Summer Plans

I just bought tickets for Japan. And South Korea. And I’m leaving THIS month :O

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This summer I am volunteering at an English immersion summer camp, USA Summer Camp, in JAPAN!! My university has a partnership with Guy Healy, Japan, the summer camp, and they sponsor around 100 college students (20 from my school) every summer to be camp counselors. Minus spending money and a few administrative fees here and there, the camp pays for it all- including airfare to and from Japan (and a bonus trip to South Korea to see my friend)! #score. I am so incredibly thankful for this opportunity.

Guy Healy (second from right) with Caroline Kennedy, the US Ambassador to Japan.

“USA Summer Camp is a unique English camp experience bonding counselors from the United States with campers in Japan. About 100 counselors are selected and invited each summer to Japan to work with campers of all ages and in all parts of Japan.” Camps will consist of nine 3-day camps stretching 6-7 weeks starting early July and ending late August. American Counselors (ACs) will be “friends” who enjoy meals, recreation and free time with their campers. The AC’s responsibility is the campers.” That will be me!

Camps are held in 6 different locations throughout the country. I got my team placement and I am stationed in…

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Semester in Review

Today is officially the first Monday of my summer vacation! The semester is over!! I haven’t been able to post a lot because, well, I’ve been so busy. Keep scrolling and you’ll see why.

Lots of mixed feelings. This semester was filled with meeting new people, new experiences, and lots of goodbyes. I like being in class and learning, even exams aren’t that bad.  But, I do not like all the homework, papers, and busy work. I’ve written well over 60-70 pages this semester. And that’s just counting the 10 page research papers due for each class. If you add up all the assignments, essays, project reports, and reaction papers, I’ve written well over 100 pages this semester alone. Phew.

Let’s start at the very beginning.

January:

1st semester at a new school in a new town. I was searching for an international club at my new school and when I googled it, I found an potluck at a church for international student welcome week. Simeon and I met some pretty cool people including Gea, Jorick, Jordi, and Marvin from the Netherlands, and Liridon from Sweden there.16252167_10154209364630778_1587941063223948494_o

School got off to a quick start. I signed up for 6 classes: International Relations, Geography of Latin America, Sociolinguistics, Modern Russia, International Security (can you tell I’m an International Studies major?), and Volleyball. UWP includes textbooks in with tuition fees so everyone gets textbooks from the bookstore.

The first week was full of welcome parties. Gea and I went to the Intervarsity chili cook-off and I participated in my first nerf gun war. UWP was playing in hockey. Chinese New Year was also in January so the university was having a celebration.

February:

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How to Learn the Hard Way

Despite how it sounds, learning the hard way is really not that hard at all. It can be achieved by these three simple steps: adopt a strong sense of indestructibility, disregard advice, and make rash decisions.

A perfect storm has been brewing for quite some time now. And it just struck. In the form of an electric storm. It’s been electronic-frying. Literally.

My external hard drive broke. Everything from the last 5+ years was on there: wedding photos, travel pictures from 9 different countries, the entirety of not 1, not 2, but 3 old computers, important documents, videos for editing, the list goes on. None of it was backed up.

Now not everything was in my control but I sure made things worse by: perceived indestructibility, paying no mind to advice, and rash decisions. If you like the path of most resistance, be like me and follow these three steps, You too will be treading an uphill path with maximum difficulty in no time.

Adopt a Strong Sense of Indestructibility:

Younger folks, this comes easily to us. We’re young, things don’t really affect us. They say to stretch before working out but who does really? Sure, you may be a little sore after but it goes away in a few hours. We’ve also mastered the art of surviving on little sleep. We can stay out all night and still be chipper the next day. We’re young. Our bodies bounce instead of break.

Not only are our bodies indestructible, but we are impervious to consequences. Our decisions affect only us and only in good ways. When you see someone in a bad situation, remember, that’s a them problem. It will never happen to you.

I can count two separate occasions in the past week where the conversation focused on hard drive failure. I even watched a YouTube video of a girl’s external hard drive breaking and the data was not backed up. It NEVER crossed my mind that I needed to back up my data. That hard drive was my only copy. That would’t happen to me. That couldn’t happen to me.

*Bonus points if you adopt a “sucks to be you” mentality when seeing others in bad situations.

Disregard Advice:

Advice can be difficult to hear sometimes. We like doing things our way. When someone gives us input, especially unsolicited, that’s just a bother. I mean, how much wiser than us can a person be? Who do they think they are, telling us what to do!

When someone gives you advice, don’t listen. Tune it out. Stick your fingers in your ears and shout, “LA LA LA” if you have to. They aren’t going to tell you anything you don’t know anyway, so why listen?

I remember it like it was yesterday (because it was), “Don’t go downloading random recovery software on the computer. We don’t know what’s on there and we don’t want a virus.” Huh? Sorry, I didn’t catch that. I couldn’t hear you over the fingers jammed in my ears.

*Bonus points if the advice comes from a loved one, whose only goal is to help you.

Make Rash Decisions:

Caution is for the weak. Refrain from using it. Thinking through things slows you down. Keep this in mind when thinking through your decisions. Better yet, don’t think through decisions! Just do it. Careful thought requires patience. Ain’t nobody got time for dat.

“Just be patient and wait for the parts that we ordered to come. Maybe that will fix it.” <– And ignore that, too. That’s starting to sound like rational thinking. The drive can only be improved by running multiple software programs on it right away. This has absolutely no potential to damage the files even further. Act now, think later.

To be fair almost all of the recovery programs I downloaded were perfectly fine. But since this is neither horse shoes nor hand grenades, almost does not count. Fast forward 24 hours later and a virus is attacking the computer (which incidentally isn’t backed up, either).

*Bonus points if you make rash decisions WHILE disregarding advice. 2 for 1.

 

Follow these 3 simple steps and you have yourself the hard way. Can’t remember all of them? Do not despair. Even if you just do one of these steps, you will still be on the path of difficulty in no time. OR, learn from my mistakes, and do the opposite of everything I just told you.

How to Help Refugees Here

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

portraits-dubuque-iowa-29-of-112I have been working with refugees and migrants for about 5 years now. In the grand scheme of things, that may not sound like much but that’s almost 1/4th of my life. I am excited for the sudden swelling of support for refugees and migrants.

Travelling to a foreign land can be exciting yes, but also terrifying. Even more so when you are forced to flee your home for fear of your life and resettle in a land you may or may not know anything about. God has given me a heart for the international population here in America and I’ve made it my mission to love these strangers in this foreign land. I invite you to do so with me.

Put down your protest signs and open your arms. Open your homes. 

Standing for hours demonstrating how much you dislike something is one thing. You have every right to [peacefully] do this. Spending those same hours mentoring and volunteering to take refugees shopping for basic needs, furniture, and food is another.

Say the protests work. The order is reversed. Refugees come in. Then what? Are those hundreds of thousands of people protesting going to redirect their efforts to resettling the refugees they fought so hard to allow in? Guess what people: THERE ARE REFUGEES HERE RIGHT NOW IN NEED OF HELP. You don’t have to wait for a reversal of the order. You can help right now!! Here’s how:

Teach English.

Become a conversation partner and teach English. You don’t need to be a qualified teacher to help someone with their English. If you can read this and have patience, you are qualified to help people work on their English. Talk with them. Listen to them. Give them a chance to practice their English and make mistakes in an encouraging environment. This does wonders for the language confidence level. Just because they may not be able to communicate right away does not mean they aren’t smart! One of my dear friends, and one of the bravest people I know, came to college in the United States for her second masters degree after teaching finance for years in Korea. You would never know that unless you took the time to string together the sentences of her beautiful broken English. Most of those coming over have been to college and have steady jobs. Those degrees don’t always transfer here and they have to start all over.

Be a friend and a mentor.

Along with taking refugees shopping and helping out with basic needs, volunteer to be a mentor. Once the basic needs are covered, people need a friend. They need someone to show them the ropes: American survival skills.

As someone who has had the pleasure of visiting other countries, I can tell you just how helpless it feels when you can’t even take care of your own basic needs! We fail to properly appreciate living in familiar territory, at least I did. For instance: how to get from Point A to Point B. When fleeing a country, a car isn’t necessarily a top priority of things to bring with you. Money isn’t typically in abundance to afford a new car so one is forced to rely on public transportation. Navigating the [non-existent] public transportation system here in the US is already challenging for me as an American and English is my native language. Just imagine navigating through cities you barely know in a 2nd 3rd or even 4th language. Offer rides to the grocery store. Things as simple as mailing a letter and grocery shopping become daunting tasks.

Show them how to: get insurance, set up a phone plan, get a driver’s license, etc. Help them figure out where to take their kids when they get sick, etc. Explain the difference between what Americans say vs. what they really mean. Ex.: “We should hang out sometime” is more a way of saying we could be friends and doesn’t mean get out your calendar and fix a date right then and there.

Had I not had someone showing me how to navigate the roads and rules of the land, I’d probably still be on a train to nowhere, figuratively and literally.

How do we find refugees already here? 

I’m glad you asked.

Here is a link to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) page. Clicking on your state will bring you to a page with all the main volunteer agency affiliates near you.

Don’t see one within feasible driving distance from your town? Don’t despair. Partner with an organization in your community. Do a little research to find out who heads up resettlement in your community and get in touch: call, email or march over to them. World Relief, an organization dedicated to resettling refugees, is constantly looking for volunteers.

Other ways to help:

Don’t have time to give? Give old clothes or donate money. Go through your closet and donate clothes you don’t wear anymore. Research organizations to make sure your money is actually going to help the refugees.

Still can’t find refugees but want to help the international community and immigrants? Go to a local school or the international department of the local college. Most universities have an English mentor/ conversation partner program for the international students and they won’t turn you away. If they don’t have one, start one. My first college didn’t have one so I found some willing volunteers at a local church and we sat down with the International Student Coordinator to discuss ways the community can get involved with the international students.

Lastly, love them.

Love them like Christ loves you. Love them like you would love Christ. Love and treat them like you would want your loved ones treated if the situations were reversed. These people are sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and children. Maybe not yours, but somebody’s.

Pray for them. Ask God to provide for their needs. Pray for their safety fleeing their home country and travelling. Pray for their spiritual condition. What an amazing opportunity to share the gospel with people who may have never heard it before. What an amazing opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Matthew 25: 35-40 says: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Small Town Skies

Small towns. No skyscrapers or significant skyline, just starry skies.

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I grew up in a small town; then I started moving. The time between moves has decreased while the town size has increased. Once I got out of the first one, I never looked back.

Population of 10,000 for 15 years
60,000 for 3 years
150,000 for 2 years
250,000 for 2 years
and now moving back to a town of 11,000

Am I breaking the cycle or is it starting over?

I watched a movie when I was a youngin. It was one of my sister’s favorite movies: The Perfect Man. She played it over and over and over again. In the movie, Heather Locklear (#whereisshenow?!) moves her girls to a new city every time she has a bad breakup. From that movie, I learned moving around a lot isn’t a good thing. It was reinforced going through job interviews and I was asked, “I see here you’ve moved a bit. Military family?”. Nope.

People are friendly in small towns. While walking down to the street, the window cleaners stopped to ask me how I was doing.

On this day in November, it is 60+ degrees. Who would have thought that we would be shedding our coats this far into the year. The postman comes in the coffee shop and jests with the baristas about not being able to figure out his new smartphone.

The internet doesn’t work and people are too friendly to tell the staff. There aren’t many outlets (I have yet to locate one) but that is not the point of this coffee shop. Why would one need to plug in their devices when the goal of this coffee shop is communication?

“Can I get a refill?” –Customer
“Sure! That will be a couple bucks.” –Barista
“How does two sound?” –Customer
“I’ll take it. Both of them.” –Barista

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The business man locates the one outlet in this shop halfway across the room. And then he does something you can only do in small towns: he leaves his phone plugged in and walks away. That phone isn’t going anywhere.

College students work part-time at the coffee shop to chip away at some of their debt. They rush in between classes to get their free caffeine fix before jetting off to fill their minds with information that will supposedly help in the real world.

I don’t care for coffee but ironically, coffee shops are among my favorite places on this earth. Perhaps it is the espresso brown paint, the subtle indie music, or the atmosphere when you can be around people but not have to talk to people. The environment lends itself perfectly for people watching. I can escape into my noise cancelling headphones while creating life stories for all the passersby, searching for inspiration for my next essay.

Big cities are vibrant. I feel destined for big cities-cities big enough to have the infrastructure to support a mass transit system I can get lost on, a place where they have trams and accents, a place that has a music scene other than country or dance club music. A place where everyone is different and everyone fits in.

Will this ever be my new home? My place of residence yes, but my home? What makes a house a home? Thanks to a plethora of artists-Michael Buble, Jonnyswim, Phillip Phillips, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Bon Jovi, to name a few-home is “wherever I’m with you” or the place you can go back to. Most artists can agree that home is not just a physical place but rather a state, feeling, or emotion. It’s what’s waiting for you at the end of the lonesome road. It’s up to you to determine whether that is a person, place, or thing. That is your home.

I don’t know how long I may be here in this small town or how long until it really feels like my home. I may be wandering hopelessly for a bit on that proverbial road but I will make the most of it. And I will learn.

I will learn to love the skies I’m under.

Sunsets and Stings

When it rains, we play soccer (football). Football is the game of choice here in Sweden, and Europe for that matter. The European Championship is going on in France right now. Sweden lost round 1 to Italy.

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