28 October 2012

All that... and a bag of chips!

Doug is taking the YAVs to the Mourne Mountains this week for our first retreat! Since we'll be away for Halloween, we used T.J.'s birthday as an excuse to dress up!

Anna as Henri, the French Existentialist Cat
Teej with the E. Belfast girls (we missed you, Courtney!)
From this picture, everyone looks surprisingly uncostumed.
T.J.'s friends from Woodvale.
Also known as Best Costumes meet Worst.
Yes, it's his birthday and I called his costume the worst.

I do not know what I would do without
a working single mummy and static cling in my life...
These boys are ridiculous.
All that and a bag of chips!

23 October 2012

Two months in...

I can't quite believe it, but as of this morning, I have been in Belfast for two months! I've done a lot since arriving...

  • Proved to myself that I could move to a foreign country
  • Dipped my toes in the Irish Sea
  • Mastered public transportation
  • Made countless new friends and acquaintances
  • Voted by absentee ballot
  • Explored a new city and began to learn about its historical impact
  • Hosted my first guests
  • Successfully planned (and executed) various lesson plans
  • Climbed Cave Hill
  • Tried all sorts of disgusting-sounding potato chip flavors
  • Taken time each day to notice and appreciate my surroundings
  • Kissed a fish
  • Become proficient at picking out American accents in the vicinity
  • Learned how to lock my front door!
  • Rid our apartment of mice (I hope)
  • Discovered a deep love of Tunnock's Tea Cakes
  • Learned to understand (most) local accents and expressions
Of course, it's not all sunshine all the time... I still have challenges and frustrations as I adapt to this new culture. I will say that besides the obvious people, the things I miss most are the clothes dryer and my Grasshoppers CSA subscription. I also miss my car, especially when walking home after buying groceries!

I have a few longer blog posts I'm still formulating in my head, but I wanted to check in and let you know I'm still alive and well! 

Until next time, 

13 October 2012

A break from the busyness

Double rainbow - what does it mean?!
Today was good.

David agreed to take me on the Cave Hill hike I missed a few weeks ago, and the weather was perfect for the trek. Apparently my daily walk to work hasn't been quite as taxing as I'd hoped, because I found myself to be quite out of breath on the way up! While my body is exhausted and empty this evening, my spirit is full. Today was just what I needed.

For those who don't know, Cave Hill is a prominent feature visible from most of Belfast. The outcropping of rock resembles the profile of Napoleon, tri-corner hat and all, and is said to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. It is just about 2 miles from our house, but this was the first time I'd made the trip.

It was so refreshing to be out in nature. The scenery is gorgeous, and reminded me what is so special about the place that I now call home. I've been so bogged down in bus schedules, difficult interactions with young people at work, rainy days and late nights in the office, that I forget to take a look at the wider picture and appreciate what is around me. I didn't get any photos of the more foresty bits of the trail, but just picture Fern Gully meets Never Never Land. The wind rustling in the leaves reminded me to breathe for the first time in weeks.

About halfway up. We're going to the very top!


My mind wandered most of the way up the trail. Every challenge I encountered became a symbol of things I've been struggling with for the past few weeks: the feeling of helplessness as I couldn't find my footing in the slick mud, my initial unwillingness to get my hands dirty. The difficulty I find in admitting my weaknesses and reaching out for (or accepting) a friend's hand to pull me up. Thankfully, David was a patient guide, letting me stop often to catch my breath (under the guise of taking a photo) and take my own sweet time getting up the path.  

Surprise rain storm!
I may have labeled today's post under "small victories" - but I think overall, reaching the summit was much more than that for me today. The gift I have been given, allowing me to spend this year in a place that feels so close to the divine, should not be forgotten. I need to take more time to enjoy the journey!
View from the top

I've sung in mountain cathedrals, with steeples rising high. With altars made of evergreens and windows made of sky...


05 October 2012


So, while I was preparing for my grand adventure, I had several people ask what I would do when I was finished. My answer was generally some version of, "this year is meant to change my life, so I'm going to wait for that before making any big plans". The problem with this, however, has become apparent:

It's already time to book my flight home. 

No, this hasn't changed from "A Year of Service for a Lifetime of Change" to "Six Weeks of Service...", but to ensure the church gets the best rates, they book our flights home almost a year in advance. Hence the whole "time to book your flight home" scenario in which I find myself.

This shouldn't really be a problem. I mean, it's not like I have to have a job waiting for me in order to book the tickets, but it does raise several questions I thought I'd have a little more time to answer: e.g., Do I want to travel after my placement is complete (stupid question)? Where and for how long? Do I want to pursue higher education? If so, when do classes start? All of a sudden, the questions I thought I had some time to put off have become immediately pressing.

Time to do some research... and praying!

04 October 2012

FAQ: Stateside edition

Whenever I tell people where I'm from, there are always many questions. I've compiled a few of my favorite / the most popular for your reading pleasure:
Image via google search from here
5.   Are there cowboys in Kentucky?
4a. Where is (insert name of state)? or alternately,
      4b. How far is ____ from ____?
3.   Where do Amish people live?
2.   Do you know Christina / Zoe / Linnea / ...?
And by far the most popular question I receive:
1.   Do you have Kentucky Fried Chicken there?