07 November 2011

Celebrity Guest Appearance!!!

Not long after I left for Luxembourg Brett got to go to build some houses with some of the coolest people who occupy this planet (i.e. anyone who's ever been involved with the Fuller Center for Housing). I wanted to hear all about it, so he wrote me little "blogs" every day while he was there.... and I'm excited that he let me share some of his cool experiences here! Traveling is fun, but I think these are the sorts of things that make a real vacation :)... enjoy!

After failed attempts to travel to Haiti and then to the Congo to build with the Fuller Center, I figured a domestic trip might be my last shot to have some fun while alleviating substandard housing conditions. That’s why I seized the opportunity to head down to Louisiana for the 3rd Annual Millard Fuller Legacy Build. I was also glad I could drive to the worksite, instead of further subsidizing the commercial airline industry by purchasing non-refundable tickets. The 1100 mile drive to Minden, LA was the perfect chance to put some miles on my “new” 2000 Honda Insight. This chick magnet averaged 67 MPG on the drive down, making this a very inexpensive adventure!

A local Methodist church camp was kind enough to provide free lodging in their cabins. Unlike what I remembered from summer camp as a kid, these cabins were equipped with heat, AC, a toilet, and HOT showers! Ours also came with a golf ball sized black widow spider to greet us in the bathroom. My roommates were a bunch of retired guys who had been working with Habitat for Humanity since the beginning, and told stories ranging from mishaps on past projects to their experiences working with Jimmy Carter. They were also eager to give construction tips and tricks to their young bunk-mate.

At the registration dinner Sunday night, the plans for the week were laid out. Eight new homes would be built on Millard Fuller Drive, and 7 nearby houses would be refurbished. Upon registering, we were given toolpouches, pencils, and cool t-shirts, then treated to a Mardi-Gras style celebration. Amidst all the excitement, I managed to lose my shirt and toolpouch. There are probably pictures of me attempting to dance floating around the internet somewhere, too. It was great to see friends from the Bike Adventure again!

I was assigned to work on house number 4, a new build led by a carpenter from Pennsylvania named Barry. There were about a dozen of us, including a few Americorps volunteers, building this home for Ms. Rose Fuller ( no relation to Millard and Linda Fuller). In order to complete the build in one week’s time, the concrete slab for the foundation was poured in advance, and the majority of the materials had been delivered to the site. Our first task was to find numbered sections of the framework for the house and bolt them down to the foundation according to a provided set of blueprints. I’m told convicts from a local prison had been onsite prior to our arrival to assemble the house frame, then disassemble it in order to make sure things went smoothly for us. Whatever the story, things fit together easily. In less than one day, we had erected the whole structure of the house, and had mounted plywood to half of the roof. I ran the hammer-drill used to run screws into the concrete. If I ever end up with carpal-tunnel, I’ll know why!

Go figure, it rained the night after day one-- before our roof was installed. We arrived the next morning to an inch or two of water inside the house. We were able to sweep it out and set up a fan to dry the inside of the house, and work resumed. In spite of the rain and chilly temperatures, the external “shell” of the house was put together by the end of the second day. We installed the tin roof, windows, and vinyl siding the following days, as well as electrical wiring. I got plenty of experience installing electrical boxes, hanging vinyl siding, mounting soffit, and installing a metal roof. That’s a great thing! I definitely feel like I could build my own house from scratch if I wanted to, just based on everything I learned while working on this house.

At the end of the day Friday, it was time for us to dedicate the house to the new owner, pack up, and go to the closing dinner. Unfortunately, we just weren’t able to finish everything on the house. If you drove down the street, you would think the house is done—everything outside looks great (minus the lack of landscaping). The inside could still use a little help. The electrical and plumbing were done, and the sheetrock was hung and mudded. However, the walls needed to be sanded and painted, the cabinets still need to be installed, the floors need finished, and the appliances need to be moved in. That sounds like a lot of work! Luckily, the Webster Parish Fuller Center will be finishing up the work we couldn’t get done in time, but it will probably be a while before the family can move in. We held the house dedication ceremony with the homeowner, regardless of the state of completion of the home. It was definitely satisfying to meet the people who would benefit from our labor and also hear their appreciation. Ms. Rose (the homeowner) would be raising 3 little boys in the house we built (her grandchildren, I think). It was cool to think we could provide the boys with the opportunity for a better future.

Out into the world again

If there's one thing I've learned from traveling, it's that no matter how amazing the mountains are, or how incredible the history and the food is, the people are always the most beautiful things. Here's something I wrote down because I didn't want to forget it... in a little hotel in Germany, on my way to Rome on October 28th. (Don't worry, there will be more about Rome soon!)

I’ve been nervous about this trip. I still don’t feel settled and confident on my own in Luxembourg, and now I’m going out of my way (and spending money, which I always have a hard time doing) to add more uncertainty and general unrest to my life (a.k.a. adventure). Plus it’s last minute and poorly planned. I bought my plane ticket a week ago, the decision of whether I would drive to the airport early in the morning, or get a hotel nearby the night before, was put off so long that I ultimately reserved my hotel room 10 minutes before I left on this adventure. Things haven’t really felt simple, safe, comfortable... home-like… since I began on this spontaneous journey to Europe, and it's been starting to wear on me. So perhaps a similarly spontaneous long-weekend trip to Rome was not what I needed. Or perhaps it is!
I’m not in Rome yet, but I’m in that hotel room I reserved a few hours ago, in Sohren, Germany, preparing to get a little sleep before my flight out of Frankfurt-Hahn airport tomorrow morning at 6:20am. The drive here was about 2 hours from work in Colmar-berg, Luxembourg, and although it wasn’t long it wasn’t exactly relaxing. I drove through the usual city traffic to some narrow, wind-y, typical Luxembourgish roads, and started to feel relieved when I got onto the highway. However, I guess I haven’t driven on a true European / German highway yet. Vehicles are going at speeds ranging from about 100 km/hr to probably about 250 km/hr, all on the same road, so if you’re traveling at a reasonable (in my opinion anyway…) speed of maybe 120-140, you’re stuck between tail-gating a trailer full of donkeys, and pulling into the left lane in front of someone who may be going twice your speed. I guess it wasn’t really that stressful, but I definitely don’t know why my car has cruise control.
Then in the dark, with an hour left in my journey, I exit the highway toward my destination, and enter the craziest winding road I think I have ever experienced. Probably not quite as narrow as the Lux roads, but many more hair-pin turns and of course full sized semi trucks coming in the other direction… and no street lights anywhere to be seen. I’m sure it was a beautiful mountain in the daylight, but for some reason, alone in the dark, it was a little less pretty. It reminded me of that show on the history channel where the truckers risk driving into Himalayan valleys to deliver cement. Probably a little overly dramatic, but in any case... even though I had no idea what to expect from this totally random hotel I’d booked (my co-worker’s advise when I booked it was “just make sure there are no rats”), I was ready to arrive to just about anything. This is where I am in awe (as I seem to be so often these days) at how lucky I am!
The hotel is easy to find… a huge street sign (one of those stereotypical ones that you'd probably see marking streets in Disney world with 100 signs pointing in every direction… I wish I took a picture) points me in the right direction. I search for the entrance, but not finding it I try the adjoined pizza shop, hoping someone will speak enough English to help this linguistically challenged, stressed out, mess find a place to sleep. It may have just been a show for the tourists, but the restaurant was decorated in exactly the way I would assume an authentic German home would look like, and it smelled like a wood burning fire place (and pizza of course). And I was greeted by an impressively energetic, kind hearted, grandfatherly man who fluently speaks 5 languages!!
He immediately said “Melissa! The American!?”, showed me to my room, and invited me for pizza. Dan will be happy to know that I did indeed eat the pizza… because it was the only thing on the menu… and this part sounds creepy, but the grandpa guy even gave me this cool drink in a tiny wine glass. I guess you had be there :). I was impressed when he talked with me in perfect English, but all evening it seemed like greated every guest in a different language. I asked him how he learned to speak 5 languages, and he said 5 girlfriends. Figures I guess :).

So, my first trip to Germany was an unexpected, and very welcome, beautiful experience. And, at the very least I suppose, there were no rats!
"We touch other peoples lives simply by existing." - J.K. Rowling

06 November 2011

Catching up!

Once again I have abandoned my blog... but never fear! It has only been a short while and my absence owes only to the many new, excellent adventures that have been occupying my time! I'm back, and I have lots to share, so look for more posts about Italy, Germany, and Belgium, and lots about good friends along the way :).

First though, I want to go back to where I left off two weekends ago (~ October 22nd). At this point I was still feeling pretty alone (and tired of not being able to share everything with the people I love), but also determined to continue to fill my time with adventures, and not stop appreciating the opportunity I've been given.

When I'm feeling a little down one of my favorite things to do is find a new place to run... and lucky for me there are lots of new places in my life these days! Saturday morning I thought I'd search for the best places to run in Luxembourg and found this article about an olympic runner who claims that her favorite place to run in the entire world is Luxembourg City (she's from Luxembourg, so she may be biased, but still... I'm sure she's run in a lot of places)! So armed
with the suggestions in the article, and my well used map from the tourist office, I set out from my house for what was definitely one of the coolest runs I've ever been on (perhaps rivaled only by the bike paths in Boulder, CO :) ). I descended into the valley, or the Grund (which I think, literally translated, means "low city"). It's filled with crazy old architecture, gardens, a river, and little pubs and shops. Then I happened upon a beautiful bike path, and decided to go a little further than planned (another sign of a good run!). It took me along the river, under some crazy old bridges, and past some locals preparing their gardens for next year. I think I also passed the water treatment plant... it smelled a little like the Cuyahoga (mmmm home :) ). Then on my way back I decided to take the public elevator from the low city to the high city, and run through the downtown shopping district to get home. Luckily Luxembourg has had uncommonly beautiful weather every weekend I've been here so far. It wasn't quite warm, but super sunny with no rain in sight--pretty much a perfect Saturday morning :).

Then for the afternoon I decided I'd try to catch a tour of the Luxembourg "Old City" that I'd read about on the Luxembourg tourist office website. I guess it makes sense, but I've found in my adventures recently that I can go see something beautiful in nature and be awed into appreciation immediately, but with man-made beauty it adds so much to the experience to know the story behind it. So thanks to this tour, I now know all about all the cools things I ran past in the morning :). Here are some pictures!

The Grand Duke's business castle (he also has a castle that he lives in in Colmar-Berg where I work... I wonder what its like to have two castles... :) ).

The old monastery (right of the river) and the monks' gardens (left of the river), which are now kept up by the city of Luxembourg. I'm not sure who gets to eat the veggies though... I should have asked :).

This was inside the tunnels carved into the old city wall. Soldiers used to live in here to protect the city.

This is one of my favorite pictures... the river is beautiful!

I also got to talk to some of the other tourists (about things that aren't round and black, and don't involve spreadsheets :) ). I met a couple from Michigan who were touring Europe for their anniversary and took a few pictures for me. They took trains from Frankfurt (Germany), to Amsterdam (Holland) and Bruges (Belgium), and toured France on bikes! I've determined that all kinds of people might decide to take a vacation to Paris or Rome, but if you decide to vacation in Luxembourg then you're probably pretty interesting people :).

While I was at the tourist office I also picked up a book of 201 "rambling routes" in Luxembourg... basically the book has maps of 201 very well marked hiking trails all over the country! I went on a hike on Sunday that brought me to this beautiful lake... but I think that all getting the book really did was make me sad that there's no way I'll be able to hike all the trails while I'm here :).

23 October 2011

Friday night on the town!

Well, before I get to Friday night, I guess I should say a little about the rest of the week. Since Monday I didn't do much beyond working and some running... but that's exciting stuff when you're in a new country! Adjusting to my new project at work has been going pretty well. I have an excellent mentor who spent all week with me explaining the new systems and processes I need to learn to navigate, and everyone has gone out of their way to make sure I have everything I need to have a happy and productive stay here, both in the office and out. On Wednesday I went running around my apartment again, visiting the horses up the street :), and on Thursday I ran on a bike path right across the street from The Company! The bike paths here continue to impress me. Also been enjoying some excellent foods... have you ever had an organic, fair trade banana? Not really a Luxembourg thing... but I've never had one before, and I had no idea a banana could taste so good! I also bought a loaf of bread and enjoyed a slice every day this week... probably the best bread I've ever had. Haha.

On Friday I finally made another attempt at the bus! It was actually really easy. The stop is right at the end of my street, the bus comes every 20 minutes until about midnight, and I can take it downtown and be there in about 10 minutes. I already knew this, but it definitely hits home the fact that Akron could learn a thing or two about public transportation :). I went to a restaurant called Mesa Verde that was suggested by a fellow mostly-vegan friend who did a similar 3 month assignment here a year or two ago. I thought I might be able to get my first legitimate vegan meal, but my monolingualism failed me again, and my plate was pretty much coated in cheese. Luckily, however, the friendly Indian restaurant owner (who probably speaks 5 languages) was able to steer me clear of the fish on the menu, and despite (or perhaps because of...) the cheese, my dinner was delicious, and as enjoyable as eating out alone among many groups of happy friends celebrating the weekend can be :). I also got to see a little bit of the city at night... the pictures do it no justice of course, but it was beautiful!

I think I'm also finally digesting the fact that I'm actually here. I think because everything happened so quickly I wasn't mentally prepared for picking up and moving to a new country... so I've been trying to find my way through a weird daze for the past week or so, but this weekend I think it really started to hit me. I'm starting to really realize how crazy, different, and exciting the new things I'm exploring are... everything from driving to work, to exploring an ancient city fortress.

At the same time my tough "world traveler" shell is cracking a little, and I'm realizing how much I wish I could be having these new experiences with my best friend, or sharing the all the beauty and valuable lessons with family and friends at home.

I feel a lot better burning off the fog in my head, but with all the excitement of moving and flying and adjusting and exploring, I'm also seeing how easy it is to get caught up in myself and my many "problems". After all, this is a pretty challenging endeavor... within a week learning that I'd be moving across the globe and then showing up in a place where I can't speak in any of the local languages, living truly on my own for the first time in my life, and trying to make the best of everything without the support of my loved ones that I've gotten so used to. It also doesn't help that I've had to put my work with the Fuller Center and Engineers Without Borders on hold while I'm here, basically abandoning all my outwardly focused efforts for a pursuit that is pretty much purely self-motivated (however right it may be for me to pursue this opportunity!). I'm going to have to make a conscious effort to remember that I'm in one of the top three (depending on who calculates it...) richest countries per capita in the world (I wasn't sure exactly where Luxembourg fell on that list so I looked up this wikipedia article... how ironic is it that the last country I tried to travel to invariably falls at the bottom of the list...). I have to remember that I am so fortunate, not only to have this unique opportunity, but to be so comfortable and capable, despite the challenges!

To make sure I don't forget this I've been trying not to lose track of some of the things I did at home to stay in touch (in whatever small way possible) with the world outside my bubble of comfort. My normal commute with NPR has been replaced by Aljazeera TV (today I watched a documentary on two girls my age in India who started a home for daughters of sex workers, terrifying footage of the earthquake in Turkey, and live coverage of Libya's liberation ceremony), Brett's been keeping me updated on his latest adventures (stay tuned for a guest post from him about the 2011 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Louisiana!), and I've been keeping up with my usual blogs. Here's something awesome I found today:

... still can't make huge contributions to the solutions the world needs, but I suppose at least I can still feel informed and grounded... and inspired by new bicycle riders :).

In other news... I won't be alone for long! Next weekend I'm going to Rome (!!!!) to visit my friend Lisa, Fuller Center Bicycle Adventurer and World Traveler extraordinaire! Then my friends Mike and Charlotte, who will be moving here soon, will be in town for their home hunting visit, and we have plans to explore together the following weekend! Not long after that I will hopefully receive a visit in return from Lisa :), and four other friends from Ohio--Jamie, Lisa (different one... there are a lot of Lisa's in my life apparently), Ryan, and Karla--have made plans over the past week to visit in the beginning of December (... although last I heard, some of them don't have passports yet... :) ). And of course Mr. Brett and I will be taking on Europe for Christmas and New Years! I definitely have some crazy friends, but I love them, and I'm so glad they're coming to visit!!

More soon about the adventures of Saturday and Sunday... this post is already long enough!

Gudden Owend!

"When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together."
- lessons from kindergarten

17 October 2011

Preserver l'environnement, c'est dans ma nature!

A couple of exciting things happened yesterday (Sunday) and today!

1. I went grocery shopping :). Probably doesn't sound that

exciting, but it seems to be at least a small accomplishment. One of my co-workers from Akron, who's been here for a year or so now, asked me today "where have you been eating... have you been eating??". Haha. Yesterday I found a place that was open (pretty much everything is closed on Sundays) and got some staples, and today a co-worker told me about a bigger store that I went to this evening. It's not really that much different outside of a few things:
  • You have to pay for the normal plastic shopping bags--I guess pretty recently the government mandated that stores charge for them to encourage the use of reusable bags... to save the earth :)! Go Lux! The title of this post is on the side of the new re-usable shopping bag I bought (google translate it... I did :) ).
  • The big one I went to tonight had the biggest wine section I've ever seen ... by a lot!
  • They don't have banana peppers, jalapenos, or italian dressing!!?!??!?!?!? :( :( ... I did, however, find something called "American Sauce". No, I did no buy it.
2. Same co-worker showed me a sweet interactive map online that shows you where the buses go, so I will now be able to go downtown without walking 4 miles through the deserted banking district in the evenings or on the weekend. However, he said he never uses this fancy online map because he has an iPhone app that just tells him what bus to get on no matter where he is. One point for smart phone users... :).

3. I went on an awesome run on a foot / bike path that starts less than 1km from my apartment, and runs between the horse pasture, and mega-mall / movie theater. hahaha.

4. I went to see a castle!! Sunday, after visiting the grocer, I drove about an hour north east to Vianden where there's a fully renovated castle turned museum. I suppose it was a little touristy, but it was absolutely beautiful!!! And if you're in Luxembourg you have to see a castle, no matter how much of tourist that makes you. The drive there was beautiful too, with hills reminiscent of the Appalachian mountains, but with forests in some places that just seem to feel old, and in other places the iconic sheep grazing in pastures and wind turbines in corn fields! It also seemed like there are places to pull over and have a picnic or just enjoy the scenery everywhere (I think I stopped at almost all of them :) ).

Here's some more from my trip to Vianden:


15 October 2011

Settling in!

Not long after I wrote the previous post in the Frankfurt Airport, waiting for my flight to Luxembourg, I received an email on my fancy blackberry (provided by The Company) that the car I had reserved to be picked up that afternoon when I landed in Lux was not going to be ready until the following morning :(. I sort of figured something like this would happen... everyone I talked to about getting an automatic transmission car in Europe either thought I was crazy to even ask, or had their own story about reserving an automatic and getting a manual. Thus I already had the back up plan in my head--take a taxi to my apartment, and then another taxi back to the airport the next day to get the car. I started the string of emails to everyone saying that I'd be in late on Friday because I won't have a car in time. I was annoyed for sure... but also a little relieved that I wasn't going to have to try to drive in a new country after a few days without sleep. When I got to the Luxembourg airport though, I decided to go to the
rental car desk just in case, and they had a car for me after all! It's an Audi a3 TDI (automatic!)... probably the nicest car I've ever driven, and it might even get better fuel mileage than my Hyundai. Its diesel engine is probably more efficient of course, but it also shuts off the engine after you've been stopped for more than a few seconds, and turns it back on when you take your foot off the break. The engine turns on and off a lot in the city, but I've always heard / read that idling for more than about 15 seconds negates whatever extra fuel is used in starting the engine... so hopefully it actually improves fuel economy a little (and doesn't wear out the engine too quickly...).

So anyway, I got the car, and managed to make it to the apartment that was reserved for me! It's a nice place, and the owner seems nice. It's fully furnished complete with a small kitchen, laundry service and internet (for a fee of course), and fold out bed :). I'll post a virtual tour soon!

Thursday night I pretty much passed out as soon as I got in and settled, and it was still hard to wake up Friday morning. When I finally got moving it took me about twice as long as I thought it would to get to work both because my route took me right through traffic in the city, and because I got lost, but I made it eventually and had a full day of meeting people, trying to understand French, etc. The people hosting me are great--they're all trying to make sure that I'm both able to contribute to the work they've brought me here too do, and able to have an excellent personal experience here traveling and learning about new places and cultures! I really am so lucky to have this opportunity!

I got home late Friday... about 7:45 :(. That shouldn't happen too often... just a long first day. Today (Saturday) was more exciting though! Here's the first official mel-cast about my day today!

Also, I forgot to mention that I found people on the street who had a big truck full of apples and some wooden barrels, and they were selling bottles of apple juice that they made right there on the street! Delicious!

13 October 2011

En Route

I’m on my way! After much anticipation (actually only about a week…) I’m headed to Luxembourg! I left Cleveland yesterday afternoon… my Continental flight was delayed of course… but I still made it to Newark, New Jersey with plenty of time to catch my 7 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany. So now its 4:30am Akron time (10:30am here) and I’m waiting for my flight to Luxembourg. I really haven’t slept, so I’m not sure how coherent these thoughts will be, but I think writing about this experience a little will help me digest it little.
Traveling like this shouldn’t be foreign to me really. I’ve even helped lead people through experiences with international travel, and to destinations that are much less inviting than Germany or Luxembourg. Doing it alone, however, is an entirely different experience. There’s no one to confer with when you’re not totally sure where you’re supposed to be or what you need to do to get to the right place and when and how. It’s really not that challenging, but I guess it’s been a little more stressful than I anticipated. For example, the departing flight display screens here doesn’t have my flight listed yet because I’m here too early I guess, so I’m not sure where my gate is. I also initially thought I was supposed to go through customs with my checked bags here in Frankfurt (based on the instructions we were given on the plane), but it turns out I don’t have to do that until I get to Lux. Certainly more intuitive that way, but at the time I started having these visions of my bags being quarantined in Germany because I didn't get in the right line or something. Luckily, I found a very friendly Asian man (why is he working at the Frankfurt airport?) wearing a red vest and a button that says “Ask me for help!”, who kindly answered my stupid questions :).
I suppose I’m also not used to traveling to places with a higher cost of living, or with currency worth more than the US Dollar. Until now, when I’ve bought things in another country, my money ends up being worth like 7 times more than it is in the United States. Not only is everything probably just going to cost more where I'll be living and traveling for the next couple of months, and not only is the dollar worth like 75% of a Euro right now, but since I won’t have a local bank account I’ll also be charged international transactions fees of at least 3% when I use any of my cards to by anything (and of course additional fees if I need to get cash from an ATM). I figured I would try to get some Euros at the airport in New Jersey to at least avoid the 3% transaction fee, but I think I was probably ripped off anyway by this Travex company that charged some percentage to make the transaction. I think the moral of the story is just that I need to get over it though. Haha. Hopefully most of my expenses will be paid for anyway :), and whatever lessons I learn are probably worth a few transaction fees.
Also, final observation for the day… I noticed this at work already, but I’ve concluded that Europeans have much cooler socks than Americans. Everyone seems to have some kind of sweet stripes or colors—hopefully my socks are up for the challenge. Hehe.
More soon...!

05 October 2011

Not so small things!

So I just started writing in this blog again, prepared to document my small adventures as a tool to help me appreciate the “every day” until it’s time for the next big adventure… but before I could even write a second post the next big adventure has already arrived! The Company (I’m stealing that pseudonym from a friend who also occasionally mentions The Company in her blog) is sending me to Luxembourg for two months!
Perhaps just the act of openly recognizing the fortune I’ve had in creating joy in my 9-to-5 (or 7-to-5…) life summoned an opportunity for adventure. That was sort of my indirect purpose for writing about my “small adventures” anyway… I figured that by making a conscious effort to create and recognize the little things that are great in my current spot in life, even within its perceived constraints (however self imposed they may have been) I would become more content and more open to bigger opportunities when they arise. So maybe it just worked faster than I expected!
Or maybe it was just luck... :)
In any case… this corner of the internet is going to abandon its short lived purpose as a small adventure blog, and become a big adventure blog once more!
Per the current plan I’ll leave at the end of next week and return at the beginning of January 2012… and I’ll update whoever wants to read about it here! I’ll definitely miss everyone until then (I’ll miss you less if you come to visit... :) ), but I’m so excited. Wish me luck!
"When you write things down, they sometimes take you places you hadn't planned." - Melanie Benjamin

19 September 2011

When you write things down...

I've been spending a lot of time recently reading stories and blogs, and watching documentaries chronicling the lives of people who have big adventures or do incredible and good things for the world. I read blogs about families who are driving across continents in trucks powered by vegetable oil, or bicycling around the world. I just finished the first book written by Millard Fuller (founder of Habitat for Humanity and the Fuller Center for Housing) about his decision to give up a fortune he worked hard to earn to save his relationship with his family--the decision that would soon lead him to create the amazing organizations that give so many people an opportunity for a decent place to live today. I started reading a compilation of writings by Peace Pilgrim who spent years walking more than 25,000 miles through all 50 states with no possessions, vowing to not stop walking until the world finds peace. Brett and I went to an event held by the Akron Peace Project last night and watched watched a documentary about international peace day. On a scale of normal to crazy, the characters in these stories probably all fall in the range of very crazy to extremely crazy, but even if I find their lives to be perhaps beyond my ambitions (although they're probably not all that far off...) there's definitely something about the adventure and the meaning that they intentionally pursue that doesn't allow me to forget the place(s) where I've hoped my life will lead.

These reminders are good. They don't let me forget my immense fortune, nor my duty to share the blessings I've received. However, they also don't let me forget the incredible adventures that I'm not partaking in right now, and the big problems I'm not really doing much to help solve, which can get a little depressing.

The more I think about it though, the more I recognize that, although I think I am called in some way to make more intentionally good use of my life and my blessings, and although I know that there is so much in the world that I have yet to experience and learn, being in the place I'm in right now isn't so bad or wrong. I'm learning things, I'm doing good things, however small, and I'm having little adventures every day. It's unfair and unwise to discount these little things! And I think that if I truly am meant to go beyond my current state, I need to start by appreciating the present.

So that's why I'm writing again! I'm hoping that this will help me to both recognize and appreciate the opportunities I'm afforded to enjoy my life and to help someone else enjoy theirs... because both writing and sharing things just seems to make them a little more real. Maybe I'll also reach someone else who's sitting around reading blogs all day, waiting for the big adventure to come!

"When you write things down, they sometimes take you places you hadn't planned." - Melanie Benjamin