Friday, January 20, 2012

24 days and counting…

Our visas!!
It’s absolutely crazy to think that in a little over three weeks I’ll finally be beginning the journey I’ve been planning for almost a year. Yesterday, we received our visas in the mail, which means we are officially allowed into Paraguay. And best of all, my visa doesn’t expire until 2017! Not that I plan on staying that long (don’t freak out Mom). The past few weeks have been interesting having another person here with me sharing the experience of formation and living in our community. A great interesting though. It’s been a huge help to have Caitlin here to confide in and to experience life in Albuquerque with me. 

Caitlin, me & Mary outside Old Town. I've been three times before this, but never managed to see the actual entrance.
Caitlin, Sr. Angela & Me

Since I'm behind on blogging... Grandpa & Grandma Parks stopped by on their way to Arizona the first weekend back in Albuquerque. It was so nice to show them around a little, go out to eat (of course it was Pizza!) and to just hang out. Thank you for visiting. It was just what I needed my first week back!

After some intense games of cards that I'm pretty sure Grandpa won all of.

Day to Day
Our weeks have gotten much busier. Before Christmas break, I had a lot of free time to study Spanish and do whatever in the early afternoons. Now, I’m having conversation hours most Mondays and Fridays with Sr. Marisa, which is a huge help in improving my spoken Spanish. Since Caitlin speaks Spanish very well, she's helping me too. Caitlin and I have also started volunteering at Casa Angelica on Mondays and Thursdays from 1:30 to 5 before we go to San Jose for catechism. Casa Angelica started as a home for young children with severe disabilities, but now, because they get such amazing care, the children have grown into adults, with several around my age or older. The 16 “kids” are absolutely wonderful even though I don’t always know what to say to them or do with them since none of them can speak or walk. But, each day we go I feel more comfortable as I get to know what each of them likes and dislikes and how they communicate.

Caitlin and I have started cooking together in preparation for living in Paraguay, and I’m surprised I’m saying this, but I don’t actually hate vegetables and beans. I wouldn’t say my portions are full-on adult, but I’m getting there! 

Our first meal together:A Moroccan dish with chick peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers, onions and a bunch of other spices.

A little Adventure
Last Saturday, we went skiing at Sandia (the mountains right outside Albuquerque) much to Sr. Angela's dismay due to safety concerns. Luckily neither of us got hurt, so we didn't have to deal with her wrath or her threat of taking our place in going to Paraguay :).  It was the first time Caitlin or I had gone skiing, and I’ll admit that I was a little scared at points and fell down a lot (I went to the top of the mountain and even went on some blue hills!), but it was an absolute blast. Mary, her boyfriend, Rob, and her brother, Danny, were amazing coaches and teachers. Guess I’ll have to try out the slopes in Colorado with Nicki, Jason and Oliver next year. 

In our ski gear! I knew there was another reason I decided to bring running gear...
Mary giving Caitlin and me lessons.

Our wonderful coach!
View from the lift: surprisingly not scary even with my fear of heights.
After our run down the mountain, which I'm pretty sure took much longer than Rob & Danny were anticipating.

Santa Fe
On Sunday, Mary, Rob, Sr. Angela, Caitlin and I went to Santa Fe and explored the Plaza, the Cathedral and the many shops that surround them. Plus, we stopped by the Loretto Chapel, which houses the Miraculous Staircase. Amazing art and culture! 

View of Santa Fe from the Cathedral.
Our Lady of Guadalupe tiled art outside the Cathedral.
Outside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe
The Cathedral doors.
Intricacy on the doors.
Crucifix inside the Cathedral. If I remember right it is several hundred years old and contains real human hair...not my favorite to be honest.
The statue on top is La Conquistadora, interestingly enough now called our Lady of Peace. The oldest statue of Mary in the U.S.
Inside the Cathedral
Inside the Cathedral
The baptismal font inside the Cathedral.
Santa Fe
Santa Fe
The old Loretto Chapel
All the rosaries hanging outside.
The Miraculous Staircase. Click the link to learn more
On the train back to Albuquerque!
Caitlin and I returned to Santa Fe on Wednesday with a bus of parishioners from Annunciation parish to participate in the Right for Life rally. I’d never been to one, so it was an interesting experience. Skipping the actual march from the Cathedral to the Round House (New Mexican Capitol), Caitlin and I helped pass out 400 balloons to signify the abortions that occur in New Mexico each month. 

Right for Life Mass at the Cathedral
holding roughly 70 balloons

Outside the Round House
Our handiwork

This weekend, we’re attending a retreat at the Spirituality Center on the Inner Compass: Growing with Ignatian Spirituality, next weekend I’m heading to Flagstaff for a short visit with Matt, the following weekend several past VOICA volunteers and friends are gathering for a special send off Mass for Caitlin and I, the next weekend we pack, and Monday we depart!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We've got tickets!! (Tenemos los boletos!)

Cailtin and I will be leaving for Buenos Aires, Argentina on February 13! Our trip begins in Albuquerque at 8:36 in the morning and ends in Buenos Aires at 10:50 a.m. the next day. Happy Valentine's Day! In Buenos Aires, the sisters will pick us up and take us to the Provincial House, hopefully to rest and shower. After 30 hours of traveling, I think we'll need it. Especially since from Buenos Aires we still have a 13-14 hour bus ride to Posadas, Argentina where the sisters in Paraguay will pick us up and take us across the border into Encarnación. Caitlin will be staying in Paraguay until May 15, and I'll stay until December 6 (except for a short break home for Seth & Lisa's wedding sometime in between). Next on the list this week, buying insurance and sending off for our visas.It feels beyond amazing to have all of this figured out, but at the same time a tiny bit frightening. These next 34 days are going to fly by. Beyond excited!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Meet my travel partner, Caitlin!

Our first photo together as VOICA volunteers!!
Caitlin arrived in Albuquerque today! I am so excited for the next phase of formation and to get to know the person who I'll be living and working with for the next four months (She's only serving until May). She's a fellow Midwesterner, hailing from Nebraska, just turned 23, majored in English and Spanish in college, is a vegetarian and has a passion for travel and service. Day one, it seems like we have quite a few similar interests and both have pretty easy going personalities. Yay! The only downside of her arrival is that Sr. Angela felt the need to bring up all of my bad eating habits again, our biggest area of conflict. The upside, Caitlin was pretty diplomatic and kind of even stood up for me. I like this girl already!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

¡Mi cumpleaños!

Ahora yo tengo veinticuatro años. (Now, I’m 24 years old). I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday away from home. The sisters really showed me that I’m a part of their family today, and I am so grateful for all of the wonderful things that they did to make my birthday special. It started out with a bacon and egg breakfast, followed by a pedicure, my first ever (thank you Mary!), a trip to Barnes & Noble and lunch in Uptown, and to top it all off we had pizza for dinner and cake and ice cream for dessert!

My year as a 24-year-old is going to be filled with many new experiences and challenges. As always, please keep me in your thoughts and prayers. A huge thank you to everyone that made this birthday wonderful and for all of the messages, phone calls and wall posts wishing me a happy birthday. It meant a lot.


Getting our pedicures.
Birthday decorations and chocolate.

Getting ready for a classic Hiliary birthday meal.

Blowing out the candles. Got all 24 in one breath!

Sr. Antoinette, Sr. Marilu and Sr. Christina.
My cake!
Gifts from the sisters. Muchas gracias!
One of my birthday presents from Matt via Skype--After a year and a half, I finally got to see him in his glasses!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Home for the Holidays

My break from training got off to a very unwanted but eventful 5 hour delay. With snow flurries in Albuquerque, you might think that was the reason for my delay. Instead, it was because someone on our plane decided to say the “b-word” or “bomb.” I was actually reading a magazine and not really paying attention as our plane backed away from the terminal, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw several policemen board our plane and escort a high school student off.  I’m not sure how he said it, but I’m guessing it must have been more than a mere mention of the word. Eventually the rest of us had to get off the plane with our carry-on luggage, have our bags sniffed by a bomb dog, and spend about an hour or more inside the terminal while we waited for the FBI to arrive to check our plane. I wish I could have taken some photos, but it didn’t really seem appropriate after our pilot said that if he saw any electronic devices out we would be arrested. Definitely not as funny as the Ben Stiller bomb moment in Meet the Parents, but good to know they take those things seriously.

Despite the delay, I had an absolutely wonderful trip in Missouri with family and friends. Before Christmas, I took the train to St. Louis for a visit with friends from college. It was filled with St. Louisy things including the Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour, Imo’s pizza, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, Gus’ Pretzels and a night out in Soulard. Obviously not the most healthy trip, but the fun we had was definitely worth the calories! 

The rest of my break was filled with family time split between Concordia and Kansas City. It was so nice to see my parents, sisters, brother, brother-in-law, future sister-in-law, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and nephew one last time before I leave. Knowing I won’t see most of them for almost a year, definitely made for some teary goodbyes. I love you all so much, and thank you everyone for the amazing gifts and for the time you spent with me. Both are much appreciated!!
The fam after Christmas Eve Mass.
Family bowling night!
 Skipping the bar scene this year, Matt and I started the night with a visit to Grandma and Grandpa Parks’ house, then a party with my best friends complete with a champagne toast at midnight, and we ended the night with my cousins at the Rellihan’s house.  Thank you to everyone who helped me start 2012 off right.

Matt and I on NYE
The girls
Now that I’m back in Albuquerque, it’s serious formation time. Caitlin (she finally arrives on Thursday!!!) and I will be departing for Paraguay between February 12 and 15, so the next 6 weeks will be filled with focusing on learning more Spanish, preparing things to help with kindergarten, exploring New Mexico on the weekends, buying our plane tickets, getting vaccinated (which is unfortunately going to cost me a pretty penny), applying for our visas, getting items and supplies for the students in Paraguay, finalizing arrangements for things back in the States while I’m gone, and packing and repacking so that I actually bring the things I’ll need. 

My toiletries for the next year! Thank you very much for my Christmas presents everyone!