Camp flew by. After I returned to Caroline Furnace from my week off, I took off running on many adventures of all sorts. From carp and bald-eagle filled canoe trips to coordinating a week of camp at Hungry Mother Lutheran Camp, to tenting on camp with younger campers and backpacking up Duncan's Knob with older campers, I was happy and content but utterly worn out by the end of the summer. Despite the exhaustion, I would not have changed the summer for anything. While camp always provides certain challenges to overcome, camp also provides a support network of true friends who will pick you up when you're down. Shout out to my Caroline Furnace people. You all are why camp was/is such a special place.
Camp being donzo, I trekked back to MD in the early hours of August 14th to spend a day at Hershey Park, PA with my mom, brother, and nephew. One quick highlight from this laughter-filled day: We all decided to ride the Howler together, five-year-old nephew included. The Howler is like the favorite board-walk ride "tea-cups" to the max. You can spin yourself as fast as you'd like while the ride spins you up and down in the air with your feet dangling. My nephew jumped into a harnessed seat with no fear and stated, "I'm going to "moo" the entire ride!" Sure enough, as my mom screamed, I howled, and my brother laughed, my nephew "moo-ed" the whole time. Priceless.
For the next three days, I was shopping, packing, and hanging out with family before departing for Chicago to start my year volunteering with a week of orientation. (Let me pause here to thank my family and friends for all of their support those hectic three days of transition from camp to YAGM. You made me laugh when I needed it, helped me focus when I had to, and gave me confidence to go into the unknown of this year with an open heart and mind!)
Orientation in Chicago:
Held at the Lutheran School of Theology in Hyde Park, Chicago, orientation served as a week of devotion and reflection while providing tons of information to help us through the year. From discussions of inward reflection and spirituality to issues of religious pluralism followed by navigating public transportation in an unknown city, orientation helped prepare us for the broader concepts of what it means to be a missionary serving through the model of accompaniment. Essentially, orientation provided us the means by which we could depart being fully prepared for more country/placement intensive orientation. In one week, we grew close as we shared our faiths with each other, struggled with concepts of "being" and letting go of our expectations and control, and joined together in the knowledge that the next time we all met together, we would find ourselves changed. At 11:30am on August 25th, the five other Jerusalem/West Bank volunteers and I loaded up our bags, and departed for O'Hare to start our epic journey of faith and accompaniment.
This was a summer for the books, as I'm sure this year will be. With our intensive in-country orientation almost complete--and now that I am all settled into my flat in Beit Sahour--be on the lookout for my reflections and anecdotes as I dive into the life and culture of Palestine by walking alongside my neighbors.
Now for the real blog to begin...