24 Hours in Philadelphia, PA

A week and a half ago, I was planning on traveling up to D.C. to visit with friends and was looking into things to do around the area. My friend Christi messaged me and asked if I would be willing to come all the way up to Philadelphia, near where she was staying. I had not even been thinking about Philly, but I ended up booking a hotel for a night just one week in advance. I have never been so spontaneous with travel plans! My trip up to Philly was smooth and I was thankful that I had done the same route with my mom and sister earlier this summer going up to New England so I could recognize landmarks while navigating (yes, I went without GPS). Traffic through the city was congested, but I liked how they accommodated pedestrian and bike traffic. I’m glad Guadalajara helped me be a little more aggressive in my driving or I would have been stuck trying to turn left for hours.

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Christi and I stayed in Trade Winds Bed and Breakfast and we agreed it felt very typical of Philly. The house was decorated with all kinds of antiques and artwork that the owner had collected and we could watch the pick-up basketball game at the park from our third story window. For dinner, we took a walk to Chinatown. Christi found us a good restaurant and she ordered for us in Chinese. I was so proud! It is always an adventure having international friends and friends who travel internationally. On our way back from dinner, we took a long route to see the City Hall and other sites, including South Street. It was good to catch up with my dear friend about life, teaching, and ministry.

The next morning, we toured the historic center. We saw the Liberty Bell (symbolic, but not too thrilling for me) and took the free tour of Independence Hall (super significant and inspiring!) Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were deliberated and signed there. It was incredible to think about how many great minds had been in that room, risking everything for the ideals they believed in. We also saw sites like the Betsy Ross house, Elfreth’s Alley, Christ Church, and the Declaration House (the site though not the original building where Thomas Jefferson wrote the drafts of the Declaration).

I once again remembered my childhood ambition of being a historical interpreter. I am always impressed by the wealth of knowledge they possess, far beyond the “role” they are playing. We talked to many interpreters, storytellers (the Once Upon a Nation storytelling benches are such a clever idea), and even gift store attendants who shared so much with us about their love for history and their city.

To wrap up our time together, we had a late lunch of chicken and waffles at the delightful Luna Café. It strives for sustainable practices and is locally sourced, cash only, wind powered, and offers many organic options. I saw Christi off at the train station and I drove back down south to DC for the next leg of my trip (blog soon to follow).

Photos are my own.

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Nogales, Mexico: Sowing on a Windy Day

 

100_2547I was so pleased to be invited to chaperone my school’s mission trip to Mexico. It was exciting to be going back to Mexico lindo y querido, but there was also an element of the unknown. This was my first time in the Mexican state of Sonora and I didn’t know very much about Cuirim House, the mission we were visiting. (If you are learning Spanish and wonder what “cuirim” means, …it’s Irish.)

As typical in Mexico, the trip started with a change in plans. There had been a miscommunication and we arrived in Nogales 24 hours earlier than the mission had expected. This gave us a little more time to settle in, but also put some strain on the staff and required flexibility on our part.  We had several projects to cover over the week. Some of our jobs included heavy labor, mixing and carrying concrete, assembling pallet boxes, and installing fences. Other tasks were lighter and involved more interaction with the community. One of the jobs I enjoyed doing was helping with the Kids Café. Twice a week, the neighborhood children are fed by volunteers from the local church. In the summer, when groups come, we are able to give the regular volunteers a break. We served the food, washed all the dishes, and played with the kids. This freed up the ladies to enjoy a relaxing art class and later a Zumba class led by one of our group.

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In the evenings, the local pastor organized a World Cup Tournament for 10-15-year-old boys which was held in the park close to the church. The boys all took it very seriously! Our team set up a few carnival games each night in the basketball court adjacent and served food to everyone. No one on our team spoke Spanish, other than what they had studied in a month or two of preparation. I was very pleased to see how they all worked out ways of communicating and were flexible in their assignment to make sure the kids were having an enjoyable time. I also liked translating when necessary and talked with some of the parents who had come to watch the game.

Traveling anywhere outside of your culture comes with challenges, but it had been a while since I had been in a place with so much material need. It is interesting that the more one sacrifices (even voluntarily), the more seed there is for discontentment. Without running water, I instantly became a little more selfish, seeking out comfort in any form. Frustration over Mexican locks (already experienced in Guadalajara) was heightened when I couldn’t get in the bathroom door in the middle of a thunderstorm at night and with no cover overhead. When I had already been in the hot and stuffy kitchen for an hour, I really wished someone else would take care of the rest of the dishes. When I finally put away the dirty shirt I had worn a few days in a row and was enjoying a fresh one, I really hoped someone else would volunteer for the job that involved going outside in the drizzle and moving more dirt. When I was completely worn out and siesta time had almost passed, I hoped the threatening rain clouds might mean a delay in the afternoon work project. It was humbling to recognize. We must daily turn to Christ to have his attitude that values others more highly than ourselves.

One of the verses we learned in chapel this week was from Ecclesiastes 11.  “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap…In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” This passage caught my attention. My personality looks ahead and plans everything out. If something is likely to go wrong, I try to problem solve beforehand. If something is completely out of my control, like the weather, I will probably cancel instead of trying. Rainy season was starting in Nogales and every day around 2 or 3 PM, the wind would pick up and the sky would blacken. Being on top of a hill, we could watch storms approaching from either side. Sometimes, it would blow over quickly, sometimes it would nearly blow you over, and sometimes it would rain steadily for a long time before stopping. We always had afternoon work projects planned and the World Cup Tournament in the early evening. I am the kind of person who would see the clouds and call it off. Mr. Donohue, the missionary, had learned to see the clouds and still plan to go out and work. It’s a good lesson.

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One on the neat projects we worked on was building garden boxes out of wood pallets and delivering them to homes in the neighborhoods with some good top soil and seedlings. The local pastor would then schedule visits to check up on the plants and be able to build stronger connections in the community. The missionary’s son said the passage from Ecclesiastes had been an encouragement and a challenge to him as he was trying to start this ministry. There were many challenges that would have seemed like a reason to turn aside, but they had kept working and trusting God. Who knows, but God, what the fruit will be.

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All photos are my own.