Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Best is Yet to Come

Still kind of in a haze...haven't fully grasped that I'm back at 75 Burgby yet and heading to good 'ol 22 E...

I want to say the warmest, biggest, most grateful THANK-YOU to all of you...knowing your thoughts were with me while I was away this whole trip actually carried me through...not only those of you that messaged me while I was trekking home this week (which I only had time to read quickly in Athens before leaving to Bahrain and then Mumbai where I almost didn't make it home...), even though those messages gave me strength during some pretty draining times..but also for everyone all throughout.  Yes, I was alone on most of this journey...but your words and support were worth more than gold to a young girl gallivanting around the globe...

I am still processing everything; indeed the 4-day journey home was meant for that, but most of the time I spent coming home was spent in states of mellowed out exhaustion - emotionally and physically, and in complete faith at many, many points.  There were many prayers for the future wrapped up amongst prayers for actually landing back in Canada at some point...but mostly I am just now starting to wake up to the awesomeness of it hits me every once and a while, and the details and craziness of the entire trip actually fill me with's been amazing!

The other morning I began to flip back through my journal (a giant pile of incoherent words and thoughts and prayers scribbled with random dates...pretty hard to decipher...), and I began to highlight the dates so I could track some of my thought paths, prayers, and events...and the way everything mapped out from such a mess of chaos and confusion in that journal is truly incredible and I am brought to tears just thinking of how incredibly blessed I've been.

Never underestimated volume of your words...every muttering is just HAVE to trust that He who hear's them actually LISTENS, and longs for you to give him your's something I've had to learn (and still am all the time); feeling inadequate or out of line when asking for open doors and blessings I don't deserve...but we have to get it through our heads that we are CALLED to seek blessing, so long as we are able to just offer them up's pretty insane, but absolutely beautiful...

For those interested...Psalm 37:3-7, Romans 5-11, 8:26-30, Eph 3:20, Phil 4:6, John 14:12-14, Matt 11:8-13

and remember...he has identified you as his own...

As Mike pointed out at softball (baha!! yes Kim, turned out I WAS taking notes afterall...;) ).... He who made us delights in us and SINGS over us... He never had to do anything...and here he is longing for us to turn back to him, and pouring himself out when we do...(Zeph 3:17)  I can't even believe I'm typing stuff like this, this whole journey has transformed me - are you sick of my mushy talking yet??  I apologize...but not really.. ;)

What pumps me up the most is that as incredible as this random, random journey has been... this is not the end to workings in our lives... just because I'm back home doesn't mean things will stop happening... in fact it's most definitely the opposite - and my thoughts and prayers and convictions to what's ahead has made me so freaking excited to come home...

For those of you I've seen already - thank-you for such a wicked, homey welcome back..and for those of you I'm yet to see - gah!  I can't wait...

The End??

...I think not...

Monday, July 19, 2010

2 Trains; 6 Planes; 4 Days

Alright dearest friends and family and random strangers....

SO after completing the second HfH build on my itinerary, I have finally, after all this gallevanting.. began the long trek to the one place in the world I want to be RIGHT now....home.

After the team said their goodbyes on Saturday at various points throughout the night depending on departure times, I left for the train back to Thessoloniki, where I transferred to another train to bring me to Athens at 11 pm.  The morning train was late by 2 hours, which actually ended up working out to my advantage as I arrived in perfect time to buy my next ticket, buy some juice, pee, and board the train for Athens, with no waiting around.  And I even got to share a car with an old woman who accepted an orange slice from me and in return fed me LOTS of homemade cherry pound cake stuff.  Apparently, the guy next to me told me that the Macedonians have a custom that if you reject anything offered from a young girl she won't get married, and so even though the woman HATED oranges, she ate it for me anyway... so we laughed and I said I was very grateful ....but truthfully I think I was more grateful for the cake, which was amazing and kept me well fed enough that I didn't have to spend money on food ;).

From the train I took a cab and then a bus straight to the airport, where I hobo-style spent the night, being woken up amoung a crowd of people by an airport worker trying to shake me awake so that I wasn't taking up the extra seat I was curled in fetal position on... waiting around for my 3pm flight out of Athens.

Here's the sched  (and TRUST me, we had a team of a few of us trying to get me home and this was the best and cheapest way possible...)

Athens to Bahrain
Bahrain to Mumbai
17 hours wait in Mumbai Airport during the day (not allowed to leave :( so I'll have to get creative with ways of occupying time..)
Mumbai to Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur back to beloved HK
Hong Kong to TORONTO arriving at 6pm on Wednesday (but midnight here in a full 4-day journey)
Toronto to b-dot
Brampton to Waterlooo....?? don't know when..

Needless to say your thoughts and prayers are not only welcome but BEGGED for...a lot of these flights are pretty close together, so delays or hold ups for some would wreak havoc on getting me back...which honestly...I can't wait to be home right now... let alone the fact that I'll be wanting a bed and a shower after all this... and of course, priorities: a Timmies...

The build was awesome in so many ways that I didn't expect.  The team was actually the most random bunch of characters on the planet, with varying ages, personality types, ...mental states... so on one hand the two weeks were difficult for me as I struggled with connecting to people while anticipating being home finally, but on the other was incredible as I shared my story with sooo many different people, and in return received the stories from multiple walks of life that I wouldn't normally encounter back in my student life at least not to the extent of spending 24/7 with such indiviuals...

Anyways, I'm lacking some serious sleep, and hope that didn't come out too much in this post...once again, I'm going to be lazy with the editing as the computer time is limited...and so is my mental capacity for forming proper sentances or spell checking.

The Best is Yet to Come....I actually can't wait for all the things that will go down this coming year as I meet all of you again (GAH like you don't even know how much I miss you guys)....and prepare for another year...

email me whenever you get the chance... I like jokes.  Preferably cheesy ones and/or ones that are NOT politically correct.

love from Europe, then from Middle East, then from Asia....then from home...


Sunday, July 11, 2010

To Trench, or not to Trench?

okay so p.s. I had SO many more pictures and plans for this blog but there's been a lot of issues so they are a no I apologize for the lack of interesting material for this post!  Pray that my camera and memory stick are alright because they are freaking out and misbehaving....

The Team, first meal together!!

The bedding Michelle and I got in our 1-star hotel (like a 5-star compared to some of the places I've been at)...the rest of the team was jealous

Hey Homes

So here we are, now on the home stretch...7 days and counting till I trek it back to the b-dot and then the finally the k-dub. After Thessoloniki I eagerly arrived at what turned out to be the sketchiest train station to date to meet up with my first Habitat for Humanity team member. After learning that both he and the leader that met us upon arrival in Skopje hailed from Waterloo, the homesickness that I’ve been mostly able to avoid began to set in hardcore as the prospect of returning has become more and more real to me. This dream of a trip is ending, and absolutely incredible as it has been…I’m getting super pumped about what’s in the works for the remains of the summer, and the year to come. Something tells me this trip isn’t going to be the end of what’s in store for my life…and it’s pretty wicked to see it all unfolding. Home is not a sad end to this crazy venture, but a continuation of what has been produced as a result of it all.

That said….things are not yet finished here overseas. My present location is with my team on a bus to Ohrid city for the weekend after 5 days of digging and plastering and digging (details here: [LINK] they asked me to do a blog for the team!!). It’s been wicked learning from such a diverse team; everyone so different from the others, but connecting in so many ways. I’m learning from these guys in areas I hadn’t even thought about before, and at the same time beginning to grasp how I am able to contribute to them also while we share stories and dreams. It's really neat to see how a group of people who arrive from all different walks of life can learn to connect and share and grow with one another.
 We’ve also learned a pretty sweet story from our leader about how each member was added at just the right time and in the right way, just when things were looking hopeless back in the planning stages. It was pretty sweet as apparently nearing the end of the process, right when things needed to be finalized, two members dropped out and one guy and one girl spot needed to be filled, and a guy Mike and I both applied fully (me with my paperwork already complete from Thailand and Mike with his stuff all sorted out in record time) the day before the two backed out – filling in the spots that would have caused the trip to be cancelled….so that’s pretty encouraging to know how things are still being pieced together.  There's also some talk of me leading a team or two in the future for Hfh which is pretty sweet - nothing permenant, no worries..but for more temporary ventures (hopefully every vacation I take won't result in quitting jobs and leaving everyone behind! ...or maybe that'd be fun...?) I'm pretty excited about that..

Essentially the build is going great, as much as the homesickness has not seemed to let me go for long periods of time since setting in early Sunday morning….but I’m not letting it ruin the sweet stuff that’s going on within the team and the build site, but trying to allow it to spur on a deeper desire to maximize this time before I trek it home and leave my mark behind….Please keep me in mind as I wrestle with taking these amazing opportunities in, and anticipate seeing all of your faces once again… you guys have been so incredibly supportive and I MISS you, and can’t wait until we’re no longer typing words to one another but actually hanging out face to face. Although apparently I’ve got a lot of t.v. and movie watching to catch up on….so perhaps I won’t see any of you for another month while I sort that priority out… we’ll see if I have time ;).

Check out the HfH blog, if you’re interested…we’re having a good time, and the amount of laughter going on is definitely helping the yearnings I have for all your faces…

 I’ll message and do a final (or second last) blog before embarking on my massive journey home as I have 7 hours at the train/bus station before bussing it back to Athens and there's a great internet cafe there…so feel free to email still, and thanks for those of you that still haven’t forgotten me after all these weeks!!  You've been more amazing than you realize.



Saturday, July 3, 2010

It's all Greek to me! (I couldn't resist)

Night to Day; Watermelon to Chicken; Hockey to Riverdance; China to Greece!!

Picture's after Writing this time...
p.s. I'm not editing this I apologize in advance for any mistakes...I'm a horrid speller. my plans shifted and morphed and twisted around while in China, I had at some point decided to leave Beijing a couple of days early and take a rest in Athens as my plane landed here anyway - and who doesn't want to see Greece??

As I said goodbye to the girls, I didn't really realize how much I'd miss having company. In Hong Kong I had grasped onto the chance at being alone and independent, and jumped at the opportunity to figure stuff out, wrestle with who I am, challenge myself, and establish my character apart from much of who I was before and didn't want to be, and push myself to embrace better things and be steadfast in who I am and what I value (What a run-on sentence! Sorry, I'll let you catch your breath........). I began to anticipate again a time of refreshing independence and another time of rest and growth...but upon reaching Athens (after making a hilarious new Italian friend who was living temporarily in China and forced to go home because she could no longer use her feet - whole other story, AND experiencing the worlds worst-run airport in Moscow), I found myself bewildered and not at all at peace in the way I had been anticipating.

But I wasn't fully alone - still bummed out - but not alone. After I retreived my luggage, I went to take out some euros and literally none of my three cards were working. Not any machine, bank, store. Then I tried the internet...FB and Hotmail, both wouldn't work...and here I thought Europe would be a paradise compared to China (it turned out to be so in many respects, but at the time I wasn't feeling the warmest welcome). I went to a pay phone...only credit card access - super. Bewildered and discouraged, having been brought crashing down from my high romantic hopes of Greece right from the get-go...I went to yet another bank teller - desperate. The one I landed in front of was in the midst of a conversation with an older, retired looking gentlemen who worked there but was on his day off..The two gentlemen were able to retreieve a mere 20 Euros out of one of my accounts - enough to get me to my hostel and pay for one night - yessss....oh but wait, I was assured, much to my delight, that the metro was on strike for the day (I've got some great observations about the transportation system here in Greece...)...iye, what to do, what to do?

I must have been radiating helplessness though I was trying so hard to put on a happy face, as Nikolas (the older Gentleman's name) offered to point me in the direction of my bus that he happened to be taking as well. Okay, hope was returning. As we waited for the bus, and I milked all the advice I could about sightseeing from this grandpa as possible, he bought my ticket, AND we discovered we were headed to the exact same street, only a block away from where each other was going (he was heading back to the main bank where his office was...).
...I want to intercede here to explain to all concerned that I WAS being very cautious, and constantly playing things alertly by ear - but he ended up paying for my subway too...and carrying my giant bag to my hostel, much to my opposition...and trust me...a man of 65 could NOT run away with that I wasn't worried...

Okay, so essentially I was shown directly to my hostel, having had everything paid for (I love being a charming foreigner), and even had my bag delievered much to the thankfulness of my shoulders... then..when I asked where a good restaurant to eat for cheap was - he offered dinner but no worries! That's where I gracefully declined and hung out around the guys at reception for a while.

So getting to my hostel was sweet (the money ended up being sorted out once I got ahold of a computer), but I was still pretty bummed...and realizing more and more that the Medditerannean is simply not meant for one. But of course, I wasn't about to waste away, so I went out and had some incredible food, miandered up the highest mountain in the middle of athens...and watched the sunset and made some more friends (two Geology Students from England, and an old but very peppy flight attendent from Montreal who gave me the scoop on how to sneak into the bar on the top of the Hilton Hotel to nab a view and picture of the Acropolis at night...) inbetween taking moments to just sit and enjoy mellow as I was. The night was gorgeous, and I just chilled out, let myself try to figure out what was up with me...and just soak it in.

The next day was the way that I had imagined it could be while on the plane...It started out with copious amounts of food (pictured), and then essentially was made up of an entire day of wandering around the Acropolis, the Agora, the temples, the Plaka market, up and around the ally ways, stopping at cafe's every so often, etc. Being on my own this time allowed me to stop several times and ponder life in the very same quite places the greats did once upon a time..

Athens and Thessoloniki (the city where I am currently - I want a day early to try to catch the train because there is NO schedule information available - there is no just show up and hope there's a working phone numbers to the stations, no internet info; nothing - AND I've discovered...Greek guys are very quick to talk to you - but are literally usless in wanting to offer any substantial help. Greece trains, buses, and subways run when they feel like it.).... have become really calm places of reflection. I've only got two weeks left overseas...I can't even believe it. I know I will miss what I've been through here immensely.... but the time sitting alone atop ancient ruins and by the sea have caused me to really solidify who I am when I get back. Of course I'm still me....but the amount I've learned and experienced and been taught would be an utter waste if I returned the same...It's pretty wonderful how traveling can change you, especially when you seek to recognize and find lessons that aren't so obvious. Sometimes we change without trying, but most of the time positve change is something we have to be first open two, and second push to continue and work on.

I've got another couple of crazy weeks ahead, and I'm so pumped to finally be doing this other build that I've been wanting to do since the fall (sorry Megsy, you'll get yours soon!! love you!!! :)). I'm ready to get my hands dirty again, and looking forward to the final things God's gonna teach me before I return to Waterloo (and of course the Btown, for a bit ;)). I've thought long and hard about this past year, and those before...and who I really want to be at my core; the values I've got or want to have, the character I want to posess and work on and fine tune.... and the strenth I find in the one who has done, is doing, and will do all of this in me. It's going to be messy...but I'm not settling for average, I've been looking at where I've gone wrong in the past, and what I need to put myself into boot-camp for, which a lot of this trip has been... and this year is pretty exciting as I begin to make goals and look at my desires (that are hopefully not my own) for what is going to go down over the next twelve months and on and on.

Hold me accountable - call me out...and if you want, I'll reciprocate...... coffee date, anyone?

I think that's all for now... I didn't really plan this blog out too much, so I probably missed some things that should have been mentioned...but I'm going to include some pics after I write so hopefully they will inspire me to fill in the details that I've missed.

Athens and Thessoloniki DID turn out to be amazing - not in the extatic way that I anticipated, but in the calm, assuring, steadfast to wrestling to peaceul, thankful and quiet ways...which was probably needed after the whirlwind of China, and before the blitz of the coming two weeks.

Thanks all again SO INCREDIBLY MUCH for your prayers and support and friendship...keep in touch STILL...even though I'm home soon doesn't mean I don't want the life updates still, or the jokes, or words of encouragement...everything is appreciated and I'm trying to stay on top of all the be patient with me...but don't stop...I love you guys!!

Also, if you have any suggestions about movies that I've missed this summer - please make a list...I'll have some work to do.

Oh, and NO ONE tell me what's happened on The Office, Glee, Bachelorette, esp. the office... I don't want to hear anything that has come from Dwight's mouth until I've heard it myself...and then can repeat stuff back to you. Laura, that means you. ...and everyone else.

Oh and happy belated Canada Day, everyone!! I'll have to set off some fireworks when I get back too just to make up for missing cheesy, but so necissary every year...

I've got quite the list of stuff to accomplish when I get back...suggestions and company welcome...including getting a job..or two..please pray for me!!

and also that my India visa will work out - every city I go to doesn't work out with timing/process so I only have one option left - here's to hoping :).

What I rambler I am!! Apologies for any of you who bothered to read past the airport stuff...or even past the pictures. I appreciate the dedication more than you realize!

opa!! (does anyone ACTUALLY know what this means?!)

see ya soon,

- gray

First Meal in Greece!! I was starving and so obviously this was amazing - Moussaka with Greek Salad (look at the size and imagine the taste of the feta - mammamia!)
On to of L-mountain (Highest in Athens...and there's Charlie in the background)
Athens! First Night!

Sunset...yeah...I stuck around...

Breakfast! Baklavah and coffee

View at breakfast the next day...

Okay so this was breakfast on Day two...literally this was the "half-Gyro portion" ....I actually didn't have to eat ALL day until a small dinner at 8:30pm....and it was cheap too!!

22 Ezra - I bought one of these guys and shipped him home to guard our


Dogs EVERYwhere...and bigger than the ones in China...chillin at the Parthenon..Pepper, don't be jealous

The Chinese can't get enough!! I met this girl when she asked me to take a picture of us on the hill!! She's heading back to China in two weeks...we bonded.
...AND Shout out to K-wol and Turner gifted kids - Oedipius Rex, right here!!

Ancient Agora where Socrates chilled...and Acropolis in background...


Lunch...more baklavah... peanut, pistachio and orange...I need to learn to make this stuff - I WILL learn to make this stuff....writing that down now...

Cabbage salad...taking a break from all the pastries - still amazing though!

Breakfast! Fresh apple pie - just made...and Frappe... once again...didn't have to eat till dinner :)

Thessoloniki!! "The White Tower" in the backgroun apparently used to be red from they painted and called it "white" for a better image...