Thursday, August 5, 2010

So, In This Hour (TRS)

A new chapter, filled with new faces, new places, new everything pretty much - 2 months into it now and I don't even know if I've come up for air! I'm going to admit, I was a little hesitant about life in Glendale...I did not want to move out of Tempe, but to my surprise, Glendale has been much more than I expected. I think this has a lot to do with the people and good energy around here. It's crazy how we can adapt to change so quickly - In every stage of my life I become happily immersed in my surroundings and I never want to leave, but again and again I always find myself surrrounded by exceeding beauty. Change is good...and inevitable, but despite my resistance to it life continues to show me a plethora of amazingness that this world holds. In order for me to continue to experience more of it, I may just have to let go of what I hate to call, control, and embrace the fact that even if it doesn't make sense all the time, life is happening just as it should :)

After adjusting back from Haiti and preparing for grad school I found myself motivated but standing in the shadow of fear. I was afraid that I wouldn't live up to my potential in helping people or that I wouldn't pick the best path that would fulfill my role in life. There are so many what ifs, could haves, should haves, would haves in our lives that if we focus on them it takes us away from what we are doing in the present moment. The more energy we give to the past or the future, the more it takes away from being present right now. I'm not saying it's bad to get excited about upcoming events or motivated for future plans, but if we surround our lives with what is about to happen then we will completely miss what is actually happening right now. This is something I catch myself doing - always daydreaming about what cool things are coming up in life or reminiscing about past-time adventures, but I really want to focus on being present in every moment of my life. This includes every conversation, every encounter - being present is more valuable than I ever gave credit to..

There is one thing in particular that I've been focusing on - phone DE-attachment! I've been getting better and not constantly being on my phone, but sometimes I catch myeslf lost in text messages instead of immersed in my presence. It's just so easy! Friends, ideas, faces I can't see....are just a few clicks on my phone away. Now don't get me wrong, texting can be an incredibly valuable thing! But sometimes I put more energy into text-conversations than I do to conversations in person. The more I'm on my phone, the less present I am in my day, with whomever or with whatever I'm doing. I think I'm jipping myself on the time inbetween. Life isn't really a point A point B type of thing, it's a continuous journey....and I've been missing the beauty that makes up the miles and months between. BUT I'm working hard and slowly but surely, I'm becoming more present in my daily life :)

Back to school - If I had to sum up PA school in a few words they would probably be...brain overload, library, and cadaver juice. So pretty much I love it :) The people are awesome, the school is awesome -I can actually park
within a decent walking distance to class (as opposed to the 0.5-1 mile walks at ASU) and our professors have a pretty personal role in our education which is a huge difference from my undergrad experience. The amount of information that is thrown at is us nothing short of overwhelming, but at least the stuff is relevant and interesting! My feelings towards a few subjects on the other hand (biochem), can be summed up by the picture on the left....

I thought it would be weird having the same classes with the same exact people day after day...but I actually really like it. There are so many people from all over with a variety of backgrounds and personalities...but we all started this journey together so it's nice to travel with everyone fighting the same battles day by day.

We were watching a movie in class and at the end there was a woman was talking about certain trials that come up in life and not knowing what to do or what the right path is- sound familiar? I don't remember her exact words but she said something along the lines of... "I don't know the right answer, but if I'm going to take a risk, I'm going to boldly do it on the side of love" At this moment I finally realized that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be in life...Her words went straight to my heart - A good reminder that we all have options, decisions, and risks that we take in life, and many of them are criticized or questioned and sometimes I don't have a direct, all-encompassing, satisfying answer. Sometimes I just want to take the side of love, without a path of reason, just love.

I booked my flight to Colorado for break and was thinking about how excited I was ( dreaming about the future again!) and then I caught a tiny itty bitty glimpse of a strange emotion - I'm going to be out of Glendale for a whole week! I think I might miss my fellow Glendale-ites...weird? Nah, just a sign of good people and a little love.

Finals are approaching...which means we are almost a quarter done with our first year! I guess that endless nights studying, back to back to back exams, sitting 8 hours/day in the same lecture hall makes time fly. And I've come to the realization that smelling like cadavers...all day-everyday isn't all that bad when we're all in it together. 2 months down, can't wait to see what the next 25 bring!

Tattoos, hikes, party bus, forts, feasts, and jump street - great start to our journey!

Friday, May 7, 2010

[Haiti] The more I see, the less I know

The title of this post pretty much sums up my experience in Haiti. The more I see of the world, the more I realize that there is SO much I do not know.

[All in all is all we are] When I initially think of natural disasters I see an opportunity for communities to come together, for countries to come together - after all we do share the same world, right? Unfortunately I was unaware or maybe even ignorant to the dark side of a vulnerable situation. Don't get me wrong, underneath the corruption and social imbalance lies a tremendous layer of love and support among communities that cannot be expressed in words. But as I took a deeper look at what is impairing the re-growth, I stumbled upon a place that took my breath away. A place plagued with greed and silenced with abandonment - I had mentally prepared myself for tragedy, but not on this level.

The exposure to these factors brought new dimensions of challenge into my life - I won't go into all of the details, but the barriers that seemed to infarct social justice appeared bigger, walls of inequality stood taller, and the depths of despair dug deeper. When exposed to some of this corruption, one may feel discouraged - I know that I sure did. It seemed as if one mountain was conquered, any plight of triumph was squished by another mountain emerging behind the first, after all, Haiti does mean "Mountains beyond Mountains".

[Stuck] As I reflected on some of the issues that were going on I often felt overwhelmed with helplessness, how could I help these people? Anything I do won't change the corruption when it lies at the top of the power chain. I felt stuck at the bottom of a wall. Everytime I tried to look up to map my way over it, it seemed to grow taller and taller. As the seed of discouragement grew within me I turned to the first page of my journal and was humbled by this: "I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but I can still do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."

I had written this down before I left for this trip to remember the importance of a single person. This reminds me of a short empowering story about a little starfish that Jamie shared during one of our discussions...

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so , he walked faster to catch up. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?" The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean." "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!" At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "I made a difference to that one!"

I love this story :) It reminds me that we may not be able to fix every problem or support every child that leaves footprints in our hearts, but that shouldn't discourage me from not trying my best to serve other
communities to the best of MY ability. My role is not to fix Haiti's problems, or Africa's problems, or anyone's problems - but rather to support our neighbors, to help them help themselves and to be a source of love. Service doesn't mean you have to fix what is broken! Service = support. I think this is something that is easily forgotten amongst fellow travelers, it's easy to show up in another culture and think you have the answers to their problems - Children are starving? Well let's just give them food! Diseases are spreading? Well let's solve it the way we do it in my country - this approach doesn't leave room for cultural differences or sustainable growth. It would be nice if problems and solutions were that universal, but I believe there is more to healing than that..

[You can turn off the light, but I'm still gonna shine] As our days passed I embraced the love pouring out from the kids -this was one of the strongest factors that eased my discouragement. A good friend of mine once told me that poverty looks the same all over the world, I didn't understand what this meant until this trip. Poverty does look the same in terms of the physical aspects -
broken down buildings, trash lining the streets, etc. but another aspect I have found among areas of poverty that I have visited is the immense level of faith & hope that hold "broken" communities together. These communities may have fallen from the outside, but time and time again it is proven to me that an internal infrastructure of love and support withstands any brokenness. There was light radiating through these children - the same type of light I have seen in the hearts at Peace Matunda. It's the type of extraordinary light that stops you in your tracks and you saw wow, how does a heart like that fit into that tiny body?? Amazing :)

I was lucky enough to celebrate my 23rd birthday on the trip! As tradition entails for my birthdays, there was dinner and dancing, but in an incredibly non-traditional way! We had rice, beans, and the [delicious] Haitian red sauce, afterwards we gathered in a circle on the patio where we were called out one by one by the kids to show off our dancing skills as they sang Creole songs! Most of the kids could shake it ten times better than I can, but I think they appreciated my sprinkler moves....who knew turning 23 could be so fun?

[Blessed] Other than the birthday fun, the best part of my trip was the blessing of the grounds before the construction for the orphanage started. Our organization raised enough money to purchase materials to start building the orphanage. It's so hard to put into words the energy of the atmosphere. As we closed our eyes for the pastor's blessing, every external sensation seemed to disappear, all I could feel was my heart beating as I was overwhelmed with the light of the moment. I wish I could accurately describe how incredible it was to stand there, embracing the spirit of hope and thinking about how it was to be a home of refuge and a place of love. FAITH was a large component of my time in Haiti, it was challenged beyond it's limits - Ups, downs, even a few upside-downs. I don't think I've ever doubted or questioned my faith as much as I have any other time in my life. It also has never been strengthened like this before...

[Fly] We are going to face a lot of challenges in our lives, some are going to be overwhelming, some may seem impossible, and some may come with walls that make us want to run away or give up. But if I've learned anything from my recent experience it's that life isn't about surrendering your faith when things get hard, it's about surrendering control. Take life one day at a time and put your heart into your presence. Don't be discouraged in the face of injustice or run from fear, run with the breath of life - let the sky carry you :)

[Perception] We may not conquer the "Everest" of justice but a person's support and love may help an individual conquer a mountain in their own life and that impact is just as valuable. Those large mountains that seemed impossible to conquer can be impossible if that's all our perceptions allow us to see...but if we are able to venture outside of the conditioned perceptions we create, those giant barriers can be seen as inspiration.

<--- closed minded, closed heart, fear-oritented perceptions may only allow us to see a narrowed portion of what's out there, but if you open your heart, broaden your horizons, you may see the love and beauty that is everywhere ---------------------------------->

Barriers can be opportunities to motivate those willing to serve rather than scaring them away with complexities. I may not be able to donate millions or feed thousands of children but I am still one, and that's all it takes to make a difference in the life of one starfish.

There were so many incredible things I experienced in Haiti, it was just balancing the incredible with the unimaginable that was the most challenging. I couldn't have done it without the support and love of the group I was with - you guys are amazing! Thank you for guiding me into an experience of immeasurable inspiration, growth, and love.

My amazing friend Tamara sent me this song after I got back, it has a beautiful message that hits how I feel spot on, thank you Tee!

Hands -Jewel

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we're all OK
And not to worry 'cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won't be made useless
I won't be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken

Poverty stole your golden shoes
It didn't steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn't ever after
We'll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what's right
'Cause where there's a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing

My hands are small I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
I am never broken
In the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
My hands are small I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
My hands are small I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
We are never broken
We are God's eyes
God's hands
God's mind
We are God's eyes
God's hands
God's heart
We are God's eyes
God's hands
God's eyes
We are God's hands

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

[Africa] The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

It’s been a while now since I’ve been back from Africa (about 5 months) so I have had some time to reflect and process my experiences - and the love that came about :)

Before I get started, I am reminded of the discontinuity between experience and expression. It's nearly impossible for me to put into words how amazing the people and children that we worked with are, and what a true blessing it was to be given this opportunity to serve in the community. I may be limited by the use of my words, but I'm going to do my best to bridge the gap between what I actually experienced, and whatever comes out in this post!

SLOW DOWN --> For the first few weeks I was in Tanzania one of the greatest challenges was adjusting to the pace of life. It is much slower than the fast-paced American society where my day is jam packed without room for error (which I had grown to like) But this new pace was almost like living life in slow motion. Now this may sound silly, how could a slow paced day be challenging? It seems almost like a vacation, but my engine had been running on full speed for the past 4 years of college that I had forgotten what it was like to slow down and enjoy the ride. Instead of endless to do lists and time-oriented tasks, my days were filled with empty to do lists and love-oriented tasks.

Throughout the days I often lost track of time, but I feel that it went beyond that - as if I were lost in time itself. Slowing life down seemed to eliminate any superficiality that often drowns a face-paced society. Challenges were no longer skimmed at the surface and barriers were no longer conquered via short cuts, there are no short cuts.

As I emerged from this drowning state, I felt as if I could breathe deeper than I ever had before, it was life at its purest - completely exposed. This slow-paced environment leaves you with nothing but the core of life to embrace. The purity of this core is what I have been craving. Life was standing in front of my face the whole time, saying HOLD ON, let me show you something. Sometimes we feel we are too busy to stop, sometimes we just don’t want to stop because it may disrupt the momentum we have in our lives, but the amount of life that lies beyond my green planner is simply unbelievable. There is beauty that remains hidden in the minutes of our lives, it is up to us to choose to be aware of it or to let it pass with time. I encourage you to slow down, embrace that beauty, lose yourself in time, and maybe you will find yourself.

One of the most prominent characteristics among the locals was the emphasis on human relationships. Happiness was not based on money, or careers, or materialistic success, rather it came in the form of relationships and interactions. I realized that this truly is a fundamental aspect of life, mere human appreciation, yet it often falls short on the list of priorities here at home. The locals often engaged in conversations without hesitation, even though I enjoyed the chat I was unsure of what the other person’s motives were when the topics began to get more personal. Why did they want to know so many details? Why do they care if I just met them?

During a conversation I had with my group there was this idea that in short-term circumstances, people are only interested in bringing you into their lives when they get something out of it. I like to believe in the good of people so I didn’t feel aligned with this idea, but I soon realized that it is actually true! However, my initial idea of what people get out of it was completely wrong. The value lies in the interaction itself and in the relationship of that moment. Simply participating in a conversation and sharing parts of my life with others was a gift in itself. I know my friends and family care about these types of things, but I surely didn’t realize that other people (strangers) would find value in this - to my surprise, they did. It was genuine, it was real, and the barrier between my heart and this authenticity was myself. Being immersed in a community where all that some people had were each other reminded me that we ARE in this world together.

As I thought about the value of relationships in our lives, I couldn't help but ask myself, when was the last time I listened to a friend with my heart and not my ears? When was the last time I spontaneously stopped to talk to someone for 5 or 10 minutes? Passing hellos and rushed goodbyes were too often a part of my daily life...This plays into taking things in life for granted, including people and time. I am reminded to appreciate those in my life, and to shift my energy from school/work to the incredible people that fill my days - in this lies a true realignment saturated with REAL value. It intrigues me that these people in East Africa, who are considered to have next to nothing, really have more of what matters in life than many of us will experience. From a materialistic point of view, people may consider them to be poor and unhappy, but happiness goes beyond what our eyes can see and into a world where value lies in us - the truth is, many of these people are rich, with love - a true fortune of value.

It took me 39 hours and 17 minutes to get back to Phoenix, it was nothing short of a dizzy, mind-numbing return. The world was spinning as I attempted to process what the heck just happened in my life. My experience in Africa felt surreal, as if I was lifted out of my daily life and gracefully placed in a daydream. A dream that has enlightened my spirit and branded those Tanzanian smiles into my heart.
When I finally got home I felt as if I had awakened from that dream. As I opened my groggy eyes, the view was suddenly much larger than before. Was this real? What just happened? I went to Africa as an educator, with hours upon hours of pre field training, but no amount of training could have prepared my heart for what it was in store. I entered a whole new world, foreign to many aspects of my life both physically and mentally. Hope was taken to new heights and healing was completely re-defined. As memories emerge every now and then, I am often overcome with a sense of humbleness.

But this is no longer a dream, this is my reality, and this is our worldY

Friday, November 20, 2009

We are a part of the story unfolding...

I've given into the blogging world! :) I've realized that there are times when the thoughts running through my mind make no sense, and there are times when I think my heart has a mind of its own, but once in a while there are moments when my mind and my heart are aligned and everything seems to come together in harmony. I created this blog to explore my thoughts during those moments and to remember the inspiration that carries me there.