Catching a crab: balancing practicality and fun in Ghodivali

As part of my communications internship with Magic Bus, I’ve gone into various communities to learn more about how the NGO aids and educates the children in impoverished areas. One of those communities was the tribal village, Ghodivali, in rural Maharashtra.

Despite being just two hours outside of Mumbai, the children in this village were disconnected from the outside world: in fact, I was the first white person they had seen in their lives.

The way these people live could be viewed as depressing and in many ways, it’s certainly not ideal: some live in makeshift shanties with little access to water or electricity with frequent power outages. Mothers tend to be housewives while fathers work in agriculture or serve as day laborers. Once the children finish fourth grade, they have to walk several kilometers to the nearest school.

Yet despite all the challenges and obstacles, these children were the happiest kids I’ve ever met. We began our journey planting trees at the school to provide shade and teach the children the importance of protecting the environment (which is definitely not a priority here, where people defecate in the streets and throw their trash anywhere they want). The children were in absolute awe when they saw a foreigner. They were not used to people coming in and showing interest in them.

We took a walk up a small hillside and sat by a waterfall. I was pleased to see some of the schoolchildren had changed out of their uniforms and followed us. They raced up the hill and across the rocks with expertise — and barefoot. They beamed with all their teeth, but were timid around me since they could not speak English and I did not speak Hindi. I observed them for a while and noticed them scanning the water and grasping into the river.

“They’re catching crabs,” a Magic Bus mentor, Nachiket, told me.

I was shocked. If I saw a crab, my last instinct was to reach in and grab it. I continued to watch and heard their jubilant and carefree laughter. I stood up and approached a little girl who was clasping several small crabs in her hand. I pointed.

“Can I see?”

She cracked open her hands so I could peek in. Before I knew it, she grabbed my arm and put all five in my hand. They scurried up my arms and I yelped, dropping them into the water. All the children laughed at me relentlessly and I feel a huge smile creep upon my face. I quickly bent down to collect her crabs from the river and returned them to her. They kids were thrilled and one little boy began pulling the crab’s legs from its body. Again, I was horrified. Nachiket started laughing, and then he explained that the children not only make a game out of catching the crabs, but they take them home to cook them and have them as a snack.

I was amazed. It was the perfect blend of practicality and fun. They created a fun game to entertain themselves and pass the time in a place where not much otherwise happened, but also used the environment around them for nourishment.

I went back to the house I was staying in and sat near the balcony, gazing out at the beauty of the mountains just beyond the village, when I heard laughter. Across the street, a small cluster of children gathered and were waving at me. I went outside and approached them. Several of the girls grasped my hand and arms and tried to say something. I had to express nonverbally that I could not speak Hindi, and then we realized we didn’t need to speak to have fun.

We began to play familiar games such as freeze tag, but they also taught me many other games they loved to play in the village. As the minutes turned to hours, other kids began to join. I waved to some of the children watching from the other side of town watching from afar, and they were excited to be invited to play. A little boy saw my phone and asked me to take a photo of him, and before I knew it, every kid was piling on top of each other for their chance to be in the camera.

Soon, a heavy downpour started (as it often does during monsoon season here in India), and I went inside to eat and reflect on my day in my journal. I asked myself when was the last time I went outside and just played for fun and honestly couldn’t answer. I couldn’t remember a time in recent history when I laughed out of pure, innocent fun. It was the greatest day of my life, and it was all because of these kids.

Didn’t I come to teach them something? To educate them? Instead, they were the ones teaching me. I have always struggled with severe anxiety and high stress. I had difficulty enjoying the small things, as I was always worrying about the future. In one short day, these kids demonstrated what I’ve struggled to achieve in 19 years of life.

I am so grateful I had this experience and think about the kids in Ghodivali every day. I hope one day I can have just a fraction of the joy they have.

Real-life ‘Spotlight’ editor Marty Baron at Ohio University

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Marty Baron spoke to the public today at 7:30 in the Schoonover Center at Ohio University.

Marty Baron, the executive editor of the Washington Post, paid a special visit to my freshman Journalism 1010 class today. Despite his impressive resume of the Miami HeraldLos Angeles Times, the New York Times, the public knows him best as the former editor of the Boston Globe during the 2002 Spotlight investigation of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Photo from The Hollywood Reporter

The Pulitzer-prize winning story was so high-profile and important, it inspired an Academy-award winning movie “Spotlight”, starring celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Keaton. Baron was played by Liev Schreiber.

Baron speaking to my freshman class was a huge deal (and that would be an understatement). The executive editor of a major newspaper took time out of his schedule to speak to a classroom of potential journalists, which shows how important the future of media is to him. Following his speech, I shook his hand and thanked him for coming. He was extremely welcoming and kind.

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Marty Baron gave an introduction to a free screening of “Spotlight” at the Athena Cinema.

Later that night, the Athena Cinema in Uptown Athens screened “Spotlight” for free, where Marty Baron again made a guest appearance to introduce the movie. Surprisingly, the theater wasn’t very full so he spent a few minutes chatting with two of my friends and me (I was pretty starstruck by such a big journalism superpower, but I think I held it together pretty well).

Photo from Screenplay Explorer

Baron then spoke about the production of the movie. His colleagues, as well as himself, had little faith in the project initially. The movie took years to script, with thorough fact-checking and research, and quite a bit of time for a studio to pick it up. Actor Mark Ruffalo invested heavily in the movie, setting aside all other higher-paying gigs because he believed in the project. Still, expectations for actually getting the movie made were low among journalists, especially once Pope Francis–a pretty popular Pope at that–was appointed.

Yet, against all odds, a journalistic-driven movie that had no gushy love story, no flashy graphics, and no fast-paced action scenes not only entered theaters, but won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016.

After an emotional viewing of “Spotlight” for a second time, I headed back to Schoonover to listen to Baron speak again, this time to the public. After his speech, the director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Robert Stewart presented him with the Carr Van Anda Award. Baron is the 75th recipient of this award.

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Robert Stewart presented Marty Baron with the Carr Van Anda Award.

Baron talked about the 2002 Spotlight case, but also focused a lot on media in the current era moving forward.

The Washington Post has dealt with some pretty heavy issues this election season. Republican nominee Donald Trump revoked The Washington Post’s press credentials for months, which have recently been reinstated. Trump has called journalists “disgusting”, “scum”, “low-life”, “the lowest form of humanity”, then even “the lowest form of life”. Baron joked that he couldn’t really call us anything worse at this point.

This is a very difficult time for journalists. On one hand, Baron said, we have a Democratic candidate who has dodged hard-hitting questions for quite some time, then on the other, we have a Republican candidate who openly despises media.

I am only a first-year journalism major. Whoever is elected will be in charge for the duration of my academic career and potentially for the first few years of my professional career. It is terrifying to me that there could be a president who blatantly discredits my profession.

“The first amendment is at the very heart of what makes this country great,” Marty Baron said tonight.

Truth, above all, is what is important to good journalism. I am entering this field because of my passion for the work. There are important issues to uncover and expose in this world. “Spotlight” is just one example of the hard-hitting journalism that is vital to society.

Thanks to Marty Baron for visiting Ohio University and sharing his wisdom with us.

 

My heart goes out to Mason, Ohio

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A lot has happened this past week in my hometown.

Even though I moved to Athens three weeks ago, a part of my heart is still in Mason, Ohio. I spent my whole life growing up there, experiencing everything from far-too-early morning announcements, to stressing out over AP exams, to cheering on the Comets in the Black Hole on a crisp Friday night until my voice was hoarse. For the longest time, I assumed everyone was experiencing the same thing I was at Mason High School. I was very, very wrong.

When I heard a sophomore–a friend of my sister’s, even–took his own life, I felt a heaviness that I haven’t been able to shake. Depression is a real disease that is sometimes impossible to detect and it makes me so sad that he felt so alone that he thought death was his only option. It’s been said time and time again: we need to love each other and treat each other with respect. Every person should feel valued and important.

Then, just as I was coming to grips with this extremely heartbreaking news, I saw another upsetting story regarding a Mason graduate in my class. Bryson White, a football player who was known for making nasty and sexually suggestive comments to girls I knew, was recently charged in Michigan with accused robbery and and home invasion. If that’s not bad enough, his past began to be dredged up and some terrible things were discovered: four sexual assault charges, including gang raping a female with a gun to her head with two other members of the football team. This happened behind a Catholic church in the city I call home.

It makes me sick that Bryson White not only got away with raping and sexually assaulting girls in high school without consequences, but was able to play football at the collegiate level. I’m extremely angry that he continued this disrespectful and illegal pattern in college, but glad he will finally learn the lesson that it is never okay to violate a woman in any way and he can’t depend on his athletic skills to protect him. He is not a football player who made a few mistakes. He’s a rapist who happens to be good at football. There is no excuse for that sort of behavior.

So Mason, I am sorry. I am sorry to all of you who lost a classmate and a friend. I am sorry to all the women who have been violated by Bryson or anyone else, physically or verbally. I am sorry that there is so much pain in my hometown and I cannot be there to grieve with you.

I’m not saying I have the solutions, Mason. I’m just saying that I am sorry and my heart goes out to you this week and always.

(I would like to thank all the girls who did the post-it note encouragements this week to lift the spirits of Mason students. This is what love is. Keep spreading it, MHS.)

Sexism in Olympic coverage

As many of you know, I’m not a sports person by any means, but like any American, I enjoy cheering on my country during the Olympics. But this year, however, I noticed a very upsetting trend in the coverage…

As a journalist, I understand that our job is to be inclusive of an entire population. I’m not asking for Olympic reporters to push any sort of feminist agenda or incorporate bias of any kind; I simply want a holistic portrait the achievements of all American athletes.

The coverage of the Olympics is not only just so apparently sexist, but is a reflection on American society and values, especially highlighted in this global competition.

Christianity and Left Wing: Not mutually exclusive

A few days ago, someone made a comment to me implying I could not be both Christian and liberal.

He began to explain: overall, Republican policies align with Christian morals. Despite his rationale, I was taken aback and severely offended by the implications of my faith and political beliefs.

No, I’m not going to sit here and bash the Republican party, because I am mindful and respectful of everyone’s opinions. Instead, I want to acknowledge that there are good Christian people in all political parties. Also good Muslim people, good Jewish people, etcetera. There are good people in every religion, culture, demographic, and political party.

But more specifically, I’d like to outline why I am both a Christian and a liberal, and why that’s okay.

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I believe in protecting the world God gifted us with. 

If you’ve ever stepped foot outside, God’s grandeur is evident. The problem is, humans are destroying our planet. God only gave us one Earthly home and it’s wasting away from pollution, development, global warming, fracking, oil drilling…just to name a few. I do believe Jesus will return before we destroy our home forever, but it’s not about just surviving. It’s about preserving His incredible gift to humanity for not just our enjoyment, but for generations to come. I back government funded environmental agencies and laws that limit corporations and protect our world.

A friend of mine from Florida told me about how the ocean in her area is green. In the past, farmers’ pesticides and other chemicals would run down and pass through the Everglades, where the vegetation would filter out harmful chemicals and other pollutants before reaching the ocean. Unfortunately, wealthy sugar cane farmers set up shop in the Everglades and persuaded politicians to help redirect the pollution straight into the ocean so their crops would survive. As a result, algae bloom destroyed sea shores and thousands of animals (dolphins, fish, etcetera) died. Not only did the environment suffer, but so did the economy. Small towns where fishing and tourism were the main industries took a huge hit because the fish were gone and no tourists wanted to come see an ugly green ocean.

This is just one example of how industry can destroy our planet. These companies need to be held accountable for their actions and this is made possible through government agencies and legislature. God trusted us with this magnificent earth. I want us to take care of it.

For more information on environmental stewardship and God’s word, click here.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” -Psalm 24:1

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A mission trip to Northfork, West Virginia, the poorest town in America

I believe in giving aid to the less fortunate.

An important part of being a Christian is giving assistance to those who need it. There are those who argue that this assistance should only be given privately or independently, but the fact of the matter is that a majority of those in poverty will never have someone reach out to them in a way that will affect them long-term. Mission trips and charitable donations are so important, but there needs to be more. Financial aid to those who are impoverished need to be dispersed by the government for basic human necessities, such as food and a decent living space. Not everyone living in poverty, unfortunately, will be touched by a charitable donation or benefit from the generosity of those on a mission trip. It’s just not possible. But, in my opinion, they can be helped by government funds.

In the book I am currently reading, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, the author mentions a proverb Haitian peasants have: “Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe,” literally translated to, “God gives but doesn’t share.” They are saying that God provides all we need, but it is our job to disperse the wealth and resources amongst ourselves.

God tells us repeatedly to help those in need. Since the government ensures the pursuit of happiness, surely food and other basic human rights are included in that statement.

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” -Hebrews 13:16

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Photo from emaze.com

I believe everyone is welcome at God’s table.

I mean more than tolerance. I’m talking acceptance of everyone. That means gay men, lesbian women, transgenders, Muslims, Atheists, everyone.

So often I hear the argument, “Gay marriage is a sin and our country shouldn’t allow that.” Well, aside from the whole separation of church and state thing, Jesus asks us, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). It is not our place to judge others and the way they live their lives, but rather it is our own responsibility to live in honor of God and keep ourselves (and our own sins) in check.

Rather than pushing away the LGBT community, we, as Christians, should be embracing them. They are children of God, just like us. We should love them and bring them to church and introduce them to Jesus and get them excited about faith; the same way we would for any of our other friends. I have several gay friends who have told me they are intimidated by the church. Friends, this is so sad! We need to not be judgmental, not be condescending, not be exclusive, but be wholeheartedly accepting of every person, no matter their background.

This does not just pertain to the LGBT community, but to those of all faiths and cultures. We need to love Muslims, love Syrians, love Palestinians, love Mexicans, love everyone.

No matter who we are, where we come from, what our sexual identity is, what color our skin is, we all share one common factor: God loves us.

“God is love.” -1 John 4:8

Oppression

I believe in giving a voice to the oppressed.

So many people harbor hate in their hearts. This can be seen through unnecessary police brutality towards African-Americans, talks of prohibiting Muslims from civil-war ridden countries and dangerous situations from entering the U.S., hate crimes against gay citizens, the list goes on.

The minorities do not always have a platform to speak and advocate, and it is our responsibility to do it for them and make sure everyone gets treated not only like a human being, but as a child of God.

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” -Psalm 9:9

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I hope I was able to provide some insight to those who share the misconception that Christians cannot be liberal. Again, these are my personal opinions and while I know they might not be 100 percent shared, I know they will be respected. I feel blessed to live in a country where I can share my beliefs safely.

Outer Banks Sea Kayaking

Excruciating sunburns, aggravating bug bites, and blistering heat may not seem the most appealing way to spend eight days, but it was my reality.

From July 11-18, I was blessed with the most incredible opportunity to go sea kayaking in the beautiful Sounds of the Outer Banks thanks to the generosity of the Cutler Scholars Program at Ohio University. In addition to a full academic scholarship, my wonderful benefactor, Ms. Joan Wood, funded my trip to North Carolina where I would participate in the most physically and mentally challenging week of my life. Despite all my challenges, it was deeply rewarding.

Throughout my journey, I kept a journal. Here are the chronicles of my adventure:

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Day 1: Monday, July 11

Lots of firsts today: flying alone, layovers, sea kayaking, wet exiting a kayak, etc.

I started the morning at 2:30 (yes, a.m.) and was accompanied by my parents to the airport. Considering the last time I flew I was four, I was, of course, nervous and scared to fly alone. After my parents waved goodbye, I felt emotional and immediately petrified…But then an emotion overcame me I haven’t ever felt: excitement for the unknown. I felt giddy and light. The entire flight I just stared out the window at the sunrise, completely happy and in awe of God’s beautiful world. After airports and layovers, we got to the course and it is beautiful. We took the kayak out to a nearby shore and had to practice wet exits, which was kind of terrible and kind of fun. The instructors flip you over and you have to escape the splash skirts and the kayak underwater. We then learned proper rowing techniques and to be honest, it’s hard work. I feel like I won’t be strong enough for the expedition. I’m very excited (and nervous) for what lies ahead.

Praises

  • new opportunities
  • good company
  • safe travels
  • I saw three dolphins

Prayers

  • strength
  • courage

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Day 2: Tuesday, July 12

Today was hard. I got so wrecked. We bused out to Harker’s Island and learned how to pack the kayak (which is hard, by the way, and makes the kayaks extremely heavy). Then, the kayaking itself. It was very difficult for me to row. Strength is not my strong suit for sure. Then, we had to unpack the kayaks and “put them to bed” (raccoon-proof them, cover them, lift and move them on shore) then carry all of our gear and take a short hike to our campsite. That hike killed me. For some reason, it was my breaking point lugging all of that weight after such an exhausting day at sea. We set up the tent and then split off for about ten minutes to be alone with our thoughts. It felt cooler on the beach and the waves were beautiful and I started crying. My spirit felt broke. I was hot, sweaty, exhausted, and somehow sunburnt (despite the eight reapplications). The top of my hands are fried (tomorrow will not be fun paddling). I couldn’t escape my feeling of despair and cried out to God. I was sobbing. I missed my family and my home.

I pleaded for God to give me strength and courage and almost immediately I felt peace as the waves swelled. If God created such a beautiful, intricate world, surely He can take care of me. I have faith, but I don’t know how I will repeat this for another six days. On the bright side, the sat by the ocean for a long time and just marveled. SO BEAUTIFUL.

The sunset was incredible. I still feel physically and mentally exhausted, but I trust Him and thank Him for the opportunity to grow both in myself and in my faith.

Geography

Shackleford Banks (tonight’s campsite) used to be home to many, including early settlers and Native Americans. This is due to the Maritime forests, a rare ecosystem that grows because of its protection from the salt by the sand dunes. But, once a major hurricane rolled in and split Shackleford and the Core Banks, many people lost their homes and the rest picked up and left. As a result, there are wild horses that roam Shackleford Banks. I saw a mom and baby horse today. Very cute!

Praises

  • beautiful scenery
  • new opportunities
  • God’s unconditional love for me
  • the waves and the ocean
  • good group of people

Prayers

  • physical strength
  • mental resilience
  • physical healing of sunburn, dehydration, heat exhaustion, etc.

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Day 3: Wednesday, July 13

God is GOOD. I am writing this as I sit in the sand amongst colorful and large seashells overlooking the beach. My prayers worked. Yes, today was hard and hot and challenging, but my attitude and stamina were better. I was in a tandem (a two person kayak) today, which was much better. It was nice to have someone helping with the paddling, as well as someone to have a conversation with. We went about the same distance, but it honestly felt shorter. Instead of crossing a big expanse of sea like yesterday, we wrapped around a few islands and peninsulas to end up on another part of Shackleford Banks. After we unloaded the boats, we went back out and learned some new paddle strokes. After that, I’ll admit, I started to feel tired and the feeling of hopelessness struck me again. I noticed that hits me around five while unpacking the bags and setting up camp, but our camp is closer to the beach tonight, so there’s a better breeze.

Mother Nature is really kicking my butt. First of all, a crazy thunderstorm rolled in at about two in the morning. I used to find storms soothing–that is, until I was in a flimsy tent on the beach. Secondly, THE SUN IS MY WORST ENEMY. I applied sunscreen 12 times (yes, I counted), and I’m still burnt. There are splotches all over my legs and my hands are still awful. The long-sleeve Columbia shirt did aid my arms. Tomorrow, I will break out the gloves to protect my hands.

This trip is really testing me to adapt and go way outside my comfort zone (I will definitely have a newfound appreciation for toilets and plumbing when I get home!). I know that’s a good thing, but oftentimes I feel hopeless and sad and lonely and just can’t wait to go home. But this moment right now–seated beneath the cotton candy sunset, the scent of salt striking my nose, sand pressed against my legs–this moment is perfect: something I would never give up.

One third of the way finished!

Praises

  • BEAUTY and MAJESTY of His world
  • the cool breeze
  • some overcast to help a little with the sun
  • hydration (I drank more than a gallon…much better than yesterday, which helped me feel a lot better)
  • good opportunity

Prayers

  • physical healing
  • positive attitude
  • enjoy the present

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Day 4: Thursday, July 14

PRAISE THE LORD!!! By far, this was my best day. Now that I’m somewhat used to this, it wasn’t terrible at all. I woke up an hour early and watched the ocean. It’s mesmerizing. Then we ate and packed up the boats and set out. It wasn’t hot–thank goodness–due to the wind. I felt good. The wind, however, was a huge disadvantage. We had to cross a huge channel from the Shackleford to the Core Banks. The currents were working against us too. In addition, wind was 15 to 20 knots in the opposite direction (which is awful for kayaking, especially without any cover from land). We had to stop right before crossing and wait there for an hour with lunch because of the weather and the general attitude of the group wasn’t so good (people were feeling sick, upset, etc.). We came up with a game plan to stick close together and began to cross. We had to continuously paddle nonstop. It was tiring as we overcame extremely choppy waves. The water splashed everywhere. I was soaked. The waves shook us and it was incredibly difficult, but dare I say…FUN. It was the most fun I had on the whole trip. I felt so successful when I finished.

We are camped tonight by the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. There are trees (the first shade we’ve had in days)!!! We are camping in the woods. There are others nearby (our first human contact outside of our crew) camping and they have the most adorable chocolate lab puppy I got to play with. There was also a freshwater outside shower. It was the most refreshing feeling I have ever felt. Cold(ish) water that was salt-free! I felt brad new. We had a chance to fill up our water bladders for the group for the next few days and even use real bathrooms. There was even a pavilion we could use for eating. It was a rewarding night for a difficult day. I am joking around with the crew and laughing and finally feeling like myself. Yay!

Geography

The Outer Banks is referred to as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic”. Thousands of shipwrecks litter the area as a result of the shifting sandbars and shallow waters. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse was created to help combat the problem.

Praises

  • group safety during the crossing
  • health
  • freshwater showers (no soap, but still!)
  • less sand!!!
  • shade
  • good attitude
  • fun group

Prayers

  • safety in the heat
  • experience the present instead of rushing it

Halfway there!

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Day 5: Friday, July 15

Sand everywhere. Normally, this would drive me crazy, but not today.

This morning, I woke up with a splinter completely lodged in my foot (which I got while going to the bathroom in the middle of the night and no, there were no tweezers), an extreme rash (from walking around in wet clothes all day), and a swollen lower lip twice my size (from saltwater, sun…basically everything I’ve been exposed to all week). We were falling apart, so the instructor threw us a lifeline. We stayed by the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. We started the morning with breakfast. I made some delicious hashbrowns. We then headed to the lighthouse. Since our arms had been working out all week thanks to the paddling, it was our legs’ turn (216 steps straight up). The view was totally worth it. It was breezy and beautiful. On one side, I could see the breathtaking Atlantic and on the other, I could actually trace the path we paddled through the Sounds. I felt accomplished. After lunch under the shelter (shade!!!), we took the kayaks on the water to practice rescues and have fun. I stood up in a sea kayak in choppy waves and 10 knot winds! Very cool. I got to relax in the water and rinse off again in the showers. Our instructors decided we were getting a little too comfortable with the facilities, so it was time to head back into the wilderness. Let me tell you, trekking across an island with a heavy pack, two gallons of water, and a tent in the blistering heat is not fun, so my 5 o’clock sickness struck me again. Luckily, clouds rolled in and covered the sun and I was able to eat.

Okay, back to the sand. I’m on solo time now: a 12+ hour stretch of being completely alone and sleeping in the sand dunes (not in a tent, just under the sky). I had my little sleeping mat and sleeping bag set up and was seated by the beach in the soft, white sand. I was praying and suddenly burst into tears at completely amazement in God’s power. That’s never happened to me before. I could not believe that He created the tiniest grain of sand stuck to my skin to the magnificent ocean crashing white-capped waves on the shore. I was filled with total, awe-struck wonder. Then some bad clouds rolled in promising a terrible storm. The instructors raced down the beach telling us to go back to our tents. I was so upset. I wanted to stay there forever. I never felt closer to God than I did in that moment. I prayed for it to pass so I could just experience Him and sure enough, I’m back sitting on the beach, slathered in sand and happy about it.

I’m glad to be in this moment. He gifted me this incredible opportunity. Instead of thinking to the end of it–praying for showers, cold water, etc.–I should be happy in this moment. To be alone and not lonely is a wonderful feeling.

(Okay, random side note: I just moved up to my sleeping bag and found a ghost crab–a small, white crab that roams Carolian beaches at night–on my mat.)

Tomorrow will be hard. A 10 mile expedition, according to the navigators: our longest yet. But I’m not worried. God said it best: “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:34).

I’ve struggled with anxiety and worrying constantly about what lies ahead and I know God is using this trip to teach me that He will take care of me and I am stronger than I think.

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Day 6: Saturday, July 16

Today was extremely eventful. Here’s why:

  1. Sleeping outside may seem like a good idea, that is, until the bugs decide to make an appearance.
  2. Despite the bug net I wrapped myself in, I have, no exaggeration, at least 500 bug bites. When I get bit, not only does my skin turn bright red, but it swells immensely. Some have even combined into one giant, softball sized lump. Yay!
  3. A thunderstorm rolled in at about 3 a.m. I sat straight up on my lightning mat wrapped in a rain tarp, praying not to be electrocuted.
  4. I got to see a beautiful sunrise with lightning strikes behind the clouds.
  5. Someone was sent home. The instructors believed he was posing a danger to us by being negative and disrespectful. He took a ferry off the island.
  6. Another crew member got sick and had to go back to base camp.
  7. With two people down, our group felt a little discouraged. The clouds began rolling in and the winds were bad.
  8. The storm passed, luckily, and we began our longest trek.
  9. Conveniently, my rudder was broken, so steering was a pain.
  10. We finally stuck together as a group. Smooth sailing!
  11. We boated through marsh today instead of beach. Nice change of scenery, but it was very muddy.
  12. Since we docked the boats, we didn’t have to lift and move them. Yay!

Tomorrow is final expedition. We plan our route to base camp and execute it with no instructor help.

One more day!

Praises

  • happy crew
  • teamwork
  • good attitudes

Prayers

  • finish strong
  • good weather for the four mile channel crossing

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Day 7: Sunday, July 17

Today was perfect.

4:30 a.m. wake up, which was hard, especially with the no-see-ums (or as we coined them: the tiny bugs from Hell). They were everywhere and they swarmed us. I was going crazy. I am covered in so many red bumps. We were efficient in getting the boats packed and quickly eating breakfast. We were on the water by 6:15.

We got to see the sunrise on the water. Since it was so early, the water was so still and reflected the rising sun like a mirror. That meant easy paddling. The channel crossing wasn’t difficult at all. We finished at 8, which was super impressive for my team. The instructors said it usually takes a crew until about 2-4 p.m. to finish on final expedition. This meant we had plenty of time to enjoy the day. After we cleaned the gear for a few hours, we got to take a SHOWER!!!!!! I never knew a tent, a hose, and some soap could make me so happy. I felt clean and content. It was an amazing feeling. I even broke out a fresh outfit!

Since there was plenty of time, they drove us from Marshallsberg to Beaufort. We visited a nice little museum all about the Outer Banks. I liked seeing the route we travelled on the map and being able to learn more about the environment. There was a film about Blackbeard, whose ship was wrecked in the Outer Banks. Interesting history. We walked alongside a marina to a small post-office-turned-visitor-center. It honestly felt weird to be a part of civilization again. And the air conditioning was cold! I had gotten used to the heat (which, by the found, I found out this was the hottest week of the summer with a heat index of over 100 degrees every day…) Then our instructors bought us all ice cream, our first cold food in a week and it tasted so good.

Back at base camp, we had it made. They set up lawn chairs (a luxury so we didn’t have to sit on the ground), and made us a dinner as a celebration. We spent the night laughing and talking and having a great time. We ended the night by driving out to a beachside patch of grass and circled up for our final evening meeting. We discussed how meaningful the trip was. We hen presented each other with our course completion awards. Finally, we picked up an Outward Bound pin and picked a moment that we’ll carry with us forever. It was touching.

I am sitting in my tent contemplating the trip. I will miss these people. I will miss the ocean. I will miss this experience.

Thank you, God for this.

Praises

  • great company
  • my optimism
  • WONDERFUL experience

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Day 8: Monday, July 18

Final morning waking up in a hot, buggy tent in North Carolina. We ate breakfast and did some paperwork. After that, one of our instructors did a reading of an essay about what we’ll take home with us. We hugged the instructors goodbye and loaded the van.

Turning on my phone felt weird. I was suddenly connected again. I loved being able to call and text my parents, but there are some sad aspects of being back on the grid. I saw news reports of a major terrorist attack in France, political turmoil in Turkey, etc. It’s odd you can be gone and it feels like the world is different from your perspective but it’s the same and nothing’s changed. Well, that’s not true. I’ve changed.

I’ve been sitting in the small New Bern airport for about 6 hours now. I’m an hour away from my flight. The rest of my group filtered out. We mustered our final goodbyes and headed our separate ways forever. We all have a shared experience though.

No, I can’t take home the boats or the ocean or the beach. It may seem I’m arriving back in Cincinnati with only sunburns, bug bites, and an Outward Bound pin to show for my experience, but in reality, I’m bringing back so much more. I am taking with me some less tangible things: confidence in myself, compassion for other, mental resilience, teamwork, and so much more.

Thank you, God (and Ohio University!) for this life-changing experience.

 Click on an image below to enlarge and view in slideshow mode.

The bad apples

Last year, I wrote an article in the school newspaper about police perception in light of a horrific event (the most timely at that point: Baltimore and Freddie Gray). When interviewing a Officer Andrew Herrlinger of the Mason PD, one quote stood out to me: “Are there bad apples? Absolutely…We’re just people…This career field is no different than any other field.”

And here we are, one year later, dealing with scarily similar events. Two innocent citizens murdered within a day of each other at the hands of the policemen because of the color of their skin. Now, I’m not going to post a long-winded explanation of why we should respect the police despite all this and not let the few “bad apples” be indicative of the entire force because frankly, I shouldn’t have to. Every law-abiding citizen should have no reason to fear the police; most of them are here to help us.

I respect law enforcement and of course we can not judge the entire police force based on the actions of a few. But, if that is going to be your argument, you must acknowledge there are bad seeds in any group of people that do not represent the entire demographic. That goes for Muslims (whose entire religion is often condemned because of terrorists–who aren’t even any kind of representation of Islam, but that’s a different discussion), Christians, Atheists, Democrats, Republicans, white people, black people, etc. You can’t use the argument that police officers are mostly good, minus the few bad ones, and not also give other groups more credit than the terrible things you’re seeing on the news.

Unfortunately, there will always be certain people with the inclination to do evil. The best we can do as emphatic citizens is not attack each other out of anger and fear.