Friday, December 30, 2011

Made it To TZ!

After 3 flights and about 24 hours of travel, we met up with Caitlin and David in Istanbul and we all made it to Mwanza this morning with no problems. It's 10 PM here and we're exhausted, so this'll be short and sweet. I just wanted to give a shout-out to let everyone know we're here safe and sound.

We were picked up at the airport at 8:15 AM by 3 current MKLM missioners, Michele & George (with whom we're staying this week) and Joanne, our regional coordinator. We had a bite to eat then rested for part of the morning and afternoon. The only big event for the day was taking a walk to the market just to get acquainted with the neighborhood. We all made dinner tonight and I uploaded a few of those pictures with shots of the Otte's house onto my Flicr account. I won't link any pictures here because I don't want to use all of George's bandwidth for internet, so you'll have to go over there to check them out. Tomorrow we're supposed to go buy internet and phones, so hopefully I won't have to be so cautious about usage in the future.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Goodbye! (for now)

We’re sitting in our gate for our flight to Turkey, then Tanzania. Just finished our last meal in The States for a while, Wawa hoagies. Oooh yeah! This whole situation is so surreal; I can’t even explain it. As I was driving up to the airport (3 hours from Southern Jersey to JFK), I was struck by how normal all of this seemed. I mean, maybe not normal-normal, but a new normal. I wasn’t freaked out at all today. For the most part I felt calm and relaxed. Everything just seemed to fall into place. It definitely stung to say goodbye to my mom and step-dad, but other than that, I am just amazed at how we’re just doing this. One foot in front of the other.

So, I guess this is it.

Thanks to everyone who have made these last few days, weeks, and months so wonderful! There is so much I am going to miss, but most of all I will miss you.

I look forward to updating the blog again when we’re at our destination. Say some prayers and send thoughts our way for a safe and uneventful journey tonight and tomorrow!

At the airport, ready to go!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Recap

We had a great visit in Vicksburg for our last Christmas in the states before we head out. Here are some shots of the highlights:

E&F @ Highway 61 in V'burg
Whenever we're in town, we always make a stop to Highway 61 Coffee Shop.

Chris hanging out with Ian @ coffee shop
We got some last-minute visits in with friends, including Ian, who came to town to see us for a few hours.

The coffee shop in downtown V'burg

We also went out one night to hear Chris's uncle Carl in his band, The Chill. I'd never heard him play before, so it was really fun to hang out and watch him.

Watching the Chill at the Biscuit Company

Watching the Chill at the Biscuit Company

Watching the Chill at the Biscuit Company
Chris's mom made an appearance for a few hours!

Watching the Chill at the Biscuit Company
Lots of family were there to hang out.

Christmas eve was at the Reid's house.

Christmas eve at Chris's Grandmom's
The food was amazing. I ate too much and then passed out in the living room. Good times.

Christmas eve at Chris's Grandmom's
Exhibit A, followed shortly by another helping.

We opened presents at Chris's mom's apartment on Christmas day and then had lunch at the Antoines.

Opening presents at Tricia's mom's

The Antoines at Christmas

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Chris!

Happy 35th birthday to my beautiful, wonderful, smart, goofy husband!

Cutie sighting on the beach

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

1 week and Counting!

Our bags are all but packed.

We just got word that our Tanzanian resident work visas were approved and they are currently in the mail to us.

The car was (finally) sold yesterday. (We’ll miss you, Soob!)

And in a week from today we’ll be boarding a plane to our new home.**

It’s all incredibly surreal but the fear is definitely starting to creep in a little bit!

**Wanna contact us while we’re abroad? Chris and I will be turning off our phones after Christmas, so we will no longer be reachable at the phone numbers we’ve had for the past few years. We will still update our blogs and regularly check email, so feel free to keep in contact that way. We also have a Google Voice number, which is a US phone number that people can call or text to leave us messages and check in. I’ll be emailing out that phone number this week, but if I don’t have your email address or you accidentally get left off the list, leave a comment here and I’ll be sure to give you our new number.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bo!

While there's still 10 minutes left in the day, I want to wish a happy birthday to my step dad.

Bo's birthday 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011


For the past week we have been at my mother and step-father's house hanging out and getting ready for our departure. It's been great to spend quality time with family and just relax. I'm very appreciative of this time and have been trying to soak it all in because I know that within a very short period of time all of this will be behind me.

At the same time, there is a little bit of apprehension during this time because we're just sort of waiting. I think the whole family feels the strain of the waiting because the immediacy of our departure seems to sort of put a shadow on everything that we do.

I'm not the greatest at waiting, as patience has never been my strong-suit. I generally like to just cut to the chase and I often find myself constantly moving through life anticipating the next thing that's coming around. Obviously, that's not the best way to live because while I'm waiting for the next thing, I'm missing out on what's currently going on. We talked a little bit about the topic of waiting in our MKLM training and I recognized my lack of skill in this area. I pulled the quote below from one of our better trainings, which was conducted by Rev. Larry Lewis who has written several books on the topic of waiting. I find solace in knowing that there is something special in this time of anticipation and I hope that I can slow down, take time to enjoy the moments, and recognize my blessings.
Not to push the days, the seasons,
Not to strain for tomorrow.
Let be.
What if these were the end?
From the fancied gasping plunge in the void
Turn with relief
To a leaf
To a flower or a bird,
To anything that is and is naught,
And note how even the gloom
Of that lowering cloud
Brings out and deepens
The colors of the world,
Colors unburdened and freed
From the flattening stress
Of excessive glare.
Not for me the labored pretense
Of eternal optimism,
Of perpetual looking forward
With unwearied eagerness.
Now is all that is left
From all the pregnant futures
Of the immemorial past.
Now is it- or never.
Now is the greenery of trees
And laughing girls and bees,
The pain of scars and of memories.
Now is to hold and to savor.
Such as it is, look,
Look your fill and hark
Before the screen goes dark.
-Samuel Kaufman, "Acceptance," in American Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 37, No.4 (1977), p. 352.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

MKLM Joint Mission Sending Ceremony

This past weekend we had a ton of family and friends up in Ossining to witness our Joint Mission Sending Ceremony. This ceremony marks the end of our Orientation Program and culminates in us being officially "sent" to our mission countries. It was a jam-packed, emotional weekend, but I had a great time with everyone!

On Friday we went out to an Ethiopian dinner with my parents, Chris's sister and bro-in-law and fellow missioner, Darren.

Rev. Mike Duggan
The Ceremony was full of symbolism and quite beautiful.

Missioners from each region were "called forth" by someone who had previously served in that region and then they were given their mission crosses by MK leadership.

The calling forth to Bolivia
The Calling Forth to Brasil
The Calling Forth to Cambodia
The Calling Forth for El Savlador

Me & Chris receiving our mission crosses
Me and Chris receiving our crosses by Sam and Janice.

The 2011 Joint Mission group
After the ceremony we all went out to the mission sending bell for pictures.

With the NYU crew
It was so great that some of my NYU friends came up for the day!

The dress that I'm wearing is from Tanzania. There is a returned missioner, Bertha, who was coming back to the US after completing 9 years in mission in TZ. She happened to be in Ossining this weekend and she gave me this dress. It fit perfectly, which was amazing because it was made specifically for her. I was so excited about it that I decided to wear it to the ceremony.

It's unbelievable that the next step is simply getting on a plane in exactly 2 weeks from today. There's a lot to do between now and then though and it puts a knot in my throat and stomach to think about it!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Goodbye Bethany

The halls are nearly empty as most of the missioners departed a day or 2 ago. Just a few more goodbyes and we'll be rolling out of here. For good. Bethany has served as the home of MKLM for several decades, but we'll be the last class to come through this building. For a variety of reasons our operations will be moving to the Society down the road and the building will be sold back to the Priests and Brothers. Even though I have only lived here for 3 1/2 months, it grieves me to leave this place.

This building is the heart and soul of Maryknoll. It's not just a building. It's a home. A memory of good times. A place where great friendships were formed. The start of the most major shift in my life. An embracing of a lifestyle that will break me. And heal me. Over and over again.

As Fr. Larry Lewis said in his Homely at the Covenant Signing Ceremony on Thursday, mission requires us to constantly empty ourselves so that we can be filled up again by the people we serve. Embrace the emptiness because that is where we'll find God. I certainly feel that emptiness today. It's a hard place to be. And I know the emptiness I now feel will only get greater as the next 2 weeks roll on. But I do believe there is a grace to it. It's a blessing to feel loss and pain, even if it hurts. It shows there is something good there.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Covenant Signing Ceremony

Today we celebrated the first of our two big ceremonies ending our time in the MKLM Orientation Program and officially welcoming us into the Maryknoll community. We had the Covenant Signing Ceremony this morning at Bethany, our home and the hub for MKLM. It was an intimate ceremony, full of symbolism and celebration.

Merwyn helps set the sacred space
Each area of the world had a table and a representative from each region decorated the table. Merwyn, a Lay Missioner in the US, and former TZ missioner, did the TZ table.

Fr. Larry Lewis
Fr. Larry Lewis, a MK priest, said Mass. He had a great homily.

The TZ crew signing their covenants
The TZ crew getting ready to sign our covenants.

Me witnessing Caitlin's covenant
Caitlin was my witness and I was hers.

Me and My Mentor, Noel
I was so pleased that my mentor, Sr. Noel, was able to come to the ceremony today. She's been a great asset to my experience here for the past few months.

The next big ceremony will be on Saturday. We'll have a ton of family and friends coming into town for that one. We're going to party it up!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

It's so hard to believe that 14 weeks have passed and we now have less than a half week until the end of our Maryknoll Orientation Program. As with all things, it seems like a lifetime ago and a blink of an eye ago that we left South Carolina and pulled into the parking lot at Bethany. I am so excited to be finishing because that means the next step is just getting on the plane on the 28th! But, at the same time this next step comes with a huge number of emotions.

This weekend will be our Sending Ceremony, which is pretty much like a graduation. And at the end of the weekend we'll have to say goodbye to the wonderful people that we've met here. Over the past few months, I've made some amazing new friends. As I said at the very beginning of training, we all have very different stories, yet very similar paths. So it's been easy making friends here because in some ways we understand each other very well. So, needless to say, it's going to be a tear-jerker to say goodbye to these folks.

MK Orientation Group
From the back row, left to right.
Chris, Rick (El Salvador), Darren (El Salvador)
Me, Dee (Cambodia)
David (TZ), Mabel (TZ), Hyun Jung (Brazil)
Caitlin (TZ), Carolyn (Brazil), Nena (Bolivia)
Gloria (Bolivia), Isabel (Brazil), Maria (Cambodia)
Sirikit (Brazil), Donna (Bolivia)

Saturday, December 03, 2011

More Goodbyes and Visits

During the past 3 months we've had so many visits from family and friends that it's been hard to keep up with them here on the blog. I'm not saying that's a bad thing! We've had such a major outpouring of support and love from our family and friends. It continues to astonish me!

When we were in DC last month we got to stay goodbye to Paula, a friend from SC who has lived in the DC area for a few years. She even took the day off to hang out and get Ghanaian food with us!

Chris and Paula with beautiful fall decoration
Posing with some beautiful fall foliage.

Then, a few weeks ago we went back into the city to hang out with a childhood friend of Chris's, Billy. Billy and his wife are recent transplants to the NYC area so we had fun trudging around Central Park and going into FAO Schwartz.

2 Mississippi sons
MS boys take Manhattan!

That same night the 3 of us met up with another group of friends, Tricia and Adam, to see a Mike Doughty concert in Brooklyn*. A&T get big props for driving (through wicked** traffic) from Boston just for the evening. I think we only got to hang out for like 1 hour (not including the concert, which doesn't count as "hanging out time" since we couldn't talk.)

With Tricia and Adam
The crew after eating some awesome veggie burgers and veggie dogs in Williamsburg.

The Mike Doughty concert was great, as always. And they had a really rocking opening band, Moon Hooch.

Mike Doughty and his band
Doughty and Band

But the added bonus of seeing MD in concert is that Chris's other long-time friend, Andy "Scrap" Livingston plays for Mike. So we got to hang out with Andy before and after the show!

Andy, "Scrap"
Scrap, living the life.

Chris and Andy after the show
Andy and Chris after the show.

Last but not least in the visits thus far was that I took a quick trip onto Long Island yesterday morning to get a glimpse of my college friend, Melissa, and her beautiful children. The visit was too short, but I'm starting to have separation anxiety and I just needed to say hi.

This child melts my heart.

Baby Lena is as snuggly and cute as can be.

It was hard to get everyone to stay still for even a second!

*We were in my old stomping ground of Williamsburg. I lived there over 10 years ago for a summer and then moved over to Greenpoint, which is just a few blocks down the road. My, has that area changed over the past decade! I almost didn't recognize it!

**You see what I did there? "Wicked?" Boston? Yup. I'm a dork.

Friday, December 02, 2011