Timehop reminded me that four years ago today, I was flying from Chicago to Seoul to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I spent three weeks in the Asian country (south of Russia, north of China), and that trip remains one of my absolute favorite traveling memories, in large part because of how it came to be.
In the fall of 2010, Samaritan’s Purse Children’s Heart Project sent 14-year-old Sarangoo and her mother, Byamba, to Peoria, IL for heart surgery. They stayed with a couple from my church, and the rest of our congregation poured food, entertainment, and love into their lives. Except me. I was recently returned home after college and five months in Senegal. Bored with the familiar and feeling very single amongst married or dating friends, I was depressed. And in my depression I couldn’t be bothered to help someone else.
Luckily for me, there was another depressed person in the mix. Gany was Sarangoo’s translator, and their host family sent out an email that essentially read: “Gany is bored! Will someone take her out for something fun?” That sounded exactly like me, so I volunteered. We went out to eat at Culver’s, took pictures of the Holocaust Memorial at the mall, and played the piano at my parent’s house. Almost immediately, I knew I had found a kindred spirit. Continue reading
Outside Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – July 2011
Sometime around five years ago, I decided that James 1:27 (“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”) ought to be taken literally. I am still determined to adopt someone someday, and while I’m not opposed to single parenthood, I’m holding out for a marriage first. For a while, though, I considered working in an orphanage. When I mentioned this to Gany, a Mongolian girl working as a temporary interpreter in my hometown in Illinois, she invited me to visit the orphanage her church runs in Mongolia. Several months later, I did just that.
Every summer, The Children’s Place orphanage goes to a camp in the countryside to escape the polluted air of the capital city. Gany and I joined them for several days. Our taxi played a Backstreet Boys CD on repeat as we bounced down country roads and avoided massive potholes flooded with water. At the campground, the door to a simple one-room building opened, and five children ran to greet us. I had never met any of them before, but one grabbed my bag and two more grabbed my hands. I immediately knew that my heart wasn’t going to escape this visit untouched. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, Michal texted me, “I found round trip tickets for $80. Want to go to New Orleans?”
“YES,” I immediately responded. Within two days, our flight was purchased, our hostel was booked, and a kayaking swamp trip was scheduled. We arrived at midnight last night!
Michal is one of my favorite people to travel with. We both love food, history, feminism, literature, and cute boys. We’re adventurous but laid back, equally ready for fun and rest. I anticipate our weekend in New Orleans to be amazing, just like our vacation in Puerto Rico in December of 2015. As I look forward to our new memories, I’m looking back at some old ones.
- Exploring Old San Juan.
- Rainforest Cancelled but Bioluminescent Kayaking Is a Go!
- Road Tripping Through a New Country.
Missouri – May 2015
*In Dante’s Inferno, the lowest circles of hell are frozen.
A couple months ago, Emily and I decided to meet up halfway between Dallas and Peoria. That meant southern Missouri, and Emily quickly suggested we bring more of our friends and have a Memorial Day Weekend float trip extravaganza. There were eight of us in total, and on Saturday morning we sat around the table in our rented cabin/one-bedroom-apartment checking our weather apps.
“It’s 55 degrees now,” Emily said, “but it’s supposed to get warmer as the day goes on. It’ll even get up to 80!”
“It’s raining,” Abby said, pointing at the window.
“It’s supposed to stop raining,” Emily assured us. Continue reading
I have two friends in Dallas who are too cool for me. Stephanie and Candice actually go out on weekends, and I usually beg off because I’m working late, watching Netflix, or reading a new book. But since my time in the great state of Texas is running out, I agreed to go two stepping with them. This would allow me to do two things: hang out with friends in their natural habitat and experience a distinctly Texan entertainment.
Stephanie loaned me her cowboy boots, since I never did buy a pair during my three years here. The night of the two stepping, I stared at my feet, trying to imagine I felt normal in them. Nope. I felt like I was playing dress up.
Ten minutes after she was supposed to meet me, Lindsay texted and asked, “Can I bring Shipley??” Shipley is her golden retriever, famous for calming anxious minds. “Only if I can bring Rory,” I responded, since the idea of dancing with strangers was also making me crave some cuddle-time with my cat.
We arrived at the two stepping dance hall, and I froze. “Are we…do we dance in that??” I asked. There was an oval wooden track in the center of the massive room, with a bar and tables in a lowered middle section and counters and tables surrounding it on the outside. Everyone was always looking at everyone on the dance floor. Continue reading
Fatick, Senegal – April 2010
“I’ll be the queen,” Melody said. She pointed at me, “You can be the princess, and Ethan will be the bodyguard.”
I leaned back, enjoying the shaded hut in the Forsythe’s front yard. “I want to be the queen,” I said, lazily stealing a 9-year-old’s dream. “I don’t want to have to move.”
Melody is nicer than me, so she quickly agreed. “Okay, I’ll be your servant!”
This selflessness made me uncomfortable. “No, I mean. You can be a princess. You can sit here with me.”
“No, no, no. I’m your servant. What do you want to drink? Can I get you something to eat?”
“…Well. A Vimto would be nice.” Melody ran inside to satisfy my whim.
Ethan stood nearby with a stick. “Do you want to jump on the trampoline, Miss Trish?” he asked.
It was so hot. “I don’t think queens jump on trampolines,” I said sadly.
Melody returned, carrying a can of Vimto with a straw. “I had the best idea!” she said. “The kingdom is under attack, and you have to get married!” Continue reading
Fatick, Senegal – March 2010
One of the most powerful bonds between people is formed when people who feel like outsiders find solace in each other. This is especially fun when there is nothing connecting these people other than the fact that they are outsiders.
While I lived in Fatick, there were fourteen people in the city who were “toubabs,” and eight of them were on our mission team. There were three other Americans in Fatick doing work with the PeaceCorps. There was one Korean girl who worked at the hospital and two Japanese girls who taught at one of the schools. “Toubabs” are people whose light skin obviously differentiates them from the local Senegalese. Any further national divisions were often hilariously wrong. I was usually recognized as being from the United States, but only because I am tall. My housemate Liz, also from the United States, was usually assumed to be from Japan, because she is short and has dark hair. But no matter what, whether from Asia or America, we fourteen were all “toubabs.” Continue reading