Sunday, August 26, 2012

too many goodbyes... with some new hellos!

It's been a while since I've written, but life has been a little crazy in the meantime!  I was in Chicago for U.S. orientation with all of the YAGMs from August 15 to August 21.  This was a beautiful week of community building, learning about how the ELCA does mission work, and having our minds overloaded with information about culture and how to build relationships abroad.  It was an intense week, but thankfully it was filled with new friendships and lots of down time.

The hardest part of orientation was building these great new relationships with other people my age, who are passionate about many of the same things I am passionate about.  The YAGM community got really close over the course of the week, but it was hard going into those relationships knowing that I will not see anyone (besides the rest of the Mexico group) until re-entry next October.  Knowing that I want to be close with all these cool people, while also knowing that the goodbyes were imminent.  Then came Tuesday night, when the realities of the year set in.  A tearful, emotional final worship service, followed by an entertaining talent show, before starting the painful process of saying goodbye to all my new friends.  I'm praying that these YAGM friendships will continue to grow throughout the year, as we all are transformed by a year of service in another cultural context.

The Mexico YAGMs left bright and early on August 22 (by early I mean our shuttle left at 5:30), but a few people were awake to see us off!  We didn't hit any traffic on the way to O'Hare, and got through security in about 5 minutes.  The whole days things just went our way.  After a four hour flight (amazing that Mexico City is only 4 hours away from Chicago!), we got through immigration and customs smoothly, and all our bags showed up!  Then it was time to say hello to Andrea, our country coordinator, eat lunch, and catch our bus to Cuernavaca.  Upon arrival in Cuernavaca, there were more hellos, as we were welcomed by the sisters of the convent (site of orientation), Luke (Andrea's husband), and Olivia (Luke and Andrea's daughter). 

Friday, August 17, 2012

the revolving door

I am now (as of Wednesday, so this post is a little late) in Chicago for YAGM orientation!  It's been a blur of a week, trying to finish getting everything ready at home, saying goodbyes, and traveling to Chicago to reunite with the YAGM family.

On Sunday Trinity included "Thanksgiving and Godspeed" as a part of the service.  This included laying on of hands and blessing, but it wasn't for just me.  Thanksgiving for Erin arriving safely home after her year of service in Uruguay with YAGM, and Godspeed for me as I begin my journey with YAGM in Chicago and eventually in Cuernavaca. 

I only got to see Erin for two weeks, and I think it was an odd transition for both of us.  She slept a lot, was clearly experiencing reverse culture shock, and had a hard time finding the English word at times.  I, on the other hand, was starting to feel the anxiety that comes with a fast-approaching transition, and was probably a little short in my nerves about getting everything ready to pack up my life for a year.  Everyone else in my family will get to spend more time with Erin as she processes her year abroad and transitions into the next phase of her life.  I'm stuck doing that, once again, over email.  But she has been a constant presence in my thoughts here at orientation.  I met Kari, her fellow YAGM volunteer in Uruguay for the past year, who knows far more about Erin and how she's changed than I do.  Erin's last advice and gifts stick with me, and I worry that I am once again "Erin's little sister."  It's a hard place to be.  I'm walking that line between wanting every little bit of advice for how to adjust to the coming transitions, and Erin is a good resource for that, and wanting this to be my own experience, and to experience it without her stories to cloud my perception of everything.