I moved to Guatemala. I know, right? Talk about overwhelming. I fell in love with my new city straight away, and I had the greatest group of girls at my side.
My first family were sweethearts. Flor, Brian, & Byron. They took such great care of me as I started to adjust to my new life.
Happy birthday to me, I got my face shoved in a cake!
Talk about beautiful. March was full of the most incredible views I have ever encountered.
Above is Semuc Champey, a trip the 11 of us girls (pictured) took alone, and below is Lago Atilán, a lake surrounded by volcanoes and famous for some of the best coffee-growing environments in the world.
We also went to the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) as a part of a very intense weekend, including in-depth interviews with individuals who work in one of the most dangerous suburbs of the capital, the cemetery, and the city dump.
I also spent a lot of quality time with my kids, whom I had fallen helplessly in love with by the time April rolled around (oh, and the puppies, they were pretty cute, too).
April was a hard month. My Spanish progressed by leaps and bounds, but I also had to begin to prepare for my return stateside.
To Gloria, who was the most incredible teacher a girl could have asked for. She was patient, encouraging. She kept my goals in mind, and she pushed me every. single. day.
To Cindy and Anderson (and yes, even Leo) who became like family. I spent February through May with them, and every day held another adventure.
Finally, we said goodbye to Antigua and to each other. Our "Guat Squad" was definitely something special.
JUNE and JULY
God said, "Go," so in June I went. June, July and August were passed living just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana and interning at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in the Immigrant Justice Program.
God did a ton of work on me here, and I got to do life alongside some pretty great people.
I also spent a lot of time in that chair. It's weird, but that chair was where I always ended up sitting when it came time to call people. Talking on the phone, and doing so in Spanish, was something I had to get good at pretty quickly.
My mom and grandma came for a visit, I established a list of my favorite few parks to run at, and Naturalization Day was my last day interning.
In September, I returned to Spring Arbor for one last year of undergrad. I moved into a K-house with six of the most wonderful ladies I've ever met.
I think it's safe to say that we were all a little apprehensive at first, unsure of how personalities would mix and routines would get established...but they did.
God also did some pretty cool stuff in giving me a top-notch roommate. Lins and I had never met before moving in to the same little room, but from day one we got along and have only gotten closer since then.
I didn't get many pictures of that day, but I got to go back to Indy at the end of October to be lead volunteer for Refugee Adjustment Day.
I became best friends with a two-year-old little boy from Egypt (his words, not mine), I got to sign the same piece of fabric that Bob Goff did (it's the clinic banner:), and my heart was so, so happy to be able to go back to a place that still felt like home.
We also took a trip to Chicago to celebrate Syd's birthday!
Late night Just Dance, deep talks, and good food were regular occurrences.
On a sad note, December also meant saying goodbye to my four-legged child. Lucy was almost 14 years old and every time I left the house I told her that I loved her. Every time I left for school, especially the past couple of semesters, I'd sat that dog down and told her she had to stay her sassy, healthy self until I came back home. That she did.
The last picture I took with her was at the end of November on a walk around the block (about as much as her old little legs could handle).
All of the spare minutes in December have been designated to my honors thesis, which will be due towards the end of January. It's been overwhelming to really dig into passions on this project that I've developed all year. Since coming home from school, this little room has been thesis headquarters.
Looking back, this year has been absolutely incredible. It's been insane. It's been more than I ever could have imagined.
Doors have opened and closed.
I learned a second language, I lived in two countries and two states. I gained four more 'families' and moved something like 7 times between 5 cities.
Looking ahead, I'm not sure what all 2017 will bring.
If all goes according to the 'plan' in place now, I'll be finishing up my undergrad degree in less than 5 months. Graduation will be a whirlwind followed immediately by moving. Again. This time to either Indianapolis (to attend IUPUI and work at the clinic I interned at) or Northern Virginia (to attend George Mason or Virginia Commonwealth University).
It's scary and there are a lot of unknowns... but as I look back at how faithful God has been this year, I know that whatever comes next is going to be equally incredible.