Some things I learned while abroad

20170629_103555Just as a prelude, it’s not helpful to ask someone “How was [X country]?” if they spent an extended time abroad. How on earth am I supposed to tell you how my 6 weeks in South Africa were in a way that encompasses everything important and isn’t too long that you’ll get bored by my answer? Not that it’s a bad question, but some better questions that people have asked me were, “What were your favorite and least favorite things you did there?” “What were your living arrangements like and your opinions of those?” “When were you most afraid?” My personal favorite question (asked by the lovely and insightful Marianna) was “what did you learn while you were abroad?” So, I will answer that question in blog format because it does encompass a lot of the big things I did ther.

  1. I learned that I adapt well to new situations. I mostly knew that already, but I could see it very clearly while abroad. I would say things like, “Well everyone here speaks English, so I don’t feel like it’s that different from home,” which is actually kind of comical, now that I think about it. South Africa isn’t ridiculously different from the US, but there is much more nuance to it than I was giving it credit for. But beyond that, I learned that because I make a home quickly, I became uncomfortable by the same things that would make me uncomfortable here at home. I have a whole post about this coming soon, so that’s all I’ll say about it for now.
  2. I learned ways that I have contributed to making people of color feel uncomfortable in spaces, things that I now can change to go against that. Like, even if I do not verbalize (to others or even just to myself) judgments against something important to people of color (a style of music, for example), my face can show judgment, making me unapproachable. But the goal is not just to make myself approachable for people of color but to humbly approach them, relinquishing the power I hold in white-majority spaces to become a true ally. Obviously, there’s a whole lot more than that, but that piece stood out to me the most.
  3. I learned that I respond very strongly to natural beauty. I really enjoyed our rural homestay (pictured above), even though we had to kill cockroaches, we had to use long-drop toilets, and bathing was a major struggle. But for me, the natural beauty of our surroundings made that all worthwhile.
  4. I don’t really want to teach. I saw the future teachers around me light up in classrooms and dream about the day when they would be in charge of their own classrooms. But that didn’t happen to me. More often than not, I felt uncomfortable with the learners. But hey, it’s helpful to know what I don’t want to do!
  5. On the flip side, I really loved being able to talk with adults about anything and everything. One of the most impactful experiences I had was a 2-day initiative we did with a prison rehabilitation program in an actual prison. I saw life there, I saw humanity there, I saw regret and redemption there. Those robust conversations were incredible, and I’m going to look for ways to do something similar when I go back for my last year at university. (more about this experience will come, don’t worry!)
  6. I learned a new reason to have hope in God and the gospel. I had my closest moment with God not in a big church or among “impressive” people; I saw God most clearly in the face of poverty on a day that I had lamented not understanding how I could have hope in God. This is also a really big, complicated story (that may one day grace this blog—we’ll see!). Feel free to ask me about it.

That’s it for now, friends! More will be coming soon!

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Birthday Reflections

Happy two years everyone! Wow, it’s crazy to think that I have had this blog for two whole years. My, times go by quickly…

Anyways, on my birthday last year, I guess I started a tradition of writing a post reflecting on why I started this blog and what I think I’ve accomplished. And I’m going to continue that tradition (now that I’ve said it, it’s official!)

Anyway, I write a lot about how I want to refresh you all with a different perspective and talk about things that need to be talked about. That’s what I want to do with my blog. But why do I blog? When it comes down to the real nitty gritty, why do I write my thoughts, regardless of what I want them to do?

And to me, it’s about giving back. Just two days ago, I wrote about my favorite books. I love books, and if I could, I would slow down time so that I could read as many books as I want. I love taking in literature. But even that isn’t enough. It’s not enough merely to consume literature, as good as it may be. I want to give back, to create. And blogging for me satisfies that.

And it’s nice to know that at least some of you read my posts and that you sometimes even like them enough to tell me so. It’s nice to know that even if I don’t make complete sense, at least something of me is going out to you. Because I want to use my words to serve you, to question myself and you, and to start those discussions. Maybe I’m an idealist. No, it’s not maybe. I am an idealist and a dreamer. But as they say, “Shoot for the stars. That way, if you don’t make it, you’ll at least get to the moon.” 

484183_351110178318375_544510867_nAnd now I would like to talk about a change you will see to the layout. I have changed my main picture! I was thinking about changing the whole theme, but I decided that I liked this too much. But I changed the picture, and I have a reason for it too! I was going back and forth on two pictures, and though the other probably looked better aesthetically, I like the meaning of this one more. Both pictures gave the sense of thinking: the s16557_359541314141928_1801260809_nky through “a world of possibilities,” and the puddle through the simple idea of reflection. And I liked the idea of reflection, a mirror, because that’s what this blog is. I say again and again that this blog isn’t about me. But that will never change the fact that it goes through me, and a part of me will make it my own. So my words are the puddle, the reflecting device that sends ideas from the world through me and back into the world. I hope that makes sense… Anyway, I hope you like it! 

Epylle Spydre

p.s. I think it’s slightly important to mention that I wrote about blogging for the essay I used for the college I’m going to. They at least approve of the fact that I have this blog, so that’s always good! 

You aren’t Perfect. But that’s Okay.

Hey guys! I just really want to write today, not completely sure why…
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Today, I am inspired by this picture, taken by my lovely sister. She captioned it: reflections. And it was that word that caught me, because I was reminded of a quote. The funny thing is that in looking for that quote, I found another quote about reflections that I really liked. Our lovely friend, Pablo Picasso, said, “Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter?” And knowing who Picasso is, we can guess what answer he was trying to get at. But it does bring up an interesting question, so I decided to dwell on it today.

The photographer sees the human face through the lens. Though it is a person, it is the lens who captures the photo, and lenses won’t be biased about a person. The photographer could mess with the angle or the setting or the editing to put in their opinion of the subject. But the end result is a realistic view of a person. Sherlock Holmes would be able to deduct all sorts of factual details about the person from the photo, but alas, no one can truly know someone from a photograph.

The mirror is trickier, because the person looking through the mirror is you. You, who know all of your triumphs, all of your faults, are the one judging yourself. This view is even more realistic than the photograph, because you see everything. You will see that terrible mole under your eye. You will remember when your carelessness hurt that one person. And more often than not, that’s all you will see. You could be conceited and just find yourself incredibly gorgeous. But most of us will see ourselves and see our faults. 

And the painter. The painter offers the view of you that is least based on facts. The painter is not only looking for the shape of your nose; they are also looking for the sparkle in your eye, the confident flip of your hair, the lips that offer words that comfort and console. Even if the painter has known you your whole life, they will not see you as the person who makes mistakes. They will see you as the beautiful, glorious creation that you are.

Because that’s what artists do. Artists reveal the soul of their subjects. And yes, sometimes they show the bad stuff to prove a point and speak the truth. But artists do not look for the ugly. They look for the beautiful. And that is why, even when they paint that detested mole or ungainly jaw of yours, they don’t see it as something ugly.They see it as the truth. They see that you are not perfect. But they’re okay with that. Because they know that they are not perfect either. You aren’t perfect. I am not perfect. None of us are perfect. And we can be so much more forgiving of each other and of ourselves when we realize that. 

But because we fail, because we are irrevocably not perfect, it can make us see and appreciate the beautiful even more. 

Epylle Spydre