Wonderful Limits

How do you find words to describe the Infinite? When I try to explain the beauty and majesty I saw this weekend, especially in Spanish, simplemente no hay palabras. I find myself struggling against my limits. And then the Voice inside me tells me to relax.

Tranquila,” it says. “We will have all eternity to discover that.” My mind is blown again.

I don’t understand the concept of eternity. But in my limits, I can wonder.

What I learned this weekend is that that’s enough.

Being in the most beautiful place we’d ever seen brought so much wonder to myself and my friends. The trip was filled with exclamations of “¡Guauu!“, “¡Mira!“, “¡Qué hermoso!“, “¡Es maravilloso!” and “¡No lo puedo creer!” We could only marvel at the beauty of the Atacama desert.

Take a look at my slideshow and marvel along with us! Fun fact: it’s the driest desert on earth.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Being somewhere like this also makes you ponder deep questions like why we experience the sensation of beauty. My friend Erin had a very wise and interesting response.

“It’s the size of this place that makes us reflect on our own smallness and insignificance.” And that’s what wonder is.  It’s being surrounded by something that’s too big to understand. It’s recognizing our limits of size and understanding.

If we knew everything, nothing would amaze us. If we were bigger or stronger we might not be dwarfed by the majesty of mountains.

Riding around the valle on bikes made me realize how big that corner of the desert was. By the end of the day our butts were sore and legs were tired. I had pushed myself to the limit, for sure. But there was a lot of joy in recognizing my limit; it made room for appreciation of God’s creation.

I think often times we try to push our limits, or forget them. In the process, we lose sight of our place in the world. Truly, we are just one second in the span of history, smaller than one grain of sand in a desert.

We have a choice to recognize that insignificance, or not. Either we accept our place in the world or create a worldview that puts us in the very center. Though it takes a lot of humility to wonder, I can’t help but think it’s worth it.

I met two slightly unpleasant people on this trip. And I feel bad judging them on some short conversations, but I wanted to share what left a bad taste in my mouth– their lack of wonder. A Finnish boy and Australian girl were in one of the hostels I stayed at, and what both of them said was: “I’ve already seen something like that.  I didn’t think it was that cool.”

To me, who felt awestruck at the sights I saw this weekend, this attitude surprised me. Maybe I’m just less cultured and important than (they think) they are. But if that’s the price to recognize beauty and value in a place, I’m willing to pay it.

I’d much rather be like our Brazilian roommate, Sabrina, who told me, “pienso que cada lugar que visito es lo máximo”, or “I think that every place I see is the coolest.” I want her sense of wonder to see lo máximo everywhere I go.

Exploring New Slains Castle

My friends and I had the opportunity to take a trip to New Slains Castle, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s gothic novel Dracula. It was nestled against the sea in the quaint Scottish town of Cruden Bay. We had an absolute blast climbing rocky cliffs and exploring the castle ruins, but instead of writing a long blog post about it, I thought, “Why not make a little picture gallery instead?” Therefore, here a few of the photos I snapped while playing explorer.

 

DREADLOCKS!

I love dreadlocks!

Loc Style 1              Loc Style 2

I wanted to lock my hair since I went natural four years ago. So when I arrived in South Africa and saw all the people with dreadlocks I figured why not get locks in Durban. Therefore on Saturday November 14, 2015 I woke up at 6am to make my dream come true.

Photo on 11-14-15 at 6.55 AM           Photo on 11-14-15 at 6.56 AM #2

Dreadlocks are a permanent style so I was filled with anxiety as I rode the bus to XTLS salon. I knew that I wanted to lock my hair but I did not know if I could explain to the stylist the size I wanted my locks to be or if my hair’s uneven length would be a problem. Also, there’s the language barrier with me not knowing fluent Zulu yet everyone assuming I know Zulu because I’m Black. So, I was just preparing my mind and heart for this interesting experience.

I arrived at XTLS at 7:45am. I told them I wanted my hair twisted and styled. My name was taken down and I was shown to chair. While I sat in the chair for ten minutes all my feelings of hesitation surfaced. I thought, is this really what I want to do? Then as the stylist picked my hair out I thought, will I miss my afro? I won’t be able to straighten my hair for graduation? Is this the right decision for me? Well when I went to the back of the salon so she could wash my hair I knew there was no turning back because I was not leaving the salon with wet hair. Despite the fact that it was raining outside and my hair was going to be wet anyway, I was still not leaving the salon without my hair styled on principle. So I calmed my nerves and enjoyed the experience. And it was fantastic!

My stylist washed, deep conditioned and blow-dried my hair before 9:30am. Then came time to actually lock my hair. Now if you look at the picture above you will see that I have a lot of hair. So I told my stylist, “You are either going to really love me or hate me after this,” she laughed and explained that she locked someone else’s hair that was longer than mine last week so she was not intimidated. Then I tried to explain my concerns to her in regards to the size of my locks and my various hair lengths to which she responded, “Ok.” In Zulu “Ok” can be the response to “Thank you”, a sign of confusion or a reassurance that everything will be fine. I took it as the latter and watched her start locking my hair. When she finished the back I looked up to see that my locks were perfect. In my mind I was screaming with glee because I could not believe I was getting my hair locked in South Africa. I did it! By the time she finished locking and styling my hair, I knew that I made the right decision.

Photo on 11-14-15 at 2.07 PM #3 Photo on 11-14-15 at 2.07 PM Photo on 11-14-15 at 2.08 PM Photo on 11-14-15 at 2.08 PM #3 Photo on 11-14-15 at 2.08 PM #4

Locking my hair is the gift to myself from South Africa that will keep on giving. Now I can always say I locked my hair in Durban. I’m so excited for the many styles to come.

Day Trip to Dinan!

One of the nicest things about France is the dirt cheap transportation around the region. Last weekend, my friends and I decided to visit one of the most beautiful towns in Bretagne. Dinan has a rich medieval history, so the historic district is full of buildings, walls, and towers from the middle ages. We spent the day exploring! As nice as it is to have the official CIEE excursions to look forward to (Mont St. Michel, St. Malo, and lots of castles), it felt great to figure out how to travel someplace else independently. We ended up taking a bus and it only cost about 8 euros round trip. The bus line also goes to Dinard, a city on the coast, and through Bécherel, an adorable old town known for its bookstores.

We were so lucky that the sun was shining all day! Our pictures turned out beautifully. Since we basically went to Dinan solely to admire its gorgeous architecture, I think it’s best to let the photos speak for themselves:

The old medieval wall
The old medieval wall.
At the top of the tower
At the top of the tower!
A view of lower Dinan from Upper Dinan
A view of lower Dinan from Upper Dinan.
This church was one of my favorites, but it might have had to do with the unusual day of sunshine. The light filtering in through the stained-glass windows filled the entire cathedral with rainbows!
This church was one of my favorites, but it might have had to do with the unusual day of sunshine. The light filtering in through the stained-glass windows filled the entire cathedral with rainbows!
One of the aforementioned rainbows
One of the aforementioned rainbows.

We walked off the side of the road and found old stone walls and steps. We stopped to rest on the side of the road and found old stone walls and steps built into the hillside. The deteriorated state of the structure helped make the age of the town much more real to me. Sadly, it’s easy to get used to pretty walls all over the place. But when you see ruins, your brain instantly registers the amount of time it must have taken for that building to crumble, and you end up standing in the grass with the sun and wind on your face, honored to be where you are.

Tour de Catherine