Thursday, May 12, 2011

Journeying home!

I obviously am not a good blogger. Seeing as how my ability to blog regularly has proved itself fickle, and I should probably just give up on it...never.

My time in Bilbao is just about over. I have another day and then head home to see my wonderful family and embark to camp. I'm so thrilled! My Easter break was unbelievable! I made my way from Bilbao up to Paris for 3 days, then Berlin for 3 days, down to Prague for 2 days, Vienna on Easter, Budapest, Hungary for a day and a half (needed more), then finally back into Germany for a stop in Munich.

What a trip.

Abby and I ate some incredible food, visited the world's most recognized sites, met wonderful friends along the way, and soaked in the scenery of 5 different countries. It was the type of travel anyone could want, with minimal surprises, although some (AKA booked trains or sold out hostels!) but nothing to harsh. We had an evening picnic, touched the Berlin wall, listened to an Austrian orchestra express Mozzart, went to a Turkish style public bath (interesting) and celebrated our trip at the spring festival in Bavaria! We went all by train and easily took 1000 pictures between us of castles, cathedrals, landscapes, meals, and all the crazy people!

Europe is a fascinating place with a lot of depth. But it's good to be American. I will always celebrate who we are as a country, what it is that we stand for, even if the media makes it look like idiots sometimes! Over here there is a whole different type of news. When I was in line to climb the Eiffel Tower, a French journalist came up to me and asked..."Did you hear the news? They got Osama! How does it feel??". I hadn't heard yet, so can't say I wasn't standing there dumbfounded without a clue how to I took out my twin six shooters and started shooting in the air and hollering YEEEHAWWW!

Of course that's what he expected...but I was uncomfortable. Death is death and it makes me sad in any way. Not to say he didn't get exactly what he deserves. I just didn't see myself dancing in the streets even though it can be celebrated. It's an interesting time we live in, and my main hope is for the younger generations. That we can continue the good work our grandparents started in working hard, pursuing a strong intellectual understanding of the world, and becoming more of somebody for the rest. Because it's not about the world you find yourself in, it's what you do with it, and how you leave it that will matter.

See you guys soon!! i love ya

Friday, July 23, 2010

Going to the Top!

My classroom in the mornings, with my fellow volunteer from Holland (don't mention the World Cup), a few of the goofballs, and Lilliana the teacher.On the Trek.
Some of my favorite Kiddos, Mariana, Yasmine, Isaiahs, and Leonardo!

Last week I had the chance of a lifetime, to trek and climb Huaytapallana (good luck pronouncing that one). It’s a glacier at an altitude of 14,000 feet in Peru! At first, those of us who aren’t from around this neck of the woods, were gasping for air with each step. The climb was steep, a bit scary, and definitely challenging. At the beginning there was an ominous shadow that the mountain cast over us. The peak was tremendous, and for those of you who know Columbine Trail in Red River, NM...that’s a piece of cake compared to this! It seemed to dare, and taunt me to reach the top. I defied it. Abby and I encouraged each other to push through the burning muscles and weezing lungs, and we finally made it past the first push, after about an hour. We found ourselves standing in between a deep valley in which we would soon descend, and the vast plain below us from which we had come. In the distance, I saw snow tipped mountains that would reveal themselves as glaciers within a couple of hours.

I wish my family had been there. My Dad is responsible for instilling a passion for physical challenges like sports or hiking, and my grandma, Gaga, passed her passion for nature to all of us. I’ve never had a better time in my life when I am together with both of my sisters, and my mom knows how to sit and soak in a beautiful moment. I feel so lucky to have so many people in my life that all appreciate beauty, and hard work, because that was the epitomy of this adventure. Throughout my travels, I have had many experiences that bow my mind, but all of them seem to lack just a bit when I’m not with all of the people I love so much. It is revelations like this that make me homesick at times, and also realize why home is so intensely meaningful to me.

Anyways, enough with the sappy stuff…When our expedition made it to the glacier, we had to climb 50 meters of pure and steep ice using 100 feet of rope I had carried. This was tricky mainly because one of us had to scramble up the slanted obstacle, find secure footing, and plant a stake into the ground in order to secure themselves, while the rest of us used the rope to guide ourselves upward. After about 45 minutes of this leapfrog action, we made it to the ice planes. A GIANT winter park, larger than any face of a ski resort I’ve witnessed. Of course we got to play! Sledding down a 45 degree ice patch for 100 feet with no breaks is quite a rush!

My final description of this weekend is really just to remind myself a frightening aspect of all this excitement. On the way down from the mountain, I expected to take half the time we climbed, so about 2 hours…but when we were descending the first peak, a sinister fog began to sink around us. I swear I could not see 12 feet beyond my nose! Not only was it hard to see the people walking the path before me, but also step drop offs that surrounded us. At one point, shortly after our guide had declared we were taking a shortcut, he asked us to wait, so he could make sure we were going the right way…after an hour and a half of walking in obscured paths…that is not what I wanted to hear. For an intense moment I considered what sleeping at 13,000 feet during winter, with 8 people and no shelter would feel like. But my guide was true to his word and returned from out of sight within minutes. In an hour we reached our van, and the tiny village house that sat next to it. The old lady who lived there had prepared all of us a fresh river trout dinner with potatoes and rice…DELICIOUS.

I know that was a lot about the hike, but this is an online journal for me as well! Remember I’m almost 24…so my memory isn’t what it used to be. My work is going great. I love the kids and I’ve just about learned all their names HAHA. It’s hard when you can barely pronounce them! This weekend I’m going to take off on a bus and go to the jungle. I WANT TO SEE SOME MONKEYS!

This week Abby showed me a great scripture about going further than you ever could have imagined. "Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

It is inspirational, because a huge part of me just wants to leave a mark on this world that makes people smile for a lifetime. Who knows? By believing that positive change is always possible, and taking the right action to make it happen, all of us can impact somebody right? I love y’all and I can’t wait to see your pretty faces soon.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Profesor Layne? Who'd a thunk it?

HONK HONK! I wake up in the mornings to a symphony of Claxones (horns) in the street below my bedroom window. The markets are beginning to come alive by 6:30 am, while 80 year old women open up their tiendas just as they have for the last 70 years. So if I can get a little more sleep then I absolutely try, otherwise my day starts early. Abby and I get ready for the day and head downstairs for a breakfast with our host family. The food is light, usually consisting of Papaya, a tangerine, and some homemade biscuits, which I quickly scarf down! Typically, the grandmother in our house offers a coca tea or Hierba Buena to wash it all down.

Abby and I work in separate non-profits in the mornings. She walks around the corner in the crazy market modelo, and proceeds to the back of one of the niches, and assists children with their homework, draws with them, and does whatever she can to brighten up their day. Most of these children help their parents who work in the market. They have no free time to show their kids basic arithmetic, and they do not know English, so they will not be able to show them basic grammar. Abby helps them do this. Hopefully these kids will go on to succeed in school, and possibly aid in the development of Huancayo or Peru as a whole. Some of them might follow the same cycles as their parents and takeover the Carnerías, selling raw meat, or growing vegetables. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but hopefully some of the children can be a part of a generation who will help advance medicine, infrastructure, or education.

On the other hand, as Abby hangs near the house, I jump on a bus and travel the chaotic and random streets for 20 minutes until I arrive at a very small pat of town. This is dirt road with several abandoned buildings, and a couple dusty stores. In the midst of this, there is a single room consisting of you would hardly notice if you weren’t looking. It has 2 tables, that can fit up to 18 kids, dozens of books and puzzles randomly placed, and handmade posters and pictures taped all over the walls. I come here to be with two Peruvian social workers who dedicate their time to helping the children. The kids I get to work with live in humble homes with parents who are not there in the mornings. Many of them are farmers who commute to the outskirts of the city, and others may be single parents who do whatever they can to make a dollar.

My time with them is short but intense. 3 hours consisting of homework help, counseling about troubles in the world, and reading them books in English. I have to translate most of them to Spanish so as to decrease the blanks stares. For instance, the Berenstein Bears “Old Hat, New Hat” became “Sombrero Viejo, Sombrero Nuevo” haha! My favorite part of the morning is the last hour reserved for juegas…(games). I go outside with the 8 or 9 boys and play Futbol! They run me ragged! Not only are we at 10,000 feet…but these guys can ball! They spend the first 10 minutes fighting over which team I will play for, screaming “Profesor! Aqui en mi equipo!” I wish middle school had been this easy to get picked on the team! Dad, my soccer skills are improving, even though I’m playing 12 year olds.

In the afternoons, after a lunch with my family, Abby and I grab a Cambi (very small public transportation), and go 45 minutes outside Huancayo to the CASA project. Where once again we assist 15 or 16 children with their homework, and then spend 45 minutes teaching English. Abby and I team up with our fellow volunteer from France, Sarah, and do our best to make it interesting. We’ve covered the alphabet, shapes, and some animals, but I don’t know how much they’ve retained! We’ll probably review tomorrow.

For those of you still reading…I know it’s a long blog! The food here is hit or miss in my opinion, occasionally we have a delicious meal, and I quickly ask what it is so I can request it again…but other times, there are very interesting flavors revealing themselves. Jungle veggies, and funky chicken sometimes result in Abby and I slowly turning to smile at one another as we chew the first bite…I have not allowed myself to taste the local delicacy Cuyo…or Guinea Pig for all you native English speakers….

Well, I’m going to have to write about our experience trekking over a mountain range and up a glacier will have to wait till tomorrow! I am sorry for the long pause between updates. I have been a busy boy, but I promise that Abby and I are alive and well, trying to make a difference in the world! I love you all and we pray for y’all every day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's been a trip!

Let me start out by giving a very special shout out to one of my best friends, a spiritual leader for me, an amazing artist, and stand up human being, Nick Parker. Congratulations on getting married my friend, you are a lucky guy!!! I know He will guide you and Rose along the righteous path so that you always find comfort and happiness in one another. Love ya.

Ok, Ok, I know I have not been the best blogger in the world! But cut me some slack...I'm in Mexico! First of all, I miss everyone out there...ALOT! In fact I needed a taste of home so bad today that I went to McDonald's and woofed down a giant hamburger haha! But it has been a great cultural experience down south in good ol' Mexico. I have increased my fluency to well above conversational, and I can understand just about anyone who has something worth listening to (just kidding). The only problem is...I'm with a bunch of other Americans on all my trips! My fellow students are great, but there are only a select few who will continue to speak Spanish with me while we are on a tour bus, and driving 2 1/2 hours to Mexico City!

Last week I had a small scare when I came down with a stomach bug. Something very uncomfortable that would not even let me stand straight up. I was curled on the bed, hoping to keep down the water I was slowly drinking. This nightmare only lasted about 12 hours, meanwhile Linda and Manuel were waiting on me hand and foot! At one point I had to ask them to slow down because they were both trying to fluff my pillows, give me tea, and ask if I was taking all of my anti-biotics at the same time (in spanish of course) haha! It's times like these that you look up, thank God for the people who love you, and pray for that no one you care about ever feels this way. I'm fine now. 100%!

Despite the craziness of 6 hours per day in straight Spanish classes, I have managed to hike to the top of Ancient Aztec ruins in Teotihuacan (good luck with that one), enjoy the architecture of some of Mexico's finest cathedrals (including Our Lady Guadalupe, the reason there is so much Catholic influence in Mexico), and attend the classy Lucha Libre wrestling matches of Puebla! The wrestling was by far the best 5 dollars I have ever spent...Watching HUGE, sweaty, Mexican's wreck one another, while the crowd cheers "Ole! Ole, Ole, Ole!" is by far one of the most culturally submersed feelings I've had in this country.

This past weekend our group of exchange students from OSU, OU, Arkansas, and UD headed for the east coast of Mexico, to the state of Veracruz. The gulf beaches were no Cancun...but wonderful all the same. The Gulf feels like bath water this time of year, and on Friday, I was invited by a large group of local kids my age to participate in some Volleyball. Don't worry, I represented the United States of America with spiking a Wilson into several people's face...It was fantastic! I made some very nice friends, who lead very different lives, but still things in common. Which is what traveling is really about for me. Relationships between others, nature, and myself. These can all be cultivated with the more you learn, and I realize how important the friends and family back home are in my life. Saturday morning some friends of mine went fishing, and brought back over 30 fish, which were immediately filleted, soaked in lime, and married with tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro in order to create the BEST Ceviche I have ever had!

After leaving the hotel, we visited the home of conquistador Hernán Cortés' and saw the first established church in Mexico. It was built at the same time Michelangelo was painting the Sisteen Chapel in Rome, 1520's. Our group then returned to Puebla...except me and 3 other guys! We decided that it hadn't been a long enough weekend. We hopped another bus (a chicken bus) to the capital city Veracruz. Because Mexico is so cheap, we were able to afford a Master Suite, with ocean view for about $30 per person (4 guys)...We spent the night enjoying the city center, and watching more World Cup highlights (GO USA!), while a huge festival of flowers danced around us. This little excursion from the school trip was fantastic. No itinerary and no giant group of gringos walking together haha. I keep thinking about how life is flying by, and if there is an opportunity to step out of the comfort zone, try something new (while being safe Mom), and seize the day, then it has to be done!

I know it is impossible to fill you in with everything I've been doing, but I will be better about blogging, and hopefully in Peru I'll have internet as well. This is an online journal for me, and hope those of you who follow enjoy! As I go on with my summer adventures please keep me in your prayers as I have kept all of you very close to my heart. Bueno Noche!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My First Days in Puebla!

What can I say? I love it here! Tonight is the first time I've spoken (written) english in a bout 36 hours...Incredible. I am completely out of my comfort zone, but somehow my host family totally makes up for it!

That is definitely the best part of this world, the family community. Manuel y Linda Chavez, welcomed me with brazos abiertas. Before I could even wonder what this experience would be like, I was at their dinner table and they were feeding me comida tipíco de Puebla until I begged "Quedo Satisfacion", haha, it was exquisito!

Here is my favorite part...they are the parents of 3 children, and also have grande familias, mucho hermanos y hermanas, and it is very important to them that we spend time getting to know one another. So in the first two day of this adventure, I have met most of the children, and today we went to a fiesta for the cumpleaños de una nieta, (he turned 9, so cute). Only half the family was there, but there were almost 30 of us in the small and humble home of the Abuelos. I ate so much and did my best to communicate with all of the amazingly and happy personas! The grandfather kept saying, "Este es su casa" with a wide grin, not so toothy but adorable all the same, and I would smile back and respond "muchos gracias abuelo" , haha.

If I was ever curious about the meaning of charity and hospitality, then all my questions have been answered by such an unbelievably kind familia in Puebla, Mexico. Although, today my head felt as if it was going to explode, because I only spoke and listened to beautiful spanish 24/7. It is interesting when I want to express how I am feeling, and share my opinion, but can not gather the words! Anyways, Manuel y yo somehow managed to sit down at a cafe, over some coffee, and discuss the importance of accepting human beings for who they are and what they believe. In other words, to be "abierto". We also discussed the economic situation of the el Mundo, but again I was stifled by my lack of communication, haha.

I just ate frijoles y tortas con queso y salsa. Then delighted in a very sweet fruit called Mamey, it is almost like a cross between a sweet potato, avocado, and cantolope, but very good! My first day of school is tomorrow, and I must rise early, so I bid you a dew, and will write again soon!

Paz a fuera,


p.s. Manuel y Linda are in the right of the photo, the little niña in the photo is Day the daughter of Manuel jr, and Lucia. She might be one of the most adorable youngins I've ever met. She speaks more english than anyone else I have met here! Reminds me of Sydney in her energy and humor...Adios!