Saturday, October 20, 2012

Week In Review: Denver! Pt. 3

It's Saturday and I have a few moments of downtime (both small miracles!) which mean one thing: It's time for the Week In Review! (And, yeah, it's been two weeks again, but who's counting?)
  • The most exciting thing that happened last week was that all of us USC volunteers were scheduled for a retreat in the mountains. It might surprise you to hear it, but...we were not excited. It was going to include a 3 hour drive (which turned into 4), meant leaving at 8am, and even though it included taking Friday off work, we were sure it would include non-stop programing from our directors. 
  • We grumpily packed our bags, got in our cars and proceeded to have a wonderful, relaxing weekend. 
  • It was beautiful! This Texas girl still gets very amazed by the mountains. Aspen trees are also turning into my very favorite trees. 
  • The only downfall of the retreat was the fact that one of our fellow volunteers got sick during the first night. Poor her, we thought. 
  • We came home and, one after the other, all got sick. 9 out of the 10 of my housemates (myself very much included) got the stomach flu. 
  • I continue to love my new room. I'll try to remember to take a couple of pictures sometime (now that I finally have pictures hung up!). 
  • I have an entire wall of bookshelves--which normally would make me swoon. I still like them, but it also makes me a bit sad because I got rid of, gave away or packed up all but about 20 books. 
  • The weather here has been very bi-polar. Everyone told me that it would get hot/cold/hot/cold here, but I wasn't expecting all of those things to happen during the same day. It's also true that the sun is very hot here--even when it's cold out, if you find a spot of sun to stand in, you'll be ok. 
  • Many afternoons around the church office it is just the secretary, the sexton (janitor/groundskeeper) and myself. They are both at least 40 years my senior, but the bright spot in some of my afternoons is when the three of us all sit on the same bench in our courtyard taking a smoke, coffee, and sun break (respectively). 
  • Friday afternoon, when I was hoping to catch up on office work at the church, my plans were distracted by a good ol' fashioned chickin' pickin' party. A group of Methodist women wanted to come by and help prepare food for our Monday feedings. Several tons of chicken had been cooked previously in the week and these women came by to pick it all off the bone and chop it up. Somehow they even pulled our famously grumpy music minister out of his office to play old hymns while we worked. 
  • I finally got to see Stacey and Brad this week for the first time since my move in day. David and I went over for dinner--and it's amazing how quiet and homey it feels to eat dinner with only 3 other people after a couple of months in my house. It's also so fun to have old friends in town--especially when they are as hilarious as these two. 
  • November is coming! Who knows what that means? I'm getting ready to get my NaNoWriMo on!

OK, pictures--mostly from the retreat:

A shot from the drive up. It rained on us most of the drive through the mountains, which had me a bit stressed, but, when the clouds rolled out, it was beautiful. 

Right before this we saw two elk (?). One of which ran in front of a truck then clothes-lined itself on a fence wire. Ouff. 


Rainbow Trail Lutheran Encampment

Unlimited hot tea, a porch swing, Aspens and a view of the mountains--It was a good moment





I stayed a optional second night. That meant I had Saturday evening and all of Sunday to do with as I pleased. I took a solitary walk..

found a stream...


and an Aspen grove...


found a chair...

And actually read (imagine that!) for a while. I get so little time to read anymore (or,  you know, would just always rather sleep) that I gave up on the novel I was reading in favor of rereading some of my favorite short stories. 


Sunday was a completely beautiful day. I soaked up some sunshine...

read Phillipians by a noisy stream...

And then walked a labryinth (which I had been wanting to do for a while now!). 

A beautiful weekend! Even if it did get us all sick...! : )


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Week In Review! Denver Pt. 2!

It's been another two weeks in Denver--and they have been jam packed. Jam packed with adventure, heartbreak, meetings and, as of the last two days, snow! So, here we go--the week (ok, it's been two) in review!
  • Remember how I had a horrible tree mural and Cookie Monster blue shag carpet in my walk-in closet sized room? Not anymore. One of my housemates had a massive room and didn't like it. So, we switched! Now we are both happy campers. (And, she painted the mural and psychedelic dresser within 48 hours of being in there. She's got way more energy than me!)
  • I continue to love my jobs. The stories I hear though, at my afternoon job especially, continue to break my heart. We had a guy in who couldn't come up with the three dollars he needed for the copay on his heart medications. He'd gone without for two weeks before he found us and came in. (He said it might as well have been three million dollars because he couldn't come up with it on his own either way...) There was another guy who had recently become homeless and because of all the rain had found shelter for the last few nights night...in a port-a-potty. 
  • Fall was beautiful for a few days. Then, after an 81 degree day, winter rolled in. Friday I woke up to snow. Flurries have been falling on and off since. (Brrr!!)
  • UnderArmor cold weather socks continue to be my best cold weather friends. 
  • As much as I love my jobs, I love the weekends even more. Last weekend David had cooked up some kind of a surprise. It had been on my calendar for a month, but I still didn't know what it was going to entail until I arrived at his house last Saturday. We drove out to a state park in the foothills, had a picnic lunch and then went horseback riding! I did not see that coming! David later had a lesson to teach up in what is the beginnings of the mountains, so we headed up there, had some coffee, and spent the evening there. While he was working I had a walk around town and wrote some postcards. It was absolutely what I needed to get me through the next crazy week. 
  • Last Saturday eased some of the restlessness bubbling up in me. Horse back riding somehow reminded me of Moroccan camel rides (except way more comfortable!) and the little mountain town was giving me flashbacks to both Boquete, Panama and the mountains of Cyprus. Sunset walks and postcards just set the travel mood even more. 
  • This weekend we took things in a completely different direction. We found a free jazz concert with a famous local band playing at a Methodist church down in Littleton. We thought it might be fun. (And, since it was free we were more than willing to take the gamble!) We walked in through snow flurries to find A) warmth (both of our houses and both of my jobs are so cold!), B) lots of old people (there were about 125 people in there. I think we were the only ones who weren't grey headed), and C) lots of fantastically ugly sweaters. The whole evening was great fun. The band was good, and really got rolling at the end--and the old folks were loving it. Orthopedic shoes were tapping all over the place. The grandma in front of us was especially getting down. 
  • Two separate couples stopped to tell us that we did not old enough to be there--which just tickled us even more. 
Some pictures from the last couple weeks:  

I remembered to take a picture of our house. 10 of us live here and there are also offices for our directors. 

Horses!

Stables in the foothills. We weren't that far away from town or a freeway, but it still felt like we were in the middle of Wyoming. 

I did not fall off! : )

Our horses: Sky (David's) and Shy (mine). Not really sure why mine was named Shy. It certainly was not shy about stopping to eat, pooping at will or passing gas when others were near. 

It was a beautiful area. 


Up in Evergreen. (Seriously, it reminded me of both Boquete (remember?) and the Troodos Mounains (see here)).


Some fall trees

And sunset walks



Back in the work week, I decided half way through Monday (that had already involved staff meetings and inventorying more than 500 vases and other random things we sell) that in order to make it through feeding 1000 people spaghetti and then through an additional 4 hours of afterwork Urban Servant Corps programing I would need a boost. I made a lunch time stop at Starbucks while switching buses downtown. 

It was a good call because I found plenty of messages waiting for me when I got to my afternoon work site...

There's a saying that there's only two things in life that money can't buy: Love and homegrown tomatoes. I'm obviously a very lucky girl to have both. 

Friday morning at the bus stop!

The snow was beautiful...even if it had me worried that it was getting so cold already.

Totally


And finally, this evening even my Under Armor socks weren't quite cutting it. It was time to bust out my socks knitted by a Bosnian nana. David brought them back for me this summer and I've been waiting to rock them ever since. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Greetings From Denver

Hello from the Mile High City! My, my, it's been a while, no? Quite honestly, it's been a while since I have been able to catch my breath. Life has been rolling along at full speed for the last month. I've moved to a new city, to a new house, acquired nine (yes, nine) new housemates, started breaking in two separate jobs in new fields, and...a million other things it seems.

As of tomorrow I will have been in Denver for a whole month. That's hard to believe mostly because it feels like it must have been at least 6 months.

In the midst of all this craziness I have been using just about every milligram of free time to sleep or silently stare at a wall to try to regain some strength. I've been doing a horrible job at keeping in touch with everyone, so, well, here we have it--a new blog! It's a bit impersonal, but I don't see myself having time for all the phone calls I'm behind on anytime soon. I'll see what I can do with reviving the Week in Review bit, but for now I'll throw in some tidbits from the past month. I haven't been doing a great job of taking pictures either (and they're all from my phone), but I'll share what I have. (Feel free to throw out questions in the comments if you're curious about anything.)

OK, a month in Denver in review!:

  • My house is massive and laid out like a maze. I still forget where the stairs are that go up to the third floor sometimes. I think there are probably some secret passages lingering behind boxes in our basement. 
  • A large chunk of my housemates are from the midwest. I'm already afraid of the things I'm going to start saying or how it will affect my accent. Hot dish anyone?
  • Friday I learned how to harvest worms and how to put together a worm bin at work. (These are one of the gardening items we sell.) It's probably just as gross as you are imagining it.
  • In the mornings I work at an organization called Earthlinks. If you want to learn a little more check it out here: Earthlinks-Colorado.org (You can also click over to the staff page to see their newest staff member!)
  • In an effort to live a more sustainable life, to be in solidarity with the poor, and because, well, I am poor, I take the bus or walk everywhere I can. I take the bus in the morning half way to work and walk the rest of the way. At lunch I take two buses and walk a little bit to get to my second job, then I walk home at the end of the day. My attitude might change once it gets cold, but I love these times during the day. My morning walk is peaceful and full of gardens and snapshots of the skyscrapers and mountains. The bustle of downtown Denver at lunch hour is energizing. The walk home is stress relieving. 
  • I've seen quite the characters on the bus, too. Sometimes these characters are people I know from work, so we chat for a while. (It's a nice feeling of connectedness.)
  • Bus 44 frequently tries to ruin my day. 
  • The weather has been fantastic. It got a bit cold for a day or two (high 40s in the morning/evening), but has been sunny and hovering in the 70s for the most part. 
  • The sun really does shine constantly here. (Cue Ben Harper's She's Only Happy In the Sun)
  • My room in the house came complete with a horrible painted mural. Since the room is pretty tiny it was dominating things. I don't have anywhere enough energy to paint the wall, so I got in a problem-solving mood and tacked up king sized sheets. Not beautiful, but satisfactory. 
  • I have seen more rotten food in the last 3 weeks than in the rest of my life combined. (We get a lot of "day old" type donations at the house, and at Earthlinks we get food off a truck that comes by with expired or wilting food the grocery stores threw out. On top of that, many of us get random things from our worksites that they can't give out to their clients anymore (yes, we happily take the things they can't even give away to homeless people!). We try to use all this food on it's last leg, but, I'll be honest: a lot of it get's composted.)
  • After this year, I will have cured myself of any desire to ever eat a bagel again. (Matter of fact, I'm pretty much there now.)
  • We've actually been eating quite well. We rotate so that 2 different people out of the 10 of us cook and clean each weeknight. There's been a slight learning curve, but I'm pretty impressed with a lot of what we have come up with. 
  • One of the perks I love about my afternoon job at the church is that I have an office. A real, downtown office. 
  • I'm developing a healthy fear of the answering machine at work with all the sad and desperate stories I find there daily. 
  • Monday afternoons at the church are exhausting--but the good kind of exhausting. The kind of exhausting where weekly we feed about 1,200 people in 4 hours. 
  • Living between downtown and the huge city park is a great location with a lot of energy. It's also nice to head out to the foothills to the suburb where David lives once a week or so. It's amazing how much different it feels. 
  • Actually, every 4 blocks or so Denver feels like a very different city. 
OK, that's plenty of bullet points. Some pictures to finish things up: 

My, um, interesting, whole wall, multilingual mural. Complete with mirrored flowers. Yeah. 

My solution. 

Our first day of work dinner. I helped cook this meal that turned out to be a bit overzealous, but delicious. (Seriously, cooking for 10 people mostly from scratch (because that's cheapest) can turn out to be like cooking a Thanksgiving-esque meal every night.)

Work in the morning

My afternoon office!

After a particularly long and heavy day (and week) I spotted this guy on the back of a wall. I figured no one was looking at it anyway, so I might as well take it...

During our first week or so of orientation we were subsisting on basically nothing but carbs: bagels, rice, pasta, bread.  We hadn't yet received our weekly batch of produce from the farmers market that gives us their unsellables, and we were longing for pretty much anything that came from the ground. That day our generally kind and well meaning director showed up at lunch with a peach. A peach that she ate in front of all of us. Waved it around a bit as she talked. (Oh man, we were all experiencing a range of emotions that were not the most generous!) After relaying this story to David, he showed up later with...giant peaches! Best. Peach. Ever.  

We also found a park throwing an end of summer festival--complete with a hot air balloon "glow" and fireworks. All for free! (It's true. We make poor look exciting.)

And finally, some shots from my morning commute:

Somebody forgot a few important things at the bus stop...

I'm not sure why, but I love this building.

My morning worksite is in a bit of an industrial area that is full of interesting artwork. 

Waiting for good ol' bus 15 (hotbed for interesting and/or homeless people) downtown at lunch. 

The End. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Downsizing

I've been pulling lots of books of my shelves to go to 1/2 Priced Books. I've been combing through my closets and drawers and boxing up clothes to be garaged sold or donated. I'm finally sorting and throwing away all those papers I have accumulated. I'm starting to find temporary and permanent homes for most of my furniture. Soon I've got to start cooking through my pantry and freezer (there are sure to be some interesting meals coming from that!).

I already don't have very much stuff from an American point of view, but it's time to dump even more. I watched The Way (the Camino movie) the other day and it got me thinking about my Camino again (OK, not like I ever really stop). In my long sabbatical trip I just had a backpack--everything I was traveling with was inside. When it came time for me to walk 800 kilometers though, I had to downsize. I went to the Spanish postoffice, boxed up more than half my stuff, and mailed it to Santiago. I had quite literally one set of clothes, and not much more, for about six weeks--and I can tell you, it's the freest I have ever felt.

I'm in a similar place again. Instead of a Spanish post office, most of the remaining stuff (of which hopefully there won't be much) will be going to my parents' garage (a much more secure place to be sure!). Because, like last time, I'm about to be on the move.

I'm headed west again. (Imagine that.)

I'm moving!

This summer has been all kinds of crazy, but one of the things that transpired is that I got accepted for a position with a Lutheran organization in Denver called the Urban Servants Corps, which partners with Americorps. For the next year I'll be living in a house full of other people as we all work full time for aid organizations that work with the most marginalized in downtown Denver. The Urban Servants Corps aims its focus on "service, spirituality, simplicity and intentional community." All very good things in my book.

I'm not naive enough to think that it won't be a year without a lot of struggles, but honestly, I couldn't be happier. I'll get to spend the year using my days working for creative nonprofits, feeding people and, in however small a way, helping to ease suffering. Not to mention I'll get to be in the Rocky Mountains, in a great city, where it just so happens that my boyfriend lives.

All that to say, I'm packing my bags for a different kind of trip these days, but life is most definitely good!

{And also, if you want some of my crap, come and get it!} 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Lazy Days in Laos

{This is the last installment of blogs from my Asian 2012 trip!}

After two days on a slow boat down the Mekong river we were ready to get out and stretch our legs. We weren't, on the other hand, ready to do much else. Luang Prabang provided the perfect atmosphere for the lazy days we were craving. 

We walked around the old town--soaking in the river views and French colonial archetecture, took naps, got massages, drank our daily intake of fruit shakes, and read. Leaving town we met some other tourists who had hiked to waterfalls and trekked through the jungle. They sounded like they had the time of their lives, yet neither one of us regretted our decision to kick back Lao style. 



{The best meal of the Lao portion of the trip (sticky rice is in the little basket). The grandma who made it wasn't too nice, but I guess you can be that way when your food is fantastic.} 







{Gotta squeeze in a little time with the local monks...}



{A buddha making school}


{We stumbled upon a lane that had all you can eat buffets for $1. Also, as an aside: I love Chinese broccoli!}

{We also finished off our supply of rambutan and mangosteen}

{Textiles in the market}

{Dueling street vendors}

After a few days we were rested up and ready to move on. We booked an overnight bus to Vientiane, the capital. I was thankful not to be traveling alone on the overnight bus because instead of seats you were assigned two person "bunks." Thankfully I was traveling with both my "sleep sack" and a friend.

The bus ended up being, I don't know? 5 hours late? We were next to the bathroom and at the back where it was pretty bumpy, so it was a pretty long night. 

Once we got to Vientiane we dropped our bags at the bus station, had lunch and took a quick look at town. 

I also almost passed out from the heat (at least 110 in the shade)

{A garden on a bike!}



This is Vientiane's "Arc de Triomphe"--an interesting mix of Lao and French

From there we put our sweaty selves back on another bus that took us over the Thai boarder, and from there back to Bangkok. 

It was a whirlwind of a trip (and one that included just about every form of transportation imaginable!).