I Am (Father’s Day Edition!)

I Am my dad’s namesake. I am college-educated, a direct result of the Indiana State Police construction zones and Mike’s Car Wash—his 2nd and 3rd jobs when I was in college. I am a game of basketball in the driveway every evening that one summer between 7th and 8th after he got home from work so I could make the school team, and I am Pistol Pete, basketball between each step the entire length of the driveway.

I Am the opposite of rib-eye sandwiches from the State Fair and some kind of seafood soup that stinks up the whole house. I am not mayo and pickle and peanut butter all in the same sandwich. I am not the Super Delicious Chinese Buffet any chance I get. But I am a big Christmas eve breakfast, my dad’s BBQ ribs and burgers on the grill, and a poolside cooler full of snacks and wine. I am a Colts party black & stormy, a glass of apothic red or chilled white, always welcome for dinner.

I Am my dad’s backyard—both Pinesprings and Birdkey—chasing my nieces and ol’ Lily dog with bubbles. I am around his dinner table and lounging on his couch for Colts parties. I am a Belize vacation, cannonballs at Cahal Pech, a sea breeze and musical chairs at Captain Morgans, a Belikin at Old Belize, snorkeling and pool-floating, all on the house. By “the house” I mean, my dad. I am a summer evening Indianapolis Indian’s game and the mouse roller coaster at Old Indiana Fun Park.  I am moon-dancing with my dad the night before my wedding on a beach in Destin as he choreographed the next days “moves” including a section he referred to as “the hip-hop” J

I Am “Oh fooey!” And “Gee-miny cricket!” And “What a bozo!” And “You know what assuming does?” I am “10% in the bank and 10% to the church and the rest to spend.” I am “Hey-lo little girl! So what else is going on?”

Cannonballs at Cahal Pech
Cannonballs at Cahal Pech
Belikins at Old Belize
Belikins at Old Belize
Hot Dog at Indians Game
Hot Dog at Indians Game
Wedding Dance Rehearsing
Wedding Dance Rehearsing
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Wedding Dance Rehearsing

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So. Who are you?

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Fifty something.

I sure love this guy.
He’s the reason I am so unbelievably skilled in the art of 70’s dance.

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Happy birthday, Dad.

2008, we did the best we could.


January
Moved to Belize. *Carry-on bag wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartment. Attendant made me take out bulge on top, which happened to be a Ziploc gallon-sized bag of underwear. Held underwear on lap for duration of the flight.

Lived on an Iguana reserve. Learned how to do laundry with a hose. Experienced Belizean wedding and funeral in the same week. Set out to teach everything I knew about conflict resolution, drugs, and AIDS. Learned everything I know about love. Got accepted into grad school.

February Caught a parasite, hiked to the top of a ruin, swam in a cave, experienced my first Belizean election and confirmation. Fought a piñata. Lost.

March Overcame fear of spiders. Discovered a new love for choco-bananas. Played with a monkey. Met real Guatemalan Indians in Guatemala. Bought skirt from them. Watched the Ruta Maya river race. Said goodbye to the Caribbean. Understood that life would never be the same.

April Got a niece! Heart opened a little wider. Fell in love with her.
Turned 27. Panicked. Cut my own bangs.

May Got another step-family. Danced! Celebrated! Laughed!
First laid eyes on my new city, New Orleans. Stabbed my foot with a parking lot spike.

June Went back to work at Boys and Girls Club. Happy to find that I still loved the kids. Got shingles. Thought I was dying.

July Sold everything I owned on Craigslist. Moved out of Fort Wayne (ten years!) Received Carrie Bradshaw as a parting gift.

August Moved to New Orleans. Found the two-story target, which I had previously thought was an urban legend. Took a family vacation to Destin. Came back. Became acquainted with city life. Loved it. Went to Tulane for student orientation after a month of waiting. Got evacuated for Gustav at lunch.

September Stayed evacuated for two and a half weeks. Went back to school. Dropped ten pounds for lack of friends.

October Made friends! Gained ten pounds. Heard that Taylor Fort Wayne would be closing. Felt orphaned. Dressed up like a ninja and fought pirates on Jackson square.

November Watched history unfold in the TSSW building with snacks and wine. Found out Bry and Jess are pregnant again. Went to Belize. Delivered school supplies. Painted a cafeteria. Provided flood relief with two armed guards on the Guatemalan border. Became acquainted with Big Mac and Quarter Pounder, the tarantulas. Realized I had not overcome fear of spiders. Had the sweetest reunions I could ever imagine at San Marcos School.

Learned that a plan is usually unfolding around me even when I am not still or patient enough to see it. Discovered that if I feel lost even for a second, all I have to do is ask for help. Understood the beauty in a prayer that goes, “Hi God, I’m an idiot and I don’t trust myself. Could you make this one clear for me?” Trusted completely. Found out I am purposed. Convinced Tulane I am purposed. Doing last semester internship in Belize!

December Wrote a thousand papers. Failed a final. Got all A’s!
Watched snow fall in New Orleans. Saw Lily take her first 3 steps.
Went to Chicago. Smile.

Oh man.

My dad is learning how to text. He called me tonight and said it took him 25 minutes to text “Are you watching the Olympics?”

I told him I think its hilarious that he had a blackberry before they were cool and didn’t even know what it was, figured out how to “wink” and “poke” and find a wife on the internet, but is just now learning to text. Dads.

Okay. Down to business. Yesterday I got back from Florida. Sometime between last Thursday and now, I forgot that New Orleans was my home- I kept thinking I was going back to Indiana. Even worse, no one here knew I left, and no one knows I am back. I went all day today without talking to a single person except Navigon. To her credit, we had some great conversations about how to get to Target and Wal-Mart and the importance of u-turns. I eventually tabled the issue as she was getting edgy through her passive aggressive use of the words “Please” and “When possible” and “Now” but it was great to hear her voice. At 7:30 I realized Navi wasn’t actually a human and started calling real people. I just felt like someone should know where I was and what I was doing.

Then I came home to the cardboard cutout of SJP. She was glad to see me, I could tell by her stare. Her eyes were saying, “Welcome home. You look fantastic.” I wanted to have some coffee and tell her about Florida, but her legs don’t bend and she can’t handle liquids of any kind. So I settled for Subway and the weather channel meteorologist.

I feel like a stranger in my own life. Especially when I am in Wal-mart or Barnes & Nobles and get caught up in produce or magazines and walk out expecting to see Jefferson Point, but instead see the New Orleans skyline. I typically gulp and wimper and suck it up. But it is an awful 2 seconds during the realization.

Earlier today, I went to the uptown campus to find out about the job (the lady was gone) and must have arrived right at the beginning of welcome weekend or something. There were a million undergrads everywhere all fresh-faced and cute and hopeful. There were parents and little brothers and looks on their faces like, “This is my best friend, Sue. I just met her 5 minutes ago.”

I could have cried remembering that feeling—although my family never actually moved me in, it was the Broadheads—but seeing Elaine and Sprinky on that first day and thinking I was going to die when I got a load of Sprinky’s blues clues bedset. Hello? Blues Clues! Then making instant best friends with everyone, and switching friends, like, every 3 weeks until we found our places. I just loved it. Even things like Cara threatening to rip out people’s ovaries for being too loud in the lounge. Even that. And Jill tearing my shirt, and Sprinky killing Jill’s hermit crab, and Elaine saying inappropriate things to Millenium Bear in her sleep, and all of us making Helen pee her pants in the middle of the night; stealing all the shower curtains, Crazy Lena firing me in my sleep. Honestly, I could go on for 4 years.

This afternoon, already reduced to conversing with my navigation device and a cardboard cut-out of SJP due to lack of readily available friends, I couldn’t help but feel unbelievably jealous and nostalgic for my college friends and the intimacy of life together—literally, next door from each other. Now I am just a way older version. With less fun. And less energy. And less metabolism. And less friends. Boo.

My good friend said I am good at collecting people and that I’ll have plenty soon.
I said I USED to be good at it, but that I didn’t think it was my thing anymore.
She said it’s who I am.
I told her I was too worn out for social awareness. Those types of things take a lot of emotional energy and motivation, which I had in abundance at 19.
At 27, I feel very comfortable settling for 25 Oreos and America’s Next Top Model at home by myself.

Us as freshmen- you guys will love this:

Hausser

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Me, Chuck, Steph, Beth, Trish

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Making Koolaid

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Finding moldy koolaid (we thought we had created a jellyfish)

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Bball- I miss this! Team sports are the best.

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Bethany (the person and the dorm :)

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Valentine’s Day- I actually got called off this shirt

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Millenium bear- the giant stuffed bear my grandma sent me for Christmas. Not quite how she envisioned us using it…

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Family weekend

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Twister in Bethany lounge

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Sprinky and the Bethany lounge mantel

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Miss you guys.
Love you guys.
(This whole college thing just isn’t the same without you.)

Over and Out (again)

The cars are loaded.

My things and Sarah Jessica are packed.
I have a nice coupon for McDonalds coffee in the morning.
See you in the central time zone.

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Over and Out

I moved out of Fort Wayne today.

By and far the best good-bye gift I received:
A life size 7ft cardboard cutout of Sarah Jessica Parker from Sofia.

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She will be my first and only friend in New Orleans and will hang out with me in my living room at night or while I am brushing my teeth in the morning. We had a long talk on my way to Indy about how much things are about to change for us.

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About New Orleans. I have gotten into this awful habit of checking all the crime alerts on campus by the hour. It has been integrated into my daily routine: check e-mail, check facebook, check crime alerts. Statistically, I’m sure to get shot, mugged, carjacked or burglarized within the first ten minutes.

People have encouraged me to take a self-defense class. The thing is, self-defense classes are in the recreation center, which is far away, which means I’ll have to drive. I am most concerned about getting from cars to buildings and back into cars. I will be doing it as little as possible, and most often with hand-held shrubbery to disguise me as I scurry between buildings. This makes something as dangerous as a self-defense class more risky than helpful since it will involve a parking lot and all. I mean, how would I get from my car to the building, or from the building to my car? Especially if the class is after 6pm or something?

A person has to think about these things.

Also, the fact that there is no Taco Bell in the city. My diet consists of mostly fast food and $3 champagne. While local fried food is available, I am worried about the effect this lack of Taco Bell will have on my body. Don’t even get me started on the prospect of having to introduce fruits and vegetables at some point. I don’t want to overwhelm myself.

Happenings of note.

I had to drink Sprite out of a bowl this week because there were no other dishes.

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Saturday we had birthday mimosas at Spyros—our favorite breakfast joint. BYOCAOJ- Bring your own champagne and orange juice. Classy.

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Favorite goodbye party moments of yore:

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The box of sweaters in the closet that let me know I was definitely home at my dad’s

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Nobody worry. I know First Aid.

Dear six readers, I try to keep this space creative.
I don’t live in Belize anymore, though, I’m not traveling in Europe or responding to hurricanes, and I won’t be in NOLA until August. Right now I am doing things like working, and attending parents weddings and stepping on parking lot spikes and getting soaked in downpours and flash-floods. So those things, for now, are the spirit of this space. Sorry.

NOLA
Where to even begin…
We made this death-defying trip in 3 days, leaving at midnight after my dad’s wedding on Friday and returning at midnight on Monday. We saw my dorm, worked our way around the city, visited the uptown campus, took pictures of streetcars, walked the Riverwalk, took a spin on the Free Ferry, toured the French Quarter, painted for peace, drove down Magazine & St. Charles street, ate beignets and chickory coffee, stuffed our faces with Jambalaya, shrimp and dollar Daiquiris, walked Bourbon street, listened to some Jazz, found a “place” and, most importantly, found the two-story target and snuck into the Marriott rooftop pool.

On the first day, I flipped out and wanted to go home. This is what I do—it happened in Belize and it happened in Europe. I just need a warm-up act before the real thing, and then I’m fine. These were my issues: a free clinic is outside my dorm, which is connected to the Tulane Hospital. Imagine the demographic that hangs out on the street corner. Second, me as a minority. I just had never really considered it. (Yes, ethnocentric. I’m sorry). Third, where I will live is in the exact middle of the dot on the map that says New Orleans. There is no escape. I live downtown, downtown, New Orleans. I felt so small, and the city felt impossibly large. Also, the temperature was in the lower thousands. But I’m okay with that—I like it hot.

In the end, I embraced the joys of living one block from Canal Street, four blocks from the Riverwalk, one block over and four blocks up from the French Quarter and the realization that there are no open container laws. Once I figured it all out, it didn’t seem so huge, and the dorm felt sort of cozy. I fell in love with the uptown campus, located the Social Work building and found some apartments for next June.

I am ready. I am optimistic. I am braced for Hurricane season—and crossing my fingers for both my beloved Belize and my new home in NOLA. (God please let the school still be there in August…) The next hurdle is getting the school to excuse me for two weeks in November to check in on my little Belizey with CFI.

Apartamento

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They look good in this hallway, I think they should stay…

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View from window- Tulane Hospital & Skybridge

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Terrace

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Uptown Campus

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Canal Street

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Jackson Square

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Delicious Eats

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French Quarter- Painting for Peace

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Riverwalk & Ferry

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I have to mention one more thing.
On our last night in NOLA, you know those little parking lot spikes that stick up so people can’t back up or go out the wrong entrance? I tripped on one. I couldn’t even look at it for a sec, because I was sure my toe was crooked or hanging off—but then it started bleeding profusely, and I started secretly flipping out inside, and it wasn’t until I sat down with some helpful passersby that I remembered I don’t even have insurance and couldn’t even get stitches.

My nice friends poured bottled water all over my foot and the helpful passersby, who happened to be a trainer, splinted my foot with Kleenex and rubber bands—straight out of his wife’s hair. Then we hobbled across the street to Walgreen’s to buy some first aid supplies—antiseptic, Band-Aids and gauze—and a slider sandal (they only had Youth size L) and walked off without my Credit Card, which I had to cancel the next day. If you know me, you’re rolling your eyes by now, because this sort of thing is always happening to me.

My stupid toe is broken and needed about 3 stitches and a splint. But no insurance means it only got gauze, Band-Aids and Neosporin. The experience wouldn’t be complete without a picture sequence.

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The blasted spikes

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(Look away)

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Nobody worry. I know first aid.

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Dad’s Wedding
Boogie Oogie Oogie! This is one of the best weddings I’ve been a part of. Lot’s of dancing and delicious drinks. My dad is happy, and so are we.

Link to wedding pictures: here

SATC
Loved it. Title aside, the heart of this story has always been friendship, and the heart of the movie is forgiveness. More than sex or shoes, these ladies put each other first. Episodes like the one where Miranda’s mom dies and Carrie jumps into the aisle with her and Samantha mouths “I’m sorry” or the one after Carrie’s birthday mess where Charlotte says, “What if we were each other’s soul mates? Then men could just be these great guys to have fun with” have me cross-legged on the couch up to my neck in Kleenex.
In this movie, they take care of each other. It’s beautiful. That’s all I’m gonna say.

(That, and I braved a downpour and flash-flood to be a part of this movie on opening night.)

That’s all and good night.

Week Eleven: Home

I’ve been asking myself all week why we put ourselves through the pain and agony of good relationships. I mean, there are always goodbyes. I knew that going into this. I just didn’t remember it being this hard. Or depressing.

I’m home.
Ahem. I mean, I’m home!

Timeline:
School dismissed on Thursday for a two-week Easter Break.
Antonia left on Friday to present her Thesis in Canada.
Frances and Inez left on Saturday to spend Easter in Gualtemala.
The Cabbs leave next week for Houston.

After a long delay in Miami and an unexpected (but provisional) overnight in Chicago, I arrived in Indianapolis on Friday safe, sound & exhausted.

The first thing I did when I got home: put on my skinny jeans.
They fit!
(One more amoeba, and I think I could enter the world of singe-digit sizes. Note for next time. Two amoebas- good. THREE amoebas, size 8.)

My arrival was two weeks earlier than planned, so I surprised my family at my sister-in-law’s baby shower on Saturday. Here is documentation of the magical moment.

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This is my grandma. After the picture was taken, she cried and stroked my face through the entire prayer, and then she had to sit down. Sprinky not only laughed at her, but laughed at her DURING the prayer. Then I laughed at Sprinky laughing at her, and, well, you know how laughing and praying goes…

Lisa & McKenzie were at the airport to pick me up, along with my dad and his fiancé—wiggedy-what? Rewind. Fiancé. Yes, my dad is getting MARRIED. He met someone while I was in Belize, and she happens to be just perfect for him.

Upon further investigation, I am happy to report: I approve (and not just because she reads my blog or drove me to Martinsville today to pick up my car). She maintained a perfectly respectable distance while I bawled my eyes out and made a fool of myself in the middle of the airport, then offered a sympathetic hug for the entire situation: the crying, the never-having-met, the jet lag, the Chicago ordeal and arrivals in general, because, as it happens, she is a nurse and makes several medical mission trips a year for weeks and months at a time. She understood.

Besides, she loves my dad. He loves her. I’m cool with it. The only question is which dress I should wear in the wedding. He told me I could pick anything, which was thrilling for me. I am stuck between these two dresses. Your vote would help.

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Moving on.

I was able to attend the CFI board meeting on Friday night and surprised half the board members, which was fun. I fully intended to speak words of wisdom about the trip, but every time it was my turn, I just started crying. I guess that’s just how “goodbyes” followed by “hellos” are— our absolute lowest and highest moments all in the same breath.

Considering the debriefing period of the next few weeks and my transition back to Fort Wayne, I feel sort of stuck in Week Eleven and truly believe I could be happy living Week Eleven in the comfy bed at my dad’s house for the rest of my life.

After all, I have Trix & internet.

But, alas. I don’t know how to thank all of you for supporting this adventure, which turned out to be the most fun, challenging and meaningful time of my life, and for walking alongside me in the last 6 months. Your contributions, comments, cards, packages, emails and phone calls have been essential to this season of my life, and the lives of countless kids and families in Belize.

From the deepest part of my heart, thank you.

Many people have asked what’s next. I’ve been wondering that too.
I’ll be in Indianapolis for the next few weeks, and back to Fort Wayne in April for the summer. I just accepted the scholarship to Tulane ($9000!) and am working on finding housing for August.

Many people have asked how I’m doing. I’ve been wondering that too.
Let me put it this way. I burst into tears today at a traffic cop who told me to stop. I’m not sure what that means.

But I do know that I miss my Belize family (more than words) and I hate the weather here. I love driving, and I love the mall. I love Starbucks and I love bug-free sleeping.

I miss eating fresh oranges and walking from store to store with Inez looking for flour or choco-bananas. I miss the teachers and the pace of life there. I miss having a purpose.

But CFI has done a great job of providing a period of debriefing, lots of opportunities for me to “unload” and relax, and have helped in every possible, thoughtful way with re-entry. What they don’t know is that someone in Fort Wayne will have to debrief me from Lisa and Denise in a few weeks. I feel like a suction cup that just can’t let go, like I’ll die when I’m not somehow connected to CFI or Belize…

I am looking forward to meeting Lily (my niece) any day now and looking forward to time with friends in the Fort.

Other than that, I’m still working things out. Just know that if we run into each other and I burst into tears, its not you.

Here are some other pictures of the shower and the first time I got to feel Lily kick! (Note, in the shower pics, my awesomely awesome skirt from Guatemala)

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The afterparty

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Also, here are some answers from the report I sent back to CFI during my last week of service. They are the same questions many of you have been asking and might be of interest, especially to those who supported:

Regarding the purpose of the mission, what was the most rewarding part of the experience?

The most rewarding part was watching the kids become excited and participate with enthusiasm on a daily basis, their ongoing retention and application of concepts, and, ultimately, the increase in knowledge as reflected during post-test activities. (And I’m talking about little things here, like how they were able to give the definitions of empathy, toxic, abstinence—words they didn’t know before I came; the ability to list 5 different ways to say ‘no’, for example, or 3 ways they can calm down during an argument and then apply it all in role-play situations.)

Regarding the purpose of the mission, what was the most challenging part of the experience?

The most challenging part was adapting the program to fit different age groups and grades within one classroom, or within one session. For example, in any given class, you might have a kid who is 8 and also a kid who is 12. It was hard to figure out how to organize the sessions.

What was the greatest reward personally and overall?

The greatest reward personally and over all has been the relationships built with the students, with the Flowers and Cabb families and the slow inclusion of me into daily village life—that I can walk down the street now and almost everyone runs to the door yells, “Hi Miss Brooke!” instead of “gringa!”

What was the most challenging aspect personally and overall?

The most challenging aspects personally and overall have been bugs, sickness, dealing with water & electric outages, the laundry routine—general aspects of day-to-day life. I had more than a few showdowns with giant spiders, ants, no water when I really want to brush my teeth, etc. The illnesses were challenging, but manageable.

Knowing CFI is educationally focused, what do you see to be the most critical need at Santa Familia School and at San Marcos School?

The most critical need at Santa Familia: ink for the printer, internet at school, art supplies and art lesson ideas for each age group, PE equipment and outdoor PE activity ideas for each age group.
San Marcos: water system, art supplies & activities, David insists he needs an SUV. Exciting sidenote, San Marcos village was in the process of getting electricity the week I left. The poles were up along the main road and all the kids were asking me about TV with glowing eyes.

Was there anything regarding the purpose of the mission that you felt you were not able to achieve? If so, what?

I was not able to complete the second week of programming for 2 classes at Santa Familia school due to illness.

What did you miss most?

Tall nonfat sugar free Caramel Macciato
Oh, and friends and fam, of course.

Would you consider doing this again?

Absolutely. This was one of the best experiences of my life.
I wish I could do it again right now. Hopefully, November…

We are having a celebration on March 30th (and no, I did not throw my own welcome home party- it was thrown for me) but please come if you are in town. I would love to celebrate and share pictures and stories with you who have been so supportive during this time. Besides, it’s a great excuse to get together!

(Email me for directions.)