Thursday, July 25, 2013

Week 52-- (belated)

So... I'm home from Montevideo! And I apologize that this final blog post is late. I have been soaking up being home with my family and "Yankee" friends for the past couple of days, so it has been hard for me to sit down and write. Although I said this would be my last post, I was encouraged tonight by my neighbor (and friend) to write at least one more blog post... once I get back into the swing of things, at the University and the daily grind. She noted that time apart from my experience means more time to reflect on it, and I couldn't agree more. I am going to try to take notes along the way, as to not forget all of these thoughts/reflections/feelings running through my head/heart, and then include some of them in the post. So if you're tired of getting my monthly emails... sorry... there will be one more coming in a few months! Blame my neighbor friend ;) 

I figured for this final blog post, I would write excerpts from my very last journal entry from Montevideo. I don't normally share my journal entries, but I think that it's a very real look into how I was feeling towards the end of week 52... my last week: 

"July 18, 2013 (but really 19 de julio because it's 3:40 am)

Welp! Tonight is my last night in Uruguay. This is weird. I remember laying in bed thinking, "how the heck am I going to do this for a year?!" when I first got here... and now I'm in this same position--in this same bed--but with very different thoughts: "How the heck has it already been a year!?" It really is so impressive to look back on this year, and as I reflect on it, a lump rises in my throat... as I have  very special place in my heart for Uruguay, and tomorrow I have to say "goodbye." I have seen so many new places, experienced so many different cultures and customs, tried so many new (and delicious) foods... and all of the above have been wonderful experiences that I will hopefully guard in my heart for the rest of my life. But more than anything, I have met and formed strong, authentic relationships with some of the best people I have ever met. I have learned so much from them, as they continually taught me simply by their example--and I'm pretty sure all the while they were unaware that they were teaching me at all... They showed me: how to have a heart of service--or, better said, the joy that comes with having a heart of service; selflessness; patience; humility; the fruits that come from curiosity when that curiosity is channeled into the desire to learn more...about the world and that beyond this world... the Creator of this world; active faith; the gift of accountability and the importance of a strong, consistent, honest, loving, faithful, authentic group of friends; the power of friendship, and how God can use an open heart to tear down the barriers of worry, awkwardness, and (the very real barrier throughout this year) language itself to help human beings come together as friends; the face of God. I really feel so blessed to have met the people I have met this year--throughout all of South America. God has truly revealed Himself to me through them, and for that I could not be more grateful--to God Himself and to my friends themselves. Gosh... what a year! What a year.

I am excited--and a bit nervous--but mostly excited to see how this year abroad affects this year to come... and the year after that... and the year after that... etc., etc. I hope, and pray, that this year, and all the lessons and the growth and the love that come with it, impact me in some way throughout every chapter of my life. It would be a shame for them not to. 

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU LORD! for this year in Uruguay and different parts of South America. It has been quite the journey, and I could not have asked for a better Friend to have traveled with...

What a year."

Masitas on my last Sunday lunch. Mouth. Watering.
Mis amigas, muy tiernas!
Mis últimos momentos por el Río de la Plata.
Cena con mi estudiante, Leo, y mi padre uruguayo.
Glow-ey eyes and lovely friends!
Los mejores vecinos!
Uruguay pride in the plaza.
Plaza Independencia never disappoints...
Montevideo threw me a "goodbye parade!" ... or maybe it was to celebrate Artigas or the Patria...
Mi otra familia uruguaya.
Muy, pero muy amables venir al aeropuerto! Y con la bandera!
Hasta pronto, padres uruguayos!
Hasta luego, hermanos uruguayos!
Hi Mom and Dad!
Kids (minus Marykate... plus Dad...)
First family dinner in a year!

Thank you all, so much, for following me along on my year-abroad! I could not have done it without your love, support, and/or prayers. 

Until the next (and last...!) post--

Courtney 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Week 51--

Welp, this is my last Sunday blog post from Montevideo. Gosh... that feels weird to type. As I'll be getting home next Saturday, my final blog post will be coming to you straight from the U.S.A. herself!

This week, my second to last week, has been jam-packed-full (quite like last week!)... and a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

But before I go into the roller coaster... I'll tell you all a few of the fun things I did this week: My friend Flor and I went to go see the philharmonic orchestra in Teatro Solis. It was beautiful! They invited a 20 year old violinist from Paraguay to come play... and he. was. amazing. I said to Flor, "What am I doing with my life...?!" when I learned how old he was. He played for at least a straight hour... AND HE DIDN'T EVEN LOOK AT ANY SHEET MUSIC! What a guy! Also this week, my friend Abby (who left today, wahhh!) and I went to our University to take pictures of the campus and say goodbye to the door lady, Betty. She started to tear up as we walked away. She has been such a joy to me since day 1 here... always greeting me with a smile, asking me about my family back at home, and chit-chatting away! Then I met up with some other friends for an ice cream and another goodbye. (<-- can you see where the roller coaster plays in?...it's a bit woven into the story I guess) This weekend my friends Abby, Bridget, Adam, Daisy and I all went out to lunch (to eat the LAST CHIVITO! Noooo!), and then the majority of us took a stroll around the city: stopping at the Palacio Legislativo... aka my most favorite building in all the country... and El Mercado Agricola which is a new (restored) place with lots of little stores selling ice cream, fruit, artisan beer, candy, pizza, etc. LOVED it. Recommended for anyone coming to Montevideo... if anyone is planning on coming here any time soon... Yesterday was the birthday of my good friend Marce, so a couple of friends from my church group and I went to her birthday party. We had a lot of fun together: dancing and talking till 3 in the morning (this is where you can tell that I'm still a "Yankee" at heart, cuz I went home at 3 a.m. while most of the Uruguayans continued on from there to go dancing for real... This Yankee  <me> needs her sleep!)

And then that brings us to today... my friend Abby left, I had my last Mass and last young adults group, and I had to say goodbye to some people in the group. Needless to say, it's been a rough day. These friends of mine have helped and accompanied me in my growth, personally and spiritually, and have been incredible examples to me of how to live with an open, serving heart from beginning to end.  But my (real) mom reminded me of something, which I find comforting: It's actually a good thing that I am upset, and that I find myself in tears saying goodbye to all of these people, because it shows that I care about them and that I have made wonderful friends here. It hurts because I do care about my new friends... and I am so blessed to have been given the opportunity to form these relationships and grow to truly care for them. So really... I should be rejoicing in my sadness! And I am: Thanks be to God, I have continued to grow in peace and thanksgiving, as I continue to say my goodbye's and reflect on the year I have spent here. <--- THAT'S the roller coaster. I am SO happy and at peace about the friends I have made, the time I have spent here, and about going home to see all of YOU(!! YAY!), but soo sad to leave all at once! It's a good thing I'm a fan of roller coasters...

And with that I sign off for the night! I will be writing one last post when I return--probably on Sunday--to tell you all about my final week and to reflect a little bit about the entire year.

La orquesta con Flor! 
 Pictures of my University-- Universidad Catolica del Uruguay (tilde on the o of 'Catolica')
 Hey, Abby! Enjoying the terrace?
 Summer Vaycay '013!
 !
Hasta luego, Betty! :( 
 Buenos amigos!
 PalaciooOOo00oo!
Favorite building in all of Uruguay.

Mercado Agricola. Beautiful way to end the day... praise God!
 
See you guys back in the States--
 
Courtney
 
P.s. But really... if someone has found where this year went... can ya please tell me!? I'm quite curious.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Week 50--

I DID IT AGAIN! I AM SO SORRY FOR NOT KEEPING MY WORD! BUT I AM WRITING NOW (for last week)! Forgive me?

This past week has been hectic, hectic, HeCTic... but in a good way! So many things to do, and places to see, and people to say goodbye to. Even the goodbye part is good...in a way... because it has allowed me to further appreciate the relationships I have made here. And boy, have I met some wonderful people. As the days continue to zoom by, drawing closer and closer to the end, I continue to be amazed by the hearts of my new friends.

On the 4th of July, aka my most favorite holiday, my fellow "Yankees" and I met up to spend a day full of all things U.S.A. It was rainy, so after a nice American lunch of hot dogs, we all cuddled up and watched Pitch Perfect in our red, white, and blue. So comfy cozy! It was nice to be surrounded by lovely girls who share the same pride that I have for our country. (cue: Proud to be an American!)  

Adopted-host-mom, Laura, welcoming me. She is wearing an English apron... Not okay. ;) 
USA!
 
After spending time with the Yanks, I met up with my Uruguayan friends for a night at the movies/slumber party. We saw "Palabras Robadas," which I think is called "The Words" in English. Whatever the title... it was really good. Makes ya think. When we got to my friend Pitu's house, she had a little surprise for me: my very own MATE! SO kind and SO so thoughtful. She even taught me step by step, with a lot of patience, how to prepare and serve the mate properly. I wrote it all down, so I won't forget. Interesting fact: When she had finished telling me the steps I wrote "Drink the mate!" and she said to me (without knowing I had written that) "Now you can serve the mate." It really hit me how I had thought about drinking the mate first, myself, while the first thing Pitu thought of was serving it to another. Does that say something about our culture? Or just about me, and my messed up priorities? Hmmm.. something to think about... Anyways, now I feel like an authentic Uruguayan! ... if only I could nail down the accent...
 



El cine.
Learning how to make a mate! (Pronounced mah-tay)
 
On Friday night, my church group surprised me with a going away party! The decorations were so cute--they did a little blog post spoof which was hilarious! I'll have to share it with you all when I return-- and we chatted, sang, and laughed (a lot) throughout the night. I could not be more thankful for these people. But I will write more about them in my next post... cuz on Sunday I have to say goodbye to them for real :( What I will say now is that I had a wonderful time with them on Friday, and I am so thankful for all of the planning and work that went into the fiesta!
 

Mis amigos!
Cantando por la noche.
 
On Saturday morning, I woke up early and jumped into a car with four of my friends to head to Minas, in the Uruguayan department Lavalleja. It's about a 2 hour drive or so... I think? Minas is BEAUTIFUL! I had such a good time wandering throughout Salto del Penetente, a park in Minas, with my friends--enjoying the waterfalls, lagoons, and trees, as well as conversation, laughter, and some yummy food. We also climbed up a hill called "Santuario de la Virgen del Verdun" which had an incredible view. Looking out into the distance, I felt so much peace. So for those of you who have been praying for me to feel at peace towards the end of my time here: your prayers are working! Keep em' coming (please)! Muchas gracias, Gaston, por planificar todo el viaje! Fue un dia precioso que nunce voy a olvidar.
 


Salto del Penetente.
Santuario de la Virgen del Verdun.
 
On Sunday, Gaston, Flor, and I met up in the morning to tour two churches in Montevideo. I, of course, missed the bus I was supposed to get on (classic)... which will come into play later. The first church we went into had SUCH a neat, painted, decorative ceiling--really so beautiful! The second church we went to was closed. Woops! WHY DID I MISS MY BUS!!!? <-- I kept thinking that. We went around back and rang the doorbell of what we thought was the parish office, which ended up actually being an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting... another woops! I then tried to play the "we're with a girl who's not from here... can you please let us in?" card. But, as I said, the parish office was not, in fact, the parish office, and our attempt didn't quite work...so we went next door to the retreat center to see if anyone was there who could let us in. There wasn't. We then walked back to the church to see the daily Mass times and JUST as we were walking past, a priest that I had just met on Wednesday at Misa con Tiempo (basically a Mass for young people... so cool to see so many young people in one room for the same purpose... can't even imagine what it would feel like to be at World Youth Day coming up) was walking by! So we greeted each other, and then I explained that we had come to see the church but couldn't get in. He said, "If you can wait 20 mins., I can let you in!" Long story short: we ended up getting an awesome tour of the church, in which we got to climb up into the roof/towers and see the view out the window into Montevideo, complete with explanations of the different elements of the church given by the priest. Later on, Gaston pointed out: "It is just so incredible to see how things work out, even if things don't go as planned." It's true... if I had made the bus, if we hadn't accidently interupted an AA meeting, if someone had answered the door at the retreat center... we would have never experienced what we experienced that day. Thank you, Lord!  

 
 La iglesia en El Prado.

This is the cross of Christ, where the salvation of the world is offered.
 
Sunday night, after my young adults' meeting, I went to my friend Marce's house to spend the night. We stayed up till 4 in the morning, chatting amongst ourselves and with her family and watching Bridesmaids (Damas en Guerra)... which is ALWAYS a good laugh. A fantastic way to end a fantastic week. And I know the next (and final) two weeks will be just as fantastic!
 
Until Sunday (I will try to keep my word this time!!)--
 
Courtney
 
P.s. Accent marks are not used in this post because I am so sleepy and do not have the patience to search for them in Google to copy, paste, and resize them in. "Gaston" has an accent mark on the "o," "dia" has an accent mark on the "i," and "Verdun" has an accent mark on the "u." I think that is all! Buenas noches! <-- no accent marks needed on that one...


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

.

Week 49--
 
I am SO SORRY I DIDN'T KEEP MY WORD about writing my blog post yesterday! But here it is! Week 49!
 
On September 2, 2012 I met a wonderful woman at Mass, Rosario, who became a fast friend. On that very day I wrote:
 
"...Furthermore, tonight at Mass I was asked to help with the collection. Another lady was helping, and when we met in the back she said something to me rápidamente (quickly) in Spanish, so I had to explain to her that I only know “un pocito” (a little) of the language. After Mass she came up to me and asked me where I was from, where I was studying, and if I had many friends. She was so excited for me! She then took me over and introduced me to another girl my age, gave me her email address, and said to contact her if I ever need anything at all. I talked to the girl for a bit, and the priest and other young people invited me to their youth group afterwards. I am going to attend next week."
 
Sidenote: The "lady" in this ^ passage is Rosario.
 
Looking back on this passage, two main thoughts come to mind:
 
1) Speaking to myself: Oh my gosh, Courtney... "pocito" is not spelled like that! It's spelled "poquito!" YOU WERE SUCH A NEWBEEEEE! (How do you spell newbee? Noobee? Nubi?) Anyways... I guess I wasn't lying when I told her I only know a pocito... I mean poquito... of Spanish.
 
2. THANK YOU, GOD, FOR ROSARIO! The "youth group" that the priest and young people invited me to, which all started with Rosario's kind heart and introduction, is filled with those who have become some of my dearest friends here. It is incredible seeing how everything has worked out. I know as the date of my departure quickly approaches, and especially as I am reflecting on my time here when I am back stateside, I will continue to realize even more of the many gifts I have been given here. I could not be more thankful.
 
So... last week I emailed Rosario because I hadn't seen or talked to her in a while, and I told her that I would love to meet up with her to chat and say goodbye. Next thing I know, her and her husband are taking me out to dinner in Carrasco, to a lovely restaurant, in which they order me the most delicious chicken, papas a la suiza, and strawberries and creme for dessert, and during which we enjoy wonderful, constant conversation. During dinner, we laughed about our meeting back in September and about how my Uruguayan story has unfolded from there. Their hospitality and kindness is a true reflection of how I know the Lord wants me to treat others. Entonces... muchas gracias, Rosario y Julio, por todo! Uds. son muy buenos amigos y estoy re agradecida que Dios los pusiera en mi camino en el Uruguay.
 
Una cena impresionante con personas aún más impresionantes.
 
This week I finished my last week of classes! This semester absolutely flew by... I cannot believe it is already over. Now it is on to exams! Woo!
 

Final day of class. Final exam for Production.
 
On Friday night, I spent the night at my friend Flor's house with some other girl friends. We went out to eat at the cutest 50's-USA-style restaurant and ate the yummiest cheese fries and chivitos... Unfortunately, I was exhausted and after talking for a bit and watching an episode of Friends, I fell faaaast asleep. But that's okay, because I needed to be well rested for what was to come on Saturday! (Stay tuned.) While spending time with these girls, I was once again reminded of the hospitality of all of my Uruguayan friends. Flor had made us a mandarin orange cake for breakfast, her mom had baked us a carrot-dulce de leche-meringue cake, and they made toast and cut up little cheese for us. Just so above-and-beyond without even thinking twice about it which is something I very much value about the people I have met here. It is a way of living I want to take back with me, as I hope to integrate it into my own life.
 

Amigitas en la pijama party!
Fallen pyramid.
Buen desayuno para caminar bien.
 
The moment you've all been waiting for...Saturday! -- I have made myself a list: "Things to do before I leave Uruguay." On this list was (emphasis on was cuz now it's crossed off!) ...was walk the whole rambla from Carrasco until Ciudad Vieja. To give you an idea of the distance... this is what the rambla looks like on a map (click the link). And we did it!!! It took us 5+ hours... but we did it!!! We walked the rambla!!! ...pausing to take pictures, buy food, and ride the pirate ship at the local amusement park, of course! I am so grateful to have friends who don't think I'm crazy and who are willing to be crazy with me. It was a gorgeous day, and I loved taking in the River, Montevideo, and the all of the time spent with special friends. Things I will miss :( but am happy to have experienced :)
 
About to head out! Nike4LYfeWUTevarr
Haciendo ejercicio mientras que hacemos ejercicio.
Woo!
Gawgeous Punta Gorda.
Swings.
This reminds me of It Takes Two. (The canoe scene for all you Mk&A fans out there...)
"Careful with the dog under the bridge!"
Pirate ship!
Made it!
 
Sorry this blog post jumps around all over the place! Como sea, hope you enjoyed it...
 
...Also, heads up: The next blog post, week 50, will be written on Monday. I am going to be visiting the botanical garden and some pretty churches throughout the day on Sunday and then spending the night at a friend's apartment, so I will therefore not have time to sit down and properly write out my week. Thank you for being understanding!
 
Hope all is well wherever you may be--
 
Courtney

All of Courtney's Weeks