March has been a little busy! For the most part, my work with South Florida JFON has been the same. We have had client appointments, court hearings, documents to translate, grants and paperwork to work on, etc. While I miss having my own project and responsibility, I have kept busy, and I still find my time with clients to be meaningful and enjoyable.
Here are some of my reflections on the more out-of-the-ordinary adventures:
The first week in March, my family came down to visit. We had a great time hanging out and exploring Miami, the Redland, the Florida Keys, and the Everglades. My favorite part of our trip was when we went to Jungle Island for the lemur interaction. I love animals, and it was great to be able to share that experience with my family. Lemurs are very curious–they jumped and climbed all over us, and maybe even peed a little (oops). It was also fun getting to show them where I work in the Redland and taking them to Dolores’ food truck, where I’ve eaten Mexican food several times in Key Largo. We spent most of the rest of the week relaxing in Marathon Key, but we also drove down to Key West, where we visited a light house and one of Ernest Hemingway’s houses, and up to the Everglades, where we saw some alligators. We all ended up with bad colds, but it was a lot of fun to be together.
The following weekend, I drove to Orlando to visit my friend, Laura, who works at Disney World. She was able to give me a free Hopper guest pass, and I had a great time exploring Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom with her. While in Animal Kingdom, we rode the Kilimanjaro Safari, went to the Festival of the Lion King show, and met Minnie and Mickey at Adventurers Outpost. We spent the rest of the day at Magic Kingdom. We rode the Pirates of the Carribean, “It’s a Small World,” The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin rides. We also saw the Festival of Fantasy parade, watched Mickey’s PhilharMagic movie, ate at Liberty Tree Tavern, got pixie dust from Cinderella’s Castle, and met Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and Rabbit. We watched the Wishes fireworks show before heading back to the parking lot on the ferry. It was an awesome day!
The next morning was just as wonderful–our former professor and SPA Leadership Program director, Professor Marr, met us in Orlando and took us out for breakfast at Disney’s Trail’s End Restaurant. We ate an awesome breakfast buffet, including mini chocolate chip Mickey waffles, had great conversation, and, at least for me, had the opportunity to continue to discern my call. I have really missed the kind, talented, ambitious, justice-oriented spleaders with whom I spent so much time while studying at American University; it was very nice to catch up, even if just for a couple of hours.
The following Monday, a mission team from Clemson University’s Wesley Foundation came to visit, which was a lot of fun! In the morning, a South Florida JFON Board Member and volunteer, Santiago, who is also a member of Redland Community UMC, gave us a tour of Homestead, Florida City, and the Redland. We all ate lunch together before heading over to the Redland Community UMC Mission Property for an afternoon of cleaning up and weeding. On Tuesday morning, we headed to the fruit stand, Robert is Here, for milkshakes/smoothies and fellowship. Once we returned, our executive director and attorney, Janet, gave them an overview of the work we do with South Florida JFON. They spent that afternoon working at the Mission Property while I was caught up in the Administrative Council meeting. They had other plans for the rest of the week, but it was a lot of fun spending a couple of days with people my age!
Then, on that Thursday, while stopped behind someone at a stop sign, I noticed some black grease that I had gotten on my hand while getting into the car. I reached for my hand sanitizer, and as I did so, my foot slowly slipped out of my shoe, and further down on the break. I started inching forward, so I stepped harder down on what I believed to be the break. As it turned out, I was mostly stepping down on the my shoe, so the car continued to creep forward, and I ended up rear-ending someone at <1 mph. There was no real damage (except for a scratch on his bumper that I’m still not even sure that I caused), and he called me later to say that we should just forget about “the accident.” But it still was not a great way to end the week.
Fortunately, I got my hair permed that night, and I had a great conversation with the hair stylist. We were the last two people in the salon, and she told me all about growing up in Miami-Dade County. We shared a love for animals, and she suggested that I visit Safari Edventure, which I had not heard of previously. I took her advice and visited a couple of days later. I got to play with timber wolves, hold an alligator, pet baby pigs and goats, and pet a baby sloth (and her mom)! It was a great time! I also fed some monkeys that weekend, which was also awesome!
Last Monday the oven caught on fire while I was cooking dinner. Apparently some old bacon grease ignited. Nothing like a small fire to keep things interesting.
On Tuesday I had the opportunity to speak to a Faith and Social Justice class at Florida International University. It was a lot of fun! I was nervous, as I always am when I have to talk about myself or to other people in a formal setting in general, but it was really nice to be on a college campus again, and to be surrounded by people who are open-minded and willing to discuss ideas without claiming one idea as infallible. This experience, coupled with my time with the Clemson Wesley students and breakfast with Professor Marr and Laura, has reminded me how much I love learning and how suffocating it can be when I am not in an environment where my ideas are valued and where all ideas are explained, supported, and openly challenged in an academic way.
On Friday I ran several errands and also visited the Everglades Outpost Wildlife Rescue to fill out a volunteer form. They have a wide variety of rescued animals, including tigers, a zebra, wolves, a panther, monkeys, a lemur, and a camel. I’m excited to start volunteering there on Fridays, beginning on April 1. It seems that I will be selling tickets, cleaning out cages, and doing some other work with the animals.
After a month of busyness and fun and exhaustion, I chose to rest yesterday. Yesterday was a simple day. I woke up at 6:50 AM, naturally, as I have done most days lately. I decided to roll over and fall back asleep; I needed a lazy day. I spent my morning baking a cake for my housemate, Caitlin’s surprise birthday party, which is tonight, at the Presbyterian DOOR Volunteers’ house. I had to run to the store for eggs and neon blue frosting. I watched Anna and the King; I laughed and cried with the characters–There is nothing like a public execution scene to really make you reflect on how flaws in a justice system, a mob mentality, and fear of those with power and privilege, could lead to the brutal killing of not only fictional characters but also Jesus Christ. I did a load of laundry. I vacuumed and mopped and cleaned my bathroom. I went for a walk, twice, with no particular destination in mind. I called my parents a day early, since we’re all busy today. I worked on the children’s message I gave this morning. I retrieved the mail. I made myself vegetable soup. I ate chocolate ice cream. I read a good book. I took a bubble bath. I was asleep by 10 PM. I don’t always write about days like yesterday because they aren’t as interesting. But, I’ve found, they are just as–if not more–important as all of the other days that have made up my life for the past month or so.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had so many opportunities and adventures while serving as a Missionary in Miami. But these adventures, though fun to reflect on and write about, and though they (in addition to my work with South Florida JFON and Redland Community UMC) are probably what I will remember when I look back on my experience here, are not what form my life. The people I’ve come to know here and those who have continued to support me from afar, the God who sustains me on days when I feel like I have lost my purpose, the golden retriever, Gromit, who is curled up in a ball and is asleep with his head on my lap as I type this, the beautiful flowers and great food and the times I spend reflecting on my call and taking care of myself, and the times I spend with God, are really what make up my life.