Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October Reflections

October has brought on a whole new round of challenges, but challenges that have taught me a lot. First of all, at the very beginning I was so ready to be home after being robbed and being so sick. There was nothing worse than having to wait two weeks to see my family and friends. I finally arrived, and was completely blown away by America. It was so quiet, calm, and organized. And, not to mention, there was just so much hot water and so many toilet seats. Mind blown.

After a day filled with readjusting and napping, I felt very blessed to have arrived home just in time to celebrate the life of PawPaw Walsh with my dear family. He was a great man who I always loved seeing, and it was hard to see my family hurt as much as they did.

Aunt Pam singing Happy Birthday with Paw Paw.

From there, the wedding festivities began! I had a blast celebrating the first wedding (of many) that I will be in with my longest friend. It was a much needed girls' weekend in the mountains, and I felt so honored to see Ciara marry her best friend.

After the wedding, I was laying in bed and feeling incredibly panicked about having to go back to Peru. I was enjoying the commodities of America too much! You know, cars, toilet paper, carpet. Those kinds of things. But the Lord took those feelings away the next day.

On Sunday, my last full day in the States, I was able to go to church and to the college-aged ministry gathering. Being back was an incredibly odd feeling. Even though I was in such a familiar place, I felt out of place since everything has changed so much. I knew it would, but I must not have been ready for it like I thought I was. A number of tears were shed, but I know that the Lord is faithful. He showed me to really appreciate my Peruvian church family no matter if our views differ a little bit. I took that challenge to heart, and I have really enjoyed getting to know the brothers of my church better. I've taught the college-aged ministry a lot about how to be more active in activities outside of strict bible studies, and they've taught me to really dive into the Word. It's a good relationship we've got going. :-)

I have really been enjoying my time in Peru after that nice refresher in States and I am glad I still have two (only two!?!) months left.

This weekend took a big toll on me, though. Friday and Saturday were stressful as I had to participate in a professional development seminar and give various presentations. Once all was finally said and done, I barely had time to relax before I got two pieces of bad news. I was informed that one of the most influential people in my life over the last decade passed away on October 26. It was a horribly tragic loss not only for me, but also for anyone who had met him, especially those in the youth group. There are few people in the world who made me feel as special as Mr. Ken did. He forever changed our hearts by his love and kindness but has left us with so many questions and so much hurt. I am forever grateful for his years of service, and I know our church will never be the same without him. Thank you, Mr. Ken, for everything you have done for us. You will never be forgotten!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Galapagos Galore

I am marking August 27 in my calendar as the day I left Trujillo for the first solo trip of my life! After a day with little sleep and a lot of stress, I arrived to Lima at 11:30 pm and spent the night in the airport. Thankfully there was a Subway and a missionary family from Texas to keep me company!

I finally arrived in Quito on the 28th and got to spend time with my friend John's family that evening. This was yet another example of this culture's hospitality. I had never met these people, and they picked me up from my hotel, drove me around the entire city, bought me medicine and a hot drink for the bad cough I had acquired, and then treated me to dinner (at Burger King haha). Quito is the most beautiful city I have ever seen!

The view from my hotel room.

I arrived to the Galapgos on the 29th for the start of my tour in Puerto Ayora on the Santa Cruz island and was stunned by the simple beauty of the water and classy beach atmosphere.

After having a $6 sandwich and fries for lunch by the port, I gathered my things and headed out for a 2.5 hour boat ride to Isabela Island with 12 obnoxious Bulgarians, 2 perfectly posh Brits, and 4 hilariously sarcastic Germans. It was quite a ride as we headed straight into waves bigger than our boat.

When we arrived to Isabela, we went straight to the hotel to drop our things off and then to Flamingo Bay--a short 10 minute ride. The guide, Ricardo, told us that flamingos aren't native species to the islands but they are allowed to stay there because they aren't a threat to any of the natural species and there was no change to the ecosystem when they arrived. He also told us there were 200 flamingos on the island, and we got to see a whopping 4. Can you find them in the picture? Yeah, me either. Haha.

From there, I walked home with the German mom, Meike, and got to see a beautiful beach and a beautiful sunset.

After a delicious dinner in the hotel, we went to bed early that evening to be able to get up early the next morning and head to El Volcán Sierra Negra and El Volcán Chico. At 6:30 we loaded up in the truck--4 Germans, 2 Brits, and an Aussie.

From there, we had a full day of hiking! We hiked 14 kilometers and above the clouds to make it to the volcanoes...

We stopped at the volcano and got to see the clouds coming over the bank. It was enormous...

We picked some fruit called guayava off a tree and ate it (worms and all)...

And we continued on to El Volcán Chico and had a spectacular view of Elizabeth Bay.

After having lunch in the shade, we went back to the hotel to get ready for snorkeling at Concha de Perla. There were sea lions everywhere on the islands, and one even showed us the way. The water was freezing, but we got to see some really cool fish! I also almost got eaten by two sea lions playing in the water.

After snorkeling, Tania (the German teenager and I) quickly showered and went to play volleyball/slackline with some of the locals at a bar/volleyball court/bonfire site near the beach.

The next day I went out with all the Germans and our tour guide to realize one of my dreams. I got to see the Wall of Tears! It was incredible to actually see something I have studied for years. The Germans thought I was crazy, but it was an great moment for me!

We visited many other stops on the way back to the hotel, and they were all incredible. First we went to El Estero. Along the way, we saw the biggest trees on the islands, saw a great place to camp, stopped by Brazo de Mar, and met some sea lions.

El Estero

We took another stop at El Tunel del Estero (The Estuary Tunnel), which was basically a huge tunnel made of lava.

From there, we went to La Playa del Amor, and I found true love like our guide promised. I like to call him Gustavo. He's very calm, loves the outdoors, and enjoys rock climbing as well. Unfortunately, he likes to snot rocket salt water from his nose. I think that might be a deal breaker.


La Playa del Amor
Later, we went to a tortoise research center and got to see a lot of these guys. This one was actually missing a back foot because it was born during the time of a volcanic eruption. The tortoises only get fed Monday, Wednesday and Friday because there isn't enough financial support.

After a delicious lunch and some time to get some sun and walk around the island, we went snorkeling again and got to see a huge manta ray, a variety of fish, and a few sea turtles. It was great!

After snorkeling, we walked around Islote Tintorea (White-tipped Shark Island) and saw a lot of sharks, iguanas, and a few blue footed boobies and penguins.

As a part of our last night, we went out again with some of the locals to celebrate one of their birthdays. It was a great last night.

In the morning, we got up very early, picked some bananas off a tree for breakfast, and took another 2.5 hour boat ride back to Santa Cruz. I checked into my hotel before my guide picked me up and we went to The Charles Darwin Research Center and I got to realize another dream. I got to see Lonesome George's pen! He unfortunately died last year, but he is famous because he was the last of his species and died before he could reproduce. He was over 100 years old. My guide informed me that two days before, one of the females who had mated with him laid eggs and that they could be from him because the females can store sperm. I guess we will have to watch the news to see if anything ever comes from it. Thankfully one of the guides on the islands is my facebook friend so he can let me know :-)

I had the afternoon free, so I walked 2.5 kilometers to Tortuga Bay, the most beautiful beach I have ever seen! It was great. I was in the sun for 40 minutes and got horribly burnt, but it was so worth it! Out of everything I did, Tortuga Bay was my favorite by far.

After scarfing down a tasteless Ecuadorian ceviche (Peruvian ceviche is so much more scrumptious), Daniel, my guide, and I headed to go see the Twin Craters in the middle of the island. There are many theories about how it happened, but the basic idea is that many years ago the earth was unstable and collapsed. Since they are at a much higher elevation, it is frequently rainy and wet. Hence, the rain jacket.

Later, we went to go see the tortoises in their natural environment. It was very peaceful in this part of the island with so little hustle and bustle. I also saw the biggest tortoise I have ever seen!

And then, I was a tortoise...

After, I had the evening free and enjoyed some casual shopping and a great pizza dinner. One of my favorite parts of the islands was the sense of security, especially after having been in Trujillo for so long which is the second most dangerous city in Perú. Oh, what was that, Mom? I forgot to mention that to you? Sorry! It was nice to be able to walk alone at 11:00 pm and see many others doing the same.

The last morning, I woke up at 4:45 to take advantage of my last few hours. I walked to a dock close to the hotel and snapped the picture below of the sunrise. Thank you, Jesus, for your beautiful artwork!

Then, I went bag to Tortuga Bay and jogged the walk down there and back just to have 45 more minutes there. And boy was it worth it! It was even more beautiful in the morning when I was the third person to walk along the beach. I had a time of worship before heading back to shower so that my taxi could get me at 8:00. Then, I had one more day in Quito before I got back to Trujillo, but it was a wonderful trip overall, and I hope I get to make it back to the islands one day.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Feliz Cumpleaños, Timmy!

Today is a very special day because it is the birthday of the most important man in my life—the one and only Timmy T. People always say they have the best dad, but I know for a fact that isn’t true, because I have him! The list of sacrifices he has made for my family over the years would be somewhere close to infinity if I were to write them all down. He has always supported us in everything and never complained for one second about it.

There are so many things I love about my dad, but my favorite thing about him is how much fun I have with him. Every time I am with him we are always laughing and straight up having a good time. His corny jokes get me every time (as much as I try to not laugh). And, even better, his corny jokes get him every time, too. His presence calms me, and I know everything is going to be alright when he is around. I feel a great sense of security and comfort knowing I have him by my side supporting me.

So here’s to someone who I love dearly, who takes care of me, and who I respect immensely.

Happy Birthday, Dad!