Think back to a day where you collapsed at its end.
Consider the weight that your mental and physical frame felt.
I remember one of those days.
We were exhausted; the labor of the day lingering on our bodies like the cigarette smoke from our French host’s lips. Gathered around some scattered lanterns, we sat on the floor eating our dinner in what could best be described as the skeleton of, what would soon become, a house.
Voices surround us with wisdom and truth. Some speak our language, others exude their lessons through interactions and observing others in their natural state. Traveling is one of the most educational platforms the world has today. Let me say that in a different way: a FANTASTIC way to learn about the world and the people in it is to travel through it!
When exposed to cultures abroad, we subconsciously reflect on the standards and methods of our home country while simultaneously witnessing and learning procedures and systems of the international world. This method, compare and contrast, allows us to ask why things are the way they are all over the planet. Are you considering taking a gap year to explore and work abroad? Do it! There are a plethora of options for you when it comes to funding your travels.
I was introduced to [who is now] one of my best friends in the Denver International Airport. We had mutual friends and were both headed to Nicaragua. In the years to come, we would bond over our opportunity to kill, clean, and cook a chicken, but for the week ahead of us, we were going to be a part of a bicycle repair clinic in Nagarote, Nicaragua.
Since when did menus become children’s books in a foreign tongue? Answer: as soon as I visited China. Typically we pointed at a picture and hoped to enjoyed the taste of the meal that made its way to our table. Soups and steamed buns tended to be the riskiest roulette, because there was no way of knowing what ingredients were contained in its deceptively humdrum appearance. Travel and cuisine. The two go hand in hand. One of the biggest questions a traveler is greeted with is, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten?”
It had been a year since the devastating earthquake hit the western coast of the small island, Hispaniola. With all the assistance offered to Haiti, authorities had requested only medically skilled professionals apply to enter the rubble covering Port-au-Prince. That being the case, our short term mission team had been sent to the Dominican Republic on the eastern side. A group of Haitian refugees had managed to avoid being housed in a stationary camp and were instead living in a make-shift village. Our missionary team came to the nation prepared with skits and games and children’s Bible story songs. What I intend on sharing today is by no means meant to incite anger, but rather depth of thought.
With every pothole in the road, our heads bounced against the felted ceiling of the twelve passenger van. For as many of us as were piled inside, there were nearly as many countries represented by our team. We were volunteering with a non-profit that connected us with a host campus in the Rosarito/Tijuana area of Baja California and allowed us to meet families living in barrios [neighborhoods] just south of the Mexican-American border. Our team had fundraised money for construction projects and we offered services as often as we could.
A blood-red sky clothed earth at dusk,
I gazed through the chain-link fence.
Heavy-laden within my being I
pondered new-found understanding,
and each-and-every-thing I never knew.
At a take-a-book-leave-a-book, one had stood out,
the auto-biography of a brave little girl.
Travelers before me left worn, tear-stained pages,
its burden opposing the paperback’s light-weight.
Stories that followed were gut-wrenching tales
of power, corruption, and war-torn rememberings.
First They Killed My Father, the heart-breaking title proclaimed,
and tragic words of non-fiction were uttered.
Choppy waters beneath the bouncing boat gave us the workout of a lifetime as we clutched our stomachs with laughter. The bulky life jackets made this quite challenging; their padding by no means lessened the intermittent blows to our spinal columns. If the ride was a musical score, it was a jumble of smooth minuets and unexpected staccatos. After reaching the outward reef of the island, we paid the driver and tossed our backpacks into the smaller water taxi that would shuttle us to shore.
Pulau Perhentian. A sweeter sight had never been seen. Relief and exhaustion were culprits of our delirious giggles, for it had been nearly thirty hours since our last full night’s sleep.
Coffee colored strokes danced across my hand like ripples. Swirling lines and accents spoke a dynamic script, narrating the setting and characters who had burst onto the scene of my life only weeks prior. Giggling girls gathered around the next candidate and watched their house-mommy paint a lattice of love with both concentration and ease. Their eyes like marbles, I wondered if it was the charcoal eyeliner or innocent delight that widened their gaze so. Sitting on the staircase below a tall, slender window, natural light spilled upon us, causing the coconut oil coating our henna to shimmer like liquid gold on the palette of our diverse skin tones.
Henna. Kathmandu, Nepal.