Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hike up Chick Hill

One of the Sabbaths in March while I was at home waiting for my passport, Jonathan went on a hike with some of the members of the Bangor church. Later he told me that it was a nice hike and he'd take me there sometime when I returned, so Saturday April 27 was the day. After lunch we headed out for 20-30 minutes east to Chick Hill.

Now, if any of you know me well, I'm not really much of a hiker. I enjoy a good nature walk, but when things start to get vertical, I start to chicken out. Then last year we lived in South Korea, a country that is about 70 percent mountainous. I put aside my dislike for climbing for the eight months we lived there in order to for us to fully experience the country. In a country with that many mountains, to experience it, you need to climb it. So, panting and sweating, I followed Jonathan up mountains, as we were both left in the dust by elderly Koreans who hike up mountains the size of the CN Tower several times a week (OK, maybe not that high, but probably close...those people are serious hikers!).

Now that we live in Maine, Jonathan seems to think that a day hike up Tumbledown Mountain (its very name does not inspire much confidence), Mt. Katadin, or Mt. Washington would be perfectly normal. And here I am, still recovering from some of our climbs last spring... But Chick Hill, surprisingly, was a perfect length of hike for me. I fully enjoyed the hike, once I knew we weren't starting out on a repeat of our hike up to a cave on the side of a cliff in Seoraksan National Park last April. Here's some pictures I snapped throughout our hike. Most of them are from the top of the hill, where we basked in the warm sunshine before heading back down.

Dandelion-esque flowers along the trail
Not sure what kind of flower they are, but they are bright and cheery
There was a large bird soaring overhead when we reached the top, but this is the only shot I could capture of him
Looking out toward the ocean. Apparently the mountains in the distance are in Acadia National Park.
My man :)
Tiny fungi on the rocks
Looking south
A small stream beside the trail (it looked prettier than this, but that didn't translate to my camera)
Chick Hill from below
One more last-ditch effort to snap a picture of the large bird (on the right near the tree). It didn't work...
Pretty lake on the drive home

Friday, April 26, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Friend

I was walking with Grandpa past the big meeting tent at our church's campmeeting when he bumped into someone he knew and stopped to talk. "Ali," he said, "this is Pastor Bruce, the pastor at our church now, and this is his daughter, Jodi." I shyly grinned hello to both of them. "What grade is Jodi going into?" Grandpa asked. "Grade six," was Pastor Bruce's reply. "Hmm, same as you, Ali, right? Ali's going to be starting grade six at OKAA in the fall. Her family just moved back to Kelowna from Alberta a few weeks ago," Grandpa commented to Jodi and her dad. While Grandpa and Pastor Bruce talked, Jodi and I stood awkwardly beside them until their short conversation wrapped up. I waved goodbye. "See you at school, I guess," I said as I turned to walk away. Little did we know that warm July night in 1996, that by the end of the first few weeks of school that fall we would be headlong into a friendship that would still be going strong seventeen years later.
Saturday night with Jodi and other friends when I was home this March

I sat with Julie on the bus down to Wenatchee, WA, the first destination on our high school choir tour in the spring of 2000. I'd always known Julie. Her family had moved to Kelowna when she was just a toddler, and they had started coming to the church I'd been born into as soon as they'd settled in to their new house. Julie was a grade below me and we'd never been very close in elementary school. But now we were both in high school, where which grade you were in seemed to matter less as you passed by all ages of teenagers in the hallways between classes and during lunch. After the first day or so of the choir tour, I was spending a lot of time with Julie and her friends in grade eight. And when we returned from the trip, Julie and I just continued to hang out - at school, at church, at each other's houses on Saturday evenings, and occasionally after school during the week, too, if we had time. That week together in the bus on choir tour had broken us out of mold of being friends only with others in the same class. And we never even thought of going back to the way things were before.
A visit to the ski hill with Julie when I was home this March

"How was Academy Days? That was today, right?" Mum asked when I came home from school one afternoon in the spring of 2001. "Oh, it was fine. I think it's going on tomorrow, too," I replied. "Jonathon came." "Hmm, I guess he'll probably be in your class then next year, eh?" Mum responded. "Did his brothers come, too?" "I think so," I said, moping. "This is horrible. I know he's really smart. I thought valedictorian was between either me or Jodi. Now we're going to have to compete with him, too. I wish he'd just stay in Oliver and keep doing homeschool or going to the Adventist school in Penticton or whatever he was doing." Mum turned from the kitchen island where she was chopping vegetables for a soup. "Oh, Ali, you know the Penticton school only goes up to grade 10. If he wants to be in Adventist school for his last two years of high school, why shouldn't he come to OKAA? Besides, maybe you need a little academic challenge." Stewing I went to my room. For the next week or two I worried about what my last two years of high school would be like, but soon enough I forgot all about Jonathon, a boy whose father had gone to school at OKAA with my own mother years ago, and whose grandfather had worked alongside my own grandfather to build our church in the late 1970s. When school started again in the fall, I couldn't help keeping my distance from Jonathon for the first few weeks, but soon his parents began inviting their sons' friends and classmates over to their house on Saturday nights. I went when I was invited, and soon I nearly forgot about the things I'd heard about Jonathon's brains before he moved to Kelowna. Although he did eventually beat out Jodi and me for the title of graduating class valedictorian, I gained much more by his friendship than I ever would have had I won the distinction myself, but lost out on the chance to get to know him and his younger brothers. They've become almost like brothers to myself and my younger siblings and we've often gone dirt biking and quadding together, played board and card games late into the evening, and visited each other's homes whenever we're in the same city at the same time.
Jonathon, Stephen, Chris & me ~ Summer 2010

"Hey, suitemates! I'm Danielle." My sister Bryn and I looked up from our dorm room desks to see the head peeking around the bathroom door that we shared with the room next door. "But we've already met the two girls living next door," Bryn said tentatively. "Neither one is named Danielle." "Oh yeah, the other girl moved to a different room and now I'm living with Anna," Danielle explained. Later that evening the orchestra played for the university's Friday night vespers program. Afterward, Bryn and I packed up our violins, and left the church just behind Danielle. "Hey, I didn't know you played in orchestra!" I exclaimed. "Yeah," Danielle answered. "I play the cello. Neat, we'll all be in orchestra together!" The three of us talked the whole short walk back to the girls' dorm and up the three floors to our rooms. "Why don't you come into our room and talk for a bit, if you want," Bryn invited. "Tell Anna she's welcome, too, if she's back already." It was my first week attending Southern Adventist University in Tennessee after transferring from Walla Walla College in Washington state. I was rooming with Bryn, who had already been at Southern for a year, and I was hoping that I would make some friends soon. And now, after only a week, I'd made a friend who was not only my suitemate, but also would be in orchestra practices with me for three nights a week and would be traveling with me on all our orchestra trips for the year, and during the next two years that we attended Southern together as well.
Bryn, Danielle, Jonathan & me after graduation ~ May 2010

"Hi, I'm Danielle (a different one than in the story above). I just got here today and I just wanted to come say hi. It's sad that you're all the way over here in this hut, while the rest of us volunteers are in that apartment above the baby home together." I stood at the door and listened to Danielle introduce herself. It had only been two days since I'd arrived in Tanzania and already I felt alone, isolated from the five - now six - other girls living on the ADRA Tanzania compound. They were all here to volunteer with the Cradle of Love Baby Home, which was located on the far end of the compound. I, alone of the current volunteers, was here to work with ADRA, and therefore I lived in a hut all alone, made my solitary meals in the little kitchen hut next door to my room, and worked in an office by myself on the opposite side of the compound from the busy, noisy baby home. The next afternoon another Cradle volunteer, Ashley, knocked on my door. "Alison, we're making a meal together for supper tonight. You should join us! We can all get to know each other a little bit." My heart leapt. "Sure," I replied through my smile, "is there anything I can bring for the meal?" Ashley let me know what they could use and I dashed to my shelf in the kitchen cupboard to grab a few items before rushing to the volunteer apartment. Within a few days, I had become a part of the group. I wasn't alone in this new country anymore. I had new friends - from all over Europe and North America - to spend my evenings and weekends with. The next eight months didn't look quite so lonely anymore.
Our ranks grew to 12 by US Thanksgiving ~ the volunteers, November 2010

With each friend or set of friends (and this list is by no means exhaustive), I've had an awkward, bumpy beginning, but with each, as we've grown to know each other, we've made bonds that last. Bonds that stick even when we haven't seen each other for months, or sometimes even years. We can be apart, but when we're back together (or chatting on Skype when we can't be together), it's almost like we've never been separated. And that is the beauty of good friends. People who you miss when you're apart, but who fit back into your life again perfectly when you're together again.

*Note: All scenarios are written completely from my own memories. Others might have slightly different memories, but hopefully I'm not too far off the mark.
My musings on the prompt 'friend' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Jump

Source: Norman Rockwell

I'd done it a million times before. It was easy. Just climb the ladder, wait in the line, get the go-ahead, walk to the end of the board, and jump. Before my swimming lesson I'd told my mum and Aaron, a boy she was looking after (a year older than me and a bit of a nemesis), that I'd jump off the diving board during the free time at the end of the lesson. Now it was here and I fast-walked-not-ran from the edge of the deep pool to the tall ladder. Climbing up the rungs this time was the same as every other. Wet, slippery. I didn't want to fall, so I clutched the rails as I climbed. Reaching the top, I got in the line for the stationary diving board and waited for the few children ahead of me to jump. Then it was my turn. I walked carefully to the edge of the board. Then I looked over to the observation area on my left, just a little bit higher up than I was, where my mum and Aaron sat waiting for me to finish my lesson. There they were. I smiled, then looked out over the edge of the board. The water below me churned as the child, who had just left the bouncing diving board next to me, splashed into the waves that had just been starting to smooth out from the child before. Suddenly I was scared. I'd never been scared to jump from the diving board before, but now I was over-thinking. What if I slipped just as I was about to jump and fell off the board? What if I jumped wrong and landed painfully? Realizing the line behind me was growing longer, I turned and hurried to the back of the platform. "I'll go in a minute," I said to the kid in front of me. When the line was empty I tried again. And again I stood at the end of the board, wanting to jump to prove to Aaron that I could jump from that height, that I was brave. But try as I might, I just could not get up the courage to jump. Defeated, I turned around again, and quickly scrambled back down the ladder. Then I jumped from the small diving board instead. And I never again climbed up the high dive.

In my teens I went cliff jumping once, after much convincing, in Belize and immediately realized that I do not enjoy the feeling of free-fall. Could that have been the reason for my fear of jumping that day years before? I don't know, but since then I've stuck to taking the pictures when people jump off tall objects into the water far below. My stomach is much happier that way!
My musings on the prompt 'jump' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Time at home

My mum and I had the most fun keeping my real intent for what I was going to do after my immigration interview a secret! Jonathan dropped me off at the Montreal airport in the afternoon after my interview. I flew home to Kelowna, BC and got in late that night. The next afternoon, March 12, after going with my mum on a few errands, we stopped at my grandparents' condo and I rang the doorbell. No one answered, so I knocked on the door. "Boom-boom-boom," called a voice around the corner. My grandpa! I jumped out of the door's alcove and rushed to him, my arms outstretched. His mouth fell open in shock. He had thought it was just my mum, knocking on the door for some reason, instead of just knocking once and going inside like she usually does.

Surprising Gramps! (Photo by Glenda Quiring)

Just as I was hugging Grandpa, the front door opened and my grandma said, "What's going on out here?" I leapt back to the door and squeezed her in a hug while shouting, "Surprise!" Her eyes almost popped out of her head.

Hugging Gram! (Photo by Glenda Quiring)

It was such a fun surprise and I was so happy that they hadn't gotten wind of it ahead of time!

Being in Kelowna with my parents, grandparents and younger sister for three weeks was just amazing! I had so much fun being back "home" for a few weeks. We spent time playing games together, eating great food, and doing lots of talking. I also got to help my sister, Bryn, do some wedding planning and the two of us and our mum spent two evenings at a wedding dress shop. Bryn tried on wedding dresses and I tried on bridesmaid dresses (sorry, no pics of that yet... :). I had so much fun getting to be involved a bit in her planning!

But it wasn't just a vacation, it was a working vacation. I spent a lot of my time helping my parents to do a bit of clean-up and organization in the house, something I've wanted to help them with for a couple years. We didn't completely reorganize the whole house, but we did make some good changes. Sometimes it's the small changes that you stick to that make the most difference.

All to soon my time in Kelowna was coming to a close. I want to post more about some specific things I did while I was there in the near future, but for now I'll just say that I had a wonderful time at home with family, but coming back to Maine was great, too. I missed Jonathan while I was away and it was good to be back. In the afternoon on March 25 I picked up my passport with my US resident visa stamped in it and all the paperwork that I would need to submit when I crossed the border. Jonathan and I decided on my return ticket, booked it, and figured out the logistics of him coming to pick me up. And now I'm back. And it's good to be back.

But wherever I live here on earth, there will always be that pesky business of missing people. When I'm in Maine with Jonathan, I miss my parents and relatives in BC. I miss my friends living all around the world. I miss the beautiful places I've seen and grown to love in my travels. But I am learning, ever so slowly, that no matter where I am or who I'm missing, I can be happy with the life that I have right now. That is the key and that's what I'm going to work on throughout the rest of this year. Being happy and content right where I am.