited to get out of my normal (winter, Michigan, high school), and step into a new unknown. I'm excited to make a move and do something

The Mexican weather is just a nice added bonus.

I'll try to keep y'all updated with words and hopefully occasionally pictures, but also go check out Postcards from Preppy Bohemia for updates from my friend Lex. (Don't worry, I'm going to lobby her to change the name to Postcards from Classy Camichines for the next few weeks.)


Loud Ticking

In two weeks I will be on Mexican soil.

As my trip gets closer, it becomes both more real and less real. As details fall into place, I have seen God working. In just two weeks I will leave home and move to a foreign country for a few months. This is really going to happen: unless something drastic causes me to call off the plans, my flight is locked in; nothing is hindering me; this is gonna happen.