Changing the Plan

From the beginning, I knew that the purpose of my trip to Nepal was exploration. Exploring the ministry, the culture, and the country to determine if the next four years of my life were going to be spent serving there. But I also went with the idea that this was the last step in the process, the confirmation of what I had surmised was a perfect fit. For the first week, I was all in. Loved the people, especially the staff of the ministry I would be working with. Loved the food. Knew that I could grow to love the chaos and dirtiness of the city, and that it could eventually become home.

During our road trip, however, a change took place. Two things happened. First, I was able to get a realisitc picture of the timeline for when teachers will be needed at the school I was hoping to work at, which is not any time in the near future. Second, I realized that my passion is to work with orphans, but that I don’t really know what that looks like. My heart is not necessarily for this particular country or organization, but to serve the fatherless in some capacity. 

Well, that changed things pretty quickly. I did not go to Nepal with a backup plan, but I came home knowing that I am not moving there in August. The past two weeks have been spent processing, praying, and adjusting to this monumental shift in the direction I thought my life was headed. The primary emotion I have felt has been exhaustion, mentally and physically. I am not fearful, for my confidence rests in the sovereign God of the universe who knows me and knows what my future holds. I know that my time in Nepal was not in vain, that there was a purpose for my being there.

For now I am pursuing several options for this coming year, all very different, yet all equally exciting. As a planner, slightly on the OCD side of things, this is still relatively new territory for me. It is good though, as through it I am growing in ways I never would have if I was given a road map.

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Mon-deja-vu

Ok. Here is what I know. We left Nepal on Sunday afternoon, transited in Singapore to our new flight that left shortly before mid-night, arriving in Seoul on Monday morning, April 15th, at 7:45am. We had a 10 hour layover in Seoul (praise the Lord for a bed and hot shower), and left at 5:50pm for an overnight flight to San Francisco. After flying for 11 hours, we landed at 12:45pm. On Monday. April 15th. I knew this was coming, but I am so exhausted that my only coherent thought is “wait. didn’t I already do Monday the 15th?” It feels like it should be Tuesday. But it’s not. Technically I’ve added a day to my life, but in reality it feels like I’ve had several more sucked away so it doesn’t really matter anyway in the grand scheme of things.

You know you have been flying too long when it is good news that a flight is only 11 hours. Ha. Thankfully though, the travel has been smooth sailing thus far, and I am getting ready to board the last 5 hour flight to DC!! Brad, Autumn and I said goodbye before parting ways after handing in our customs form, and we hung out in the area a bit too long and got kicked out. My suitcase made it, nothing has been lost, and I enjoyed a cafe’ mocha and chocolate chip cookie to get me through this final leg of the journey. The only problem is that the cafe’ didn’t have decaf coffee, but I was so desperate I went for the full-leaded version anyway. That might make this flight interesting. Anyway, I’m also thankful for in-flight entertainment, good movies, blankets, and free wi-fi. I’ve been able to see lots of movies that have been on my list, and some of them were very well done. I recommend seeing The Impossible, Taken 2, Skyfall, and Won’t Back Down. All worth seeing.

Also, one last thing, having been in transit for the last 48 hours I was completely oblivious to what is going on in the world. But this airport is abuzz with people talking about the bombing at the Boston Marathon that happened earlier this morning. So, so sad. I am praying for those injured and for the families of those who are there.

The Journey: Part 8

The long trip home is underway, and we are currently hanging out at the awesome Singapore Changi airport for a few hours until our next flight. Singapore airlines is running a promo at the moment, and giving $40Singapore vouchers to transit passengers traveling between Jan-June of this year to use in the airport. So, Brad, Autumn and I had a lovely dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe’ in our terminal. It was delicious, and will save us from airplane food at 1:00 in the morning when we are not hungry. We are finally in a spot with good wi-fi connectivity, so here are a few fun pictures from last week!

At the grocery store - you can get anything in Kathmandu! I was amazed at the selection!
At the grocery store – you can get anything in Kathmandu! I was amazed at the selection!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and Mukti, at the end of our epic roadtrip adventure!
Me and Mukti, at the end of our epic roadtrip adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Pokhara. An early morning picture on the lake. One of my favorites!
Beautiful Pokhara. An early morning picture on the lake. One of my favorites!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hanging out with Ranekalu after our tour through the jungle!
Hanging out with Ranekalu after our tour through the jungle!

 

 

 

 

The Journey: Part 7

Riding in the van with Mukti, our driver, is like being on a low speed roller coaster for six hours, without all the fun flips and dives. This is especially true when you hit the “road rapids” – places where the road has a series of unexpected bumps, or disintegrates into nothing but dirt and rocks. I’ve discovered that the important question here in Nepal is now how quickly your car can go from 0-60, but how quickly your car can go from 60-0. One second can literally prevent a wreck from happening, or the van bottoming out (again), or someone being run over. And the only way it works is for everyone to drive the same way. It is madness, yet somehow it works, although I’ve never been happier to arrive at a destination than when we pulled back into our hotel in Kathmandu.

We enjoyed getting to know Mukti this week as he braved the roads for hours on end, driving us to our various destinations. He is married to Sumitra, and they have two children who are 9 and 4. They are a Hindu family, and their kids love watching Go Diego Go!, and Sean the Sheep. His grandmother has 9 children, 50 grandchildren and almost 100 great-grandchildren, and he was able to spend some time with her this week while we were in Pokhara. He has a great sense of humor, loves to eat, and loves his family.

On Wednesday morning me, Sarah, Brad and Autumn went on an Elephant Safari Walk. Our Elephant was named Ranekalu (rah-nee-kah-loo), which translates to Black Queen. She had quite the personality, and as we walked through the jungle she kept grabbing branches off the trees with her trunk and smacking herself on the head to keep the bugs off. During the walk we saw Rhinos, wild boar, spotted deer, big deer, and some birds. Our guide went rogue, separating from the rest of the group and wandering off in the jungle to see if we could find some more animals. That is when we found the boar and the deer, so it was a successful jaunt. It was hard to take pictures with all the jostling, but we got a few good shots.

Pokhara could easily be called paradise. Sitting next to a lake at the base of the Anapurna mountain range, the city has 360 degrees of breathtaking views. We were able to visit 3 of the 5 children’s homes during our two days there, and it was a joy and blessing to see the smiles of the children, and the passion and care of the parents. Each home has between 10-15 kids, and these children are growing up to be difference makers in the country of Nepal. They are so precious, and their stories of redemption and survival are encouraging and challenging to hear.

Today (Saturday) is our final day in Kathmandu, and it happens to be the Nepali new year, as they follow a different calendar. Happy 2070! I suppose one could claim time travel, since it is 2013 at home, and 2070 here in Nepal. There will be many celebrations around the country today, and on our drive home yesterday we passed several towns all decked out in banners and bright colors for the new year. The past two weeks have alternately flown by and seemed to last an eternity. I have learned and grown so much on this trip, and whatever the future brings, I am excited to walk each step knowing Christ is with me. If I don’t get to post again here in Nepal, I look forward to sharing more once I am home! Thanks for journeying with me!

P.S. The internet connection is still super slow, so no pictures at this time. More to come later!

The Journey: Part 6

Have you ever been on a road trip that took 10 hours to go 410 kilometers (~250 miles)? That was my day yesterday. We got in a van at 10:30, and spent the rest of the day bumping along rough roads with the windows open, going around sharp switchback turns through the hills, and passing large trucks that take their half out of the middle and honk obnoxiously all the time. Quite the adventure. Don’t worry though; we had an excellent driver who navigated the tricky roads here with ease. Transportation takes so long here for a few reasons. First, the roads are in terrible condition. Second, the terrain is difficult – mountain switchbacks, narrow roads between cliffs and rivers, gravel/dirt in some places on main highways, etc. And third, there are no real traffic rules, lanes or speed limits, so much of the time is spent braking behind large trucks, and then speeding around them before oncoming traffic arrives.

This is a beautiful country, even through the smog and humidity. The landscape is full of cliffs, rivers, suspension bridges, forests, small villages, and busy towns. We stopped a few times to visit the ministry’s Transit Monitoring stations, where the staff interview and intercept girls who are being trafficked into India. It was so sweet to hear that more than 30 girls have been saved from crossing the border to a horrific future at the stations over the past 9 months. It was beautiful to pray with and for these courageous staff who diligently man the stations 6 days a week for up to 12 hours a day.

This morning (Tuesday) we visited one of the main stations on the border and got to hear more stories of girls who have been rescued! We went to one of the shelters and met a girl who was intercepted, and has been at the shelter for 21 days. Most girls stay 3-5 days, but this young woman has experienced severe trauma, and has nowhere to go, so the staff are caring for her until she is more stable. On our way back to the hotel to go see the border, our van bottomed out. We heard a terrible scraping sound, and turned around to see a river of oil flowing out from under the car. Not good. But also not the worst…we were told as we walked back to the hotel that Birgunj (the town we were in) is known for auto parts, so if there was ever a “good” place to break down, this was it! Praise the Lord.

Becuase our van was out of comission, we decided to get to the border anyway, using another mode of transportation: the horse and buggy. Not even kidding. It was fabulous. They are like taxis in the town, and it worked wonderfully. I really enjoyed the ride and would take it again over a rickshaw if I could. I wish I could post a picture on here, but the internet at this place is so slow I’m pretty sure it would take until pigs begin flying to upload. We are having a great time though, and it has been so encouraging to hear stories of women being rescued from slavery and to see the work I am hoping to join!

Tomorrow morning (Wednesday) we are riding Elephants! I’ll be back to let you know how that goes, and hopefully the internet will be better and I can include some pictures.