Growing Up

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Swinging over Edinburgh, Scotland.

9 January 2014

Something is happening to me. I think it might be called growing up.

Right now I’m on a flight from London Heathrow to JFK, rounding out a 12 day holiday in the United Kingdom and Ireland. I’m exactly where I want to be – going home, that is. On Tuesday in a letter to Bryant, I wrote the following:

“We are on the bus from Cork to Galway and I’m a little homesick. Homesick isn’t actually the right word – I’m not afraid, bored, feeling trapped, or any sort of lonely. Rather, I’m thinking about what’s at home and knowing it’s so much better than what I see here.“

Many things in life are a matter of perspective, and mine has been shifting. I love this quote that my friend Jennie posted recently – “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” (Miriam Beard). That has certainly been true in my travel experiences, and the situations I’ve found myself in over the years have given me perspective, new theological questions, a deeper sense of humility, sympathy and understanding for different ways of life, and an appreciation for culture. I also love the thrill of exploring a new place and meeting new people – it’s like a breath of fresh air in my lungs and can be addicting, really. At times the world has seemed bigger – so many people to meet, countries to visit, and things to learn. At other times, the world has seemed smaller – similar physical and emotional needs across cultures, improbable connections with strangers, and how quickly a location and people group can find a place in your heart.

However, in our culture and in my own life, I’ve seen a growing trend of “wanderlust” that is often just thinly veiled discontent. Travel and adventure, seizing the day and being free can often be a popular way to run from hard work, from commitment, and from investment – anything hard, permanent, or taxing. Lately, I am beginning to realize a few things…

It is my duty to be a responsible citizen.

I am almost 23 years old. I am an adult. Although somewhat true of our entire lives, something is certainly true now – my generation is beginning to have real responsibility for the world and all the good and bad that comes with it. We are moving from 22 years of education into a more tangible place of responsibility. In the truest sense, it is up to us to take that responsibility seriously. It is time for me to learn – really learn – how to take care of money; how to be a good steward of what I’ve been given and how to practice generosity. It is time for me to learn to see and meet need. Maybe you are way ahead of me and your paradigm shifted when you were sixteen – I thank God for you. But for me, although I was learning and doing important things in college, most of it felt like a practice run of sorts.

Life is changing.

I think I grew up subconsciously thinking that even though I was getting older, my parents and grandparents were always the same. As I looked forward to turning sixteen, eighteen, twenty-one, I only thought about myself and the excitement that becoming a young adult would bring. Then one day I looked over at my little brother and he was six feet tall. My Mammaw was taken last October by cancer. And the friends that I grew up with and love dearly are getting married, moving away, having children. Life doesn’t slow down for anyone. And we don’t have much time together. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” – James 4:14. We hear it all the time, don’t we – “Life is short.” But isn’t it? I wonder sometimes what my life would’ve been like if I’d taken a different road. It might sound silly, but I wonder occasionally what my life would look like today if, instead of selling my horse and focusing on sports in high school, I would’ve continued to make horseback riding my first priority. I’ll never know. What a strange thing it is, to live. We spend so much time trying to manage the opinions of others; so much energy trying to build our own wealth, popularity, and status and it’s so insignificant. We try to be perfect and drive ourselves crazy doing so, but don’t realize we’ll never get there because everyone’s standard of perfection looks a little different – you just can’t please everyone.

I’m here – I’m a college graduate looking into the great unknown, even though my “unknown” may have a few more pieces in place than many others in my position. I am getting married in June and moving to Charlotte. I am living in a little green house with a red door. But I’m here and I feel the pressure – the pressure to make a lot of money, the pressure to be independent and successful, the pressure to be beautiful and intelligent and well-traveled. And I feel myself pushing back against it all, asking, “Why?” “What is the point?”

As I begin this new chapter of life, there are lots of things I don’t want to do. I don’t want to be so all over the place that I can’t truly “do life” with the people I need and people who need me. I’ll always be adventurous, but I don’t want to idolize the pursuit of the next-best-thing. The past four years of my life I’ve traveled so much and been involved in so much that i’s been hard for me to truly, deeply invest anywhere. I don’t want to settle into a 9-5 job and making crock pot dinners for my hot and holy husband every night, totally insulated from the world around me. I want to dig in. I want to be ready to see and meet the need around me. I want my home to be a place that is known for having an open door and my table to be a place where full, life-giving conversations happen. I do not want to be tempted to find security for my future in false places – everything that is not from God can be taken away in an instant. Instead, I want to experience God more deeply by living life in a way that makes faith – the sense of trust in God’s provision – necessary. I want to be aware of my dependence on God. I don’t want my faith to be myopic and overly introspective – instead I want to life in the belief that I cannot “grow in faith by sitting alone and trying to flex my faith muscles…but by putting myself in situations that require faith.” (to paraphrase Jim Martin in The Just Church).

This whole post has been a stream of consciousness. I’m not sure that there is a thesis that can wrap up what I’m trying to say, and these thoughts are a product of studying scripture (Ecclesiastes, Isaiah 58, Luke 12), reading several books, and musings from the journey that God has me on. I think part of this is an urging to look at yourself and the motivations that lie behind your actions. Do you serve others? If so, why? Is it to look good to the folks you want to impress? Is it to feel good about yourself? Or is it truly from a benevolent and selfless place that is focused on the need of others? I admit that throughout my life, many of my motivations have been from a selfish place.

Are you filling your time by pursuing things that have no eternal significance? Do you romanticize travel and adventure to the point that they are idols in your life – things you do not to better understand the picture that God has painted with humanity, but rather to look and feel cool and adventurous and free?  Do you go on mission trips and have intense emotional experiences about the depravity and suffering present in our world, but make yourself a hypocrite by insulating yourself from the suffering and pain that is close by you in your hometown? I did for a long time; sometimes I still do.

Sometimes in the Christian life it is hard to find the balance between giving, giving, giving, and finding the freedom to experience joy and have fun. I find this commentary from JI Packer on the book of Ecclesiastes helpful:

“Fear God and keep his commandments; trust and obey him, reverence him, worship him, be humble before him, never say more than you mean and will stand to when you pray to him; do good, remember that God will someday take account of you, so eschew, even in secret, things of which you will be ashamed when they come to light at God’s assizes. Live in the present and enjoy it thoroughly; present pleasures are God’s good gifts. Though Ecclesiastes condemns flippancy, he clearly has no time for the super spirituality which is too proud or too pious ever to laugh and have fun. Seek grace to work hard at whatever life calls you to do and enjoy your work as you do it. Leave to God its issues, let him measure its ultimate worth – your part is to use all the good sense and enterprise at your command in exploiting the opportunities that are before you. This is the way of wisdom.”

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Day 1 in the Wyld Wyld West

Day one of the Hutchins family western adventure began with a very rainy drive to Asheville, NC to catch our connecting flight in Atlanta. Mom and Dad were kind enough to drive and drop our happy trio at the tiny airport and we walked in feeling really confident. Jeff had never flown and Papaw hadn’t flown since 1960, so although it wasn’t his first rodeo, its pretty safe to say a lot has changed in the 53 years since he last boarded a plane. Thankfully, airport security at a place like Asheville’s small airport is a great opportunity to ease yourself into a healthy relationship with the TSA. We arrived an hour before our flight, which by my standards and past experience is incredibly early, so I sat outside and ate a burrito while Papaw and Jeff went through security alone JUST IN CASE it took longer than expected. Here’s a picture that is a pretty great reflection of everyone’s mood right before we boarded our one hour flight to Atlanta.

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The one-hour flight was uneventful and after taking the tram and walking “a country mile” to get to our next gate, we each had separate and delicious dinners and waited out our two-hour layover without much action. The flight to Las Vegas was, again, uneventful other than Papaw getting a crick in his neck from looking out the window too much and all of us feeling like fools when we realized Vegas was on Pacific time, not Mountain time, meaning our flight still had one hour left after we’d gotten all packed up and situated for arrival. Our landing into Vegas was a little rough and we were met with at the gate with all kinds of lights, fanfare, and posters of what appeared to be shirtless firefighters everywhere. We passed a group of slot machines and I said “Ooh let’s all put a quarter in one!”, which was met with disapproving looks from my two companions. This is now my second time to Vegas without dropping a penny in the gambling game, which either makes me a really good person or a really strange person, or neither, since the first time I was twelve and this time I’m with my grandfather.

Our first night, we stayed right off the main strip at a La Quinta and crashed as soon as we got there. We woke up this morning at 6 but it felt like 9, grabbed some continental breakfast, and stopped at the grocery store so we could buy snacks. Jeff bought a cooler for not one, not two, but TWELVE Diet Dr. Peppers (evidence below). Keep in mind that it’s only 24 hours until our next flight, so that’s one Dr. Pepper every two hours. Which is impressive.

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We stopped first at Hoover Dam, where we parked and walked across the top and took plenty of pictures. I’m amazed that something so colossal could be built right in the middle of flowing water. Kudos to engineers and river diversion. Afterwards, we continued on to the Grand Canyon, narrowly avoiding two collisions with other cars who failed to check their blind spot. I tried to convince Papaw and Jeff that they liked jerky so we could stop at one of those seedy jerky outlets in the middle of the desert and we could try some weird food (i.e. armadillo jerky), but no one took the bait, so we forged on.

We finally made it to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and it was certainly more breathtaking than I remember. We thought we’d missed the rain, but it came back…

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I’d argue that the canyon has to be more beautiful with a cloudy sky because it makes the view even more interesting. With clouds, certain sections of the space are shadowed and the sun shines through to highlight others, making the whole picture sort of ominous and magnificent.

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We saw some lightning in the distance and ended up getting drenched before we made it back to the car – not ideal, but part of the adventure. As I write this, we’re back in Williams, AZ, elevation of 6,770 feet, AKA not ideal for jogging. I learned this lesson the hard way about two hours ago.

Tomorrow we take on the Las Vegas strip before flying to Salt Lake City and beyondddddd……..pray for us.

SoCal #1

To continue from my last post, Kristen and I went to sleep in Reno at about 3AM and woke up to catch our flight to LA at about 6AM. The sunset was gorgeous. Reno is surrounded by hills and mountains that were covered in snow and incredibly colorful as the sun made its appearance.

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Maybe it was the lack of sleep, but I was an absolute rookie when it came to airport security, failing to have my laptop ready for screening, a full water bottle, and just a general lack of organization with all my coats/jackets/bags. Kristen waited on the other side and laughed at me while I struggled along and the TSA lady said, “Aw, is this your first time flying?” #amateurhour

One might say that we caused a scene on our short flight since our sleep-deprivation made us delirious and everything funny. So we hopped off the plane at LAX with our dreams and our cardigans, knowing it was the land of fame and excess and thinking WOAH are we gonna fit in? Then Grammy picked us up in her Honda Pilot and we headed for Burbank. My first impression of LA was a good one – I couldn’t believe how gorgeous it was. I guess I was expecting a concrete jungle, but was amazed at the amount of greenery. We drove about an hour and ended up at Nana and Papa’s house, Kristen’s paternal grandparents. Nana and Papa are originally from Egypt but have lived in California for years and years. They are fluent in Arabic, French, and English and have probably the best sense of humor I’ve ever seen for people of their age. Their house was on a hill with an awesome view of the surrounding area.

Nana and Papa let us borrow their car to explore SoCal for the next four days and explore we did. Our first day consisted of Hollywood Boulevard, where we did the star walk and stopped at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where all the hand and foot prints of stars are. We didn’t know what Grauman’s Chinese Theater actually was, so we approached the young girl up front and said, “Hi, um, what is this?” Her reply – “Uhh, it’s the most famous theater…ever…”

OH LOL SORRY!

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We got out of there and headed to Universal Citywalk, where we rested our tired selves by seeing the worst movie ever at a really nice theater and just explored around like usual. One thing that cracked us up in a this-is-kinda-sad way was the foreign family with young children that we “met”. They couldn’t speak English, but we asked them to take our picture and they sweetly obliged. The funny part, the kids were wearing glittery glasses and hats with marijuana leaves all over them. I’m pretty sure they had no idea what they were, just thought they were pretty hats.

Day two was Disneyland, which we never would’ve been able to afford but Grammy + Nana & Papa, who are ever so generous, bought us tickets. We were absolute children the entire day. I screamed my guts out on every ride, mostly for fun and then out of sort-of genuine fear on Space Mountain, where I promised Kristen I’d keep my hands up the whole time but instead sat there screaming with T-Rex arms.

My favorite parts of the day were 1) Jedi Training and 2) The California Adventure. As a life-long Star Wars nerd, I cannot being to explain to you the joy I felt when I turned the corner and saw about 30 little kids in Jedi robes with little lightsabers about to fight Darth Vader. I literally ran to the front of the crowd of parents and started snapping pictures with my iPhone. Where was this when I was a child?

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The California Adventure is a little car ride where you drive wimpy go carts on a set track. We made it fun by pretending we weren’t going five miles per hour and harassing seven year old boys who didn’t know how to react when we said, “Passin’ ya on the inside, sucka!!” as we “sped” past them.

Other favorites had to be Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, and a pirate/irish pub band that we encountered in the New Orleans part of the park. It was a dang good day.

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The Great Snow Disaster of 2013

Reuniting with Kristen was wonderful as well, and when she got off work we headed to her family’s cabin in Incline Village, just a few minutes from the lake. We were all exhausted and went to bed after catching up for an hour or so. The next morning we rose pretty early to explore the area before Kristen had to go to work. We went to Squaw Valley, site of the Winter Olympics in nineteen seventy-something, which (naturally) put every ski mountain I’ve ever seen TO SHAME. There was a high wind advisory, so we weren’t able to snowboard and our plan b, dog sledding, was thwarted when we realized it was $110/person.

I would like to pause for a moment to acknowledge the crying babies on this very turbulent flight from LA to Atlanta. Their volume and lung capacity is worth recognition.

Lake Tahoe was lovely and snowy and as beautiful as you can imagine. Hailey and I laid around watching movies and talking all afternoon while Kristen worked. It was pretty perfect – a cabin in Lake Tahoe with a wood burning stove, blankets, pillows, tea, books, and plenty of windows to see the snow. We checked the weather at about 7PM and saw that a decent storm was going to hit around midnight, so at about 8PM Hailey decided she was going to head back down the mountain to Reno before the roads became slick.

Now begins the great snowy disaster of January 2013.

We opened the door to go to Hailey’s car and were greeted by at least two inches of already-fallen snow. “Uh oh” we said, and loaded the car. I went back inside because my original plan was to wait for Kristen and ride down with her, but Hailey called me about 3 minutes later to tell me that she was still stuck in the driveway. She drives an Acura TSX that has front-wheel drive, so it’s not the worst car you could drive in the snow but it’s far from the best. She had some snow chains that neither of us had ever used, but we tried to put them on anyway. We thought we were pretty successful in getting them on tight, and were excited when we were able to back out of our parking spot and begin pulling up the driveway. We didn’t make it 10 feet before we started spinning, and finally stopped to assess the situation when it started smelling like we were burning rubber. I stepped out of the driver’s side door, looked at the front wheels, and my face probably looked like this:

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The snow chains had been turned completely sideways and were tangled all up under the car, squeezing the tires so tight (the wrong way) that there was NO chance of us being able to get them off. So there we were, stuck in the middle of the driveway/road, freezing in the snow, with no one to help us. Thankfully, Hailey got AAA for Christmas, so we called them. At first, they told us that they couldn’t help us because they didn’t do any work with snow chains. Thankfully, Hailey is the absolute best person to be with if customer service isn’t letting you have your way, so I listened with pride as she absolutely gave them the business and demanded to speak to a manager. In the meantime, I called the cops (what else was I supposed to do?), who came to our rescue and helped us convince AAA to send a tow truck to help us out. Hailey also managed to talk AAA into towing us all the way down to Reno (or so we thought) for free because she was so awesome/irate.

When Sasha the Romanian Angel (my affectionate name for the giant Romanian man who came to our rescue) finally arrived with his tow truck, he said, “I will NOT tow you to Reno and I will NOT drive you around this town. But I help.” At first he also said that he wouldn’t remove our gnarly snow chains, but quickly realized it was the first step to any solution. He jacked the car up, pried out the snow chains, and loaded it onto the bed of  the truck while Hailey and I warmed up in the cab of the largest tow truck I’ve ever seen. We still needed the snow chains to get down the mountain, so we spent the entire ride to Kristen’s work begging him to put the snow chains back on the right way but he never budged. He was afraid we would sue him if they messed up again. FAIR ENOUGH, Romanian angel. He dropped us off at the Hyatt Resort, Kristen’s workplace, where we paid the valet boys $30 to put on the snow chains on correctly.

Of course, as we started to drive Hailey’s car away, every brake light on her dashboard came on…PERFECT. The valet guys checked things out and assured us that the snow chains had messed up the sensors, but the brake cables were still in tact. Just what you hope to experience right before driving 50 miles downhill in a snowstorm. One of the chains broke on the way down, but we finally made it down to Reno at about 2AM.

SF to Reno!

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I would like to start this blog by saying that my mother, the most organized and put-together woman on earth, went out with a bang in San Francisco by almost missing her flight home. We were sitting in the bed in our pajamas about 9PM last Monday (we love the nightlife) talking about going to the Farmer’s Market before leaving the next day. Dad called Mom to hear about our day, and then said, “Wait, aren’t you supposed to be home tomorrow morning?”  So mom double-checked her e-mail and we freaked out upon realizing that her flight was supposed to leave in two hours.

She threw her stuff together, got dressed, and repeated, “I cannot believe I did this…” as I called a cab for her. She ended up making her flight so I feel comfortable saying that it was hilarious.

I did a little exploring by myself the next morning before catching a (free – thanks Uber!) cab to the Greyhound station at about 3:00. After a brief incident involving my iPhone, a homeless man, and the security guard that I had thankfully befriended, I was on my way to Reno. Greyhound is not exactly the most luxurious mode of transportation, but it was certainly the cheapest at just $15.

I wondered if I would feel safe, but our bus driver was such a large and sassy lady that I was confident she could kill a man without even pausing to pump the brakes. I read for about an hour until it started getting dark, then my neighbor and I turned on the overhead reading lights so we could keep reading. Apparently sassy bus driver didn’t like lights, because she said, “TURN THEM LIGHTS OFF,” which we obeyed without question. My iPhone was dead, so I ended up just sitting there for about 4 hours since I can’t sleep on a bus/plane/train/anything but a bed. I didn’t mind too much, though – after 8 or 9 days of constant movement it was nice to reflect and be still a while.

My (accidental) quest to rescue old people in their peril continued in Sacramento. We had a 15-minute rest stop and I was standing next to the sink in the bathroom to charge my phone, minding my own business. A very old and tiny Chinese lady came out of a stall, tripped over her backpack, and was sailing face-first for the corner of the sink when I caught her in my arms and stood her back up. She didn’t speak English very well, but she said “Ohhhhh you help me!” and had me help her with her backpack and make sure the straps were un-twisted. She then proceeded to try and exit the bathroom via the handicap stall. When this did not work, she looked at me quizzically and said, “Outside?” and I pointed her in the right direction.

We finally made it to Reno a little after 9:00PM. Hailey, one of my dearest friends from my semester abroad in Spain, picked me up at the station. It was so wonderful to see her after a year of trying to dream up a reunion! I spent barely any time in Reno, but I don’t have much good to say about the “biggest little city on Earth” or whatever it’s called. Hailey and I headed straight to Lake Tahoe; Incline Village to be exact.

To be continued!

Atlanta to San Francisco: A weird day in the best way.

I am working on a big blog about Passion but I just need to chronicle the events of today. Most days are an adventure, and today was a travel day so it was an extra-special adventure.

I woke up in Atlanta, GA and my dear friend Laura drove me to the MARTA stop so I could catch a train to the airport. I am pretty proud of myself, because I packed for 15 days in 3 different climates in one backpack and one carry-on suitcase. Shortly after getting on the train, they announced that, “There has been an emergency at the Airport Station and no trains will be running to the airport.” Alright, good, cool. Luckily, I had left with plenty of time to get to the airport, so I hiked my luggage back up to the road and called a cab. The cab I called didn’t come, so I hailed another cab that was passing by. So I hopped in with an old, hard-of-hearing man named Oscar who was blasting Jesus music and had been driving cabs in Atlanta for 34 years. He was 12 hours into a 48 hour shift (is that legal?) and we set on our way. Little did I know, the cab I called was pulling up and the driver saw me get into the other cab. So he followed Oscar and I to the next intersection hanging out the window yelling “Aye yo girl, you got in the wrong cab!” To which Oscar said, “Ohhh he just want all the money,” and I smiled and shrugged like I was confused and had no clue what was happening.

So Oscar and I had a good chat on the way to the airport, we fed a homeless man with some snacks we grouped together, and giggled at other people with road rage. He loves the Falcons, the Braves, and doesn’t like the Hawks because they can only win on the road. It may have been $30 more expensive than my original plan, but the company was much better.

My flight was direct from Atlanta to San Francisco, and I was in the middle seat between Jill from Florida and ? from India/Palo Alto. We were the best of airplane friends and they gave me all kinds of suggestions about where to go around town…so much so that it was on the edge of overwhelming, and ? told me all about his recent engagement and Indian Wedding customs. I slept exactly zero seconds of our 5 hour flight, and spend most of my time trying to read but not being able to hold my eyes open, but not being able to fall asleep. We’ll call it sleep limbo.

I left the terminal to catch the train to the other train (BART) where I was meeting Mom, and as I was approaching the escalator I watched as an older lady about halfway up tripped backwards over her suitcase and started tumbling down. I dropped all my stuff and sprinted up to the Emergency Stop button and helped her up. Many people on/about to board the escalator seemed annoyed that they now had to carry their baggage up a large flight of stairs, but when she said, “Oh, thank you for saving me!” I didn’t feel too self conscious about the glares. She went on her way and I used the courtesy phone to call the non-emergency police line so someone could come turn the escalator back on. What I didn’t realize was that calling the police means you have to give them all your information (?) , so my, “Hey, someone just needs to come turn the escalator back on…” was met with, “Ok, but we’ll need to get some information first.”

Anyways, my mother and I finally reunited and after wandering around in confusion for a little trying to get on the right train into the city. The BART is by far the noisiest/squeakiest mode of public transportation that I’ve ever used and it was also where another incident of good citizenship happened and I helped a lady shove her giant designer suitcases out from under a seat as she panicked/almost missed her stop and lost her son on the platform.

We arrived at our hotel in Downtown San Francisco and the elevator was broken. We were on the third floor, so the man at the front desk said, “Hold on, we’ll get you someone to help with the bags!” Out came a TINY Chinese man – literally 4’11” and at least sixty years old. I didn’t even want him to pick up my bag because I thought he might get squished. I started to protest but he threw on my backpack and hoisted my luggage ONTO his head, and charged up three flights of stairs. I wanted to say, “You’re just like a little Sherpa!” but I wasn’t sure if that was offensive, so instead I just kind of stood their looking stunned.

We “yelped” for some cheap dinner as ? recommended on the plane, and ended up at little hole in the wall Middle Eastern place that reeked of weed (we think it was drifting in from outside). Sound charming? We made friends with the owner at as we were ordering she looked out the window and said, “Showtime.” Apparently from 4-6 in SF, in an effort to speed up after-work traffic, you can’t park anywhere or you’ll get towed + a $500 ticket, or something like that. We satt with her as cars were towed and a clever homeless man took a glance around before picking a parking meter with a paperclip.

The whole day seemed like some kind of weird but definitely scripted reality show. Tomorrow Mom and I are renting bikes and riding all along the Bay and across the Golden Gate bridge. Today was such an adventure and we didn’t even try to do anything fun, so I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week holds.

Costa Rica

The past week has been one to remember. I was privileged to spend my Spring Break at La Gran Vista, an organic farm right outside of San Isidro, Costa Rica with 14 others from App State. The trip was an Alternative Spring Break through our university’s ACT office, an on-campus organization that facilitates community service activities. ASB is one of their largest “events” each year and there are student-led trips in several countries throughout Central and South America. I chose Costa Rica 1) because I wanted to go to Costa Rica, and 2) because it was the cheapest trip offered. Since I was studying abroad last semester when all the applications were due, my dear friend Amber and Mom both did a lot of work to help me make the trip happen and to get all my paperwork in on time. 

 

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View from La Gran Vista

I didn’t know anyone on the trip – there were two people I’d met briefly before but had never interacted with on any level. I love that – to me it is part of the adventure to go to a new place with all new people. I sincerely believe that you can learn something from everyone you meet, and I love opportunities to bond with people I may not normally hang around with. In an effort to live out my faith in tangible ways, I really want to love on people who don’t know Jesus and I find that when I am intentional about that, he opens and softens my heart to others in ways that I am not capable of cultivating on my own. 

 

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My sweet new friends!

We landed in San Jose and were picked up by Leo, a middle-aged Tico (Costa Ricans are called Ticos/Ticas) man who who told us it was a 2 1/2 hour drive to La Gran Vista. I wanted to practice my Spanish, so I sat in the front middle seat and served as Leo’s copilot. Turns out, he lived in Jersey for 12 years and whenever I spoke to him in Spanish, he’d always reply in English. Still, we grew quite fond of each other and by the time we reached the farm 5 (not 2.5) hours and about 100 songs with me as the ipod DJ later, he had expressed to me many times that I was the best and cutest copilot he’d ever had. #winning

 

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La Gran Vista sits on a mountaintop overlooking San Isidro and certainly lives up to it’s name – The Grand View. It is easily one of the most beautiful and serene places I’ve ever been. Donald and Xinia Villalobos are the owners, and they have built a very sustainable life for themselves that is so appealing to me. Their house was so simple but so beautiful; it was made of Bamboo and Eucalyptus trees from the rain forest that surrounded their property and was very open and spacious, allowing the breeze to blow through. It had a sprawling porch and balcony with swings and chairs and no matter what time of day, the temperature was always perfect on that porch. The first day Donald took us on a tour of the farm and showed us where he grew tomatoes, pineapples, papaya, oranges, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, limes, lemons, star fruit, mangoes, peppers, all kinds of medicinal and cooking herbs, and more. We literally picked things right off of the vine or tree and ate them. The meat we ate consisted of pork and chicken, both literally from the backyard, and any eggs we ate were also laid that day by the chickens they had there. They make their own hot sauce, wine, and shampoo as well from the things they harvest on their property and get all their gas to cook and heat their water from bio gas they collect from pig poop – sounds gross but is actually very simple and smart.  It was just about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Every day we had the most delicious, fresh food that I’ve ever eaten and it was amazing to know exactly where it came from. Donald is very passionate about what he does and I loved learning from him all week.

 

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The world’s greatest patio hangout.

Every day we woke up at about 5:30AM to the sound of roosters and cows, ate breakfast at 7:00, and started working at 8:00. We did serious manual labor every day, such a digging trenches in the rain forest and hand mixing 20+ bags of concrete to fix the driveway. Our typical workday was 8:00AM-12:00 noon, an hour break for lunch and relaxing, then working again from 1:30 – 5:00PM. After dinner, we usually reflected on the day and hung out for a little while before going to bed around 9:00PM completely exhausted. Although we were all worn out and sun-burnt, we had a blast. It felt good to work hard and our group worked so well together and we all sustained such a good work ethic that it was hard not to enjoy ourselves. We had the day off on Wednesday, so Leo picked us up and drove us to Playa Dominical, an awesome beach about an hour away. We started the day by laying around, swimming, getting even more sun-burnt, and eating coconuts straight off of the tree. After that we went to a marketplace full of Rastafarian people and bought a bunch of handmade goods before heading to a waterfall to relax for a little while longer. It was a perfect day. When we arrived back at La Gran Vista, Donald cut up the hugest, juiciest aloe plant I’ve ever seen and we all slathered our cooked skin in the amazing, fresh goo.

 

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Donald and I chopping up some coconuts to eat right off of the tree. 

It was apparent from the start that we were going to be a motley crew, full of dynamic personalities and world views all over the grid. This fact was further exemplified on our first night at the farm when we were sitting on the porch talking after lunch and Donald said, “So, what do you guys think about the afterlife?” Now that got people talking. I feel like I can’t say more out of respect for others, but conversations like this continued to grow more thoughtful as the week went on and it was beautiful to see God’s faithfulness which is never.ending. 

 

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Playa Dominical, Costa Rica

Donald referred to our planet as a “sinking ship” and asked us what we were doing to save it. The metaphor was as follows – are we doing our part to get water out of the boat or are we otherwise occupied – living it up at the casino, drinking at the bar, playing in the pool, etc. As for me, I think before this trip I was unaware that the boat was sinking. My week at La Gran Vista really changed the way I think about the environment and has really sparked me interest to learn more about being sustainable. 

 

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In summary, the trip was amazing. My group was amazing, our faculty sponsor, Debbie, was amazing, and I’d do it all over again next week if I could. Costa Rica is kind of intoxicating – I want to live there maybe more than anywhere else I’ve ever been. I hope one day I can go back!!