4 meses después…again

Yes, I am aware that this is my blog for Perú.

No, I am not in Perú.

But today, I needed this. I needed this blog in order to feel me again. And let me be completely real, it has been hard to feel me.

Some updates. Living in the United States is much harder than la vida peruana. Although there’s been some greats there’s been so not-so-greats.

Let’s start with the greats. My job.

I’m working for an after-school program called T.E.A.M21. It is located at Lee Middle School and also has probably a 70% latino population (at the least). The kids are amazing, the people are amazing, the work is fun, and I could not imagine a more life-giving job. The kids have definitely taught me more about myself than I can teach them, and I feel blessed to feel community within my coworkers (Plus I get to use my Spanish!).

Another great. My classes this semester. Although I had some that weren’t anything special, I had many great ones and finally got to dive into social work a little more. This reaffirmed my decision in the right career path and I’d have to say I’m pretty good at. The classes kept me engaged and I found myself excited to go and learn. Not to mention the Social Work and Sociology department staff is pretty darn great.

And I’ll save my greatest-great for last, after we talk about the not-so-greats.

Needless to say, I think reverse culture shock is definitely a thing after a semester abroad. I’m often overwhelmed by the fast pace of life in the United States and the culture that isn’t quite as cariñoso. I truly miss speaking in Spanish, kissing people on the cheek as a greeting, the tranquilidad of Plaza de Armas and so much more. It’s probably hard to believe that I don’t fit in here when I lived in the United State for my whole life prior to Peru but I really don’t. Or at least it feels that way.

Not-so-great #2. Hardcore Loneliness. Although I have found some community within the people I work with, I continue to lack that at Calvin’s campus. I tried to be more intentional this semester with people, but it seems as if it is too late or  I again, just plain don’t fit in. It’s hard going from a place like Peru where community is everything to coming here and realizing that I have few to no people I can count on in that community. Peru left me feeling like I need to aprovechar every moment even in college but I am left confused on how to do that if I feel entirely out of place. Also, this is my first semester where my dad does not live in town so I hardly ever saw any family members (he’s getting ready to get married to a woman in Philadelphia, so then I will see him even less).

That isn’t the only thing I am confused about, and in the coming months I have many doubts as to where I am going to live, where I am going to continue education, where I am going to work, how I am going to pay for things and so much more.

But that leads me to Great #3. Although these past few months have been super crappy, I am still able to see God’s goodness. As I have felt hardcore loneliness, anxiety, and depression God stays by my side to remind me that He is still there and He is still good. I cannot count how many times I have said, “God’s got my back” confidently and actually believed it. He speaks to me daily and reminds me to never give up. He reminds me that He is sovereign and that He is greater than the highs and the lows. When I’m about to give up, He sends me a sign that this is just my current situation and He has something planned for me. A beautiful sunset. A good conversation. A new Beyonce album. Whatever it may be, He’s not letting me give up.

And on those days that I can’t remember I hope to look back at this and remember that God has me and will continue to. And I think that’s the greatest great I could possibly have.

Besos xoxo

Danah

Psalm 55:22

“Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”

 

 

 

 

 

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The Night Before pt. 2

Do y’all remember my first blog on here? Cuz I do. I wrote it in my bed in Grand Rapids, Michigan, highly anticipating the journey I was to embark on in the morning. Although I was excited and positive, I had no idea what to expect from the semester in front of me.

And here I am in a similar manner, the night before I leave Arequipa, not sure what to expect and not knowing how to feel about returning to the States.

As I sit here reflecting on my time here, I think about all of those things I never knew would happen that night before. The little things and the big ones.

I didn’t know if I would make it safely here.

I didn’t know I would meet my fabulous host sister, Luisa, and she would become a real sister to me.

I didn’t know I would meet my Ethnic Baddies or the other people in the group here, (S/O to y’all Kelsey, Diana, Sam, and Kiley) and they would become some of the best things that ever happened to me.

I didn’t know I would climb a mountain.

I didn’t know I would go to Machu Picchu multiple times.

I didn’t know I’d get so sick  all the time. (lol)

I didn’t know there would be temblores (mini earthquakes) pretty often.

I didn’t know I would meet other morenos here.

I didn’t know I would meet people that leave such a great mark on my life.

I was gonna get really sentimental at that part so let me cut it off right there.

But let me be real for a minute. I didn’t know any of that. And you know what scares me? I have no idea what to expect going back to the United States without any of those things or people I was so blessed by here.

Without the Spanish. Without my people. Without my sister. Without that tranquilidad.

Can I still be me? What will happen when I realize that I’ve changed immensely but home is still the same? Or worse, people have moved on with their lives– without me in it.

I can’t lie. I’m scared. But what have I learned here if I haven’t learned how to dive into scary things head-first?

Maybe if I go into it like I came into this semester, something beautiful will be created.

I’ll end quoting myself.

“I cannot possibly be ready for all the punches this coming semester may throw at me. But I can take them, pick myself back up, and keep loving life.”

Perú, gracias por todo.

“Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.” Proverbs 3:23.

“Podrás recorrer tranquilo en camino, y tus pies no tropezarán.” Proverbios 3:23.

Besos xoxo

Danah

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 months not enough

The title is absolutely positively how I feel. 4 Months is not enough. En serioNo es suficiente. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “no quiero irme” in the past few weeks, and I mean it.

I could have another year here and be perfectly content.

There aren’t words. There aren’t words to describe how comfortable I feel. The amor. The realness.

Here, I feel more valued than I have ever been in my life. More Danah. I feel like I can be exactly who God created me to be. But enough with the cheesiness, I usually save that for the end.

Life here has been full of ups and downs but even the downs I have welcomed with open arms.

Ups: The people I have met here or have gotten closer with continue to help me feel accepted with open arms. Cannot even describe how bendecida I feel por esas personas.

Breve descripción: I’ve met tons of new people, old friends have been there to love me through the good and bad, and I’ve been sure to aprovechar cada momento.

For example, whether it’s a barbecue, a basketball, a karaoke party, or just watching the sunset roll in atrás de las montañas, we sure haven’t been aburridos. Here’s some pictures of this amazing city, and the amazing company.

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Don’t get this view behind Calvin

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Colombia, Paraguay, The Philippines, USA. Que diverso.

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Of course, y’all know I gotta be 100% real. Not everything is puppies and butterflies for sure.

For example, what happened at my university about a week and a half ago. As many of you know, swastikas and the words “White power” were carved into the snow of many cars at my University.

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With the racial environments as they are, my university already having problems with racism, and me just not being there that was hard to deal with. I’m so passionate about racial reconciliation and for something like this to happen was disheartening to say the least. I had thoughts such as, “How am I even going to go back? Am I even safe? What are the students in their first semester feeling?”

But God knows what he’s doing. In the días que siguieron I had many conversations with so many people. I got messages from people about them standing in solidarity with me during that time. I was supported by the other women of color at my university who are on this trip with me. I expressed my feelings to allies who were incredible. We prayed. And although none of that makes everything okay, it gave me the peace I so desired.

So yeah, that was one low point that also had some good. Another one was Acción de Gracias or as we say in the United States: Thanksgiving. I woke up the morning of crying. I missed my family. I missed the feeling. I just missed everything. We had classes on the actual day so that made it a little weird. However, it turned out pretty great. I made Macarrones con queso (Guys, cheddar cheese is so dang expensive here) and it wasn’t too bad. We had a dinner with all the exchange students plus algunos invitados, so it was pretty fabulous. I can definitely say that that day I was feeling really grateful for my “familia” here in Perú.

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En resumen, que hermosa es la vida en Perú. Whether it’s a dinner with friends, talking about racial things, or just enjoying a sunset, I really feel blessed to have been able to be here.

Another lesson is, I’ve realized how much I appreciate the things I do have in the United States. Like familia, american snacks, friends, church, and especially my right to protest injustices. Those times I’ve taken them for granted I lament, and I now realize how meaningful and beautiful they are to me.

I said earlier that I felt exactly like who God created me to be here. And what’s stopping me from being just that back in the USofA?

So look out America, Danah’s coming back in two-and-a-half weeks, fluent in Spanish, ready to protest, and with a whole lot of love in her heart ready to share.

Seriously. If you’re reading this, you mean so so much to me. And I can’t wait to overwhelm you with my love.

I cannot express how blessed I feel to have this little life God has given to me.

Besos xoxo,

Danah

P.S. please pray for me y’all as I have un montón de trabajos, exámenes, ensayos, and so much work I might die this week and might not make it back.

 

The parts no one cares to mention

I was looking through some of my old posts and I realized something. My blogs (and most of the student’s here) are all super freaking positive. They all seem like we’re all just living the life and everything is great. And it is. But I also feel like I needed at least one blog where I’m completely open and honest about those times where I’m not laughing, where I’m not smiling, and where I’m not reflective. Although those moments aren’t plentiful, they do happen to many. To me, they’re important to mention even when no one wants to. So here’s what they don’t tell you about studying abroad– the part nobody talks about.

They don’t tell you how overwhelmed, scared, and alone you can feel those first days after arriving.

They don’t tell you that the men that yell at you in the streets can make you feel really degraded.

They don’t talk about the depression.

They don’t tell you how you’re not going to want to speak in Spanish all the time.

They don’t tell you that some of the native women will stare at you like you’re some kind of freak show.

They don’t talk about how you could experience racism.

They don’t tell you about that you could get really sick from the food.
They don’t tell you how you may be forced to eat things you absolutely hate.
They don’t tell you about how vendors will overcharge you because of your accent.
They don’t talk about feeling useless if there’s family/friend problems in the states
They don’t tell you about host family drama.
They don’t talk about homesickness.
They don’t tell you that your friends back home will act differently towards you.
They don’t tell you your relationships can change.
They don’t talk about partying culture
They don’t talk about the extreme anxiety.
They don’t talk about drama in between other exchange students
They don’t talk about heartbreaks and the love triangles here.

They don’t talk about how much you can cry, too.

But they also don’t tell you that through all that bad, you can still look back and say you’re proud and so happy. You’re proud of yourself. For getting through all those things they didn’t tell you, those things nobody talks about.

They don’t tell you that the bad, not just the good, is what makes the experience so life-giving.

So even though they didn’t tell you that you’d feel so overwhelmed, you’ll learn that getting through it makes you strong.

Even though we don’t talk about how friendships at home will change, you’ll learn that the friendships you make here will be long-lasting.
And even though they don’t tell you, you’ll be okay.
Besos xoxo,
Danah

Faltan 34 días

So I haven’t written in over a month…and I have less than a month and a half left! It’s so hard to believe. Sorry for not writing more. But I’ve been a little busy with some crazy, fearful, yet amazing moments.

Since my last blog, I have survived exams, felt an earthquake, gotten visits from both of my parents, been to Cuzco (twice), been to Machu Picchu (twice), hugged many llamas, had 2 plane rides, climbed a whole lot of steps (including making it up Huayna Picchu), had 3 10-hour bus rides, and taken advantage of plenty of other life-threatening opportunities.

But let me back up a little bit.

After my trip to Puno, the month of October came in with a bang. I had exams and I’m happy to tell you that I sobreviví. Gracias a Dios. They were difficult but Perú doesn’t let one stay stressed for too long.

After exam week, came the visit from my dad. I gotta say, I was pretty excited to see him.

The first few days we stayed in Arequipa, relaxing and planning our trip to Cuzco. If you guys didn’t know, they’ll be limiting tourism to Machu Picchu in the coming years, so we decided to aprovechar while we could. If I had one word to describe our trip to Cuzco I would say pure locura. Madness.

Nothing went right. I mean it. Nada. But I was completely okay with it. Our travel agency thought it’d be cool to basically let us figure every single detail out by ourselves (not like we paid them to plan it or anything), the mosquitoes decided the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice, I inconveniently contracted strep throat, and we were left not knowing where to go so many times. But it was okay.

We ate. We spent time together. And I’d definitely have to say the tranquilidad of Arequipa has definitely taken its’ effect on me. Throughout all those tribulations, I still thought it was fun. We were in Cuzco and my dad was with me and that’s all I needed. Maybe I’ve learned how to be calm in the midst of some storms. Literally. It rained sometimes.

(S/O to my dad for being the best. 38 days until we’re reunited.)

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Machu Picchu: Round 1

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The bugs loved him

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Light eyed peeps in one of the 7 wonders of the world

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At the airport. You could say I was happy.

Fast forward one week and ta-da my mom from the United States comes to visit little Arequipa. I’ve gotta say, her trip was tons more tranquila than that of my father’s. Girl time. touring. English. It was the life.

Also had the opportunity to translate for my non-Spanish speaking mother. Quite fun, I must say. Who knows, maybe I have a career in translating ahead of me.

Phew, okay, let’s continue.

Shortly after my mom departed, my group from Calvin traveled to Cuzco. (Fun fact: Cuzco is the name of the Emperor in Emperor’s New Groove. Cool, right) We toured Cuzco, ate comida rica, saw beautiful sights and animals, and took entirely too many tours for my liking. The guide talked for hours and gave us plenty of interesting information that I didn’t listen to at all. It was just too much. But here’s some beautiful fotos!

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Calvin group. Love these babes.

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Mis chicas.

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Peruvian Condor.

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hey kitty, kitty

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I LOVE MONKEYS ❤

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But, I’d definitely got to say my favorite part of that trip was climbing Huayna Picchu. Huayna Picchu is the mountain right next to the city Machu Picchu. If you know me, you should know climbing anything is a huge struggle for me. I have trouble breathing in high altitudes plus I’m a little out of forma, entonces it was a struggle. But I learned a pretty important lesson, I think. In the beginning I was trying to keep up with all the people who don’t have breathing problems or who have had plenty of experience. But the important thing wasn’t keeping up. Once I slowed down and climbed at my own pace, I was able to enjoy the view. The important thing wasn’t how long I took. It’s just that I got there.

Here’s some pictures of how happy I looked after making it up. S/O to the people who waited for me.

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What a view.

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I was tired.

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The beginning of our hike.

Well, that’s the highlights of my past few weeks. Although these last few weeks were full of crazy near-death experiences, (like that time our bus almost slid off the mountain…yeah ha ha) facing condors, feeling earthquakes, climbing slippery mountains, uncomfortable plain rides and so much more, I wouldn’t of had it any other way.

Of course I experienced a few other less dangerous things. Hanging out with my new Latino friends. Pasando tiempo con mi hermana colombiana. Homework. Meeting other morenos. All equally satisfying situations.

I’ve never smiled more. Never admired more. Never felt quite Danah as I have these past few months.

I plan to keep adventuring and loving my last month. I plan to never stop, never give up, just like I didn’t give up on that mountain. I’ll go at my own pace, and be 100% Danah.

That’s all I know how to do.

Besos xoxo

Danah

“Remember not the former things, nor consider things of the old”

(P.S. Kudos to you if you read this whole blog)

Some extra photos:

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That was a completely dark tunnel.

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My view from the plane. Peru is all mountains.

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Jardín

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What 48 days in Peru Has Taught Me

4,200 miles away.  for 48 days. Almost 7 weeks. 1152 hours. 13.15% of 2015. 4,200 miles away. Those are so numbers that show you about how long I’ve been here in Perú, and how far from home. This being the longest amount of time I’ve been away from home, I’m pretty surprised I’m not just surviving but I’m thriving. That’s right, thriving. 

Something I love about Perú is just how tranquilo (calm) it is. The most memorable moments I’ve had here are those where I’m spent in complete awe of God’s creation. Whether it be with a talk with my host mom, laughter with friends, watching a sunset, or simply enjoying a delicious helado (ice cream) I’m constantly realizing como hermosa is this little thing we call vida.

These little simple joys and lessons and realizations have been showing me who I really am. But I’ll get more into that later.

But first for the actualizaciones (updates)

Clases: Mis clases have really taken off. It’s kind of weird how it seems like the first few months we hardly had any homework, and now guess what it is? Papers, composiciones, tareas, trabajos, controles (quizzes) galore. It’s difficult, but I’m learning a lot. Like how to analyze literature in Spanish, or the hated subjuntivo (grammar in Spanish), or Teologia. Recently we had a little break because it was Dia De Estudiante. Can you guess what that is? A day completely dedicated to students at the university. I thought it was going to be a chill little thing. No, this turned out to be a whole-freaking-festival at the university. There was live music, popcorn, cotton candy, gifts, hella food, and a lot of excitement. United States, you need to get with the program.

Tiempo Libre (Free time):

My free time here is always full of amazing things. Whether it’s domingueando (Sundaying. Yes, to Sunday is a verb in Spanish) through Plaza de Armas, or watching the beautiful sunset from the roof with mis chicas, there’s never a dull moment.

Here’s a few photos of some of my free time, for your enjoyment.

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Domingueando

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My ethnic baddies. All dressed up.

My ethnic baddies. All dressed up.

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Sneaking up on roofs to view the sunset <3

Sneaking up on roofs to view the sunset ❤

This manicure cost an equivalent of $1.50

This manicure cost an equivalent of $1.50

Viajes (Trips): Now I get to talk about una parte favorita of my time here. And that is Puno. Our second excursion to Lago Titicaca y Puno fue increible. With vistas hermosas, riding on boats, seeing man made islands, todo was a delight.

We got to travel on a boat all day Saturday and look at some of the islands on Lago Titicaca (which is super profundo by the way. Try 922 feet). There was one island that was súper linda with lots of places to buy souveneirs. We also took a ride on the boat the people there made.

Conquering my fears of water.

Conquering my fears of water.

On the island <3

On the island ❤

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Some of the things we saw there were like un sueño (a dream). Pictures can’t capture. We also saw some Incan ruins. We had to climb a bit of a mountain to get all these cool pictures, and lemme tell ya, it’s hard to breathe in those high alturas. But boy was it worth it. IMG_5660 IMG_5665 IMG_5593 IMG_5588 IMG_5605

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But my favorite part, I don’t have a picture for, or hardly words to describe it. While we were in the bus riding to Arequipa, there was a lunar eclipse. Also known as a blood moon, it was amazing. Paired with that, we could see every estrella y constelación. We were in the country and it was so quiet, so peaceful, yet so powerful. While I was standing under those stars, I felt the power of God shimmer through my bones. So many people in the world were looking at that same moon. Those same stars. We all came from different cultures, different nations, different religions but yet we were united under those same stars. And then, I didn’t need photos. I didn’t need any of that. What was going on inside of me was incredible.

I got to thinking something deep.

I’ve always struggled with not finding a place in the world where I can truly fit in and be myself. I’ve always had a wide variety of interests that never seem to fit into one single category.

This weekend, I realized that is the beauty in who I am. To learn I’m that in between. A bridge in between God’s people.

I’m crazy and loud, but I can be introvertida who wants nothing more than to stay in and have a quiet night. I listen to rap but I also listen to classical choral music. I crave deep intellectual and meaningful conversations, but I also don’t mind sitting with the people I love with a belly full of laughter over something completely trivial. I can go on for hours about sexism and gender roles; but I still love to cook and look nice. I have a profound love for Latina culture while still feeling very loyal to my African American culture.

God has molded me to be who I am for a very special purpose: to be a bridge. Because I’m crazy and loud, I can be the life of the party. But I can also be content reading a book with that friend who doesn’t really like parties. Or because I love Latina culture, I can dance Cumbia at a discoteca, but also understand the directness that another culture may possess.

Through my crazy preferences, I can bring many different characteristics and cultures  together. I can help others celebrate differences but also feel so very proud in their own. Because I understand it. And when all those things come together? There we have a little slice of what God’s perfect kingdom is supposed to look like. Different characteristics, cultures, beliefs, and people all praising and celebrating life. Just like how we could all admire those stars and eclipse Sunday night.

I’ll close with something I wrote right after I sat under all those amazing estrellas and the eclipse, sitting on the bus, in complete awe of the experience I had had.

Gracias a Dios por growth. Gracias a Dios for rediscovering who I am. Gracias a Dios for the lessons that teach me to be who God created me, not who the world wants me to be. Gracias a Dios por incredible adventures. Gracias a Dios por Peru.

“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:4-5

Besos xoxo

Danah

(and of course, more beautiful photos for y’all) IMG_5518 IMG_5509 IMG_5701

If anyone wants to know what Alpaca meat looks like...

If anyone wants to know what Alpaca meat looks like…

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This slide was way more terrifying than it looks.

This slide was way more terrifying than it looks.

Arequipa is beautiful.

Arequipa is beautiful.

My host family <3

My host family ❤

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Some things new, some things learned

It is ever so hard to believe that I’ve been here for a month now. On one hand, it feels like I’ve been here forever. On the other, time is just going by so incredibly fast. 1 down, 3 to go!

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog. I think sometimes it’s super hard to capture all the moments in a way where people can visualize and also not get super aburrido (bored). So hang on guys, this might be a long one.

A few weekends back, we took a trip to the Cañon del Colca. Two times más profundo (deeper) than the Grand Canyon of the United States, it was hermosa vista (beautiful view) to say the least. We had the opportunity to see a pack of alpacas. I even got to cuddle with a few.

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We were lucky to see some condors, a bird with a wingspan of up to 10 feet. Pretty awesome, because they’re endagered of extinction.

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While alpacas are great, I’d have to say my favorite part of our Cañon del Colca viaje was being able to praise God right in front of the increíble canyon. Since we were still there on a Sunday, we decided to have devotions and also sing some praise in worship. And boy was that amazing. I helped lead the song Cuan Grande es Dios– and there you could definitely sense that. In that huge canyon, we were so small, but God was so big… and we could just feel his everlasting presence with us there in that Canyon. Pictures can never do it justice, but here’s some just in case you want to try to imagine how divine it was.

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Since those first few days, settling in this new country things have slowed down to a more normal pace but have somehow sped up at the same time. I started all my classes at the university, various subjects, and all in Spanish. My direct enroll with university students: wonderful. I’m getting to meet other Peruvian friends, and the professor is tan amable (nice). All my other classes, while somewhat stressful are also going well. Aparte de my clase de Historia. So you guys know how some History profs have a reputation for talking a lot, being somewhat boring, and forcing a lot of notes? Yeah, that’s my history class. But all in rapid Spanish. I’m gonna leave it at that. Pray for me.

There’s been some other hard things. I was sick for the last couple of days to a week with a pretty bad infection. Being sick away from home and getting behind on schoolwork is not fun. I’ve also learned that the clinics here are a little bit diferente than the United States doctors, but that’s okay. I was able to eat chicken noodle soup, relax, and learn new Spanish medical terms (always a lesson). I’m doing alright now, super excited to be eating some heartier foods again.

Something I never thought I would be able to do is talk about social justice issues in Spanish. Anyone who knows me knows I can talk about social justice issues for hours (just take a peak at my Facebook). I was worried about not talking about it for 4 months, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that I can. Just today I had a wonderful conversation with my host family about 9/11 and the horrific racism the Muslim community faced in the aftermath. These conversations have also definitely helped me in learning how to present my viewpoint more respectfully, while not straying away from what I believe.

I’m loving that I’m surprised daily with lessons and new things. I think a huge lesson here is la humilidad. Yeah, things are different here. So much so that sometimes it makes me want to pull my hair out. Not being able to drink the water, being super indirect as not to offend people, standing up when the professor enters the classroom, being weary of every vendor on the street, or how the men on the street constantly shout morena (brown girl) at me when I’m walking down the street.

But with each different adventure, I’m learning that my way of doing things, isn’t necessarily the best way. Just different.

Life in Peru goes by incredibly fast with some incredible moments and even more incredible lessons– I just pray I’ll still be able to keep up.

“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” 

Besos xoxo

Danah

(some extra photos for y’all)

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My “Squad” (group of really good friends)

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Overlooking Cañon del Colca

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“Chifa”- a combination of Peruvian food and Chinese food.

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Los Estudiantes de Intercambio// The foreign exchange group

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A pack of Alpacas and Llamas

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The Peruvian Sol

The Peruvian Sol

The Unfortunates of Arequipan Living

This morning I woke up determined not to have a good day.

I know, I know. That sounds awful, right? But yesterday was the first “mal día” (bad day) of my time in Arequipa. I was overwhelmed, I was making cultural blunders, I missed my family in the United States, and I just felt plain crappy. By the end of the night, I was lamenting over everything that was even close to unappealing in the last few days. My Colombian hermanita Luisa and I sat at the table late at night and expressed our frustrations.

This morning I wasn’t feeling any better. Unfortunately, Luisa decided it would be a good day. She decided we would eat a feast of eggs, bread, and sausage for breakfast (some of my favorites). I’m not gonna lie, it was deliciosa. Determined to keep up my bad day, I went directly to my room after breakfast and started to mope. I didn’t take a shower or change my clothes or anything. I even decided I didn’t want to go on the tour Calvin had planned for the exchange students that afternoon.

Unfortunately, again, Luisa decided she was not up for this bad day. She dragged me out of bed, forced me into the shower, and even picked out my clothes so I couldn’t complain about having nothing to wear. We left the house and I was still in bad spirits.

And unfortunately, the city of Arequipa doesn’t let me be sad for long.

We started out getting to see some of these beautiful views. Unfortunate, right?

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And I only got to hang out with my two favorite Colombian girls, along with my fave Ashley. Ugh. Unfortunately.

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Bah, we had to sit in trees in between waterfalls, unfortunately.

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Oh, and UNFORTUNATELY I got to try a Peruvian favorite. Queso Helado. It happened to be amazing. FullSizeRender (10)FullSizeRender (11)

Oh so unfortunately had to learn more about the beautiful volcanoes and mountains that surround the city.

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And I unfortunately had to see many more incredible sights, and create many more incredible memories with the people I’ve already grown so close with.

Unfortunately, I think I was reminded of a valuable lesson today. There’s going to be bad days. But that’s the thing. It’s just that:  bad day. I can’t let one bad day ruin those other days for me. I need to take advantage of every single opportunity, every single friendship, every single sight, and every single moment. Because that’s how I’m going to grow.

And yes, it’s perfectly okay to cry at the table with my host sister after a bad day. It’s okay to feel sad. But the amazing part is I have the privilege of being able to get up the next day with the promise and a hope of it being better.

Let’s hope next week brings just as a great of a lesson.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Besos xoxo

Danah

(P.S. I have some extra photos here on the bottom for y’all to look at. Peru is quite beautiful, I know).

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Los Primeros Días

Ahora, yo lo encuentro muy difícil para hablar en ingles. Aquí siento como español es la idioma de mi corazón.

Translation: Now, I find it very hard to speak in English. Here I feel like Spanish is the language of my heart.

I had written an entire blog earlier, but I just erased the whole thing. It doesn’t feel authentic. I’m all about being real. And if I’m going to write something, I’m going to write it from my heart. So here is my heart.

My first days. What can I say to sum them up? How can I express all the feelings that I have? Do I talk about my family? The culture? The college? There are no words. But the first one that comes to my mind is thankful.

I’m thankful that my anxieties were soothed during the plane ride and we arrived safely in Arequipa.

I’m thankful for the Peruvian man on the plane that talked to me and assured me my Spanish was fine.

I’m thankful for my host family, who accepted me with open arms.

I’m thankful for my host sister, Luisa, from Colombia who has helped me and had wonderful times and conversations with me.

I’m thankful for the other students from Calvin who are trying their hardest with Spanish, too.

I’m thankful that I have my own bathroom.

I’m thankful that I have wifi to keep up with friends and family at home.

Again, I’m thankful for the time I get to spend with Luisa and the family.

I’m thankful that I really like the food.

I’m thankful for the beautiful mountains that surround the city.

I’m thankful for some of the students at San Pablo University who accepted me right away.

I’m thankful for my roommate at home, Caroline, who taught me Spanish music.

I’m thankful that me knowing Spanish music helped me to make new friends.

I’m thankful that God has provided, and that God is good.

Thankfulness is the summary of my first days. Never have I felt so loved and accepted in my life. I have always felt different. I have always felt weirder than most people. I have always felt alone. But here, I feel surrounded by love, and surrounded by beauty. I’m so thankful that I’m exactly where I’m belong.

Perhaps later I can give more details, but for now, this is my heart. Hope you enjoyed being let in a little.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. ~Colossians 3:15

Besos xoxo

Danah

The Night Before

SO hey.

I’m not exactly in Peru yet. I’m still in Grand Rapids, in my bed, highly anticipating the journey I will embark on in less than 13 hours. Everyone asks me the same question. Are you nervous? Or are you excited? When I explain that I am both, they respond with “Oh, that’s completely normal.” which is good.

The thing I’m most nervous about actually? The plane ride. Oh, I’ve been on planes plenty of times, but I’m actually terrified of them. I do think it’s a control thing. I can’t see the pilot, and I’m in a plane with a bunch of strangers. I’m practically placing my life in other’s hands. I’m praying that I will be able to have calm nerves during this flight.

Let me back up a few steps though. Some may not even know what all this is I’m nervous about, and what flight I’m going on, and why it is such a big deal to me.

This semester, I am traveling to Arequipa, Peru for 4 months to study abroad. I am a double major in Social Work and Spanish, and a semester abroad is one of the requirements my school has in order to graduate with a Spanish degree. I always knew I wanted to study abroad in Peru, from almost the moment I heard that my school (Calvin College) had the program. I had a feeling that this program was just the one for me. Getting to this point came with a lot of ups and downs though.

This past semester, I struggled with many different things. Dealing with my parent’s recent divorce, relationship issues, social strains, schoolwork strains, and other varieties of problems made it a stressful year. Without going into too many details, that led to basically extreme depression and anxiety. This defined my life for a while towards the end of the year. I struggled, and I struggled hard.

This summer, however, has taught me so much. I have wonderful supportive family and friends and more than ever, I’m ready to face life’s problems. The difference between now and then, is I realize everything is not going to be perfect all the time, but that is perfectly okay.

In Peru, there’s going to things I will struggle with. There will probably even be sometimes I wonder why I chose to go. Culture shocks. Family drama. Friend drama. School stress. Language stress. Homesickness. But with God’s help, I am going to be able to approach that with grace, and a newfound love for life. And hopefully be stretched in a way I never have been before.

I’ve made it through a lot in this little lifetime of mine, and for once in my life I can truly say I’m proud of myself.

I cannot possibly be ready for all the punches this coming semester may throw at me. But I can take them, pick myself back up, and keep loving life.

I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

“Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.” Proverbs 3:23.

Besos xoxo

Danah