One year is up

After one amazing year of traveling, short term missions, house-moving, snorkeling, hat weaving, cave swimming, volcano climbing, ruins exploring, spanish + korean learning, pro-bono-ing, food experimenting, people-bonding, and camino-ing – my adventures of this kind have come to an end as I have returned to work ๐Ÿ™‚ What a blessing it is to have seen and experienced so much in what feels like a short time. Now a new chapter begins!

Only a year went by but sometimes it feels like years! I feel changed from my experiences and life has taught me a few more lessons along roads less travelled.

Don’t let your fears hold you back from experiencing something great. Have faith that there is more to life than finding a good job or meeting the love of your life. There is a God who loves you – and He wants you to get to know Him too.

 

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Camino de Santiago – packing list

I have no idea what the ideal weight my bag should be – but right now it feels too heavy to my liking at 16 pounds. After doing some research on other people’s blogs and articles, I’ve narrowed it down to the following:

  • 2 wigwam socks (quick drying)
  • 2 sock liners (one of them is just shin length pantyhose, will update which is better)
  • 2 bras
  • 3 underwear
  • 1 pants
  • 1 shorts
  • 1 capris
  • 3 shirts (one tank, short sleeve, and long sleeve)
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 windbreaker/water-resistant jacket
  • 1 poncho
  • 1 pair of flip flops (shower and post-walk)
  • 1 hiking boots
  • 1 pair of rain gators (figure it’ll be raining quite a bit – avoiding wet feet are a must)
  • Toiletries (shampoo, contact lens+solution, small soap, chunk of laundry soap, toothpaste, toothbrush,ย deodorant, small first aid kit, vaseline)
  • Camino guidebook
  • ‘S’ hook for showers
  • small bag for showers + groceries
  • flashlight
  • water pack
  • Sleeping bag
  • small towel
  • small tarp
  • extra shoelaces (can be used as a clothes line)

Feels good to write it all down – I guess there are things I don’t need but it would be sacrificing some levels of comfort. My brother did remind me that it’s not about what I’m bringing on my trip that will determine if it’s a ‘good’ trip – but what I make of it. So i’m there to walk, and to enjoy the road… but still – the lighter the bag the better!

Camino de Santiago

I’m nearing the departure of my last trip before heading back to work. I can’t repeat enough how much of a blessing it’s been to take this time off, to experience living in a different capacity, and just taking in the opportunities that weren’t available while working.

In three days I’m off to Spain (technically Paris where I will land to then take a train to St Jean Pied de Port – the border town outside of Spain). Thousands of people take this pilgrimage a year to Santiago de Compostella – also known as the way of St James. This road has been walked on for over a thousand years by pilgrims of past. From Saint Jean Pied de Port, I will walk to Santiago de Compostella – about 800 km long spread over a month and a bit.

I’m not Catholic, but I think this trip will benefit anyone going in some way. As I’ve heard from other peregrinos, one learns to appreciate the repetitions of the day, and find joy in the little differences as well. Others find support and friendship along the road. One would also learn to shake off the technology that we’ve been so bound to, and stick with just what is necessary. As a Christ follower, I hope this journey will also be of spiritual benefit, and will help me listen more to what the Spirit says. I don’t think we listen enough – always pushing our thoughts, ideas and expectations over others.

I really don’t know what to expect from this trip – but I’m open to it. Expecting I’ll be learning a lot about blisters at least!

packing gear - not including cat :)

packing gear – not including cat ๐Ÿ™‚

Working with okara

Okara- the pulp left from making soy milk. After making tofu the other day, I grabbed this recipe to make some really moist healthy carrot muffins. I think it’s vegan too (no eggs)! I added walnuts and craisins on top to add some more flavor. Turned out quite well!

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I still have quite a bit of okara left- may try substituting the carrots with zucchini next!

Tofu making

Comprehensive Tofu recipe found here-
http://www.lafujimama.com/2009/09/how-to-make-tofu-no-fancy-equipment/

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Soaked soybeans overnight in cold water.

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Blended soybeans and water thoroughly.

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Boiled soybean blend in 5 cups of water for around 12 minutes.

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Strained out soy milk through cheese cloth. Excess pulp is called okara. The liquid is the soy milk! Tastes fresh!

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Line the strainer with cheesecloth. I only had a small bag cloth so I used an unopened meshy cleaning cloth.

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Added the coagulant- in this case i used Epsom salt. The milk will start to clump.

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Poured coagulated milk in ghetto tofu press. I used a strainer with a bowl underneath.

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After about 30 minutes the tofu was pretty solid! Still a bit too soft to my liking but I was impatient and hungry!

Blueberry lemon muffins

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My last two attempts at baking didn’t work out too well, but these are easy to make, and tastes good too!

Recipe here:
http://m.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Blueberry-Lemon-Bread-2368

*a note on grammar

I’ve been home for about 6 days now and have just had the chance to re-read some of these posts- and my apologies for the 6th grade writing. I’ve been writing all my posts through my phone so it’s been difficult and a bit time consuming to get my thoughts down via such a small device. Maybe I can also blame iPhones autocorrect? :p

I still have about 2 weeks left of guatemala missing from the blog, will update soon!

December 2: Livingston

Livingston reminds me of Belize- the palm trees, tropical water, colorful houses… We wake up at 6am for a hike to some natural pools. The walk along the beach for about 20 minutes and pass a family transporting a family of cows on our way.

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The walk is long but we eventual find a small group of garifuna people running the entrance to the pools. For about 15 quetzals- we enter begin (slippery) walk deeper into the forest.

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At last, we find ourselves at a large rock at the end of the pool. our guide climbs up, and jumps off the slippery rock into the cool water. It’s an open invitation. I decide I just wade around the pool- it feels so fresh after a sweaty slippery walk. However, I catch sight of my coordinator- at 40 something man jump off the rock, and I gather some courage to follow. It was worth it ๐Ÿ™‚

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Once we return to the hotel, we have a couple hours to enjoy the sun before our trip back to Antigua. I decide to look for some coconut leaves to make another hat.

At 10:30, we head out towards Livingston town. There are more garifunas here. They are the black culture. A garifuna man grabs our attention and gives us a tour around town, but not to the tourist side but the garifuna slums. Half the time, I think we are going to be robbed, the other half is curious. We learn that there is some tension between the garifuna and guatelmatecans – the man also voiced some complaints of Americans buying property on the Main Street for their house but it is only occupied a couple weeks a year and is then a waste of space for the rest. We also learned how to say hello in their language: “ahyo!” People respond to our ahyo with an ahyo back.

At the end of our tour, he tells us he is raising money for a save the starving children organization. He leads us to a restaurant and then waits for us to tip him. It’s a very awkward moment. We tip him but we would never know if the organization was real. But we can only hope I guess.

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We leave Livingston and boat for another 30 min or so at a restaurant off te shore, we are just there for a quick break. Dring that time, a cat plops on my friends lap and enjoys all the attention ๐Ÿ™‚

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After that, we drive another 6.5 hours towards Antigua!

December 1: Tikal day 2

At 5:30, we wake to take an early bus to Tikal. It’s about an hour drive and we arrive in time for the park gates to open. It reminds me of Jurassic park.

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Coming to the park early is good because more of the wildlife is out and about – like these cute little guys (from the raccoon family- and not shy at all)

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Our tour guide speaks very clearly in English and talks a lot about the history of Tikal. But before all that- we do some exercise before breakfast!

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Breakfast wakes us up a bit- so our tour guide takes us on a unpaved jungle hike to temple 2.

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We get a lot of exercise climbing up and down. Feels pretty nice after sitting around all week studying!

We make our way to the main plaza- many tourists are here and a few Mayans are performing a ritual. I believe they are also catholic – they thank God for the blessings in their life. It’s interesting seeing what was once a pagan religion changed to a God-fearing one with some of its cultural rituals intact. I’m thankful for this because after doing a missions at a native reserve, some natives voiced their fears that by becoming Christian, they are giving up their culture. In a sense- we all are giving up our paradigms to have Jesus’ but I don’t think it means not acknowledging where you came from either. I still follow some Chinese traditions but I am first a follower of Christ. Anyway- that’s what I came to from seeing this ritual.

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After Tikal, we have lunch outside the the park while others do Ziplinig for 30$. It was a good experience seeing these ruins. It is said that only 20% of tr ruins have been discovered and most of it lie under natural growth that look like large mounds or tiny mountains. Every time I see a large mound in Peten, it makes me wonder…

We now head to Livingston – it’s about 4-5 hours from Tikal and another hour by boat. It takes us 2-2.5 hours though because it gets dark and our boat is overloaded. What an experience tho! A bunch of non citizens traveling a boat silently through the night…

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We finally arrive at Livingston at 8pm. Its a tropical looking place with coconut trees, beaches, and thatched roofs. Our living quarters are a fun bungalows- but less fun with the damp sheets and giant bugs crawling, flying everywhere. Still an interesting experience i wouldn’t trade!

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A full but amazing day!