I Can’t Stay Away

Spring Break is a beautiful thing. It is so good to have a break from teaching to relax! I was able to return to Guadalajara for the week. Many people here and there have asked me how hard it was to adjust back to American culture or if I have experienced reverse culture shock. The transition has been easier for me than I had expected. I think this is for a few reasons. First, I was quite busy as soon as I arrived home in the U.S. and had a lot going to keep my mind engaged. I was very focused on the task of figuring out my role in my new school and organizing and setting up my classroom. Another thing that made the transition easy was that I kept a tie to Mexican culture by joining a Spanish speaking small group. This helped me make friends with people who know something of the experience of living in Mexico (or another Spanish speaking country). I can keep speaking Spanish, talk about Latino culture, make bilingual jokes, etc. I even have discovered a place to salsa dance in my home town. It is not quite the same as dancing in the streets of Guadalajara, but it was one of the activities I was sad to give up so I am thankful that I still get to do it sometimes. Salsa also provides another opportunity for speaking Spanish! Finally, I have been looking forward to this trip since the summer, knowing I would not be saying goodbye to friends forever.

I prayed for my trip that I would get quality time with as many people as possible. He was so faithful to answer! A fun surprise started out the trip as I had the same flight to Atlanta as a high school group from my school going to Belize. I enjoyed chatting with them in the airport and on the plane. Sunday, I spent the full day with my church on a retreat. It was so encouraging to see how the church has grown in depth and number and many of the individuals I have prayed for are thriving. Monday was dedicated to the school. I wandered around the campus catching up with American and Mexican teachers, staff, students, etc. I loved having lunch with my former students and then playing games with them at recess. I went back nearly every day for this sweet time with my not-so-little ones.

 

Throughout the week, I caught up individually with many people, often while eating (another thing I have been looking forward to on this trip). I have missed avocados, frijoles, lonches, Mexican popsicles, and, most of all, tacos! It was great to be able to enjoy authentic food and it was so refreshing to go deeper with friends and hear about their ministries, goals, struggles, and joys. I shared tears more than once and lots of laughs as well. God is taking such good care of them, even when I am away. I knew I could trust him with them when I last said, “Adios” (blog post: Good in Good-bye).

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My last day, some of the Lincoln teachers joined me in going to Tlaquepaque. We had fun looking around in artisan shops, taking pictures, and even caught a free show which included traditional Mayan dancing, dancers from Veracruz and Jalisco, and live Mariachi music.  I bought a piece of art made by the Huichol people. I recently have been doing some research about this people group. They are one of the least reached in Mexico and are located not far from Guadalajara. I bought the art to remind me to pray for them more often. As a closing gift, I coincidentally ran into the only friend I had not been able to contact during the week. I loved my break and I hope I can visit again soon.

 

Photos are my own.

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Checking Off the Bucket List (and a lot of other lists)

I am definitely a list maker. I am the kind of person who puts even mundane things on a list so that I can have more things crossed off at the end of the day. I also admit to occasionally adding something to a list after I have already done it because it is so satisfying to cross it off. Yes, I am Type A.

I have a few lists going right now; a list for fun things I still want to do here, a list of people I want to spend time with, a list of things I have to do in preparation for moving home, a list for things I need to give away, etc. This week, I have made some progress on all the lists. My organizational side is happy and so is my extroverted side as I got in good time with dear friends. Here are some of the things I have gotten to enjoy recently.

About two weeks ago, one of my friends wanted to hang out. Since we work in the same area, we met after work and walked a couple blocks in the blistering heat to the food truck park for lunch… or dinner (it’s kind of complicated). I’d wanted to eat there for a while, but hadn’t had the opportunity. I got some great Indian food and we had a good talk. He was in a difficult situation and we were able to talk about it, pray about it, and encourage each other.

Last week, the English speaking ladies from Lincoln got together and went up to Bugambilias, a posh neighborhood up on a hill at the edge of the city. There is a large plaza at the very top with a great view of the city. We went to one of the cafes with a balcony and talked about everyone’s plans for the summer, things we still want to do during our time here, etc. We not only got to watch the sunset, but also a storm pass over the city. It was a little chilly, but beautiful.

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Today, I cleaned up some things left by a certain lovely, artistic roommate who left some lovely, artistic clutter. I actually found a really cool way to recycle some of the things she left for my despedida (good-bye party)…more on that later. The book/craft shelf is much better organized now and I’m happy to be able to leave some great craft/art supplies for the future tenants of our unique and beautiful house.

I have one of my two suitcases packed and have been cleaning out all of my drawers and closets. Oh, I also have a list of what I want to do as soon as I get back to the States. I can tell you that I am craving some outdoor adventure with family and friends. Looking forward to being home!

Photos of the city belong to April Reyes. Other photos are mine.

Adiós

Good-byes are hard for me. That is probably an understatement. I dread that last hug before a dear friend leaves my life for an undefined period of time. There will be tears, probably many more unseen when I am alone than when I am actually saying goodbye. I will dwell on the separation months in advance and may choke up even years later remembering the pain of losing contact with a friend. I am an extrovert so I draw a lot of energy and encouragement from the people around me. I enjoy deep relationships with many people. However the deeper level of connection makes it harder to separate in the end. I tend to worry about my friends. If they leave (or I leave) will our relationship continue? Will they encounter troubles I won’t know about, won’t be able to help with, or won’t understand because we aren’t in the same place anymore? Will they continue on the right track in their relationship with God? Will there be someone else to play the role that I did for them and vice versa?

Other random trivia about me: I am a nerd about linguistics. I love the subtle differences in meaning between words. I am fascinated by word origins and how culture has shaped language. I have always enjoyed dissecting English and hunting for root words and wondering how phrases or words came to be. Now, as I become more comfortable in the language, I am starting to do this more in Spanish as well. Something I discovered recently has been a huge source of comfort to me. If you break apart the word “adiós” (Spanish for good-bye), you’ll have the phrase “a dios”. “A dios” is translated “to God”. I looked it up to confirm my guess and the term “adiós” is in fact an abbreviated form of the phrase “a dios vos acomiendo” which translates into English as “to God I commend you.” In summary, saying “adiós” to someone is a declaration that you are entrusting them to God’s care. You cannot imagine how freeing that is to commit someone you love to God and not have to worry about what will happen to them or you before you meet again because God loves each of you deeply and he is working things out for the good. The words we say are ultimately unimportant if our feelings or beliefs behind them are not in agreement. However, saying the right words potentially has the power to mold our thinking. I am thankful that, in this season, instead of saying “good bye”, I’ll be saying “adiós” and giving myself a reminder each time that God is guarding my dear friends.

 

Las despedidas son muy difíciles para mí. Bueno, ¿cómo puedo decirlo más fuerte? Yo siento mucha aprehensión del último abrazo ante que un gran amigo se va de mi vida. Sí, habrá lágrimas, probablemente muchas que nadie puede ver.  Yo pienso y me preocupo mucho ante la separación.  Años después todavía me desanima pensar en los amigos por despedir.  Soy extrovertida y siento la necesidad de las personas por la energía y ánimo que traen a mi vida. Tengo conexiones muy profundas con mis amigos. Porque de eso, la separación de ellos es más difícil para mí en fin. Si mis amigos se van (o yo me voy) ¿seguirá nuestra amistad? ¿Encontrarán problemas que no voy a saber, que no voy a ser capaz de entender, o con que pudiera ayudar? ¿Seguirán en su relación con Dios? ¿Habrá alguien que va a tomar mi papel con ellos o viceversa?

Otro característico de mí: me encanta la ciencia de idiomas. Me gustan las diferencias pequeñas entre palabras. Me fascinan los orígenes de palabras y como la cultura ha cultivado el idioma. Yo disfruto disecar el inglés e investigar las raíces de palabras e imaginar cómo nacían las frases. Ahora, que estoy más cómoda en el idioma, estoy empezando a hacer lo mismo con el español.  Recientemente, descubrí algo que me ha animado tanto. La palabra “adiós”. Ya les dije que las despedidas son muy difíciles, pero me doy cuenta que para decir “adiós” es diferente. La palabra “adiós” puede ser divido en “a dios”. Yo busqué en un diccionario y confirmé mi idea. “Adiós” es de “a dios vos acomiendo” (a dios te encomiendo). ¡Qué hermoso! Cuando se dice “adiós” a alguien es una declaración que se está encargando a su amigo a Dios. Que libertad que podemos dejar nuestros amigos al bondadoso Dios quien puede cuidarlos de todo. Claro que las palabras que decimos no importan, si el sentido en que las damos es el contrario. Pero, a veces, las palabras tienen la potencia de convertir nuestros pensamientos. Estoy agradecida que ésta vez, no voy a decir “good bye”, pero “adiós” y mientras tanto voy a darme un recordatorio que Dios esta guardándolos.

 

Photo is mine of a mural in Guadalajara.

It’s Different, But It Feels Familiar

Even though this experience in Guadalajara is so different from any other experience I have had before, I keep on getting a sensation that I actually have experienced this before. It took me a little while to realize that I was not being reminded of other experiences I have had, but was being reminded of the feeling I got when I went through those situations. Remembering that feeling then reminds me of those old places and experiences.

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            I have thought of my dear alma mater so many times in the past month. CIU was the first time I left home and this is the second. There are definitely similarities between CIU and Lincoln. Both are multidenominational Christian schools. Both have a heart for making Christ known among the nations. Both have incredible people making up a very special community. It makes my heart happy. There are also differences. CIU is a university, while Lincoln is a K-12 school. CIU is set in the Bible belt of the American South. Lincoln is in the middle of a huge Hispanic city where there are heavy Catholic influences. CIU has all the passion of young people who want to change the world. Lincoln has the maturity of adults who are have already taken the step of faith (a small step for some and larger for others) to serve cross culturally.

            What are the common feelings these two periods of my life have created? Well, initially, a feeling of boredom and awkwardness. That might sound a little strange considering how highly I speak of both of these places, but let me explain myself. The extrovert in me gets really bored without an established routine full of people. As I am still getting to know people and developing friendships, my days are not yet full of friends. I remember feeling that way when I came to CIU as a freshman, only knowing a few people’s names. I knew that I could not force a deep friendship, but wished so much that it was possible to fast forward to the part when I could come over to their room at any time or hang out with them multiple times a day if I wanted to. I am once again in that place of sometimes feeling lonely and a little awkward around people I hope will become long time friends. Future forever-friends, I will try to be patient, but I cannot guarantee that I may not jump fences prematurely.

I also have been tasting the feeling of freedom. I have the freedom to choose a church, decide when I am going to go grocery shopping, what my schedule will be, and what I am going to do without having to check in with anybody. I have never minded living with my family and having to fit into their schedule, but it is also nice to feel like an adult. Oh, and since I am debt free, now I also have the freedom of deciding what my paycheck goes toward each month! Okay, some things are not a choice, but after tithing, rent, and food…I can do what I want with my pesos. I also remember that particular feeling that only comes on Saturday night when you realize that you have forgotten to arrange a ride to yet another new church to try on Sunday morning.  However, I think the church hunting may be drawing to a close soon!

 I am also recalling a feeling of anticipation. I know that my time here has only begun and I have will have so many opportunities to develop friendships, learn about teaching, and bring about the kingdom here in Guadalajara. Even though the first month is probably the month you learn the most at a time from constant exposure, it is really no time at all to actually get to know a place. I have so much time to enjoy and explore! And I know what I am going to do differently from last time around. I do not want to again sense regret that I never got to know the context outside of my community. I want to know and understand Guadalajara when I leave here, not just understand Lincoln or Las Fuentes. I want to have friends from outside of Lincoln as well so that I do not become too inward focused.

 Oh, and another feeling, thankfulness. This is (and is going to be) so good. I am glad that I am not the one who has to make it good. I know that He is working all of that out.

Photo is my own. 

On the Street Where I [now] Live

If you take a walk in Las Fuentes….

100_8415  …you will find an incredible combination of tropical jungle and elegant sophistication

100_8407…you might be intimidated by enormous encroaching cacti

100_8418…you can find beauty in the broken

100_8422…you will probably find jogging a little difficult in some areas

100_8425…you might catch yourself humming the Davy Jones theme for some odd reason

100_8427…Tomás Sawyer might have a job for you

100_8430…just…nothing…{contented sigh}

100_8432…the sidewalk might end unexpectedly

100_8433…the abandoned has an air of beauty

100_8434…the whimsical is a little overwhelming at times

100_8410…and home.