Around the World in (1)80 Days

I remember August as the beginning, a swirl of information, a tornado of planning and newness, a sprint of setting myself to feel prepared and successful. We talked about historical skills and geography.

I remember October as the hardest month. I was in the thick of planning lessons and units and facing my first round of observations for the year. We learned about Egypt and Greece.

I remember November and December as that push to that halfway mark of the school year, feeling more confident and put together. We explored how to do a research project and a variety of ancient civilizations. We talked about world religions.

I remember January as a surprise. It was when I taught my Middle Ages unit, which ended up being one of the most fun, despite that being one of my least favorite time periods.

I remember February and March as that looonnngg stretch to Spring Break. This is where we got to the good stuff: post 1500 history!

I remember April as the beginning of the end. World War I was probably my best unit.

I remember May as the final countdown, that never seemed to end. We tried to cover the last 80+ years in about a month. Talk about sprinting to the end!

Year one is done.

I remember writing a paper in my 7th grade Life Skills elective with Mrs. Adams. We had to choose a career that interested us and research it. I researched teaching. I always knew I wanted to teach history/social studies. Up until my senior year of college, I thought I would teach high school. The first part of my senior year I was a teacher assistant for a 6th grade social studies class. The second part of my senior year I student taught for a 9th grade history class. I ended loving the 6th grade setting way more than I thought I could. I have found my niche in middle school.

So much of college and professional development warns you about the terror of your first year. All in all, it was so much better than I expected! There were absolutely times of frustration, stress, fear, and being overwhelmed. There were difficult students, there were exasperating parents. And yet there were so many times of joy, peace, strength, love, and kindness.

Middle School students continue to amaze and humble me. Middle kids are crazy and so irresponsible. Middle kids are so resilient. Middle kids face so much in their little lives. I had students who faced hunger. I had kids with divorced parents, shuffled back and forth, not sure whose house they were sleeping at that night. I had kids with messy family lives. I had homeless students, and students who faced eviction. I had over a dozen students move away. I had several who came for short periods of time before moving on, some less than a week. I had students whose parents made zero effort in their lives. I had parents that were so overreaching  to the point of insanity. I had students carrying the weight of deaths of close family members. I had students who deal with crippling anxiety and other mental issues. I had a student who moved in the middle of the school year and spoke no English. I have students who can’t figure out social cues and expectations. Through in hormones and puberty and its no wonder my job is so exhausting!  Middle school is tough. These kids are learning to be tough, often by circumstances beyond control.

There were days when I felt so useless and like my efforts were futile. I have kids leaving my class, going into 7th grade, who DON’T KNOW THE CONTINENTS. (No I am not kidding. Yes we will be hitting that topic much harder next year.) There were kids who could barely read and write. The majority of my school is below basic level in math abilities. I had a student who couldn’t properly spell his last name. We live in a day and age where kids need fast paced and “entertaining” to engage them. We live in a day and age where many kids don’t know how to work hard. Many do not know how to problem solve or think for themselves. Many don’t care about anything. Many struggle with the basic components of learning. Many have so many other worries and cares in their young lives they can’t even begin to think about being diligent in school.

Through it all, there are those glimmers of hope, joy, and truth. Whenever we’d cover a hard topic, such as the Holocaust, I would emphasize that to my students. I made it a goal to pray for my student every morning. Public school is such a mission field. I’ve seen a few popular Christian bloggers put down public school lately, strongly stating that it is no place for a Christian. I couldn’t disagree more. This is the next generation. They are being formed and shaped, right here, right now. It is exactly where a follower of Jesus should be. Obviously I can’t just preach to my kids, but there are ways to promote God’s love and the truth of the Bible without outright saying it or crossing any lines. School is the most consistent thing in some of these kids lives, and it is where I am supposed to be. These kids need love, these kids need Jesus. If not me, then who?

I have much to be thankful for in my first year. I work in an amazing, beautiful building. I have a great team who have given me much advice and aid. I had small class sizes, which is such a blessing starting out. I was able to establish a solid base from which to build on next year. I had some truly amazing kids who are going to do great things. I had many opportunities to be humbled by these kids, by their circumstances, and by their abilities and strength. I had many opportunities to extend love and grace.I had ample learning opportunities, from failures and success alike.  Jared was a strong support and encouragement, especially on those extra rough days. God has sustained me and carried me from day one to day 180.

And now for rest. Now to prepare for year two.

“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives…And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. “  Colossians 3:16-17

 

Easing Back Into It: Bryce Canyon

Hello old friend. Even with good intentions to continue, I haven’t touched this blog in two years. It’s now been three years since my trip to Kenya. I sometimes miss writing, but haven’t been able to push myself to blog or journal hardly at all in those three years. I now live in Salt Lake City, Utah. Jared and I are now married. I am over halfway through my first year of teaching. So, so much has changed. I think I want to give this thing another shot, as a way of documenting and reflecting and processing life post-college, as well as a way to share our adventures here in Utah.

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So let’s start with an easy one. This past weekend, Jared and I hit up our 3rd Utah national park: Bryce Canyon National Park. We saw nothing… literally! The whole weekend was overcast and damp. Bryce Canyon sits at an elevation of over 7,000 feet, and was foggy and snowy the whole time. We saw about 10 feet in any direction, and saw white and trees. Not exactly the majestic landscapes and wild panoramas we were expecting! But we had fun nonetheless.

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We stayed at Bryce Canyon Villas, in the town of Cannonville. Cannonville is inside Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, so the views were pretty great outside the door. We enjoyed the luxuries of cable TV, a gas fireplace, and a grill. We arrived on Friday around 7pm, and realized hardly any businesses were open for the season. Dinner was excellent pizza from The Pizza Place in nearby Tropic, double thumbs up. Saturday we tried to go into the park, but it was pretty pointless. There was not much to see. So after burgers at Ruby’s Inn Cowboy Bar and Grill, we went driving to see what other adventures we could find.

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First we found a little roadside hike to a cave and a waterfall. I’ve never been a desert person. However, the desert of Utah has proved me wrong, I’m a little smitten with the beauty of the desert! The colors and the juxtaposition of water, rock, and plants makes a beauty I wouldn’t have imagined. The red rock-pillar formations, called hoodoos, are what makes Bryce Canyon area famous. They’re formed primary from a mix of stone types and weathering. Though I can’t testify about the hoodoos in Bryce itself, the ones we did see were still impressive.

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We continued down into the valley, driving throughout Grand Staircase. We found a dirt road, and took it through ranch land, old abandoned buildings, dry riverbeds, and sketchy muddy slopes. We even saw a pair of bald eagles. We then made our way to Kodachrome State Park to get a little hiking in. We choose a short trail over red, muddy paths and stream beds, through rock formations, and into a couple box canyons.

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Sunday we debated trying to snowshoe in the park before going home, but I was feeling less adventurous after so much cloudy, wet weather. Also, the night before we were woke up by a cacophony of sirens and horns that lasted several minutes. Turns out, the local girls basketball team had just won state, and the valley was celebrating. So, after a lazy morning and brunch back at the Cowboy Grill, we started to head back north. We took a dirt road through Red Canyon, stopping at the mouth of another box canyon to explore a dry riverbed full of every color of rocks. We got to see some real hoodoos here, and the sun even came out a bit. The history lover in me also requested a stop at the Cove Fort. It was fort commissioned by the Mormon Church for about 20 years in the late 19th century. The fort is/was located at the crossroads of the stagecoach lines, railroad lines, and at the heart of Indian country. Though it never saw any action, it was a prominent stopping point for travelers from the north, as well as a communication center. We got a tour from a very personable Mormon missionary, as the church still maintains the fort today. Then we continued the drive through wide valleys, passing tall mountains and rock formations, and lots of sage brush and cows back to the city and our kitty. A good weekend indeed.

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As I attempt to get back into blogging I will work on catching up with life and reflecting on all that’s coming with adulthood. So far, I like being out of college. I love my job, love my classroom and school, and love my kids…. Most days of course. Jared and I have been married for over 7 months, and its been wonderful to finally truly be together and learn how to love each other more and ourselves less. Utah is treating us mostly well. I love the mountains and all of the wild landscapes we get to interact with throughout the state. I do not love Salt Lake City. I will always be a small town girl! We pray about our future and know this is where we need to be right now. I’ll refer back to my default favorite chapter of the Bible in closing:

Psalms 121

I look up to the mountains—

does my help come from there?

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;

the one who watches over you will not slumber.

Indeed, he who watches over Israel

never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!

The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.

The sun will not harm you by day,

nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm

and watches over your life.

The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,

both now and forever.

 

One Year (Cookies with Katie and Kirk)

I’ve started this post in my head probably a hundred times over the past few months, intending to put my thoughts to word. I wanted to write down my deep epiphanies and enlightening reflections in my year since Kenya. But ever since I’ve been back I’ve had a bit of writer’s block, in blogging and journaling. It’s a bit different to blog about lions and slums and culture shock than to blog about homework and classes and Michigan winters. Kenya feels like a lifetime or two ago. Yet, just one year ago, I was either on United Stated International Universities’ campus, dreading my classes, or on the road going somewhere, maybe on a trip, maybe to Karen C Primary School, or First Love, or Kibera. I was probably with Katie, Kirk or Ellie. Maybe I was hanging out with Anna and the adorable kids at First Love. Maybe I was sitting in the teacher’s lounge at Karen C, waiting for something to do. Maybe I was in the car with Maina, talking about life and Kenya and America. Chances are I was homesick, and missing Jared, and my family, and feeling lonely, and struggling to have a good attitude and to find joy in my circumstances. I was probably counting down the weeks/days till my flight home. I probably ate some naan. I probably got up early to Skype somebody back home. I think of Kenya everyday. Did that really happen?

Katie, Kirk, and I get together every so often here in Grand Rapids, and sometimes Ellie joins. We go to Cornerstone’s Sunday night worship service, Evensong, or to Katie’s house, and catch up on each other’s lives. Then our conversations turn to Kenya, inevitably. We usually tell the same stories, reminisce about the same things. In a month or two, they’ll both graduate and move on. I’ll still be in Grand Rapids, still thinking of Kenya. It’s been good for me to have them near and available to reflect on our experience with.

Which is where I found myself on Wednesday, sitting in Katie’s kitchen with her and Kirk, eating fresh-baked cookies, talking about Kenya, sharing our photo books with each other. As we talked, I found myself realizing that we each had truly different experiences, though we were on the same trip. We had different goals, different opportunities, different struggles and trials, different hardships and fears, different joys and triumphs. I think one of my struggles in Kenya was the feeling that I was supposed to be having a specific type of experience: that I was supposed to feel happy and excited about everything, because, after all, this was a trip of a lifetime. Which it was. It’s taken me the better part of this past year to accept that it was okay that I struggled. No I didn’t always have the best attitude, or wasn’t always joyful about everything. That’s the beauty of grace and mercy, God still loved me and stuck with me the entire way. I was often made to feel guilty by people around me for having a hard time in Kenya, which honestly lowered my confidence in myself. There were/are some insecurities I developed about my personality, about who I am. Like there was something wrong with me because I didn’t thrive in Kenya.

I think one of the hardest parts of coming back to America was not really having a solid community to come back to, aside from my family and Jared. Not having a huge support network of people who know me well enough to feel affirmed in who I was after feeling so dejected and defeated in Kenya. Ohio is familiar, Grand Rapids is familiar, both kind of home. I know people, I know the places. But it has been awhile since I’ve had those people who know me deep enough and still accept me. I think part of that is how transient my life has been for the past few years, and even all my life, with growing up in three towns. And to be transparently honest, though I am more introverted, that has been really hard. Not that God hasn’t put people in my life to encourage me and keep me going, but as high school friends drift away, as college changes and nears the end, my support community has shrank. It’s almost like my re-orientation back to life in America was only partial. I’ve grown to appreciate the friendships I do have, the little conversations here and there that are like a refreshing drink of water. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to come back from Kenya and start fresh somewhere else.

But then I remember the positives and the good things of this past year. I had two summer jobs I enjoyed, and God provided for another year at college without loans. I’ve been able to use my parent’s car all year for internships. He provided a job here at school thanks to my wonderful friend and mentor Kathy. I really lucked out and have been blessed with my roommates, especially for moving in with strangers. Most of my classes this year have been with excellent professors who remind me why I want to teach social studies and English as a Second Language (ESL). This semester I am doing my ESL practicum at the Potter’s House High School, a diverse, urban Christian high school. I work with 9 students from 4 Latin American countries and 4 African countries, in ESL reading, writing, math and biology. I never thought I’d teach math and science! I was hired to be a guide for a program called Christian Adventures for the summer, through Cran-Hill Ranch, north of Grand Rapids. I’ll help lead groups of students and adults on outdoor adventure trips in and out of Michigan. My relationship with Jared is wonderful, and his friendship means so incredibly much to me. For my senior year, I have one semester left of classes, and then student teaching. I will get to live with my freshman roommate Sandy, and (eventually) one of my freshman suitemates, Hillary. Especially this second semester I have felt more at home in Grand Rapids. These are all good things.

And I still think of Kenya. I don’t have an interest in going back. I don’t think Kenya is one of my heart places. I think everyone has certain places, whether is a country or a state or a town or a small community, like a school or camp or organization, that they really connect with at the heart and gut level. Those places that are always with you that you can’t wait to go back to. In one way Kenya is a heart place, simply because I learned so much there, and it will always be a part of me and a part of my story. I got to see and do so much, got to meet wonderful people like the Idagiza’s, the First Love crew, my roommate Stephanie, and my student teacher friend Dorcus. But at the same time, it is not a heart place in the sense that I yearn to go back like some of my group does. Jared and talk often about our future, and if going abroad is in it. I don’t see myself living in a long term setting overseas anymore, but I caution myself in saying that, because I don’t know where God will lead me/us in the future. It’s a challenge for me to accept the cliché “grow where you’re planted”, as I wonder where my next heart place/places are.

Kenya taught me and grew me and stretched me. I am a different person than I was on March 26, 2014. Which is how life should be isn’t? Like Paul in the Bible talks about, we, especially as Believers, are not supposed to stay stationary in our lives and faith, immature and incomplete. We are supposed to experience struggles and trials, to learn joy through them, and to become more mature in our faith. Though it was not how I hoped, Kenya did do that for me. The beauty is that even something that monumental and prominent is not the end. I still have as long as God gives me on this earth to grow and become more like Jesus. Though I mess up, though I struggle to live how I should, there are still new mercies each day, and God still walks with me as I try to walk with Him. As I look towards my last leg of college, towards challenges with finishing up, challenges with adulthood and learning to live in the “real world”, I can look back on this, this thing in my life and know that God is faithful and will help me through anything. This crazy, terrible, wonderful, once-in-a-life-time thing… As time goes on, as memories fade, as wounds heal, I can look back on Kenya and know it was for my own good, and that it is proof that my God is real and cares for me and loves me though I am imperfect and don’t handle everything like I should. Happiness is not my primary goal in life. Though I like planning and organizing, life can’t be scripted and I am not in control. So I’ll keep moving, keep trying to follow Jesus, ask forgiveness when I mess up and try to do better. Asante sana, Kenya, for what you taught me, for what you showed me, for what you helped me understand about the world. I will always remember you.102_3900

Wrap Up Thoughts

“And what is it you love to do, Katie?” the woman from Scotland asked her

Katie didn’t have an answer “Just about anything. I’m here to help.”

“Yes, every young woman I have met from the West has come to help They want to do something important and useful so they can go home knowing that they helped changed Africa… The surprise you will discover is that you will not change Africa, my dear. No, Africa will change you… The key is for you to discover what you love to do, what you were created to do, and then do it for the people around you with love. That is the abundant life, dear girl, no matter where in the world you live.”

Finally and Forever- Robin Jones Gunn

 I intended to write a profound, long, inspiring wrap up post, but nothing I’ve been trying to write sounds genuine, so I’ll keep it short. I’m back in the US. The flights home were exhausting and long. I’ve been home just over a week now. I’ve been reunited with my family and Jared. I went to visit Cornerstone and had a really nice visit with my college friends. I started working again. I’ve been cold ever since I got back. In a lot of ways it feels like nothing changed here. It all seems so familiar.

I really like the above quote, which is from one of my favorite authors. I can’t deny I subconsciously thought I could go to Kenya and invest my heart in something and make a difference and feel good about myself. But that’s not what God had for me on this trip. I certainly didn’t change Kenya, but God certainly changed me through Kenya. This was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I do not regret going.

 God revealed so much of His character to me. He taught me about myself and who He made me.

 I didn’t find my “thing” in Kenya. And that’s ok. It’s ok to not fall in love with Africa just because you are a white American who loves Jesus. As much as I love the story of Katie Davis, I am not her like I thought I could be.

 God reveals Himself everywhere in this world. I found God in Nairobi, in the mountains, in the deserts and starry nights of Korr, in the sunrises of Zanzibar, in the coral reefs of the Indian Ocean, in the wild of Maasai Mara, in the beauty of the Rift Valley, in the joy and hope of Kibera Slum, in the happiness of First Love Children’s Home, in the frustration of Karen C Primary School, and even in the chaos of USIU. God was constantly reminding me of who He is and that He owns this great big world, no matter where I go.

 “Stuff” is over rated. Kenya (and Africa in general) makes the realities of essentials of life so much more real: food, water, health, life, death. I want to live with less stuff and use what God has given me wiser and with better stewardship. I think stuff gets in the way of us being amazed daily by God and what He does every day in His creation.

 My God is real. He is active in my life and in His world. He is my hope and my freedom. This world is bigger than I knew, there are countless ideas, worldviews, cultures, religions and ways of life. Every person is searching for something, and I know I have found the answer to this crazy life we’re thrown into: Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life. He loves me, and you, and every other person, and wants a personal relationship with each one of us. All we have to do is believe He is the Son of God, believe He can forgive everything you’ve done wrong, and His love and grace saves you, forever.

 While all cultures and peoples are unique and distinct, we all are all children, parents, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters. We all eat, drink, sleep, work, play, live and die. No matter the color of our skin and the language we speak. We all believe in something and we all want something to fulfill our lives and make us feel like we have a purpose.

 So what’s next for me? I’m back at Gerber’s Garden Center, my summer job, for a fifth summer. I get to spend a week in Washington state helping get a camp ready for summer with my church’s college group. I will be working for Lorain County Metro Parks in June and July as a “seasonal naturalist intern”, meaning I help plan and run nature/adventure day camps for kids. I am working as much as I can to save money for this next school year, and my soon need for a car. Jared and I get to be in the same place for the first summer since we’ve been dating, and we have quite the to-do list of summer activities. I’m so happy with how easily we fell back into our friendship and being able to talk about everything and anything and enjoy doing whatever we find together. In the fall I’ll start my junior year at Cornerstone, which will be quite full. I will be living in the apartments with 3 new roommates. In a lot of ways, although I am back in what is familiar, it seems like I’m starting again, or even on the outside. This is home, but is it? I find myself already wondering what comes next after college, where I’ll end up, what I’ll end up doing. I still have a strong desire to travel, I have a feeling it won’t be long before restlessness and the travel bug sets in. I still seek adventures. It’s pretty great to know that my God has a plan, and that it’s better than anything I could come up with!

 Father God, thank you for this semester. Thank you for never leaving me, for being my constant comfort and strength. I failed a lot this semester, but You are a loving God, full of grace. Thank You for Your mercy. Thank You for carrying me through, for drawing me closer to You, and for using this difficult time to challenge me and grow me. I pray that I would remember what I’ve learned, what I’ve seen, what I’ve done, and that I would move forward with a changed heart and a changed view on life. I pray that I would follow You, that I would know You better every day, and that I would live like You. I love You Lord. Amen.

 Finally, dear readers, thank you. Thank you for following me on this journey, for your encouragement, and for the support of simply reading what I’ve been up to. I think I’ll hold on to this blog for now, and see what other adventures come my way. I encourage all of you to trust God and step out of your comfort zone sometime. I think wandering is good for you, as long as you’re wandering with God and not away from Him. God has made a pretty amazing world, and I encourage you to get out there and explore some corners of His creation! I’ll leave you with another quote from another favorite author of mine. God bless.

 “And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:

Leave.

Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.”

Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road

Wild- Maasai Mara Safari

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel, that is the purpose of life”
102_3900If you ever get the chance to visit Africa, go on safari. If you get to go to Kenya, go to Maasai Mara. SAFARI WAS AMAZING!!! I absolutely loved it, and it was absolutely wild. I think photos will speak louder then my words for this, so I’ll keep descriptions to a minimum. We left Nairobi in two safari vehicles, drove through the Rift Valley, and when the pavement ended, faced an awful dirt road. Finally, we were at the edge of the park. Then another solid hour of bumpy, dusty roads. Almost immediately into the park, we started seeing the animals! We stayed at Ashnil Resort camp inside the park, which had beautiful accommodations and delicious food. Ellie and I shared the luxurious safari tent. When I say tent, this thing had wood floors, a fancy bathroom, and a deck, all nicely decorated! The resort was on the Mara River, where we could see crocodiles and hippos. We also got a chorus of hippos all night long, which is slightly terrified, as they sound like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park!

Monday evening we went on our first game drive. There is nothing but God’s creation for miles in every direction. Huge expanses of grassy plain, broken up by the occasional single acacia tree or groves of trees stretch forever. In the distance, I saw hills and mountain tops. It’s not like a US national park, the only building or structure I saw in the park was our camp. The dirt roads cover miles upon miles, and the experienced guides know them like the back of their hand. The first night, we saw zebras, elephants, warthogs, hyenas, giraffes, tons of varieties of gazelle/impala, many birds, and then the best part: lions! We found four males lions sleeping in a pile under the shade of a tree! In the safari vehicles, you pull right up to the animals, say 10 feet away. The roof of the vehicle pops up, and some people can even sit on part of the roof. Standing in the vehicle/sitting on the back is quite a rush… until you hit a giant bump and nearly fall off!

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Tuesday was our full safari day. We spent many hours of the day trying to find lions and cheetahs, while seeing all of the aforementioned animals. We also saw crocodiles and hippos in the Mara River, as well as water buffalo and jackals. Finally, right before lunch, we were rewarded by finding several female lions hiding under a group of bushes. Even better, they had adorable lion cubs! We ate our lunch under an acacia, atop a hill, with a view that never seemed to end. After a few more hours of our drive, we returned back to camp.
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Far too early Wednesday, I woke to something scampering around in the darkness. I thought for sure there was an animal, probably a monkey, inside the tent. “Ellie! Ellie!” I lay frozen under my mosquito net, calling till Ellie woke up. “I think there’s an animal in our tent!” After listening more closely, we decided they were outside, running over top the tent. We talked for a bit, trying to scare them away. At one point, we could hear them on the deck growling at each other. Pretty scary, and neither of us fell back to sleep before our 6 am wake up call! We then went out on a morning a safari. We found a pack of probably 10 lions, an awesome find! After that, the one thing we really wanted was to see a cheetah. All of sudden, our guide spotted a cheetah at an incredible distance, and took off. We got so close to the cheetah, snapping as many pictures as possible. While watching, the cheetah left and we thought it was going on a hunt. Sadly it didn’t. We then headed back to camp. I rode on top one last time, enjoying the breeze and bounce as we sped past zebras and gazelle. I believe more and more after this trip that I was made for wild, open spaces rather then densely crowded cities! This was a trip of a lifetime, and one I won’t quickly forget.
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Anticipation

This is it! I fly home in a few hours! I fly home in a few hours? At times this semester lasted eternity, at times it flew by. Change is always bittersweet, whatever the situation. This has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I don’t regret one bit of it, and I wouldn’t change anything about it. Crazy… Yesterday I was riding around Maasai Mara in a safari vehicle watching lions and getting up close and personal with cheetahs, zebras, elephants, and giraffes, and this weekend I’ll be settling back into a summer in Lorain County. I have a long travel ahead of me (over 20 hours of flights), but people I love are waiting on the other side. I’ll post lots of safari pictures and a wrap up blog in a little bit, after I’m back to fast American internet:) Until then, this is my last post actually physically from Kenya! Asante sana dear readers, I am very grateful for how many people read my story, and for all the encouragement and prayers. Stay tuned for some awesome pictures!

White Water Rafting and Bungee Jump

This past weekend was full of some awesome adventures- perfect to cure end of the semester slowness. We camped at Savage Wilderness Camp in Sagana Town. Saturday morning we had our safety briefing, then loaded up and put in down the road in the Sagana River. The 3 hours of rafting that followed was full of fun, adrenaline, and beautiful scenery! We rafted over class 2-5 rapids, played around in the rafts and rapids, flipped a few times, and got thoroughly soaked. During the calm parts of the river, we enjoyed the blue sky and sunshine, the lush green river banks, and bright yellow river birds. These birds had woven basket-like nests that were hanging from palm fronds and tree branches, like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Absolutely beautiful.

Saturday afternoon, it was time to face fears and jump. Bungee jumping was of course optional, but I figured why not, I mean I already paid off the semester! My stomach was churning and I was pretty shaky when the time came though. I’m not necessarily scared of heights, and climbing doesn’t scare me, but we’re talking 180 feet here! The climb of the tower/crane thing was just an extremely long ladder while attached to a harness, and then we climbed into the basket at the top. There was a gap in the floor, you stand with your toes over the edge, feet on each side of the basket, and the bungee cuffs are wrapped around your feet, with a backup on your shoulder harness. So, not only are you 180 feet in the air, about to jump, but you also have your feet tied together and weighed down. Umm. The view from the top was worth it. Green farmland, hills and peaks, stretching for miles in every direction, and I could even see Mount Kenya pretty clearly. Finally after all the instruction from the guide, and me questioning if anyone ever peed their pants up there (no, and he reminded me which direction I would be hanging if I decided to do so), it was time. The gate was opened. I said a prayer. I stared. And stared. And stared. Every part of your being screams that you are crazy and foolish. Jumping 180 feet, what are you thinking?? My breath shallow, my whole body shaking. After an eternity of 30 seconds I knew i couldn’t make myself jump. So I kindly requested the guide give me a little push. And down I went! Thrill, and sheer terror, screaming all the way, heart in my throat, and then the bungee caught, and I bounced up, and down, and up, and finally slowed down. Then the blood rushed to my head, I spun till I couldn’t tell which direction was up. At this point, a man in a kayak throws you a rope, and they pull you back to shore, where you get unhooked, and come to the realization of what you just did… Crazy!! I’m glad I did it, although I can’t say I will be jumping (haha get it) at the chance to do it again. Adrenaline filled weekend in deed.

10 days!