I have a new theory, and by new I mean new to me but most smart people have probably figured it out by now.  And my theory is this: I have a pretty bad vision problem.  And I’m not talking about my -7.00 contact prescription or how I’ve had corrective lenses since I was 4 years old. What I mean is, amazing things happen to me every day,  and I’ve gotten to experience some incredible places and meet, live, and work with even more incredible people, but I can’t really appreciate them until  it’s over or I’ve left. Maybe I have a really bad lag time processing things, kind of like when you watch a Youtube video on South American or African WiFi and the audio is about 1.5 seconds behind the video. Maybe it’s my extreme nearsightedness. Case in point, I’m also just now realizing this, after a good 4 months of international travel. The common trend has been that I realize the full richness of a place and its people only after I leave—whether that be my university, Kenya, Lima, or home. I don't know if this is normal, but I feel like I’m losing a little bit of  the experience when this happens. Just to name a few things, in the last few months I have: -Danced, played, ran around, loved, sang, worshipped, cried, hugged, prayed, and celebrated with the girls of Uhuru Academy, the secondary school started by Uhuru Child that Julia and I have been raising funds for all year in Limuru, Kenya. -Hacked, tilled, watered, planted alongside Jikaze residents, helping with their Uhuru Shambas that allow them to provide for their family, repair their homes, and send their kids to school

-went on safari (dream come true, check.)

-Lived in two South American capital cities

-surfed the Costa Verde in Lima, rode around in a VW van (dream come true, check)

-summited two volcanos on two different continents, and have been on 3 different continents (4, if you count a layover in Rome)

-completed some of the hardest, highest, and most beautiful hikes of my life in the Andes (and didn’t pass out/die/hallucinate—shout out to Mt. Loongonot!)

-worked at Krochet Kids, an NGO and fashion brand I admire, with some of the most incredible, inspiring people ever—the American staff, the Peruvian staff, and especially all the ladies in our program. Learned more and grew more than I thought I would.

-seen some of the most beautiful places in the world—The Great Rift Valley, tea fields, and Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya, the seaside cliffs of Lima, the staggeringly high and jaggedly majestic mountains of the Cordillera Blanca in Huaraz, the capital of the Ancash region in Peru, a city nestled in a valley of volcanoes in Quito, lakes in volcanoes, hundred foot waterfalls in Baños, rocks, cliffs, trees, and mountains that make you feel like you are living on an Earth where dinosaurs still existed, and humans never arrived to ruin it all. (See past blog posts if you don’t know what I am referring to.)

-tried in vain to capture glimpses of all the magic with my camera and communicate it with this blog

And all these things are amazing in and of themselves, but what makes them truly amazing, and this is what I don’t understand, is why I can’t see these things for what they are when they are happening. And maybe it’s not an issue of seeing them for what they are, but seeing them in terms of who is giving them to me.  I get too caught up in the gift, in the present, in the action, in the scenery, and forget that all these good and perfect and glorious things come from above, from a good and perfect and glorious God. Not only am I nearsighted, I’m freakin’ forgetful. I believe in living in the moment, I also am realizing if you get too close to the moment, put your face too close to the painting, you forget where you are, you forget what you’re looking at, and you forget why you’re there.

When working on any new painting or drawing, it’s important to regularly take a few steps back to examine the piece from a far. Get engrossed in the work, spend hours getting lost in the lines and colors, realize you don’t even know where you are any more, and the piece becomes distorted and confused.  It’s not something that I would naturally do though, and have to constantly check myself and make sure I step back every once in a while. I guess the same thing can be said about life and these crazy adventures. Take a step back, and appreciate not just where I am, but where I’ve been, where I’m coming from, and where I’m going next. In the end, I guess this post is about thanks, and not giving enough of it.

Below are a few more things I have to be thankful for—pictures from a recent climbing day on rock slabs in the city, a few hundred feet over a valley on a highway that was closed for being too dangerous. Also included are shots from a weekend trip to Baños, known for its waterfalls and adventure sports.

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