Service Learning: Transformation in the Garden

Perhaps you remember reading my post about Lili and Edwin (posted February 3rd), and how they were such a huge answer to prayer for a class schedule for the semester, for friendship, and for a faith community. They are the leaders and business owners of their organic produce business, named Nativo, located in Lumbisí. The joy and peace I felt when I met them at the end of January has continued to be so abundant, throughout the duration of the semester.

For a bit of cultural context, Lumbisi is a small community with indigenous heritage and is a neighboring community to where I live in the valley of Cumbayá. It is an area of families who own land and cultivate their own crops, but would be socially considered lower class. What differentiates Lili and Edwin’s business from the rest is that their product is all organic and they have enough family land to produce enough for their household, and to sell.

I have had the opportunity, through IES Abroad, to take Service Learning as a class this semester. I feel so blessed by my placement with Lili and Edwin! They have the kindest hearts for service to their community, and the neighboring ones as well. They make organic produce affordable for those who would otherwise never bother to eat healthy, and they teach their clients the importance of caring for their bodies. They are the most genuine people I have ever met and their faith is what guides them through each and every day.

I truly admire Lili and Edwin for the work that they do for their community, and for the faith they continue to display, no matter the situation. They live in a community where they are “weirdly different.” Lili and Edwin both had the opportunity to study at universities in Ecuador, unlike many in Lumbisí, and they want to share their knowledge for the benefit of the entire community. Also, they don’t have friends in their community that are Christian, so it is difficult at times to develop deep connections with their neighbors. Despite these challenges, Lili and Edwin have each other and their families to help them continue to choose to serve, and be disciples to those around them.

This semester I helped Lili and Edwin prepare for their weekend sales, every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. Some days we would sort chocho for 3+ hours. Other days we would package the produce for the weekend, and we would go to their land to harvest produce such as avocados, lemons, limes, blackberries, and guava. I think IES Abroad and Lili and Edwin would admit that this placement was a bit of a gamble, at first. Lili and Edwin had never had a volunteer before, and IES Abroad holds high standards for the Service Learning class. This placement surely surpassed any requirements and the experience has been valued by Lili and Edwin, my IES Program Leaders here in Quito, and me. Lili and Edwin are always prepared for they days I come. They are always teaching me new things and health benefits of the plants/produce. In the repetitiveness of the tasks, I learn more about Ecuadorian culture by talking with them for hours on end.

My favorite moments of every week are with Lili and Edwin. When I am with them, I feel peace, joy, hope, needed, and so very loved. They care for me as if I am their child they and invite me to their special holiday meals. I am trying not to think about having to say goodbye to them yet. This past week, I introduced an IES Program Leader and a fellow classmate at my placement site with Lili and Edwin. After Lili mentioned how much they were able to develop as a business over these past couple months by having a set of extra hands, my program leader asked, “So, what are you going to do when Morgan leaves?” Lili just said, “Cry, we are going to cry.” Half jokingly because of the positive life view that Lili has and her continual trust that God will always provide. But, seriously in the reality that it will be hard to say goodbye to our weekly conversations and relationships.

I am thankful my original schedule didn’t work out when I got here, despite the stress I felt in January because of it. I know God hand-picked Lili and Edwin to show me, through their daily love and encouragement, how to live a life of joy and peace and friendship. A life that is selfless and fulfilling, no matter the circumstances thrown our way.

 

 

Do I feel safe in Paris?

My sister and I were talking on the phone, about a week ago, when this question came up. Upon her asking, I was slightly stunned, why would I not feel safe? She then proceeded to forward me an email that she’d received from the United States Embassy which, sure enough, showed that the travel advisory for France was raised from level 1 to level 2 telling people to exercise caution due to “terrorism” and “civil unrest.” After reading the full article, I was still shocked. I couldn’t imagine being scared of going to the places I’d frequented for the last three months just because of some travel advisory. In order to talk my sister off the ledge, I explained to her that I don’t feel afraid, regardless of what the U.S. Embassy says.

For the last three months, I have been living in a city that is a hub for Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) protests that have been frequently dubbed “violent” because of the actions of certain casseurs (people who break things) in their midsts. The 18th Saturday of the Gilets Jaunes movement was by far the most violent, at least in Paris. They marched from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Elysées, a street that boasts famous luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Cartier. The boulevard epitomizes the system which the Gilets Jaunes have felt has suppressed them: capitalism. I walked on that street the very next day and was shocked to find windows completely shattered and the awning of one of the fanciest, most expensive restaurants in Paris, Fouquet’s, victim of a fire started by these casseurs.

At the same time, I’ve had very different experiences with the Gilets Jaunes. I remember one Saturday I was out shopping with some friends and I’d just said goodbye to them to head back home by way of the metro. Just next to the metro entrance, the street was completely packed with a parade of Gilets Jaunes, shouting and singing, but not breaking anything. In order to get to the metro, I had to go through them. Carefully, I joined in with the group and slipped out on the other side of the road unharmed. No one wanted to hurt someone who was passing by because those are not the people that the Gilets Jaunes want to express their frustrations with.

While similar situations have occurred multiple times for me, I know some people who haven’t been as lucky with their Gilets Jaunes experiences. A group of students my age were leaving a store when they found themselves in between the police and the Gilets Jaunes. They got sprayed with tear gas! Unfortunately, there are run-ins like this between police and Gilets Jaunes fairly frequently and I’ve almost had the same thing happen to me.

One day after class, I wanted to go buy a crepe by the Seine because that’s where you can find them fresh and extremely cheap. I took the metro to Place de la Concorde which is right next to where I’d previously seen these crepe stands. A little bit of background, Place de la Concorde is well-known because it was where thousands of people were guillotined during the French Revolution, and has since been a popular place for other protests due to its historical relevance. When I got up the stairs out of the metro, I was met with the sight of Gilets Jaunes on my left and the Gendarmerie (the French riot police) on my right. I stopped in my tracks and considered: was the crepe worth it? That question was answered fairly quickly as I saw some casseurs already starting to pick fights. I immediately retreated into the metro, the crepe completely forgotten. A woman passed me as I headed back in and she asked me if where I was coming from was an exit. I told her yes, but that I wouldn’t recommend it because there was a confrontation happening there. This is the advice that I would give to everyone who asks me about the Gilets Jaunes: don’t go looking for them, and when something doesn’t feel right or when you see them and the police together, avoid them at all costs. For my friends that got tear gassed, it is unfortunate that that happened to them. However, part of staying safe is being smart about where you go and being flexible with your schedule. If I were in the same situation as my friends, instead of leaving the store, I would have stayed inside and waited until the coast was clear because safety is much more important.

I think that explains pretty well the part of the warning about “civil unrest” and now for the “terrorism” aspect.

The Monday after the Gilets Jaunes’ most violent weekend, I was eating breakfast and listening to the radio with my host mom, Katherine. The radio hosts were discussing new measures that would be taken in order to combat the violent activities of some Gilets Jaunes. They explained that after all of the vandalism committed by certain casseurs, the French government would be releasing the national army to protect national monuments. What they said next I didn’t quite understand so Katherine helped better explain it. She told me that when someone commits an act such as vandalizing a national monument in France, they are no longer a criminal, they are considered a terrorist. This is where I think something has been lost in translation. Over the past months that I have been here, I have heard nothing about any terrorist groups plotting any attacks in Paris from any of the media outlets that I have been following. I was quite shocked when I heard that terrorism was one of the factors cited by the U.S. Embassy for raising this advisory. This isn’t to say that there is no possibility of some kind of attack being plotted against Paris, it’s just to say that I haven’t heard or read anything about it. That being said, this “terrorism” that the U.S. Embassy has discussed is possibly linked more with a situation that has been misinterpreted or that they have intelligence that has not been released to the general public.

If, in fact, there were to be some type of extreme danger in Paris, similar to the attacks of November 13, 2015, quite frankly, I would be scared. And, I came to France knowing that that event took place in the city that I would be moving to. However, I am also from a country that has been the setting of various acts of terrorism and I’m not afraid to live there, so why should I be afraid to live here? In fact, I believe that at one point other countries had placed high travel advisories on travel to the United States due to our policies on guns.

In short, yes, I do feel safe in France as I know that I’m at just as high a risk of becoming a victim of violence here or anywhere else in the world. I won’t spend my time worrying about the possibility of being attacked when I could be out exploring the beautiful country I’m in. Life is too short to live in fear of the “what-ifs”.

So now that I’ve talked about the biggest concerns that people have about the safety of France as a whole, I’ll cover some more frequent causes for worry for those who plan to visit, or know someone visiting Paris.

 

PICKPOCKETS and SCAMMERS

When I originally told people that I was going to study in Paris, one of the first questions to come up was “oh, but what if you get pickpocketed?” and then they would proceed to tell me some story about their second cousin’s spouse who got robbed on the streets of Paris. I’ll be frank with this one: I have never *knock on wood* been pickpocketed; I’ll explain how while we talk about why certain people get targeted more commonly by pickpocketers than others.

There’s a couple speaking loudly in a language that is not French in the metro. They are in their sixties wearing backpacks on their fronts and looking at their handy-dandy pocket map of Paris. As they filter out of the train and up the stairs to street level, a young man trips on the stairs in front of them. While the nice couple is helping this young guy up, another person comes and snatches the older man’s wallet from his pocket. It isn’t until five minutes later that the man reaches into his pocket to find that his wallet is missing. This is one of the stories that I heard during my orientation here and it demonstrates exactly what not to do in Paris in order to not get pickpocketed.

Quite likely, the primary factor that makes someone a target is how they dress. If you’re wearing a backpack on your chest you may as well have a massive neon flashing sign pointing to yourself with the word “TOURIST” written out on it. Literally, no Parisian person ever does this. And while you think you’re being smart about not letting someone open your backpack without you looking, really you’re just doing yourself a disservice by indicating to everyone who sees you that you do not live here and as such, you are vulnerable because you don’t know the local tricks that thieves use to rob you. Inversely, so many people come to Paris on vacation to enjoy all the amazing things that the city has to offer, one of the most popular being French fashion. I kid you not, I have seen people in head-to- toe couture with their designer handbags and thousands of dollars in jewelry. This is just as bad as tourist fashion. Basically, when people dress like this they are advertising to people that they are wealthy, and therefore make themselves targets for pickpockets. Essentially, a happy medium between American tourist and fashion blogger is the way to go because you can blend in, and ultimately avoid unwanted attention from thieves.

Sometimes, blending in just doesn’t work out so here are a couple solutions to keep pickpockets at bay and protect yourself the best that you can.

If you are really worried about someone taking something from your bag without your knowledge, keep valuables in zipped pockets, money belts, or in the innermost parts of your backpack. One word of caution about keeping valuables in bags is that it is not uncommon for people to cut open bags with knives. Please be cautious about what you choose to carry your belongings in. One of the girls I met during my study abroad orientation told me she didn’t want to wear a backpack so she got a sturdy shoulder bag that zips. She could blend in better with the French and keep an eye on her bag if she ever felt like she might be the target of pickpocketing.

It’s also a really good idea to research common scams or techniques that pickpockets use to steal from you. Most Parisians are incredibly familiar with all of them so they know how to recognize a trap when they see one. Familiarize yourself with common schemes so that you don’t have to become a victim. Before I came to France, I watched a lot of videos about scams that specifically target tourists in Paris. If you’re curious, this is the best one that I’ve found:

As someone who has been in Paris for over three months, I feel like I know how to blend in enough so as not to make myself a target. Even so, if it were to happen despite preventative measures, the best solution is to be as loud as possible and make a scene because that is the exact opposite of what thieves want. They will abandon ship as soon as you start to draw attention to the fact that they were trying to rob you, so it’s best not to be shy.

 

AS A WOMAN IN A BIG CITY

I will admit that as a female in Paris, sometimes I do not feel incredibly safe. In discussing with lots of other women here, they all have really similar experiences. They’ve all had experiences in their day-to-day lives where certain men have made them feel really uncomfortable, to say the least.

One of the teachers at CIEE, a parisienne through and through, spoke about getting in the metro and having men just stare at her, and not in a good way either. This is actually something that I’ve experienced quite frequently and it is incredibly uncomfortable. They just stare at you and when you make eye contact they don’t look away. I’ve never felt unsafe or threatened when this kind of situation has occurred because there are plenty of other people around, but really the only word I can use to describe it is unsettling.

Aside from weird eye contact, there is also the matter of catcalling. Of all of my female friends that I’ve talked to, literally every one of them have been catcalled at least once since they’ve been in Paris. This is pretty generous of a statistic to give because it does happen quite frequently. However, this happens pretty much everywhere else in the world so unfortunately, as a woman, I just have to ignore it in the hopes that the man won’t continue.

Lastly, walking alone at night. Paris is known as the City of Lights which is nice for us gals who are walking back home at night. Paris itself is really well-lit at night so it’s not like you are walking around in complete darkness! Whenever I have to walk in the dark, I don’t exactly feel scared doing so. It is so well-lit and there are usually always people out because it is such a touristy city. I wouldn’t say I necessarily recommend walking alone at night because I don’t, but I also won’t say that I feel afraid doing so. That being said, it’s also a good idea to consider asking a friend to walk with you to your neighborhood and definitely try to avoid distractions like using your phone or listening to music until you are safely inside.

All in all, Paris is not a city to let your guard down in, but it also isn’t a place that should seem intimidating or scary. As long as you are well-informed and smart about what you do and where you go, it’s more than likely that you’ll have a safe and pleasant stay in Paris.

NYC Differences

aerial view of Manhattan

As my time here in New York begins to come to a close, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the differences I’ve noticed between Michigan and NYC. Given that I’m still in the United States, you wouldn’t think there would be so many cultural differences, but there honestly are!

Here’s my current list of differences:

Multi-Level Stores: Everything here is so squished and condensed! It’s a rarity to walk into a store and for there to not be an escalator or two. I must have gone up at least four escalators when my roommate and I went to see Captain Marvel in theaters (it was so weird)! Even a few Starbucks here will have a partial upper floor with additional seating (because abundant seating is also a rarity in NYC).

No one owns a car: Instead, everyone uses the subway, which makes sense, because the drivers in NYC are crazy! Even though the metro is dingy and breaks down frequently, it’s super convenient! It’s so nice to be able to hop on a train and simply read a book while you wait to get to your destination. I have been purchasing 30 Day Unlimited passes, which means I can take the subway as much as I want!

Everything here is so much more expensive: I mean, I knew this going in, but I still mourn my wallet’s empty state.

There’s no green or trees here: If you want to see trees or grass or really anything that isn’t a dull gray, you have to go to Central Park (at least in Manhattan, parks are more frequent in other places). It’s kind of a bummer. Then again, Central Park is such an expansive and beautiful place. My first time going there, I wandered around and explored, and it was really peaceful.

Gray Slush: Any snow we get quickly turns into a gray slush that makes my toes freeze. I mean yes, I’m totally grateful that I missed out on that Polar Vortex everyone in Michigan was suffering from early on in the year, but I’m still kind of sad that I haven’t seen real snow this year. Who would have thought?

It’s dirty and gross and smells everywhere: Might want to come with nose plugs. If not, you get used to it…somewhat.

It’s easy to find your own unique corner of NYC: There’s so many events and meetups happening, it’s so easy to find your own niche. I’ve been able to go to some many writing and book events that I wouldn’t have had access to in Michigan!

Never ending activity and noises: Gotta love police cars zooming by at 2am, though in all honestly, Hope has prepared me well for this with the railroad tracks that go by on campus.

Diversity: There are so many different cultural corners to NYC! You have places like Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Poland, etc. The weekend before Fat Tuesday, I made my way down to Little Poland and my friend and I got pączkis from an authentic Polish bakery.

Everything is so easily reachable:  I can walk out of the New Yorker and cross the street to reach CVS. Target is only a 7 minute walk away. You walk to almost any sort of store or fast food place.

One Dollar Pizza: I appreciate the existence of $1 slices of pizza so much. Honestly, I purchase it on a weekly basis; my roommate and I have made it a tradition. (And it’s also easily reachable: only a 5 minute walk!)

 

Regardless of these differences, NYC has really grown on me during my time here. I sincerely hope I’ll be able to return in the near future.

Weekly Freedoms and Limitations

Over the course of the past 3 months (it has already almost been that long!), I have experienced new freedoms and new limitations that come with living in a new culture. Let me preface that by saying that some of these things are not necessarily better or worse than my day to day life experiences I have in the States, but rather cultural differences I am living and growing through.

Freedoms:

Travel: What a strange concept it is to be able to travel on the weekends, and choose my weekly adventure! As I’ve mentioned before, Ecuador is a richly diverse country in every aspect, including it’s landscape. In the States, there is rarely the opportunity to travel somewhere for an entire weekend during the academic year. Weekends are too short and packed with homework nearly every single week at Hope. In Ecuador, the University provides 3 day weekends… (yes, that means never having Friday classes!). Academics in Ecuador seem to be a bit different, as well. While classes still have homework, tests, presentations, and group projects– there is much less “busy work.” All of the assignments tend to have a bit more weight, but they are all directly related to class material and there isn’t thousands of extra readings to be done. This makes traveling a reality, not only for the sake of time in days, but because of the decreased amount of homework than what I am used to. Not to mention the cheaper cost as well!

Time: Because I am here for only a semester without my closest friends and family and jobs, I have much more freedom with time. I can read a book for fun, go for a walk, watch a movie etc., things I rarely have time to enjoy during the academic year in the states.

Limitations:

Diet: The Ecuadorian diet is healthy, fresh, and nutritious for cheaper prices than at home. My biggest challenge is navigating life with a host family who rarely eats at home themselves. I have less control over what I eat than I do at home.

Transportation: Oh how I can’t wait to be able to drive my car again! The bus system is cheap and super helpful, as you can go anywhere in the country on a bus… however, it is also very time consuming on curvy mountain roads that make me feel quite sick.

Home: Being away from home just means being more conscious about everything. From safety, to time of day, to knowing where my food and water comes from, I’ve come to recognize the little things I take for granted at home.

These are just some of the basic things that are very different than my West Michigan life in the States. There are clearly freedoms and limitations in both lifestyles that provide different experiences and opportunities. What a ride it has been, the past 3 months!

 

 

5 things that happened after I sprained my ankle in Paris

So a little bit of background: I really like to run so as I’ve been in Paris I’ve made it a habit to go out running a couple days out of the week. Right next to my apartment in Paris is the Bois de Boulogne (see my post La Maison Française for more information) which is where I like to run because it’s a nice change of scenery from the mostly concrete city in which I live. Essentially, it’s a huge park with dirt trails and lots of rocks so it’s definitely best to watch your step. However, one day I was running and I definitely did not look where I was going and, sparing you the not so fun details, I now have a sprained ankle:)

Now, normally a sprained ankle isn’t really that big of a deal because it’ll heal in a couple of weeks and not be a big problem, BUT, that has not been the case for me. A couple of years ago, I sprained the same ankle pretty badly so this new sprain is healing over scar tissue which makes the process much, much longer. It has now been around a month since I’ve royally messed up my ankle and it is still a ways away from being up for anything more than a brisk walk. That being said, in the time that I’ve been sidelined I’ve devised a list of five things that happened after I sprained my ankle (in France!):

1. I learned how to take a break: When I got to Paris I was overwhelmed with all of the things that I wanted to see and do. Up until I sprained my ankle, I was using all my spare time outside of class and on homework to cram everything into the short time that I’m here. The day after I sprained my ankle I spent the entire day in bed and it was so nice! Katherine gave me books on Paris that let me see all of the things that I hadn’t yet been able to see in person. I started reading Harry Potter in French, and spent some much needed time on Netflix. That’s not to say that that is what every day since then has been like, but it definitely showed me that I can still be enjoying my experience here without having to constantly be going somewhere to see something.

                                                Exploring Paris from home!

2. I learned to enjoy just walking without a destination: Running was my primary source of exercise when I came to France so I was really upset when, all of a sudden, I couldn’t do that anymore. So, I turned to walking. Instead of just walking around the Bois de Boulogne (I was overwhelmed with a feeling of betrayal from my accident), I opted to walk around and see the sights I hadn’t yet experienced in Paris. I used to be so focused on doing all the touristy spots. However, from just walking around I found so many cute places that, dare I say, are even better than some of the main attractions.

3. I learned that it’s okay to say no: A lot of my friends here really like to go out and explore whenever they have free time. I do too, but sometimes I really just want to be on my own and take things in at my own pace. My ankle gave me an excuse, but gradually I learned that I shouldn’t need one. You are 100% allowed to say no to your friends, and they will understand. Sometimes you just want to be by yourself to think and breathe and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

4. I learned SO MUCH FRENCH: Alright so this may be a bit of a strong statement, but right now I feel fairly confident in my language skills and really do feel like I’ve improved. Since I’ve had to spend a lot more time resting at home, I’ve passed a good portion of my time talking with my host mom, Katherine. Meals in France take a long time to make, especially if you have a host mom like mine who loves to talk; which is something I appreciate about her. Normally I would go running in the morning on weekends and would miss eating breakfast with Katherine. However, I couldn’t do that so we have pretty extensive breakfasts and conversations that last long after we’ve finished our bread and coffee. At the start of the semester, I mostly just let her talk because I didn’t understand everything and it was really hard to interject. Now it’s much more of an actual conversation. Mostly we talk about the news since we listen to that on the radio over breakfast, but she also tells me lots of stories from when she was my age. I tell her about my family back home and how things are different there from how they are here.

5. I learned to relax the way Parisians do: While walking I found my way into Jardin du Luxembourg, a massive park on the Left Bank with lots of trees and green space which is hard to come by in Paris. The day that I found it happened to be one of the first really beautiful spring days so, naturally, it was packed with people. Luckily I was able to find an empty lawn chair in the sun and sat there for a couple of hours, just reading my book and enjoying the fresh spring air.

                                   Reading in the Jardin du Luxembourg

This last one reminded me of a conversation I had with my sister, who is also studying abroad this semester. She recounted a story of her sitting near a lake, just relaxing. The sun was shining brightly and the sky a perfectly clear blue. For just a moment when she closed her eyes she told me it felt as if she was back home. A second later she opened her eyes to remind herself that, in fact, she wasn’t anywhere near home. Looking back, I realize that I had the exact same feeling that day in the park and it was incredibly bittersweet. I miss home (a lot), but Paris is my home now, too. Even when I’m gone for just a weekend I find myself wanting to be back in this beautiful city.

Right now my life is divided between Minnesota home, Hope home and Paris home, and running was my constant. It was my way of coping with homesickness and helped me feel a little more at ease with my environment. It was really difficult to suddenly not have that anymore. To be honest, I was really frustrated by what I couldn’t do, but somehow I found experiences that are even better. I’m not saying I’m glad that I messed up my ankle because it has definitely not been fun. Yet, I’m grateful for the new perspective it has given me.

Día Internacional de la Mujer

I am privileged to say that I have now participated in two Women’s Marches, in two capitals of the world. Back in 2017, after Trump was inaugurated, I traveled overnight to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., with a bus full of Hope faculty and students. These are experiences I will never forget because they are the moments in which I truly feel like I have acted out the words that my favorite black female activist, Angela Davis, said at a time when the Black community was at its height after the civil rights movement. She said, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” Not to my surprise, the lovely women of color I protested with even quoted her on one of their posters, in Spanish of course. Words on this screen can’t do the experience justice, so I can tell you better in video. Watch my video below to relive this once in a lifetime experience with me.

 

W*ndering

 

I have been wondering, I mean wandering, through the new-to-me neighborhoods of Bridgeport, Hyde Park, Bronzeville, Old Town, River North, and Westloop. Amidst the bustle of the friendly city, I have been finding myself struggling internally with my observations. Earlier this week, I saw a homeless man in a wheelchair on the train. You might ask how I knew he was homeless, and  I would point out the too-big winter jacket, odd smell, and multiple bags that he carried with him. Among all these, what caught my eye were his hands; they looked raw, were shortened to almost the knuckle, and were black (not skin color, but his tissue).

 

It is fairly easy to spot those who “have” versus those who “do not have.” These people have to carry all their worldly belongings everywhere they go.  I wonder how people can reach a point of hopelessness that they give up in their attempts to escape homelessness. Wonder about the painful experiences individuals must have gone through to turn to substance abuse, to cope and dull the sharp pangs of their past; Wonder what I can do. In the past few weeks, God has been convicting me of my less-than-grateful attitudes. As I recognize this population’s daily struggles, I realize it is more than I have ever had to endure in my entire lifetime.

In my personal struggle, with what I feel is my calling in the world and the homeless population, I recognize the importance of balancing safety and kindness, discerning the proper timing, and actions of carrying out what my calling is. I will offer some of my journaling from this semester that have helped me discern between these callings and how they play into the service I believe is my purpose in life. “How are we welcoming the ‘unwelcomables’? If I allow what I see to dictate how I feel, rather than asking God for discernment when to act, I fail to live the Gospel as Jesus intended. Do I make others feel welcomed the way I want to be welcomed? I struggle to have when others lack. I think, ‘What can I do?’ Preaching the Good News in addition to offering acts of kindness reveals the action of this Gospel. To embrace rawness of human brokenness amidst their vulnerable moments and admissions to their faults; to lift up their faces toward the One who redeems their souls despite those mistakes and shortcomings; to love in action and faith, that is my purpose.”

Amidst my wrestling with this large societal problem, I often hear my peers and myself complaining about minute hiccups of our privileged lives. Living in the city has called into question my priorities in life and how I am living out the Word in a real sense. If we are called to be active hands and feet of Jesus Christ, I need to change my attitude toward humility and gratitude. I think as humans, it can be very easy to gravitate towards focusing on the negative aspects of life. Yet, when we strive actively to choose thankfulness, we find a kind of contentment that is beyond human comprehension. All this does not diminish the pain or suffering with which everyone struggles. I recently have dealt with the heartbreak of seeing a very dear loved one begin to pass from this temporary world into the arms of eternity.

I cannot help every single homeless person I pass on the streets. But, I can smile at them. I can  look them in the eyes to try to understand their pain. I can ask them how I can pray for them. I can treat them like the humans they are.

Thank you for listening to my internal w*nderings. I believe it is a healthy thing to process these types of issues in a more public manner. I hope that you are able to consider my personal struggles and how we can all contribute in our Spirit-led callings to the world around us. That is what off campus study is about. Yes, about exploring and having fun. But, it also includes widening our worldview to understand callings and purpose in the global perspective.

Stay tuned for the next post (coming very soon); I will be adding some of the fun portions of the last several weeks!

Fun fact: the featured image is from the Chicago History Museum that highlights the work of MLK Jr. I just really liked this quote that really emphasizes the importance of finding your vocation in whatever career you’re in.

 

 

Back to Routine

We are back in the swing of things here at USFQ! After a much needed and beautiful spring break adventure, school is back in full swing. The past two weeks have been getting back into a rhythm, but with a change in perspective. Over the past week, I have finished up midterms and have begun to get a glimpse of what the second half of my time abroad will entail.

This week marked exactly 2 months until I come home! In some ways that practically feels like tomorrow, while in other ways, I feel overwhelmed by all that has yet to happen. This mid-term week provided time to reflect. Through IES, I was encouraged to discuss the things that have gone well so far with my classes, my host family, and simply living in the Ecuadorian culture. Of course, we were then asked to specify changes we would like to see for the second half of this journey in regards to each of these areas.

Reflecting is one way for me to decompress, and also to look forward in hope. In the midst of the daily joys and trials, I often lose perspective of the bigger picture of my ‘why’ for being in Ecuador. Crossing the halfway point was almost like a flip of a switch for me; a night and day difference of mentality. May no longer sounds so daunting, and 4.5 months in another country is beginning to feel like such a small component of life’s journey. Having only 2 months to go fills my heart with gratitude for the growth that has already sprouted within me. I’m even more excited to see what that little sprout looks like in 2 more months.

What a difference the changing of a month can make! What I mean by that is, how good it felt when January turned into February and when February turned into March. Each month is one step closer of achieving a goal, growing through an experience, and living differently which has encouraged me to keep pressing into my time in Ecuador. These month changes feel a bit different now as April approaches; as the end begins to feel more real. May didn’t really feel like it would ever come in January or February, but now I know it is just around the corner. I have destinations on my bucket list and final projects in classes to complete all before mid-May, and oh how I’ve realized that it will be here in the blink of an eye.

I am grateful for a time of reflection over the past two weeks, an encouraged and refreshed mind, and hope for the opportunities yet to come in my final 2 months abroad! Praise be to God for His faithfulness, and making beauty out of ashes, the ashes where my mind began my journey abroad.

Interning with a Publishing Company

books published by DAW

Two months in (over halfway done with the semester, where did the time go?) and you’re probably wondering what I’m actually doing here in New York, huh? Well, I’m participating in the New York Arts Program (NYAP), where the primary focus is to set students up in internships that appeal to their creative passions. I’m specifically enrolled in the Writing & Communications section, though the NYAP also works with students involved in visual art, theater, and music.

For the program, I’m interning with a small publishing company called DAW Books (named after one of its founders, Donald A. Wollheim) for 30 hours every week. Despite being located in the Penguin Random House building, the company is actually private, meaning that the two amazing women who own the company, Sheila Gilbert and Betsy Wollheim, make the final decisions.

Though DAW is small, they have a lot of big names in fantasy and science fiction associated with them, including Patrick Rothfuss, Tad Williams, C.J. Cherryh, Kristen Britain, Seanan McGuire, Merecedes Lackey, and Tanith Lee.

DAW Books is run by a handful of people, so my internship isn’t in one department or another, but allows me to witness all aspects of the publishing world and gear my internship towards what I am interested in (which is primarily editorial, but honestly, everything fascinates me).

internship badge

Lately, a lot of my job has been reading manuscripts from the slush pile (unsolicited manuscripts aka work from writers not represented by an agent). I’m required to read the first 100 pages of the manuscript and then I decide if I want to “reject” it or recommend it for further consideration. If I want to recommend a manuscript, I have to read it to its entirety. With each manuscript I read, I have to write a “book report” for it, which includes filling out four categories: overview, summary, review, and other thoughts. So far a lot of the manuscripts have been…erm, cringey, but I’ve learned that’s to be expected with the slush pile.
(UPDATE: After meeting with my sponsor–who was rather pleased with my reports–I’m now allowed to read as little as the first 20 pages. *brushes shoulder in attempted nonchalant manner*)

At my internship, I get to juggle a lot of other back burner projects, as well. I regularly check google alerts for book reviews to add to the quotes database, update their cover catalog, and send out semi-weekly emails with publishing news. I’m also working on a project that involves updating online information for some of DAW’s backlist titles.

In addition, I have the frequent duties of copying manuscript pages with edits (in case the original document gets lost), proofreading covers & dust jackets, compiling praise quotes, and helping organize books.

DAW is incredible in many ways such as providing free lunch and coffee everyday to all their employees, including me! As a woman who hates cooking and who is currently in NYC where everything is expensive, this is literally a godsend.

As a book nerd completely smitten with the fantasy genre, interning at DAW Books has been an invaluable experience so far. Not only has my knowledge of the publishing industry grown leaps and bounds, but my time at DAW has reaffirmed my dream to pursue a career in publishing after college.

Eyelashes (Athens, Greece)

Eyelashes, or if you prefer the Greek, βλεφαρίδες, are what I’ve wished on from the moment I thought I could study abroad (roughly 19 months, 9 days, 16 hours and 31 minutes ago). I would peer at them for a moment, tiny and delicate on my index finger, and resolve a melody of thoughts. This is for Greece; Greece; Greece; I am going to Greece. I believe that they are the most unique way of talking to God. My eyelashes are not long and elegant, but He made me the way I am, so the offering of little stubby strands are blown away. God is not a genie, however; so I learn to accept that what I wish on an eyelash isn’t what He has planned for me.

I wiped an eyelash off my face this morning, and dropped it into my sink. As it swirled away in the water, I thought about how I don’t need to wish anymore, because that sink is in my little apartment on Ερατοσθένους street in the neighborhood of Pagrati, Athens, Greece. In this ancient place of the Greek gods, I am still ever faithful to the God. As for being grateful to Him for getting me here, I thank God every day by experiencing. For instance, I have visited perhaps the ultimate Athens attraction, the Acropolis, around six times now. Just like those silent wishes, my heart and mind’s awe is my communication. But even the simple things, like giggling when I see something new and amazing in the grocery store (Buffalo Milk Butter?) and grinning at the Oregano-flavored Lay’s chips… I know my laughter floats to Him.

While finishing this post on my balcony, I think of everything: 68 degrees Farenheit, 19.444 Celsius, I broke out my shorts yesterday, my neighbor’s plants, the non-stop traffic, the end of Carnival, the Domino’s Pizza on the corner, Kekko’s Coffee and Sweets across the street, the clouds rolling in, and the eyelashes no longer wished on.