Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mexico Missions Trip Brain Dump

I just got home from Tijuana, Mexico, having attended a weekend missions trip with my church.  At the end of a long day last night, the leader asked us our highs and lows for the day.  Most of the things that went through my head in either category didn't seem like things that would be well received, or could seem inappropriate, so I wanted to document some of them here.

1. Driving down, talking with Scott, Amelia, and Julie in the car.  Scott reminds me a lot of my dad, and felt like he asked good questions and actually listened to the answers.  Julie is someone I could see myself being good friends with, and Amelia is the first high schooler I've connected with in a long time.    The things we talked about were things I felt I had something good or important to say about them, which increased my self-esteem to feel like I had something to offer to the discussion, or teach someone.
2. Going to the store to shop for lunch.  It was a concrete, helpful thing that I was able to step in and do.  Not that anyone else couldn't have also pushed a cart around and picked out 15 onions from a moldy pile, but compared to the rest of the day where it was harder to tell if I was actually helping or just taking up room (or even being in the way), it was good to know I was contributing.
3. The general being-in-another-country-and-culture feeling.  Looking around, knowing I'm someplace else, and there are new things here to experience is something I enjoy.  I liked this new experience of something familiar (traveling in general, Mexico in specific).
4. The food.  This goes along with #3, but stands alone.  Participating in the making of the food was good, and eating the labor of my work (but not loving the dish). I really enjoyed the tacos, though, at the taco stand on the corner!
5. Walking along the ocean.  This also goes with #3, but stands alone.  After getting to the mission house, 10 of us women went for a walk along the ocean, 1 block away.  There's a boardwalk in north Tijuana that goes all the way up to the border (and a small plaza right on the border) and several blocks (half a mile? 1km?) south of the border.  It was a lovely evening, a good walk, nice to stretch my legs, a chance to talk with some of the women more, and great ocean views.  What wasn't to enjoy?
6. (This is what I actually shared:) Seeing how well the kids behaved.  The orphans in the home were definitely rambunctious and silly, but also were obedient and sweet.  I had feared they would be unruly, manipulative, rebellious, sullen, angry, or worse.  They pleasantly surprised me, and I have a lot more faith than skepticism in the overall ministry and orphanage situation.  (Later learning a few more details of who the adults are that live in the house with the kids as house parents didn't exactly grow my confidence, however.)
7. Participating in making lunch.  Again, this is a concrete "help" that I was able to provide.  I didn't love cutting 7 onions and squeezing 20+ limes, but it was something that needed to be done that I was able to do. Picking chicken wasn't on the top of my list of things I've wanted to do, either, but I can confidently say I was positively contributing at that time.
8. Knowing enough Spanish to be able to track the topic, if not the majority of conversations I was listening to, or the speaker at church this morning.  I was encouraged to learn more and practice more.
9. The ride home, and getting to share my story and hear more of Diane's and Bruce's story.  I was by far the youngest in the car, but rather than feeling like I have to prove myself or that I lack in some big way, I felt among my peers, even if they are far more experienced than I.  It was also encouraging to get to know 2 older single women that I enjoy and respect.
10. By the end of the 2 days, I appreciated being able to share some of my hesitations, questions and concerns and actually get somewhere with them.  Speaking them out loud helped me to a) clarify my thought/position; b) shed light on the areas I was just being myopic and ethnocentric; c) bring truth to balance my position, and d) engage in more conversation to distill my thoughts and strengthen a relationship with someone else with different thoughts/opinions.

1. Lack of organization and planning.  It drove me nuts.  It was challenging to me that a lot of the smaller details weren't planned out, even if they weren't the result of any one person not thinking ahead.    I really wasn't sure where I fit in most of the time, or what would be appropriate or not.  Next time I'll have a much better sense of what to expect, and it won't offend me quite as much.
2. There were several times I wanted more information (about the kids, the staff, the men from the ranch, the plan for the day, the possibilities of what could come next, the steps needed for X to happen, etc) that I felt awkward and/or prying if I were to actually ask.  I might have been more bold, as some of the others were, to get more answers, but it seemed presumptuous or rude to ask some of the questions I wanted answers for.  Other times, there simply wasn't an answer, it was a play-it-by-ear situation.
3. Not eating lunch until 330pm.  I didn't know that was an option, much less the plan (I don't think it really was the plan, but I didn't understand the process to be able to figure it out myself).  I was starting to shut down because I was so hungry and was losing patience quickly.  Eating a snack helped, but eating a better snack earlier would heave been better.  If there is a next time, I will be sure to have a good protein granola bar to munch on around the noon hour.
4. (What I actually shared, or part of this:) Hearing the kids' stories.  I felt like the kids were asked to bare their hearts to complete strangers so they could be "on display" for us to watch or run in and attempt a pitiful rescue mission on.  I felt like we were voyeuristic or opportunistic and they were simply our prey.  That is a strong way of explaining the awkwardness and unease I felt about hearing such personal stories.  I wanted to be careful in guarding their hearts, to not overexpose or manipulate them for our own sense of "I want to feel good about coming to 'help' these poor children."
4 1/2: Carlos was able to answer some of this for me.  He explained that they want to train the children to share their testimonies about what God has done for them early, and he wants them to be able to be open and transparent about who they are and not hide their pain or who they are out of fear or shame.
5. Missions trips are hard.  Being in close proximity with so many people of such varying backgrounds and levels of healing and maturity themselves is always hard. I was overwhelmed at times by the noise and up-front level of conversation (asking a woman who just had a baby about her method of contraception).  There were a ton of people in that house all day, and no where to have a quiet conversation.
6. The general frustration and anxiety I feel in a new place/situation.  I didn't know what to expect in many ways, and most of that is just learned.  Some of it is simply remembering how things work different in other countries that I don't have to deal with on a regular basis and feeling like I'd smacked my head against an invisible brick wall. It's just hard to remember some of these things until I do them again.
7. Wondering how this trip fits in with my overall distrust of short-term missions trips.  This is more my own personal struggle to think through: how are we not more of a burden? How can we minimize the impact of our stay? Keeping it shorter helps in a lot of ways.  I don't want to sweep in and begin to build relationships with kids who need consistency in their lives, then leave the very next day.  I want to respect their privacy and not know every detail of their sad past.  Yet I want to know who they are and how there but am too afraid of offending or prying to ask. Is this type of trip really that encouraging to the long-termers? Does it really do much towards building good will with our church and theirs?  Can we really do good when there are some outspoken and potentially offensive people on our team (who don't realize that)? Can I participate in the good with my critical mindset?  How do I empower those doing the work, support and love them, from one weekend?  How do I not let my own boredom overpower my willingness to serve?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

30 Before 30: #4 & 3

#4: Run the Color Run
#3: Eat Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles

The Color Run was held (locally) at the Great Park in Irvine on April 22, 2012.  I roped my friends Michael, Danielle, and Nate into running with me, so we did a few runs together around the Rose Bowl to prep for this run.  The race course, in itself, was pretty boring along an old runway.  The weather was cloudy, with the marine layer solidly in place, making it fairly muggy.  We donned our race shirts, race headbands, sunglasses, old running shoes and lined up with 1000 of our closest friends at the start line.

So the premise: Run a 5k along a course where at each kilometer mark, a team is there to throw color (like bright powdered sugar) at each runner as he/she passes.  The first color was yellow, then green, then blue/purple, and then pink before the finish line.

The pre-picture:

After the first two stations: 

After the 3rd station:

After the 4th station:

At the end of the race, everyone has a packet of the color powder that we have a big color "fight" with:

It's pretty intense in there!  It's actually really dark and very hard to breathe!
Thankfully, we survived! :)

So by the end, we were more colors than just the 4 from the race (the pink and purple are the ones that "stick" the most!

It was quite a morning, to say the least.  Which, of course, needed to be followed up with a great meal. If you aren't familiar with it, Roscoe's is an LA legacy.  It's one of those classic places that somehow I've never had!  I'd been in Pasadena more than 3 and a half years, and never had Roscoe's!  Waffles and fried chicken are an apparent perfect match, as we quickly found out.  I had Herb's Special: 2 pieces of chicken and 2 waffles.  Most of which I took home!  It was a lovely meal, and I'm glad to have experienced a Pasadena tradition.  I probably will return to the restaurant, but may not have chicken AND waffles next time.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

30 Before 30 #5: Visit Seattle

Seattle! A city that I have wanted to visit since 1998, when my family took a road trip across the entire US. One of the things I most wanted to do on that trip was go up in the Space Needle. The closest I got was a Baskin Robbins in Tacoma. I'm still bitter about that! ;)

Though I miss her dearly, I got lucky that my friend Alison moved from Pasadena to Seattle last September. I had the opportunity to visit her in December 2011, so I flew up for the weekend!

I arrived Thursday evening Dec 8, and Alison picked me up after her final exam for her grad school course (the reason she moved up to Seattle). We went straight home, but stayed up late talking. Friday we took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island, as it looked like this might be the best weather we had all weekend. We brunched at Pegasus Coffee House (AMAZING baked eggs) before walking around the small community and giving ourselves a self-guided driving tour of the island. We ended the daylight hours at Fay Bainbridge State Park, with excellent views back toward the city as well as Mt. Rainier.

Saturday started out with the Seattle Space Needle (FINALLY!). It was a somewhat rainy day, so the views weren't as epic as a clear day would have been, but definitely a great experience! So glad I finally got to see it and go up! From there we took the monorail into downtown, and headed for Pike Place Market. We walked through Pike Place, window shopping, and really shopping. I, of course, had to stop into the original Starbucks and pick up a mug. We got jam from a local producer, I bought earrings from a local artist, and then wound our way through to a cool little shop called Ventures. It's a cool little artist's collective type shop with all sorts of treasures for the finding. Helping a good cause is nice, too! We then stopped at Seattle Coffee Works to refuel. Coffee shops make for excellent people watching, don't you think? :) We walked back through the fish market (opening scene from "Real World" anyone?) and down the block to a lovely chocolatier, Fran's. Alison treated me to a drinking chocolate, which I heartily appreciated! We continued our walking tour down towards the water, ducking into the Seattle Aquarium momentarily and the carousel at Waterfront Park. The city was all lit up with Christmas lights, and it was a lovely sight! We took the bus home, then stopped at a yummy Thai place for dinner before crashing.

Sunday started with church at Quest Church, briefly preceded by a detour to the troll uner the Fremont Bridge and a driving tour of the neighborhood (as we waited for the first service to end, and parking to free up!). We brunched at Blue Star Cafe, then attempted to walk around Green Lake. It was a tad bit cold and windy for that, so we drove the circumference, instead. :) Being December in Seattle, I was a little surprised, but delighted, to find so many trees with fall colors! We definitely don't have many of those in southern CA! We then continued on to Seattle University, where Alison showed me around her campus and the things she loved about it. One of the things she loves is its proximity to Stumptown, so we had an obligatory stop there. (What's there not to love about Seattle and its coffee shops?!) It really was a beautiful building, very picturesque in the late afternoon light. And the mocha and brownie I enjoyed were delicious! We chased the sunset, which was just barely peeking through under the shelf of clouds, and caught beautiful views of the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic peninsula. Finally, we made an obligatory (for me!) stop at the flagship REI store! That place is amazing, with it's own rockwall and trail for customers to test drive mountain bikes!

All in all, I had a jam-packed and excellent weekend. I got to try/see all sorts of Seattle icons, and of course visit with my friend!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

30 Before 30 #1: Run a 10k

Run a 10k, as in a race (not just the distance). This one I've actually done twice now, and I'm registered to run at least one more before the year ends!

Danielle, Nate, and I ran the Firecracker 10k that began and ended in Chinatown on February 12, 2012. The race course was a bit challenging, going up over the hill around Dodger Stadium and back down. To be honest, I knew I was under-prepared for the race, but knew that I would still give it my best. My goal was to finish the race in 1:15, but I didn't take into account the many hills! All my training thus far had been on relatively flat land, and I completely forgot that running hills would use different muscle groups in different ways!

The first climb was killer, not going to lie. But the views of the city were amazing! The park we ran through was beautiful, and many runners stopped to take photos along the way with their phones. I, however, concentrated on simply finishing! The race course continued to challenge me, and I fell behind Danielle and Nate fairly early on. They were kind to wait for me to catch up at one point, and we ran together for a while. On the downhill section, I ran past them, lengthening my stride and letting the hill do the work for me! But I overdid it, and Nate and Danielle soon passed me again. I finished in 1:20:29, at a 12:59/mile pace. Danielle finished, then came back to run with me across the finish line.

On May 20, 2012, Stephanie and I ran the Pasadena 10k, part of the Pasadena Marathon. This race was great because it started and ended just a couple blocks from my home, so I simply walked to the start line. The race course ran down to California Blvd, back up around Pasadena City Hall, and then back the way we started.

Pasadena City Hall:

I had definitely trained better for this race and was hoping this would be closer to the 1:15 time I had wanted to run the Firecracker in, or maybe even better! However, Stephanie had trained but not as well, and I didn't want to leave her. I have been hugely helped in my running by others sticking with me and encouraging me, and I found it beneficial, too. I wasn't as focused on my own muscle aches and pains when I was focused on keeping Stephanie energized! We ran by, and were passed by, friends at several stages which was a nice distraction.

The 2nd half of the race was more challenging, especially for Steph. Her stride (and therefore pace) was slower than mine, so I found I couldn't comfortably run alongside her. I ended up running ahead at my own pace, and at each block jogging in place to wait for her, or running back to then run alongside her. The last mile was more fun as we encouraged and challenged each other to the finish line. We finished in 1:28:23. So it was quite a bit slower than I had wanted to run, initially, but I'm really glad we finished together!!

The END!

I'm now registered to run the weSpark 10k through the Universal Studios backlot on November 4th. I've already begun a training program for this race (though I admit I haven't stuck to it 100%) and expect to hit my 1:15 or better mark for this race! I am using this race as an excuse/reason to get into better shape before going to Peru and trekking to Machu Picchu! Running this race, and actually training for it, will help that experience to not be as painful as it otherwise would!

Monday, September 03, 2012

30 Before 30 #16: Have a Drink on a Roof in LA

Friday night, I made plans to see my friend Jenny. After texting back and forth, we settled on going to Perch, a rooftop bar in LA. PERFECT. When I wrote this item on my 30 Before 30 list, Jenny immediately came to mind as the perfect person to help make this event happen. She's a great friend with a knack for finding fun places to get a drink around LA, and Perch is one of her best finds!

Earlier that week, a few other friends of ours made plans to get drinks at a happy hour in Pasadena, so that was a perfect start to our evening. We invited all those present to join us, and 2 were free to do so: Danielle and Chris. Our little group, having enjoyed a (few) drink(s) already, opted to take the metro to downtown LA to Perch. Taking the metro (the light rail to Union Station and the subway to Pershing Square) is an adventure in and of itself, one which I enjoyed immensely. Taking the public transit has somewhat of a romantic appeal to it, and it reminded me that I really do live in a CITY. I loved it!

We arrived at Perch around 830pm, which was perfect for a Friday night. The sun had set, and the Blue Moon had risen over the city. We took the elevator up to the 13th floor and transferred to the elevator that took us to the 15th. We entered the restaurant and took the last flight of stairs up to the rooftop and were immediately astounded by the views of the city! Topping off the fun of the bar was bumping into a friend from work.

The music, French pop, was almost as endearing as the simple joy of a lovely evening with good friends, great views, and an alcoholic beverage in hand. The drinks were delicious, though (understandably) on the expensive side. We enjoyed chatting among the views in every direction, overlooking Pershing Square, and finding the LA Times building next to City Hall. The jets were lined up to land at LAX, and the towers on top of Mt Wilson flashed their red warning lights. It really was a lovely evening, and the only thing that could have made it better was dessert. So we went to get some. :)

We walked downstairs to the restaurant, where we passed a long line of folks waiting to go up to the rooftop, and found there was a 2-hour wait for a table, even for dessert. We consulted Yelp and UrbanSpoon to find a dessert place about 2 blocks away, and started our descent. We passed a line outside the door on the street, as well, and were thankful to have gotten up without a wait!

Having grown up in the suburbs, I never knew how much of a city girl I am! I really enjoyed the nightlife and people watching as we walked over to Syrup. A man driving an SUV drove by us playing a dance song loudly with his windows down, and sadly changed the song. We playfully yelled and asked him to turn it back on, and he said, "I've got a better one, just wait!" He then started a new song and we continued dancing as we walked down the street.

Syrup, on Spring, was a lovely find. We walked in to find a busy scene, but found a table right away. Danielle sat down to claim our table, and Jenny, Chris and I pored over the menu while waiting in line to order. We chose a crepe dish (tiramisu-ish), a waffle dish (with berries) and a grilled cheese (muenster and some kind of jam?). We devoured the dishes, then walked back to the Pershing Square metro stop to take the train home. I was in bed by midnight - a lovely evening indeed!!