Ice Cream, God

It’s Friday and I feel almost normal.
The hormones will baseline in about a month, the doc told me.
But I’m smelling coffee for the first time in 3 weeks without the impulse to barf, and my heart opens up just a crack to peek outside.

In a few days I suspect bananas will come back, too, and chicken and Life cereal and eggs and all the other strange things that left.

Today instead of 8 weeks pregnant, we are 1 day post-loss.  A week ago we learned our fresh 7-weeker didn’t have a heartbeat. Continue reading Ice Cream, God

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The backstory, which is kind of THE story, and the Borders

Throughout our time with Tiny Hands, I have been super inspired by a piece of the organization’s history. Beyond just ordinary growing pains, a few years ago they thought they’d actually failed the vision.  Because of their response, though, this “failure” became the turning point for the ministry and lead to unbelievable growth in Tiny Hands’ effectiveness at the borders. The story essentially reflects our own human limits despite our best intentions, and God’s expansive, restorative power.  When we just can’t, He can.

Early on, after evaluating failed operations at five different border stations, the small team of U.S. and Nepali Tiny Hands staff became frustrated with the apparent ineffectiveness of the organization’s approach. They were intercepting only a handful of girls each year, some months none at all, and felt like they were throwing money down the drain that could be put to more efficient use. They were failing the injustice despite all their best efforts and gallant vision.  What more could they do?

I thought it might have been easiest to throw their hands up and say, “Well, we did our best and it didn’t work!” They could have moved on with a clean conscious, having given it their best effort. But, as I’d read in Terrify No More, they would have been saying, effectively, to the girls being trafficked in Nepal: “We’re sorry. There is nothing more we can do. This is the best the best the body of Christ has to offer.”

Instead, staff described how the founder sent out a manifesto calling on the faith of the US and Nepali staff through an organization-wide rally cry of prayer and fasting. Every Wednesday all staff in both countries prayed and fasted for trafficking and for the effectiveness of their work.

Each person we interviewed shared a piece of this story as they continue to be inspired by it. They directed me to the manifesto entitled Project 58, after Isaiah 58:6 calling us to loose the chains of injustice and set the oppressed free, to break every yoke.  Two seconds into the manifesto, I had goose bumps and felt a new level of perseverance even in my small corner of the world.

Here is an excerpt:

Today around 30 Nepali girls were trafficked into India to be forced into the sex industry. Tomorrow, 30 more will be trafficked. By that time, those who were trafficked today will be awaking to the realization of what has happened to them. They will be locked up, beaten, and raped until they give in and accept the hell that will thereafter be their life. Meanwhile, as these girls continue to suffer, more will be added to their number, at the rate of 2-3 girls every waking hour—and this will continue until the small handful of NGOs who are working on this issue figure out a way to make their work more effective.

While you are working on anything relating to this project, and when you sit down to work and you are diverted and distracted by obstacles and cares, remember the faces of the girls that you know are in brothels now, and those whose lives are in danger of being wrecked if we do not stop it. Gary Haugan, the president of International Justice Mission, points out that the owners of brothels, and those who traffic girls are diligent and determined to succeed in their work. They are at it 24 hours a day, thinking about how to make their work more effective, and how to avoid being caught. Unless God’s people can muster up even greater determinedness, this work has little chance of succeeding. So fight, on behalf of your God and His love for these girls, against every instinct in you to give less than your absolute best, against every obstacle that you will encounter (and you will encounter many) and every frustration that comes your way (and many will come), fight. Do not be deterred by anything, do not let anything stop you from succeeding in each part of this work that you take on. Keep before you always the faces of the girls, and Christ in them, and remember His words and promises, and that He will go before you and after you, and help you.

During the time of prayer and fasting, the organization redoubled its efforts through research and literature. They identified the current director of anti-human trafficking—a former church planter translating some things for Tiny Hands at the time—who, inspired by the new initiative, wanted to get involved.  This was the guy now sitting across from me at the restaurant.

Together the team translated and distributed Border Monitoring Standards to all the stations and sent five staff in five different directions covering each section of the border to fill out the surveys, fill in the maps, and interview police, rickshaw drivers and NGOs.  Bhola, the church-planter-translator guy, emerged as a well-connected leader who took the vision of Tiny Hands to Christian churches along the border. Over the next month, he covered the entire border, setting up subcommittees within the local churches that would oversee 11 new locations with several more to follow.

That was almost five years ago.

Today, 26 local churches are staffing 28 border monitoring and transit stations, intercepting an average of 1600 girls per year!

I couldn’t wait to get to the borders.

Equipped with knowledge of the investigation process and the success the organization had experienced through prayer and research, we were excited to visit the border stations ourselves. This was the front-line fruit of all the prayer and fasting, and the physical halting of the rape business in-progress. I envisioned organized lines, checkpoints, police and high-tech monitoring devices.

I have no idea what world I was imagining. Certainly not Nepal’s.

The dusty Birgunj border
The dusty Birgunj border

It had taken over 10 hours to reach the closest border station on rickety mountain roads, I had sweat through all my clothes, was covered in dust, itching from a dust/water rash, and we literally walked across the border to India without a care by anyone. Any pretense I had about the sophistication or glamor of border work flew out the window. I had not even been there for 15 minutes and I was miserable. It was one hundred degrees and smelled like trash. Yet 100 workers hang out in 26 plywood border stations on the Indian border intercepting girls 12-16 hours per day.  Each border station is overseen and staffed by a local Nepali church, subcommittee and chairman, and Tiny Hands provides the training and funding.

One of the border stations- the brown shack in the background
One of the border stations- the brown shack in the background
Pastor and border staff at Birgunj border station
Pastor and border staff at Birgunj border station

We met with the pastor and staff early that morning and met an intercepted girl who was deaf and on day five of trying to locate family. She spoke a different language nobody could understand, but she was taken care of by the pastor’s wife at a temporary safe house tucked away from the border streets. She is one of 750 women intercepted at this station in four years. The sweetest part is what the pastor said later as we were leaving: though the anti-trafficking work is an essential part of his Christian ministry, his overall goal is to bring the people of Nepal to Christ. Each interception exposes a girl to the Gospel.

I went to bed that night thankful, inspired, and itchy.

The next morning, we drove another eight hours to the next border, collecting another eight pounds of dirt, dust, mosquito bites and hives. There, we found ourselves in the middle of an interception. Even more remarkable than seeing the actual interception process was that the particular border worker who intercepted the young girl was intercepted herself three years ago and now works at the station to help other girls like her. Here is a link to her video.

Another border station at a different crossing
Another border station at a different crossing
An interception in progress
An interception in progress

Again, this is the moment it all became real for me. I had never seen the rape business in progress until I saw this girl’s confused face at a dusty border station in hundred-degree heat in traditional clothes from a faraway village trying not to cry. She read the cartoon drawing posters tacked to the plywood wall describing the lies and actual reality of trafficking. The man she had come with was off to the side, hand in his hair, visibly stressed out.

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At the safe house she fought to maintain composure despite emerging tears. The pastor’s wife and staff fed, comforted and prayed for the girl as we stepped out with the pastor. Almost immediately, he received another call from the border staff about another interception, this time with two women who were on their way to the safe house.

So his days go, this station intercepting 40-50 girls per month, several per day.

I left the borders awestruck at the never-ending work of border workers and the local churches despite harsh conditions and constant threats.

This is an excerpt from my feature that will publish in the December issue of World Next Door magazine.

In Wonder, Love, and Praise

We are safe and warm and well-fed in Kigali. Before I surrender to jet lag, I want to share a prayer I read somewhere over the Atlantic from Walter Brueggemann’s Prayers For A Privileged People:

…We pray for good departures,
In the way our ancestors left Egypt,
That we may leave the grind of productivity, and the hunger of ambition, that we may leave for a place of wondrous promise,
Visited en route by
bread from heaven
and water from rocks.

We pray for big departures,
Like those of our ancient parents,
That we may leave where we have been and
How we have been and
Who we have been.
To follow your better lead for us,
You who gives new place,
New mode,
New self.

We pray, each of us to travel in mercy,
That we be on our way rejoicing, arriving in wonder, love, and praise.

The Nook

A comfy little place exists in the world: the scoopy, curvy part of J’s neck, between his ear and his shoulder, where my head fits perfectly. I call it The Nook.

In the nook, I am sheltered and tucked away. In the nook, there is extravagant love and attentive kindness. In the nook, the past disappears, the future drops out of my hand onto the floor, and I curl up inside the present moment, grateful and mindful and deeply content. In the nook, we are safe and warm. We are alive and breathing. We are content in each other.

Last Thursday was our 18th negative pregnancy test. Eighteen times our bodies have failed. Ten of these were under the care of a Reproductive Endocrinologist, three were medicated with high-tech ultrasounds and equipment, and once (once?!) all systems were functioning at a level that would give us a chance—below average, but still a chance—at a possible pregnancy.

For that reason, we did something we never do. We invited others into our space: our hopeful, fearful, vulnerable, intimate, day-counting, symptom-measuring, God-bargaining space. Doctors and nurses and mom-friends and sister-friends and retreat roomies and accountability groups and family members and a random dude who just happened to be in the right place at the right time prayed for us almost every single day of this two-week time frame. And I’m talking hands-on-belly prayer with one or two hallelujahs.

We had never done this before. It had seemed a little too private, and a little too self-indulgent, and a little too embarrassing.

But these are the people who caught us on the other side. And although I’m tempted to write out all the confusing thoughts and questions so I can piece together some hopeful insights or draw meaning from the experience, the only thing I can come up with is an image of Jeff and I curled up in God’s nook.

Each time this happens, we are pulled further up and further in— like in the Last Battle of the Chronicles of Narnia when the gates of heaven are thrown open, and Aslan calls for the kids to come further up, come further in to their real country, their real home. As they run, the world becomes bigger and more beautiful the higher and deeper they go.

Yes, it’s like that. The higher and deeper we journey into this mess, the bigger and more beautiful God becomes. If we had everything we wanted, if we’d had this baby on the 1st or 4th or 11th try, we would not have seen the depth of his ability to save and sustain and comfort and maintain us. Eighteen times our understanding of God and each other has expanded.  Eighteen times we found our way to the nook.

What Is Saving Your Life Right Now?

My friend posted a blog, after reading another blog, and that blogger had read a book, and the author of that book had been asked to speak on what was saving her life right then. Today* a bunch of people and synchronized blogs are answering this question: What is saving your life right now?

*When I say Today what I really mean is three weeks ago. But three weeks ago I was in such a despairing place, I could not come up with a list of things that were saving my life.  I could only come up with a list of things I wished were saving my life. Yes, I realize this kind of defeats the entire purpose of the exercise.

So, as all the life-savers rushed passed me on the internets, optimistic and enlightened, I sat on the sidelines chicken-scratching a bunch of things that were absolutely not saving my life right then (picture McKayla is NOT impressed) and feeling angry I couldn’t find optimism and gratitude- my two best things! You will lose all respect when you see my list. It’s bad.

Things I Wished Were Saving My Life Three Weeks Ago:

Food. Loads of goat cheese. On chicken. Wrapped in bacon. On bread. With oil. Small plates as far as the eye can see. If these things were happening right now, my life would be saved. Instead, due to the need for restraint (calories, waistline, cash, time) we are on a meal plan. Five meals per week, 20 ingredients or less, all organic, under 600 calories. Blast that meal plan! The inability to go out to eat for every meal and order anything I want is killing me. Salads in jars are killing me. For a person who communicates via food and weather patterns, who would rather ingest a tiny amount of taste-bud-bursting goodness than loads of mediocre anything; for a foodie, I wish amazing food was saving my life right now.

Hawaii. I wish Hawaii was saving my life right now.

Riches. Yes, I know how hard it is for a rich person to get to heaven, and that we’re not supposed to store up treasures and all that. I get it. But seriously, I could go for some cold hard cash. I would (you might have gathered) go out to eat every single meal and buy a personal trainer to work most of it off, and then a med spa to take care of the rest. I would go to two movies this weekend, and I’d have an outdoor living space with a plush couch, and tomorrow, I’d quit my job and vacation in Cuba for a month. I’d buy land in Belize, adopt some kids, and eat some more food without consequence. I would also go hiking in CO, visit all my friends in NOLA, and then go to Nepal. Yes. I wish those things were saving my life right now.

I wish single digit sizes were saving my life right now. My life would be saved if at the end of the day I could catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and think, Yep. Instead, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and gnash my teeth.

I wish God’s voice in human form and his face in human flesh sitting across from me were saving my life right now. I would ask him a direct question and get a direct answer. He would also likely buy my coffee, I think. He would tell me exactly how to pray. He would say, Yes, you have enough faith to do this one thing. Or, He would say, No, you’re not really believing believing. He might reveal that I’m praying in safe ways that leave wiggle room for God not to answer prayers, in case these things are Not His Will, instead of praying expectantly. He would let me know once and for all if expectant prayer is entitlement or faith.

I wish some kind of everything-fits-perfectly feeling was saving my life right now. Instead- well, just read this. She says it perfectly. J and I have a case of the wanderlust. If some kind of Holy Passion presented and everything suddenly fit, my life would be saved.

I wish God’s breath into a mess of cells and tissue was saving my life right now. It’s not all I want in life. It’s not even something I wanted until a year ago. It’s not the only thing I think about. But if it happened, my life would be a little bit saved.

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Three weeks later, thanks to things that are actually saving my life, I am able to identify some things that are saving my life. Funny how that works.

What Is Saving Your Life Right Now?

My aunt is saving my life right now. On the prayer thing, she said: When you prayed that prayer the very first time– the unanswered one, the one in which I don’t know if I have enough faith- God heard it. It has already been answered. You just don’t know how or when or in what form this thing will appear. But God heard it, it’s been answered, and you are free to move forward.

Limes and La Croix are saving my life by being all refreshing and tart, and caffeine free, sugar free and sweetener free. This combo tricks my taste buds into thinking I’m having some kind of dirty carbonated beverage. Really, it’s just soda water with some limes.

My little community of women are saving my life right now. Kim’s words: These women are teeming with so much life. Giving me so much life. Saving me on days when I couldn’t find hope with a floodlight. Saving me by letting me point out hope when it’s their turn to misplace it. Saving me with plans for a weekend away, just our despair, and our hope, and margaritas as big as our heads.

A new friend who came over for a long walk is saving my life right now.

A friendly neighbor who stops by more often than not is saving my life right now.

My writing group is saving my life right now.

My job is saving my life right now. Three or four weeks ago, after the worst worst MD visit, I really wanted to cancel all my appointments the following day to give myself time and space to recoup, emotionally. Being a therapist is for the birds on days when you need a therapist. But it was too late, and I am reliable. So I went to work and resolved to be 100% present. For 8 whole hours, I did not think about myself even one time. I came home lighter, and my life was a little bit saved that day.

My husband is saving my life right now. His insight and care. His partnership. The way he ushers me up to the roof to watch shooting stars on a blanket. The way he could never write an ungrateful I wish list, because he’s got that much perspective. His humor and kindness save my life every single hour.

Our blooming flowers that were dead a month ago are saving my life right now. The way these flowers, planted on almost the exact weekend we began our journey through unparenthood, have become reflective of my insides- bright and cheery, withered, dead, sprouting, full-bloom, wilted, thirsty, drowning, blooming… endless, the stages, and totally dependent on things they’re not in charge of.

Church is saving my life right now. Each time I show up, the question bouncing back and forth between J and I all week is answered. It’s not Jesus in the flesh, but I’m learning more about the Spirit. The Spirit is saving my life right now.

Our pet electronic vacuum is saving my life right now. Purchased before the Hartman recession hit, in a fit of crumb-despising-fed-upness, to which most people respond with a broom and dustpan, we feed this pet/child/swiffer thingy scraps from our dinner table and speak to it as though it has a heart and soul. Don’t tell anyone.

139 in New Orleans

Sigh. Last night at like 2 in the morning, I woke up to a lady screaming outside my window. I was totally disoriented and couldn’t figure out if I was night hallucinating or if I’d just had a bad dream, until I heard the lady scream again, then yell—I mean, like, yell, scared and desperate lose-your-voice kind of yell, HELP! She yelled again, long and whimpery and hoarse, and I sat up in this weird paralyzed terror. I listened to her scream again and then heard a car drive away. I thought I might throw up. I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat in my bed in the dark. Yes, I realize normal people would have run to the window, grabbed the cell and filed a report. But I was too afraid to look out my window.

When I finally snapped to it and peeked out the window, the street was empty, and leaves were swirling around in the middle of the street where the car must have pulled away, presumably with the lady in it. I could hear the lady screaming in the distance farther and farther away.

I never called 911. I don’t know why—maybe, I think, because I could imagine them saying: where? What did she look like? What did the car look like? Why didn’t you call right away? And I just didn’t know any of those answers. The longer I waited, the more stupid and irresponsible and guilty I felt for not looking and then for not calling right away. I just stared out onto dark, creepy Jackson Avenue, and the saddest, angriest feeling of hatred for this city came over me. I just wanted to pack up all my stuff and go back to Indiana. Like they don’t have abductions, rapes, murders, etc. there…

I love this city, and I have this beautiful view of the skyline, and the front of my building sits right on Saint Charles with the streetcar line and parades and everything. But outside my window, six floors down is Jackson Ave. I started to wonder about Jackson when I first moved here and people kept asking me where I lived, and I’d tell them, and they’d say, ‘Oh, Crack Corner? Just don’t park on the lakeside of St. Charles and you’ll be fine…’ or, “Isn’t that the triangle of death?” Yes. In fact, it is.

I’ve seen a thousand million drug busts and arrests and roll calls out that window, most of them at like 6pm, with a beautiful sunset and skyline view behind the cop car lights, and safety is a daily discussion in class, but I just felt unaffected. Until this lady’s screams came into my window.

So I turned on all my lights, the TV, my music, watched videos of my baby niece, Lily, for 2 hours and took an Ambien. I had to wake up 3 hours later to work this family therapy conference in the quarter—and my body was still on Ambien, I think, until noon. But I couldn’t stop thinking about that lady, and I couldn’t stop wondering if she was safe, and I couldn’t stop asking: what if that had been me and people heard me screaming for help but didn’t do anything?

Anyway. I’ve been telling myself that if I heard her, other people heard her too, and one of those people probably called, right? We looked up the crime stats for last night—3 murders in 3 hours, no women.

At noon today I got caught in a downpour and went home to sleep. I woke up 3 hours later in a gloomy haze. It was a beautiful night with a beautiful sunset and I couldn’t even bring myself to look outside or acknowledge Jackson Ave out my window, which is so unhealthy—as if me and that street and, consequently, this city are in some kind of irreparable fight. It was so strong a feeling of withdrawal and isolation that I forced myself to get up and seek out all the places in this city where I know beauty exists. I went to Audubon Park, I went to the fly, and I went to the lake. I ran and jogged and walked until I couldn’t take another step, and then I cried for a long time. I felt like God didn’t exist here last night, and that ugliness had taken over.

But it’s not true. Ugliness is everywhere. But so is truth and beauty. Are New Orleanians eating and laughing and enjoying things and generally being held together? Because if they are, then God is here. These things—truth and beauty—can’t exist here without Him.

I read this book. It was given to me by my Grandma, who’s friend’s granddaughter had self-published, called Charismatic City: My New York. She did a funny thing with Psalm 139, and I liked it. I claim it as a way of humanizing this amazing, ugly, beautiful, complex city:

139 in New Orleans

Lord, you have searched Crawfish Guy, and you know him.

You know when that avocado vendor sits and when that preacher on channel 79 who hangs out at the Daiquiri shop rises.

You perceive that pickle-tub drummer’s thoughts from afar.

You discern the blind, deaf guy outside my apartment’s going out and his lying down.

You are familiar with all the meter lady’s ways.

Before a word is on the hotdog man’s tongue you know it completely, O Lord.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for this streetcar driver, too lofty for him to attain.

For you created those scary guys on the corner of Jackson and Carondelet’s inmost beings, you knit them together in their mother’s wombs.

I praise you because that little girl with the booty shorts is fearfully and wonderfully made. The man following her on his bike was not hidden from you when he was made in the secret place.

How precious are your thoughts about that homeless man under I-10, O God.

How vast is the sum of them! Were he to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.

When the super skinny lady on Louisiana Avenue awakes, you are still with her.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Amen.

Oh, and please let that lady be safe tonight.

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.)