Category Archives: Travel & Perspective

A new way of seeing things and people.

The Aftermath of Agatha


Guatemala has been on my heart these past seven days. Maybe partly because I have friends who live there and people dear to me who lost loved ones in the mudslides. Maybe partly because I am moving there in two short weeks and these photos frighten me. Or maybe because disasters like this remind me just how fragile life is.


Besides the gigantic sinkhole in Guatemala City much of the aftermath of Agatha has not received much attention on the evening news. It always amazes me how quickly our sensationalized media moves on to something bigger and better. We tune in for the first breaking news coverage of Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti or the sinkhole in Guatemala, and then just as quickly we tune out and move on. But these families and people in the photos cannot just tune out. They’re living in it.


I read recently that the tropical storm Agatha has caused more damages in Guatemala than Hurricane Stan in 2005 or Hurricane Mitch in 1998. They are still getting more accurate information as the days go by, but currently the figures are 120 dead, 111,964 evacuees, 29,245 in shelters, 13 bridges collapsed, and many roads blocked by landslides or floods. One of my friends, who works building water filtration systems in the villages near Antigua, lost 4 of his relatives in a mudslide on Sunday.


I am not sure if the Red Cross has set up anything or if there is any international aid going there yet. I will let you know if there is a way to help. My friend emailed me on Tuesday and said right now they need volunteers to dig and move mud. Maybe I’ll spend my first weeks doing just that.


The photos were from a sobering sideshow found here.

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Buried Under the Shoes


Somewhere between the boxes and the piles and the packing I lost a little bit of my excitement. I’m hoping its temporarily buried under my mountain of shoes (yes, I know, guilty as charged: so, I may have a slight shoe fetish. And no, I will not be bringing any of these to Guatemala. When you’re 5’8 and already tower over most Guatemalans no need to add another 3 inches to the mix)

I wish I felt bounds of joy about my upcoming move, but instead I’m sitting on my bed surrounded by stuff–and with that stuff comes stress and fear and this wave of questions. The main one being, “ahhh, what the heck am I doing?”

Moving and Packing

I am moving this weekend– leaving my home of the past 2 1/2 years, saying good-bye to two incredible roommates and packing up my hodgepodge of belongings– to go live with two of my favorite people in Santa Barbara who have offered me their guest bedroom for three weeks until I leave. So, now is the time to start packing.

Packing has a way of bringing up and sorting out what’s important. Old CD’s, letters from ex-boyfriends, and articles from grad school (many still unread) are intermixed with camera batteries and saved receipts organized in envelopes with black writing that says “2007-2008.” I have a costume box with feather boas and hot pink sunglasses and 80’s crop tops because you-never-know-when-you might-just-need-a-costume, right? These things don’t quite make it to the important side.

What’s important are people. Friends and roommates. My parents and sisters and brother. And then there are the kids from kids club and my students. And these are the things I can’t pack. I get sad about leaving these people. Sad that I am going to be missing out on part of their lives. And I get sad that sometimes it feels like I am leaving alone, while everyone else gets to stay here together.

Not Alone

Maybe that’s part of the catch-22 about sending out support letters. I’ll be honest it’s a humbling process mailing out a letter to family and friends not only admitting that I need your help, but also admitting that I actually can’t go through this next year without your support and care. I realize I have gotten pretty darn good at doing most things in life on my own and as a result this confident, self-reliant, independent spirit has been fostered deep inside. But I am learning that maybe I also need to leave room for the humble, meek side that admits, “I can’t do this alone. Will you help?”

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dance. sing. floss. travel.


I would say I do 3 out of the 4 quite well. My dancing, flossing, and traveling skills are adequate. My singing on the other hand– is lets just say, not one of my finer qualities. (Imagine Cameron Diaz at the karaoke bar in My Best Friends Wedding– and that’s me on a good day.)

I went to a FREE yoga class at Lululemon on Sunday morning. Sitting on my purple mat, with my legs folded and arms gently resting on my knees, I tried to appear relaxed as I waited for class to start. After some long, droning, always slightly uncomfortable breathing, the instructor started the class with a question, what is your intention for your practice? (which in non-yogi language simply means, what are you focused on right now?)

But I like the word intention. It implies something about purpose, focus and well, intent.

I started asking myself, what is my intention right now?

My intention has been letting go.
Preparing to leave.
Getting excited for a new opportunity.
And feeling scared to death of the unknown.

Letting Go

I’m going to Guatemala-again! But this time I’m actually taking a year off of teaching. My school district approved a one-year leave of absence. So, I am letting go of a job that I love, friends that I cherish and a community that feels like home because I believe in taking risks, being bold and listening to that still, small voice inside that says “go” even when you don’t know where you’re going.

It’s been a year or so of processing, thinking and praying. I’ve justified and allowed myself to make every excuse in the book about why this move doesn’t make sense. This was by no means in my 5-year plan. But I am learning that life isn’t necessarily about 5-year plans. A life of convenience, comfort and control is not a life that I want to live.

Intention

I have been to Guatemala four times and every time I want to stay longer. Something in my heart longs to be a part of the culture and the language and the people. And I am finally listening to that. I leave June 21st. I’ll be serving with an organization, Mission Impact, that I have worked with before. And I’ll also get to study more Spanish. You can find out more about what I’ll be doing here.

Until then, this next month is dedicated to three of my most time consuming enemies: packing, organizing, and moving.

Maybe my intention this next month shouldn’t be to dance. sing. floss. travel…but rather, to change. balance. enjoy. trust. Maybe Lululemon will put my motto on their next reusable bag, hmm? Maybe.

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Best of Boston


Last week I spent 5 days with my sister in Boston. Bundled up in coats and scarves we wandered through the rain around the streets of Cambridge. When we were younger our relationship centered around doing gymnastic routines in the front yard, playing 20 questions at night in our bunk beds and arguing over who took whose schruchie. I kid you not. I was the bossy, commanding, older sister and she was the sweet, easy going, middle child. And even though we sometimes still fall into those constraining birth order roles, I think we have come a long way in learning to be both friends and sisters.

We spent a lot of time just talking; curled up on the couch, sitting over a cup of coffee, or sharing appetizers at dinner. We managed to fit in some dancing one night and shopping the next morning- both equally enjoyable especially when there is this wonderful thing called the free “coat check.” I had never experienced that before. And did you know there is no sales tax on clothes in Boston? yesssss. We spent a good number of miles walking which is a great in a city that caters to pedestrians. Imagine 4-way stops where floods of people cross every which way and the cars just wait. ha. We managed to take every form of public transportation possible- yes, we hopped on and off the T, waited for the bus, and hailed a taxi. Steph took me to one of her favorite cafes, Flour and I wandered around little bookstores with stacks of books and cute greeting cards.


I was so impressed by my sister, Stephanie. She has a meaningful job working with people from all different cultural and religious backgrounds. She creatively started and now organizes yearly events like Soccer Nights for the entire city of Cambridge (check it out here). She has incredible friends who love her and an adorable apartment on the 5th floor of a charming building right by Harvard Square. Not only did I get to enjoy Boston, but also I got to see part of Steph’s life. There is something about being present with someone that brings together what cell phone conversations and text messages cannot. Now if only I could have brought the sunshine with me.

Weff, thanks for letting me come stay with you! I am glad that I can call you sister and friend.

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When I Grow Up


When I was little this is what I wanted to be when I grew up. I kid you not. Most little kids imagine being a doctor or superhero or maybe even the person who flies the planes, but no…I wanted to be the person who directs the planes and tells them where to go.

For as long as I can remember I have loved airports and airplanes and all things that have to do with traveling. Before I was even able to read my parents would take me down to Ontario Airport where we would sit in the parking lot.

And just watch the planes.

Land and take off.

Land and take off.

What wonderfully, patient parents I had. For some reason I called planes be-bos and to this day I am not sure why. My parents helped foster my love (insert: obsession) of airplanes by reading me books from the local library about airports and airplanes. In fact they sent me on a plane by myself when I was just seven.

And remember how before the feds cracked down on airport security, it was common practice to actually go to the gate to meet someone? When my grandma would fly down from Seattle for her yearly visit the best part was waiting at the gate for her plane to arrive. With my hands glued to the metal gate I watched these airport workers with fluorescent vests and long flashlights “tell” the plane where to go. I decided that is what I wanted to do one day.

Fast-forward 20 years later
I am not in fact directing airplanes, (although I am sure this odd desire says something about my personality and my desire to be in charge, arranging and directing and telling students what to do) but I still do love airports.

I love airports because they remind me that traveling is about the process. I am convinced that if we could magically zap ourselves through some wrinkle in time to another city or country in an instant it would not hold the same appeal.

Traveling is about the process of packing and preparing. There is an anticipation and that looking forward to feeling. Traveling is contingent on lines and waiting and walking and then more lines, waiting and sitting. A process that sometimes feels inefficient and tiresome, but it reminds me that sometimes it’s not about me.

At any given time there are hundreds of passengers wandering around the airport, going a million different places, and you know what? We all want the same thing. We all want to make our flight and leave on time and get a good seat on a perfectly functioning plane that will arrive safely at our desired destination. So it’s not about really me and where I want to go per se. When I remember this I look around and notice what a fascinating place airports are- people of different cultures and countries and languages congregate in the same place for a few short hours: weary business men, adventurous backpackers and love struck honeymooners all wait for the same flight.

Contrary to how I usually do life, I actually enjoy this process.

The waiting.

And the watching.

And the sitting.

This is where surprising conversations happen with strangers and observant people watching skills come in handy. This also becomes my favorite book reading, magazine perusing and journal writing time. This process invites me to relax and let go. I cannot control the weather or make the line move any faster. I cannot hurry up the boarding process or change my seat. All I can do is enjoy the process and in that, there is a kind of freedom.

Tomorrow I get to embark on this process.
I will greet my first of three airports before the sun rises. And then arrive in Boston sometime tomorrow evening. I am looking forward to a day of travel, but even more so I am looking forward to spending 4 days with my incredible sister, Steph.

(And yes, I am still holding out for my dream: maybe one day I’ll get to sport the florescent vest and over-sized flashlights so I can “tell” the planes where to go)

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Two Things


There are two things I like in life…
One: going somewhere new and Two: camping.

And this weekend I got to do both.

Somewhere off Highway 62, nestled between some huge rocks and lots of Joshua trees I found myself camping with my friend Dee-Anna and a bunch of her friends. I like camping because life moves just a little bit slower. There is more sitting, more relaxing and less doing. Camping invites late night conversations and groggy morning faces. It gives permission not to shower and have hair that smells like campfire. I am convinced that the food tastes better simply because it’s eaten outside. Fashion is dictated by how many layers are needed to stay warm, not by what colors go together. I believe I have successfully mastered the art of s’more making and I think the headlamp is one of the best inventions of the century.

It’s only March and I’ve been on two camping trips. Not a bad start to 2010. Here’s to daylight savings time, warm nights and hopefully some more camping trips.

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2 weeks


It is Monday morning and I am not in school. Usually at this time I would be in 2nd period, taking attendance and reminding my ever-so forgetful freshmen to take out their silent reading books, but not today. nope. Today I am sitting in my pajamas with uggs on my feet and a cup of tea in my hands. And it is glorious.

I like many things about my job, but the fact that I am 27 and still get a 2-week Christmas vacation is definitely up there! It’s a rough life, but someone’s gotta do it.

Here’s to Winter Break, 2 week vacations and no bells dictating the structure of my day.

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