November travels

Merry Christmas to everybody! As the year quickly approaches it's end I find myself on my way back home to the Dominican Republic today. I've been gone 6 weeks and have been all over the place. I started in San Diego, CA visiting old friends (including a night in Mexicali, Mexico), I then flew to Hawaii for Christian Surfers' International Conference, I had an overnight lay-over in Seattle where I was able to visit old friends from my childhood in Ohio, I was able to visit the lovely Emily Jamison in Philadelphia and her family, and finally flew to Sarasota, Florida with Emily to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. It was the first time I've been with my family in Florida since May of 2011. To be honest, I am ready to be home!

Christmas in the Dominican Republic is one of my favorite Holidays. This will be my fourth Christmas in the DR and I'm just as excited about it as if it were my first. Although Christmas morning is not a big deal in this culture, the meal on the 24th consists of a huge gathering of family around a dinner table for the feast of the year. Many families save their money for the whole couple months leading up to it in order to cook this fantastic meal. While this big meal on the 24th is foreign to many Americans,  the hospitality and love shown to individuals less-fortunate or without a family is not.

I usually receive my first invitation for this meal around early October. Since the meal is so epic I try and commit myself to one home and make small visits to other close friends afterward. The love and hospitality despite humble accommodations has really forced me to love this country and it's people. There is no doubt in my mind that God has made me to serve here.

I'll be posting a photo blog later in the month re-capping 2012.

The picture above is of all the leaders present in Hawaii from my travels this past year. (El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panamá, México, Dominican Republic)

Half Marathon!

So here we are, the last day of November, and I have not blogged a single word about this fall in Philadelphia. I mean, I am a little busy with school... (that's an understatement!) Brief overview of my life: I student teach 18 little kindergarteners alongside a wonderful mentor. When I'm not student teaching, I take lots of classes and write lots of papers. And in my free time this fall, I have been... wait for it... RUNNING! Some of you are probably scratching your heads, because of all the things I identify myself as/with, running is absolutely not one of them! But back in June, I decided I wanted to become a runner this year. So Dustin and I registered to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon, and I started running. A short bout of vertigo in August set me back a few weeks, but I picked it back up and trained for three months, running up to ten miles along the Schuylkill River on what seemed like the coldest mornings of the week!

Then came November. Dustin arrived on the 13th, and we had a wonderful reunion after being apart for 5 months. On Sunday the 18th, we woke up ridiculously early and made our way over to the art museum. And we did it! We ran the half marathon and both met our goals: he got an impressive time, and I finished! 13.1 miles. It was fun to have my parents and the crowds cheering us on, and to be able to entertain myself people-watching the other 30,000 runners! After the race, we went to Quakertown and had a party with most of my extended family - to celebrate the race and for them to meet Dustin.

Never did I think I would run a half marathon. Never. Remember Pico Duarte? I could hardly walk 13 miles then! So even though I have no desire to do another race, I am glad that I did this one. It forced me to make exercise a priority during these crazy transition months, and it made me a healthier, stronger person. (sounds cliche, but it's true) After the race, we went to Quakertown and had a party with most of my extended family - to celebrate the race and for them to meet Dustin. I will maybe (no promises, though!) add another post soon about Dustin's visit.

Here are some pictures for you! The first set are race pics. The white thing around me is a foil heat sheet (emergency blanket) - that was the first thing they handed us when we crossed the finish line because it was so cold!

Pics from Quakertown: post-race hot tub session (definitely good for sore muscles!), fun with Katy, ice cream sundaes (recovery food, right?), and early Christmas presents from my parents.