My One-of-a-Kind D.C. Tour

You never know what you might experience while traveling, especially if you put the planning in someone else’s hands. This could be awful, or wonderful, or make for an outrageous story (ask me about the time I accidentally ended up with accommodations at a nude beach). My time in D.C. this past week fortunately turned out to be a wonderfully memorable long weekend when placed in the hands of the friends I was going to visit.

My first day in D.C., it poured just about all day. My friends Will and Abenaa had a doctor’s appointment for their 1-month old so we drove across the city for the appointment and then got cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcakes (featured on TLC).  We were out 6 hours and that’s all we could do against the combined forces of the record-breaking rain and the horrible traffic. The good news is…the appointment went well and the cupcakes were worth the hype. I also had plenty of time to catch up with Will while we drove around/stood in traffic. When we made it back home, we had a time of prayer and then went to a house warming party for one of their African friends. Party started at 7pm, we arrived around 9:30pm to enjoy amazing African food and a cut-throat game of Mafia (even the Mafia members turned on each other!)

The next day, I had nothing planned. I called up a friend who recently moved to D.C. to see if he wanted to do anything “touristy” with me. Little did I know. We met up at Ebenezers (a coffee shop with a great purpose) and took the metro to his workplace, one of the many news networks in the area. I got to see the studio, tech rooms, make-up room, offices, etc. We got lunch at District Taco next door. =) It was authentic enough that I could order “tres de barbacoa, …tortillas de maiz, …pues estilo mexicano, gracias”.

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I’d never been to the capital building so my friend (who shall remain nameless lest he be hounded with requests for similar services) took me on a very special tour, complements of his “staff” badge. We went down halls labeled “Authorized Personnel Only”, walked the subterranean passages to get to the Senate building on the other side of the street, and rode the “Senator’s only” elevator. It was a Saturday so we hardly passed anyone and our voices echoed down the hallways. I felt like I was in a movie. We joined a group of the average population for a few minutes to see the rotunda and the center of the city before we departed.

Sunday, I joined my friend Bev on an excursion to Mount Vernon for the day. This was our first time being together on US soil since we met three years ago. I have made it a goal to visit the presidents’ homes, especially those in Virginia. I went to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in high school, James Monroe’s Highland this past February (blog post here), and finally made it to the home of the father of our country. The mansion was very impressive, but the grounds were my favorite part. Bev and I talked and caught up while we walked through the gardens, orchards, and woods on the property. We had a delicious lunch and then sat down in the shade of the garden for a few more hours to talk theology and memories.

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I am back home now, getting ready for school to start again. Time to plan next summer’s travels!

Photos are my own.

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B (be) F (friendly) F (forever)

This past week went pretty smoothly (as far as end-of-the-grading-periods go). However, I had to deal with two instances of girls telling me that they didn’t have ANY friends in my class. I also found a rather nasty note in the trashcan that had gone back and forth between two of the girls about whose best friend a third girl really was. Time for intervention.

Today, during the last twenty minutes of school, all the boys got to go play soccer outside with the disciplinarian at our school. Is that even a position other schools have? I am very thankful for him. He is an incredibly gentle, yet consistent man who does an excellent job enforcing the rules and getting to the heart of behavior problems. Though he was really just there so I could have time with the girls, I was thankful for the added bonus of the boys getting to spend some very positive time with him.

The six girls stayed inside with me and we sat on the floor and had a chat. First I asked the girls to raise their hand if someone in the room had been unkind to them recently. If someone had lied to them recently? If they thought someone had talked about them in a mean way? If someone had been bossy to them? If they had felt left out? At least half of the girls raised their hand for each question and everyone raised their hand at least once. We agreed we needed to do something to change this.

I encouraged them to stop worrying about who was their best friend and start trying to be the best friend they could be. We talked about how the Bible tells us to love each other, but if we focus on one person or our favorite group of people, then we are not loving others who feel left out. I encouraged them to look for ways they could be a good friend to someone who needs a friend. I also reminded them that a few of them might need to ask for forgiveness or give forgiveness to someone. I know that this is a really important topic because I was still getting ripped to shreds over “best friends” even a few years ago, not because of people being mean to me, but because I took things so personally and felt them so deeply. I am praying that this talk will stick, even if it just helps them take one small step in maturity.

To end our conversation on a positive note, we played a game with a ball of yarn, giving each girl a few chances to pass the ball to another girl and say something positive about her, while holding on to the end of the yarn. We created a fun star shape. I was very proud to hear the things they had observed in each other, such as “being there when I’m sad”, “coming to play with me when I am alone”, “making me laugh”, “standing up for me”, etc. We talked about how they are the qualities we should try to have for those around us.

After praying, I was so happy to hear my Indian student open up and share with the other girls how sometimes she feels left out when they all speak Spanish together at lunch. I know they will still mostly speak Spanish at lunch, but I am happy that she felt comfortable enough to express her feelings (she normally stays to herself) and that the girls were made aware of her feelings and can look for opportunities to include her. We’ll see how this goes!

Photo is my own from the recent 2nd and 3rd grade camp we had. I love those colors!

Life with Emma

Many of you have asked about my new housemate and how that transition has been. It has been such a refreshing blessing! Emma is from England and is the middle school art teacher at Lincoln. She has traveled quite a lot already and surrounds herself with all sorts of beautiful and interesting things. I’m secretly hoping that she won’t have room in her suitcase at the end of the year and I will benefit from just a little bit of it. 😉 We have been sharing grocery shopping and cooking responsibilities and that has been a lot of fun to share meals together. Emma also has been asking the landlady if we can make all sorts of little changes around the house, which I was too timid to ask about before. All those little changes have actually excited the landlady and made our space so much more homey and inviting. Here are some demonstrations of how our life looks now.

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Our fruit bowl now looks like a still life painting.

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We have a comfy place for working and relaxing together and Emma has lots of space to spread out her artwork (both completed and works in progress).

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Our cupboard is full of teacups! Emma has a lovely collection and yes, they are for tea, not coffee. We also are using British tea towels in the kitchen now as they are apparently far superior to anything you can find here of the kind.

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I am also enjoying lots of little touches that Emma puts on everything which make the house so much more conducive to hosting. We have had people over for dinner a few times already and those times have definitely been a blessing. I could not be more thankful.

A Summer Roadtrip

While I was trying to take full advantage of my five week summer break, I was privileged to visit with two very dear people out of state. I did a lot of driving that week, but it was absolutely worth it. My first stop was in Maryland, visiting one of my roommates from college. Lauren and her husband, Stephen, are living in the coziest little retro camper you have ever seen.  I was able to spend a day and a half with them, cooking with Lauren, going on walks in the neighborhood, and just enjoying catching up. We also got to visit the historic Ellicott City. It was Lauren’s first time seeing it as well so we had a great time exploring the antique (and antique inspired) shops and artsy cafes.

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We took lots of pictures and found a river full of cairns. Cairns are delicately balanced stacks of smooth stones. Lauren has often mentioned how fun she thinks it is to build them and almost every time I can remember that we have been at a creek or river together, she has built at least one. It was such a serendipitous coincidence that the city had hosted a special event the week before when dozens of people came out to the river and set up the cairns.

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Lauren and Stephen were excellent hosts. I was so encouraged by their contentment and thankful attitudes. Though their camper is really cute, it is quite small, probably not the ideal for most newly married couples. However, I never heard a word of complaint, but instead, many instances of thankfulness for air conditioning, the beautiful view, the microwave, the storage space, etc. With their attitude, they have more than they need and can enjoy it all fully. I hope I can emulate their behavior no matter what my living situation is.

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The second stop was to visit my sister! She had been working as a camp counselor this summer in Pennsylvania. It was a new experience to be introduced as “the sister”. Because I am the oldest, I tend to have experiences first and then introduce my siblings to people when they come to visit me. It was kind of fun to have roles reversed and be the visitor for a change and hear all about her experience. I really enjoyed the campus. Forests, cornfields, and log cabins just seem so homey after living in a tropical climate.

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It was the only weekend I would be able to see her the whole year, so we also caught up a lot, shared silly stories, set up a hammock in the dark, and read each other children’s books. Bri is one of the people in my life who makes me laugh the most. The laughter was definitely a refresher I needed that weekend. Thank you both for the chance to visit!

Photos are my own.

Near, But Not Close

This past week, Lincoln teachers were supposed to notify the school if they were returning for the next year or not. All of the first year teachers are exempt from this decision because we signed a two year contract. Everyone else is on a yearly basis. I feel like I just got here and now I am already going to have to prepare myself to say some goodbyes (though I fortunately will not have to say them until July). On the other hand, I also felt a little envious of the teachers who did decide to return to the States because they will be able to be home sooner than I will.

I really like Guadalajara and I am gradually getting to the place where I enjoy teaching and going to work, but some days I wish life was a just a little bit more “normal” and things operated like they do in the American South. This will be the first time I am missing Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas will feel different because I will be getting in so late I’ll miss most of the parties and such. I probably feel it more because I am not very close to many people here yet. Some relationships are becoming close and important, but that is such a gradual process, most of my really meaningful relationships are still with people back in the states. Part of me just wants to get through this two year commitment with as little attachment here as possible so I can easily make the decision to go back at the end of two years and enjoy the comfort of the familiar and not have to worry about trying to maintain important relationships with my family and friends through e-mail and occasional Skype calls. Mentally, I am taking note not to date someone here because that will automatically sign me up for living here permanently. Obviously, that is not actually the case, but that is how it appears a lot of the time. And of course meaningful and important relationships can also be close friendships, bonds with people at church, with housemates, etc. I know it is not the right response to intentionally hold off relationships, but sometimes it seems like it is just not worth the effort to invest. Especially when my ideal level of closeness in a relationship is really high and it takes a long time (maybe the whole two years of my commitment here) to reach that level.

I am thankful to be going on a retreat with some of the ladies from my church this weekend. We are going to Lake Chapala. I am so excited! This is the first time I have spent the night away from my house or gone any significant distance from Guadalajara. I am so ready for a break from work, computer, and the usual routine. I also really do want to invest in my relationships with the ladies at church. I am so thankful for their Christ-like attitude in welcoming me and helping me to really feel like a part of the church, even when I cause complications because I do not understand things (like last week when I thought I was meeting them at 11:30 and they called me at 11:00 asking where I was).  I’m also thankful for friendship with the Lord and how He has been teaching me recently through personal study and prayer and through other people. What a friend we have in Jesus! Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

The Photo is my own, of Los Guachimontes.  It reminded me a lot of home.

Badly Done, Emma

The silence kills. The unspoken warning passively smothers. The mute friend destroys the friendship. It has been said many times that communication is the key to a healthy relationship. I am not merely talking about everyday communication or the sharing of feelings, preferences, and desires, but about the type of communication that stands up and tells the truth. Speaking up against a friend will be very likely necessary at least once in any friendship. People are so fickle, so quick to make self-gratifying decisions that lead them where they do not want to go. People are often blind to their own shortcomings and convince themselves that they are better than they are. A true friend breaks the shiny illusion of perfection with the hard cutting blade of truth. A faithless friend would stand aside and watch their dear one destroy themselves, only a true friend will say the offensive, but vital words, “you are wrong”. A true friend risks the friendship for the sake of the friend. They would rather temporarily lose favor with the person they cherish than see them continue in a harmful pattern. Emma’s true friend is Mr. Knightley, who says to Emma “I cannot see you acting wrong, without a remonstrance…It was badly done, indeed”.  He is an active friend and a real man who does not feebly submit to Emma or give up on her in disgust. He is not interested in flattering Emma or in shielding her from her own ugliness. He says “This is not pleasant to you, Emma and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will, I will tell you truths while I can; satisfied with proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel, and trusting that you will some time or other do me greater justice than you can do now.” If you want someone like Mr. Knightley in your life, treat your friends as you would be treated, and tell them when they have done badly.