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Raquel ama Nicaragua!

I never thought I´d be ringing in 2009 locked inside a religious compound in urban Nicaragua, streets exploding with home made firecrackers and singing praise songs into the night with a bunch of people I´ve grown up with at church, but there I stood!

We didnt drink any koolaid (cant drink the water here anyway) or wear white sneakers, but we were locked safely inside the missionary safehouse La Quinta in Managua, and for the first New Years Eve in a long time, i blew noisemakers (thank you Victoria, yes I opened everything already! love my secret amiga!) and wore pajamas and watched the years change completely sober and totally unworried about finding someone to kiss when the clock struck midnight!

I can´t believe its 2009….I wonder what the year holds in store for me…but right now I´m just focusing on this sweet mission trip we´re on! I am in Managua, Nicaragua, in a great host family house, having an awesome time! We went to their church service Thursday and the praise was awesome, we were singing and dancing and clapping and crying, the church is so excited for us to be here. Huge praises on a secular note also because i have found Beans in a Bag!!!! I bought 15 dollars worth and hot sauce and coca light and trits ice cream and was so stoked to put it on a credit card! and tuna with jalepeños! Life is good!

We just had our second day of Vacation Bible School with 160 kids, 45 more than we had yesterday, we had an incredible youth night last night and an activity day panned for this afternoon, and its all going really wel. Somehow I have been volunteered to emcee everything and translate a lot as wel, and lead all the songs and bible verses, so I am constantly sweating and exhausted and practically eating excedrin with caffeine to stay awake, but having a really good time. Every time I fee ilke I´´m about to collapse, a cute kid climbs in my lap and gives me kisses and smears their face paint on my cheeks and everything is okay.

Nicaragua is a country that needs so much help…60 to 70 percent of moms are single moms, teenage pregnancy is out of control high, drugs and gangs on all the streets, 80 percent of the population is living on less than two dollars a day…these kids fee like they have no chance, they have no role models, they have no future….I´m so glad we´re here to provide a litte bit of help and encouragement, especiay to the youth. (Sorry this “l” key doesnt reay woork!)

We had awesome conversations last night with the young women of the church about what it means to be a woman of God and about the stresses in our lives and having dreams, and they were realy open with us about the pressures they face to have a boyfriend, get married and have babies, or just to get pregnant, their friends who have kids at 17, 18 years old, one girl told us she had been offered money from men to sleep with her, about how people tell them they won´t make it or they think they can´t go to school and folow their dreams. It was realy moving and we got some great feedback from some moms of the teens today who said their kids came home so excited about what we´d talked about, because its not really a culture that encourages honest conversation about yoursef, and they felt really touched by our openness and vulnerability, and knowing that we´´re facing the same kind of questions they are and even with al our differences, Americans and Nicaraguans have so much in common, we all sleep under the same blue sky and we all have a heart and a spirit and dreams adn the same Dios!

I hope everyone is doing wel, i miss you! This is going by realy fast but its realy touching my heart and I feel so blessed to be here.

Con amor de Cristo

ps its sooooo good to be back! crowded dirty streets, kids runnign barefoot every where, horses eating the soccer fields, pollution, chicken busses, trits ice cream, beans in a bag, pringes con limon, spanish everywhere i go, men caling me ¨¨reina¨¨ on the streets, the skin melting heat, the kisses on the cheeks and hugs from people ive never met! i heart central america


Ah, New Year’s Eve; we meet again. The most anti-climatic of holidays. I have spent you in some pretty awesome ways – drinking on the streets in Hong Kong, singing in a piano bar on a ship in Antarctica, jumping into the waves in Rio de Janeiro, locked inside a religious compound in Nicaragua, riding a bull at a bar in Hollywood, lighting fireworks in Tahoe, making ice cream sundaes at Grandma’s. 

NYE Antartica 2016

Tonight I will meet 2020 after an early dinner with my parents, where I was the designated driver (PLOT TWIST OF THE DECADE), and our goal was to be home by 9pm to hang out with the dogs. Goal. Achieved. And then some. We were home at 7:30.

New Year’s seems mostly about setting resolutions, and the louder you announce them, the more you should mean them. So I shouldn’t announce any here, because resolutions can be traps. I always kiiinda set some, knowing full well I will mostly fail, because nothing about me is going to change overnight to make it possible for me to magically accomplish things I’ve really been meaning to do for years. I’m the kind of person who announces on Sunday that she’s going Keto, and then is found up to her armpits in french fries by noon the next day. I have little to no self-control about things I truly enjoy and see little to no harm in enjoying.

I do love the occasional challenge or contest – I’ve done chocolate free and french fry free Lent, Sober September, lived without TV for years, successfully avoided a healthy BMI for decades, so I know I can manage some long-term goals if I truly set my heart on it. 

But every new year brings a new kind of hope that I will be able to drastically change bad habits overnight and morph into the version of me I am in mind (she looks like ‘90s Britney Spears but wins Oscars, hosts SNL, and owns beachfront property). Every new year brings a new kind of hope that something amazing might happen – some sort of fairy tale or “When Harry Met Sally” situation when someone I’ve loved all along admits they’ve loved me all along and we get all dramatic about it. Every new year brings a new round of “Really?! Another year has passed? And I STILL don’t have it all together? I’m not even mad, I’m impressed.”

You know what does color me impressed? I am really loving that everyone is putting together all these lookbacks at the last decade, and showing through pictures and personal writings all they’ve been through and learned in the last ten years. It’s a first of its kind situation, since in 2010, we didn’t have instagram or Facebook to help us remember all the highs and lows, or provide us a place to showcase them to the world, provide us a place to give shoutouts to those close to us who have helped us through tough times, or who have entered our lives in meaningful ways.

NYE 2010 in Hawaii!

Ten years ago today . . . well, I had to look it up, to be honest, but I was in Hawaii with my generous aunt and uncle, their kids, my sisters, and a truckload of rain. We went to Hana and it was miserable! Cockroaches everywhere, rain so hard we stayed inside and watched DVDs of “Everybody Loves Raymond” on repeat. It was funny. Then my sisters and I went to Disneyland with Gma, which was something she would always get a bee in her bonnet about – she had to take the kids to Disneyland, and she’d bring a book to read, and we’d run around to all the rides and then run up to her breathless about whatever we’d just done and come meet her to go to lunch and do Pirates of the Caribbean altogether. Those are some of my favorite memories.

Disneyland January 2010!

I don’t know how or if I could properly recap the last ten years . . . a decade ago I was 25 and thought I knew it all and also had no idea what I was doing. Here we are ten years later and. 

Well. I do like data. I could try some numbers . . . 

In the last ten years, I’ve lived on three continents, taught 13 grades at four schools, all subjects including 1st grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, Latin/Spanish/Drama/Bible/Photography/Yearbook. I had one horrific flight where an engine blew outside my window after takeoff that I thought had ended travel forever for me. But I’ve visited 17 countries since then. I’ve driven across the USA from West to East coast two and a half times. I’ve bartended, taught, nannied, waited tables, been unemployed, battled massive bouts of depression.

my house in NC when we strung everything with lights but forgot to check that they worked until it was all done. still laughing so hard my stomach hurts.

I had one white Christmas, once sung at an open mic night, read the entire Bible twice, took countless selfies with penguins, had one love of my life, and got over that breakup when I thought was the end of my life. I wrote eight articles for the Huffington Post, hiked in the Appalachians and the Sierras, swam in the Atlantic and Pacific and Indian oceans. I’ve become fluent in two additional languages.

I cannot count how many times I have packed my life into a suitcase, or how many roommates I’ve lived with. Cannot count the number of friends I’ve congratulated on their engagement/wedding/gender reveal/actual childbirth/divorce/remarriage. 

when besties get married

I cannot count the laughs, the tears, the memories made at the expense of work or sleep. The appetizers and desserts and drinks and road sodas and night caps and late night talks and early morning hikes. The selfies attempted versus the ones we accepted as canon. I cannot count the terrible encounters I’ve had with men that I might have settled for in earlier years, but certainly not now, when I know I deserve better.

Cannot count the many blessings that awesome people, women and men, have poured into my life with encouragement, advice, ‘keep goings,’ ‘praying for yous,’ and offers for coffees or happy hours to just catch up and be cool to each other. 

When in doubt, be someone people want to be around.
Like Sasquatch.

Ten years ago, I could have never imagined what and where my life would be now. I was in my first year of teaching, without a credential, Latin, which I did not know, at a super conservative private school. I lived in a shared house in Concord. I just wanted to get married and start a family and get a french bulldog and that’s about it. 

I’ve learned a lot in the last ten years – they’re probably the most formative of your life, from 25-35, because you’re out of high school, college, fully coming into who you will be as an adult. And I’d write the lessons learned, but everyone’s already done that, and we know, don’t we? I think instead I’ll write what I’d say to 25 year old me. And we can all imagine she’d listen.

Hey, Rachel!

This is future you! Guess what?! You are gorgeous. You are all you need. You are okay. And I’m not going to spoil anything here, but I do want to reach out and give you a literary hug and a bit of advice. The next ten years, like every passage of time, are going to bring their trials and tribulations. They are going to make you want to go walkabout, take lots of naps, cry in public places, laugh until you cry, laugh until you pee your pants. You are going to make some really questionable choices. You are going to make some really GREAT choices. You will always tell people to make good choices themselves. 

wienerever you’re in doubt, just be you.

You will be judged and criticized and you will wonder if there is something wrong with you. You will be told you are “too ____________.” But I want you to remember that the world gets only one you and you get only one you, too. Why would you be anything less than all you are? God doesn’t make mistakes.

If I could boil it down to just a few pointers, it would be this:

  • it doesn’t matter what it costs if you’re going to have fun. Or it means something to you.
  • you will always be tired. Always stay up for the chat.
  • only be vulnerable with people who you trust will be vulnerable with you.
  • don’t ever be ashamed of things you are enthusiastic about or scared about.
  • drink water and wear sunscreen.
  • you look better than you think – wear it.
  • throw parties. Everyone loves organized fun.
  • donate and volunteer.
  • collect stories and memories and pictures and write things down.
  • send cards and texts and let people know when you’re thinking of them.

Again – the world only gets one you, and you only get one try. Don’t stop at go.

Here’s to 2020! May anything bad get better, may everything good get better.

traveling stuffs

I like this pic of me. Adventure, animal, travel, and I miss that scarf.
I like this pic of me. Adventure, animal, travel, and I miss that scarf.

I love me a good travel. I’ve done tours, backpacking, solo trips, road trips, chicken buses, well-planned and no plans. To date, I’ve been to 29 countries, mostly Central and South America and Europe. And I’ve been to 31 states. I’m from California, have lived in North Carolina, Washington, and Brazil, and am moving to Hong Kong in July 2017.

My last trip was Chile/Argentina/Faulkland Islands/Uruguay on an Antarctic cruise. PENGUINS!

My next trip is Idaho!

I’m by no means a professional traveler or professional blogger. My travel stories tend to run on the “check out this totally crazy thing that happened and here are the pics.” I hate when people are snobby about traveling, or post a bunch of “Date a Girl who Travels” or “You Should Totally Travel” without recognizing that most people don’t get to travel because they can’t afford it, or are married and have kids.

To be honest, I can’t afford it. Some of these stories are mission trips that people sponsored on. For Central America, I sold everything I owned to go. For Brazil, I sold my car. And I always live pretty cheaply in anticipation of traveling.

When in doubt, be someone people want to be around. Like Sasquatch.
When in doubt, be someone people want to be around. Like Sasquatch.


  • me describing the cute outfits i wore somewhere. i’m lucky if they’re clean.
  • me figuring out cool travel hacks. my bar for success is just surviving.
  • me doing a yoga pose during a sunset somewhere. beer bellies make most poses very uncomfortable.


  • that I am able to find a karaoke bar in any country ever.
  • that I am able to find cookies in any country ever.
  • several stories that explain why my mom often refuses to read my blog.
  • a stupid amount of selfies with silly things.
  • stories of friends from around the world.
  • animals.
  • nature. nature’s my favorite.

Please let me know if there is anything you would like to see, or like to know! Until I figure out something better, the blogs are organized by country or concept:

mission to me

wee me! trying to abscond children from a young age, I'm afraid.
wee me! trying to abscond children from a young age, I’m afraid.

I’m sharing in Chapel next week. Our theme is “Missionaries” and mission trips have completely shaped my life for the last seventeen years. In case some of you don’t know the story, I thought I’d practice my chapel share a bit here. It’s pretty sweet.

At church, I always heard about our big mission trip and I REALLY wanted to go. I’m not sure why…I wanted to speak Spanish and be around Mexicans from a very young age. This still stands. But you had to be 13 to go without a parent. When the year finally came, my grandma Susi sewed me long skirts that were reversible and had pockets (my sense of fashion was just forming into the elastic-band-only stance it is now. I was ahead of my time) and I packed shirts that wouldn’t show as much of my sweat.

The drive there was endless and Ensenada was hotter than blazes. The showers were hoses out of walls, the bathroom stalls had no doors, you couldn’t flush toilet paper, and I got my period unexpectedly. This might have also been the year we ALL got Montezuma’s revenge. The story is one I tell every time to newcomers, stubbornly brushing my teeth with tap water, to “build up my immunity.”

we're normal. check out my shirt from the drama department at school.
we’re normal. check out my shirt from the drama department at school.

I remember we went to the church and split in groups to walk around for a few hours, knocking on doors in the neighborhood to invite kids to come (something we’d never do now!). We had Vacation Bible school, with sweaty snot-nosed damp-bottomed kids in our laps, sweating buckets, screaming worship songs about frogs who knew Jesus at the top of our lungs.

Our ministry was small and our afternoons free to hang out at the camp. There was a woman who led the praise and worship, had been a longterm missionary in Africa and was amazing in general. She indulged me by sitting under the trees and playing any song you asked her to. I especially enjoyed the ones from “Sound of Music.” One day she said I had a good voice and should learn how to play guitar. I laughed and thought it was a silly idea, but told my family I’d like a guitar for Christmas, thinking it would never happen.

the beginning years!
the beginning years!

Fast forward a few years and my new guitar and I were still going on the mission trip, but now also leading worship (poorly, I might add. I quit my lessons after six weeks because my super creepy instructor suggested we spend weekends up at his cabin together smoking pot) for the team, and then for the women’s ministry, for the teen girl ministry. (I eventually got better, don’t worry. :) )

From the first, the trip changed me. My desire to learn Spanish became a huge part of my life. I made best friends with girls in Mexico and sobbed every time I had to leave them for a year without contact (this is all pre-email days!). I saw people living in abject poverty, that I could do nothing to help materially, but that were happier than I thought possible, simply because they had Jesus.

Within our group, I met adults that believed in me, cared about me, encouraged my talents. I was given leadership opportunities at a young age and connected in supernatural ways with the people I met in Mexico and the people I grew so close to from my church who went on the trip. I realized that being a Christian doesn’t mean you are a boring dork for the rest of your life.

meet viri, my best amiga since we were 14.
meet viri, my best amiga since we were 14.

There were scary times the other 51 weeks of the year – my partying was out of control, I was wildly depressed for different reasons and not really talking about it. I really couldn’t financially afford to take a week off my two jobs and pay a lot of money to go on a mission trip, but every year, no matter how much money needed to fall from the sky (and I would tell our directors, “if God wants me to go this year, money literally needs to fall from the freaking sky.”), somehow it always did. I’d get a phone call that someone had dropped off a check to go “where it’s needed most,” and they had decided that I needed it most to go. And so I kept going. And I loved it. I was the best version of me, the happiest me that week. Because I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.

I ended up double majoring in Spanish and the Socioeconomics and Politics of Latin America. I had no idea what I would do with those degrees. In Mexico, July of 2008, I was baptized in a shallow pool on the campgrounds where I had become a person I liked. In front of about a hundred people, I led worship, gave my testimony, and with some of my best friends, with my youngest sister there, and two couples I consider spiritual parents, my lifelong youth pastor baptized me (this was incredibly special, as he moved to Alaska shortly thereafter).


Because of my passion for Spanish and the people of Latin America sparked from that first mission trip, I went backpacking for six months through Central America. During that trip, I got to translate for a medical mission in nowhere, Honduras. That was a really nutty experience – the hardest part for me was that it wasn’t church-based, so I couldn’t even say “Can I pray for you? God bless you.” and call people my sisters and brothers. It felt really odd to be very clinical with people. So I stopped being clinical. I hugged and kissed and prayed, blessed children and told people to go with God. I realized that was the only way to feel like I was lending any kind of hope.

Before I went backpacking, one of my spiritual parents from that mission trip asked if I would be interested in going on a youth-led mission trip to Nicaragua, literally a few days after I was scheduled to return from my backpacking trip. I told him I could put a deposit down, but nothing else. Because money would have to fall from the sky.


The money ended up falling, and despite just having returned from months in chicken buses, scrambling over Mayan ruins, eating dodgy food from street vendors, I went on the mission trip. Had an incredible time with a truly talented group of young adults from my church. At this point, I had been a part of Mission 2 Mexico for almost 15 years. I had landed back at home with my parents after returning from the backpacking and the Nicaragua trip. And I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.

A few weeks after the Nicaragua trip (which rocked my world more than I care to admit), we had a reunion dinner. At the end of the night, the mom of the hosts asked how I was doing (terrible), how my job search was going (miserably) and how she could pray for me. At this point, I had applied to 40+ places. Safeway wouldn’t hire me. Starbucks rejected me. But Susan asked me what my dream job looked like. I replied “I don’t have time for dreams, I need any job.” And she said –

“Our God is a big god. What three things would your dream job have? Tell me. Let’s pray about it.”

i didn't want to work...i wanted to hang out with kids like jorge!
i didn’t want to work…i wanted to hang out with kids like jorge!

I sighed (heavily, most like, inward eye roll at this ‘God is listening’ mumbo jumbo), and replied slowly . . . “Okay. Um. Dream job. Well. I guess. If we are dreaming (emphasis on this is BS),  it would have kids, languages, and Jesus.”

Two weeks later she called me saying that the Christian school she worked at was looking for a Spanish and Latin teacher at the junior high level.

When I went in to apply, the secretary told me that she didn’t think they were hiring, but I insisted I was meant to fill out an application. When I interviewed, the Principal said “You don’t know Latin and you’ve never taught before…what makes you think you can do this (‘this’ being six Latin classes, two Spanish classes, after school drama course and coach volleyball on a tiny salary) ?”

I said “I love Jesus, kids, and languages. I think it will all work out.”

now I'm in brazil, so kick rocks, bad things!
now I’m in brazil, so kick rocks, bad things!

And it did. I learned Latin, taught Spanish, started a drama club after school, and coached a volleyball team. I worked full time and went to school full time and graduated with a teaching certificate marked with a 4.0. Which was like Jesus saying “yeah, this is what I want you to do. You do good stuff with kids.” Because of that experience, when I was left flailing about for a place on this earth after breaking up with my boyfriend and feeling like I had thrown my life away, I was able to get a job teaching English here in Brazil, where I also lead worship on occasion, speak Spanish to internationals, and am easily still the most dramatic person I know.

God has hooked me UP. When I think there is nothing to do, and no way out, He finds a way for me. And it started with that first mission trip. A lot has been done for and with the people of Mexico, Nicaragua, and Honduras, where I have done mission work, but a lot of work has been done in me, too. I found talents God has given me and figured out how to use them for Him. I found community. I found role models. I found purpose. I found Jesus to be more real than I am sometimes prepared to talk about.

Sometimes I think the secret to Jesus is community. It might be in learning to care so much for each other, valuing each other, working with each other so much, that (if you can make it) you will become the best version of you, surrounded by encouragement, accountability, (hopefully) wisdom and experience and vision.

maybe its a weird community, but its good because its mine.
maybe its a weird community, but its good because its mine.

I know Spanish, I play guitar, I know I can sing, I’ve met and loved so many, I learned about responsibility and mentoring and authority from God through this experience. I’m still a Christian because of that mission trip. I owe my career to a mission trip. And the things I have learned and the God I’ve experienced while living the way we do in missions teams, even just the memory of it, saves me and pulls me to Jesus again and again.

I think I went on a mission trip because I wanted to do good things for other people. And I think I have, over the years. But what I didn’t understand then, and what I’m so thankful for now, is all the good things that serving a big and crazy God did and continues to do for me, as I keep working on being the best version of me I can be.

Top 10 Hot British Actors

When one speaks with a British accent, you sound instantly more clever and attractive. Fact. Your IQ level hasn’t changed a whit, and your teeth may be in twelve different directions, but you sound like a philosopher, a poet, a member of Parliament, and I want to have your babies. I want our babies to also sound like you. In my travels, I met several average-looking men who became heartthrobs the moment they began asking me to pass the light-torch or where the loo was. So attractive.

So tonight, as I muddle my way through school work with “Jane Eyre” romancing me as background noise, I’ve decided to take a break to pay tribute to some of my favorite British hotties. Enjoy the eye candy, ladies.

um. hi. 10. Clive Owen – Things that make him hot – he seems to not really know how hot he is. It is reported that when his “Beyond Borders” co-star Angelina Jolie called him “sexy,” he fell over laughing. He’s also hot because he’s been scandal-free married since 1995 to a non-Hollywood. He does like to play the bad boys and characters of mystery… “Closer,” “Children of Men,” “Godford Park,” “Sin City,” etc….but I wouldn’t mind trying to find the good in him.

brood for me, ralph!

9. Ralph Fiennesyeah, I know he’s also Voldemort and that is evil and gives me nightmares sometimes, but watch “The English Patient,” and you cannot argue with me how incredibly obsessed and sexy this guy is. I also loved him in “The Constant Gardener” and twisted in “Schindler’s List.” He’s an extremely talented and diverse actor.

ello, Neville!

8. Cast of “Harry Potter” – so this is a weird thing to admit because I’ve watched these lads in film since they were like 11 or however old they were when they began. But by episode six, it was clear that my feelings towards Ron Weasley were more than friendly. Something about his quirky family, adorable twin brothers, ginger hair, and odd sense of humor were very endearing. He had also been doing some working out. There is also the rest of the cast….although Draco will always be a bit creepy, he is a cutey. And I have a weird thing for Remus Lupin….again, the accent, and my weird affection for speech impediments. But this photo, which my sister posted on my Facebook a few days ago, totally takes the cake. And of course, there is my love for Cedric/Team Edward, Robert Pattinson, with his mess of himself that he continues to make.

chest hair FTW

7. Mr. Darcy #2 – Matthew McFayden – There was much to hoot and holler about with the recent adaptation of Jane Austen‘s classic “Pride and Prejudice.” Alternate endings for the “soft” American crowd? pish-tosh. And that someone would even dare to touch my beloved BBC version was almost too much to take. I am a HUGE Austen fan (I cried when we drove past her apartment in Bath, I cried at the baths of Bath, I have every book memorized, etc.) so I was a little wary of this latest attempt…but….omDarcy. I thought Keira did Elizabeth unexpected justice, and Matthew’s understated, brooding, handsome, broiling sexual tension as Darcy was spot on. Well, done, sir. Also a shout out to Mr. Bingley, who was all kinds of cute.


6. Liam Neeson – I understand we have a considerable age difference, and he’s technically Irish, so the accent’s different, but just as hot. I have a very soft spot in my heart for this man…dating back to my weird obsession with the movie “Nell.” I also love that he has worked as a Guinness truck driver, amateur boxer, and considered a career as a teacher. I love all his roles….”Taken” (though seen on a bus ride from Nicaragua to Honduras was arguably a terrible decision), “Star Wars,” “Love Actually” – his scenes still make me weep. “Clash of the Titains,” even his voice as Aslan in “Narnia” movies moves me. And if you’re a fan and you’ve never seen “Kinsey” … NOW.

5. Orlando Bloom – You had me at Legalos. Who ever thought an elf could be hot? Also his lovelorn slash heroic portrayals in the “Pirates” movies, which delivers all kinds of attractive.


4. Jeremy Northham – He’s never been given half the attention he deserves, so allow me to lavish it here. He plays the most handsome Mr. Knightley ever known in “Emma.” I love him in “Ideal Husband,” his brand of evil in “The Net,” and he positively smolders in “Possession.”

3. Hugh Grant – obviously he has a bit of sketchy past….but  he’s so dang cute. Here is another example, which, upon reflection, many of the men in this list may apply themselves to, of a man who is of average physical attractiveness, but because of his accent and British heritage that grants his a peculiarly cheeky sense of humor, he becomes incredibly hot. Hugh also strikes my fancy because he appears to be someone who is capable of and comfortable with laughing at himself. I loved him most as Edward in “Sense and Sensibility,” but to see him comfortably playing the jerk in “Bridget Jones,” and dancing to disco in “Love Actually” just endeared him to me all the more.


2. Mr. Rochester aka Michael Fassbender – Jane Eyre is my favorite novel of all time, and the latest in a long line of adaptations is quickly climbing the ranks as my favorite movie, thanks to Mr. Hottie with a past.

He is a marathon brooder, something I have discovered in composing this list that ranks high on my hotness requirements list. He has an air of “I don’t know how hot I am,” and always has his knickers in a knot about something. He is also gifted with the wry wit we expect of the British. (he’s technically German…don’t let that distract you)

1. Mr. Darcy. aka Colin Firth – There could only be one winner, and it must be him. This is the original crush that I first encountered when I was about 13 or 14 and just entering my Jane Austen phase that will prevail for the rest of my life. I still have my BBC “Pride and Prejudice” VHS tapes that I watched many a night though high school and college. This man invented the romantic Victorian brood. His turns at humor in the Bridget Jones films and “Love Actually” only buried him deeper in my heart. I’m uncomfortable with his bad guy in “Shakespeare in Love,” but everything else I’ve ever seen, even “Mamma Mia,” “What a Girl Wants,” he manages to retain his dignity, and restores it further with “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” and especially “King’s Speech” and “A Single Man” prove his mettle. He seems so gentle, clever, intelligent, and incredibly sexy. There could be no other winner. God bless Colin Firth.

honarable mentions: Hugh Dancy, Tom Hardy, James McAvoy, Christian Bale, Jason Statham, Daniel Day Lewis, Timothy Dalton, Gerald Butler, Sean Connery, Colin Farrell, Jude Law (who I saw in a *graphic* Oscar Wilde biopic for Honors English and simply can’t look at the same way anymore, and therefore couldn’t make the list.) Alan Rickman. Joseph Fiennes.

GringaDiaries: Street Smart in Guatemala

Dana and I headed to school…bikinis underneath!

We started Spanish language school here in Flores on Monday morning, It made me realize how much I LOVE school. I am a huge nerd for school! I could barely sleep the night before and I already had my outfit picked out. All I wanted were some new highlighters.

School is held in a library, and we are surrounded by the smell of old books. We each have our own teacher; mi mastra se llama Elga. She´s mostly nice, very chatty, divorced mom of two. Her ex left her and moved to New York, so we’ve been battling out her opinions of the Estados Unidos. I’m surprised and happy with how many diverse and sometimes controversial subjects the two of us cover. For example, she told me a joke about Mormons, and somehow we got on the subject of how I just read that 36 percent of Italian children are growing up and developing an allergy to gluten, and how awful and ironically sad that is for that pasta-loving nation.

The first thing we did was take a Spanish assessment test. Of course I was like, “I have to be the BEST! And I have to take this as fast as POSSIBLE!” because my inner over-achieving nerd was clawing her way to the surface. I must have been so obnoxious when I was a student.

Since then, my teacher and I have occasionally done some learning. And we get a half an hour break in the middle of school to go buy soda! Its like recess!! I come back all sugared up and ready to spout out ejemplos of the infinitivo and indicativo of any verb with a letter change!

view from the top of the hill

But the best lessons we’ve had so far have been the ¨free lessons¨ our director gave us on how to be street smart in San Andres, Guatemala. These lessons are also called:

¨Why the Guatemalans are laughing at you, silly gringo.”

For ejemplo, we learned to never ask for directions to a bar in Guate. As our director said, you can buy cervezas at the bars here, but you mostly go to “buy chicas,” ie, look for some love to pay for. He told me that if a girl were asking ¨donde esta el bar?” people would want to know if you were looking for a job! Yeah. A bar like we would think in the States as a place for some drinks is called a cantina. Important lesson!

Another good lesson…when you are feeling hot and want to express that feeling, dont say estoy caliente.” Unless of course, you mean what it translates, which is “I am horny.”

And very important, especially for girls, actually in this case, maybe more for guys, is to not do what most gringos do when they try to speak Spanish, and take the English word and adding an “el” to the front end of it and/or an “o” to the end of it, because you never know what youre going to get. For example, when you want to apologize to the nice Guate who is being so patient with you, and you throw out a gringonized version of your feelings and say “estoy embarazada,” what you’re really saying is “I’m pregnant.”
Loves it.

playing w the local kids

In other fun school news, we play Scrabble in Spanish to help with vocabulary, and its so much fun to see rr and ch and ñ as letters on the board. And the library has copies of tons of cool books in Spanish for me to read! For example, James and the Giant Peach, To Hill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter 1, 2, and 3. I´m very emocional right now and not eating much. My poor adopted mom thinks I either don’t like her food or am homesick. I think I am overwhelmed by this experience. I wish you were all here with me.

Also, addendum to previous post about the Spider of Death….I was feeling so much better about bugs, got home last night, washed my face in my bucket, reached for my towel, and came back with a cucaracha. It flew at my face, I screamed so much bloody morder so loud Dana ran over from her house to see what was wrong, And then she too screamed when she saw “wrong” on the door. Sigh.

Pray for me, my health, my safety, and my unshakable fear of insectos.

143 – Means “I Love You” in Pager Code. Perfect!

robyn in a pile of nica girls!

A dear, dear friend, Robyn Bickerton (or “Bickertwin,” as we like to tease them) is right now lying in an induced coma at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara. She goes to college in Westmont, and was driving back up the Bay when for reasons we don’t yet know, her car flipped three times off the freeway. She sustained some head injuries and there is brain swelling, but the hospital she is at is actually really well known for their care of head injuries. And the mom of a woman from our church is a nurse at the hospital and was able to pray with the family! That is awesome!

We gathered at church last night for a few hours of prayer and praise and worship. it was a beautiful example of the body of Christ coming together to support each other and lift each other up. i realize more and more how blessed i am to have a second family that is a family of believers. And as I grow up and face more trials in my life, to surround myself with these people is such a comfort. We can’t understand what is going on, but we have faith in a Father with a bigger plan, and in that there is hope.

If you don’t know Robyn and her fam, but maybe want to know more and pray about them, this is what they have asked for prayer for:

Charlie, Susan and Melanie believe in the power of prayer and ask that you all continue to pray specifically for the following…

  1. 1. Miraculous healing of Robyn’s body.
  2. 2. Continued decrease in swelling in Robyn’s brain.
  3. 3. Wisdom, Discernment, and Peace as they communicate with doctors and make decisions.
  4. 4. Strength as a family as they move through this experience.
  5. 5. That the name of Jesus is exalted in all facets of this experience.

Robyn has spent this last summer living in Mexico and

Robyn and Karla en Mexico

doing missionary work. Last night at church we reflected on when we first saw her run up to our incoming caravan and grab her sister out of the car, and we remember her laugh, and her sparkle. She is in love with Jesus from her fingertips to her toes. On the drive back from Mexico, we talked about her experience and she encouraged me to go to Mexico for the summer. A few years ago, i remember talking to her and her sister before they entered college, and we talked about my travels to Central America, how they loved Spanish and wanted to travel and do missionary work, and my “solid” advice to them (which I’m sure their parents appreciated) was “it doesn’t matter how much it costs, as long as you’re having fun. just go.” And the girls have been all over! Mexico, Nicaragua, Kenya, Argentina, Boston. I love it. the world needs more Bickertwin.

Her dad, Charlie, is one of the greatest prayer warriors our church family has ever known. Last night at the beautifully spontaneous and powerful prayer and praise night, a friend remarked that he’s never had a conversation with Charlie that didn’t both start and end with prayer of thanks and asking for God’s direction. What a testament. He is also a fantastic juggler and unicycler. No joke. The man can take a bite out of apples while juggling machetes and torches, AND speaking in Spanish, entertaining hundreds of kids on Mission 2 Mexico.

i love Rob’s mom, Susan, because she is a kind, sweet, and gentle woman of God. She has had a major role in where my life is today. Also a prayer warrior, she actually directly answered my prayers two years ago. We had come back from a mission trip to Nicaragua, and she and Charlie hosted a reunion dinner at their house. She asked me what my ideal, dream perfect job would be. At that point I had been unemployed quite some time, and not even Starbucks would hire me. but she said “Our God is big. What would it look like?” and I said “well….a dream would be something for Jesus, with kids, and something with Spanish.” A few weeks later she called me saying the private Christian school she worked at was looking for a junior high Latin and Spanish teacher. Talk about a miracle! She really helped my faith grow through her words and actions in that.

rob, mel, me in nica 2008

Robyn’s twin is Melanie. They are so alike but so different. I love watching them interact and asking if they can read each other’s thoughts. We have been on many mission trips together, the most memorable was probably Nicaragua (though maybe not the most favorite for Mel! haha sorry! She got really sick and her host dad got stabbed….it was….special). Melanie was just baptized in Mexico on this last mission trip. She is one of my favorite laughers…she has this silent laugh that also makes her kinda fall over in her seat.

And so we pray and we wait. We boldly ask God to heal Robyn, to bring strength and comfort to her family, wisdom for the doctors and nurses. It is incredible how quickly we can come together as a community, even across national borders…people are praying for Robyn all across the USA, in Mexico, in Kenya. We are texting, facebooking, emailing, Skyping prayers and encouragement. there isn’t a life that Robyn has come across that hasn’t been touched by her story…just today our friends in Kenya said that her story gave encouragement to a impoverished HIV-infected support group! We love you Rob…you are spunk and jazz for Jesus. He’s got you in the palms of His hands.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD….” Jeremiah 29 11-14

This light will shine when all else fades

I’m home! Again! I’d only been home two weeks, thrown into the tornado of Christmas and holiday spirit, and I don’t think I adequately processed my four month Gringa Fest before I found myself back on a plane, back in line for customs, flirting for a passport stamp, and slammed back into the wall of heat that is Nicaragua. What a quick, amazing trip that was….It felt so right and normal to be back in Nicaragua, sticking my head out the window of a traffic-weaving, horn-honking, chicken bus to drink in the smog and humidity and chaos of a Central American capital.

The nutty thing about this mission trip was that the one I go on every year to Mexico is a team of about 70-90 people, from ages 11-70ish, but this was a team of 13, with only one person that I could honestly classify as “grown-up and fully adult” (Ian, Tim, Ashley…you know what I mean!) doing the same intense high volume kind of programming. And we were really just a bunch of kids, with a lot of passion and ideas and determined to shine a light into a country that desperately needs it, with two suitcases of materials, and a loooot of faith. And it worked, of course. Things were crazy, things did not go according to our plan, but there was a bigger plan at work. So rad.

Nicaragua, just to give you some background on the desperate situation in the country, is similar to a lot of its Cen Am brothers and sisters, but still unique and so easy to fall in love with. Most of us probably lump Nicaragua together with all of Central America, a third world, Spanish speaking country, heavily influenced by Catholicism, US involvement, and scarred by decades of civilian casualty heavy civil wars. This is all true and the remnants are ever present.

Nicaragua also holds the title of second poorest country in the entire Western Hemisphere, behind Haiti, with 80 percent of the population living on less that 2 dollars a day. To give some perspective, the average American family spends 127 dollars a day, and spends more on alcohol and tobacco products daily than a Nicaraguan family spends just to survive. The civil wars and revolutions century have left many homes without parents, especially fathers. The concept of a faithful husband and father is almost completely foreign for a lot of people.

All this puts the vast majority of the Nica population at a great disadvantage in a worldly perspective. The Nica women are of a nation plagued with deeply ingrained machismo culture, where nearly two thirds of all women reporting that they have been or are victims of domestic violence at some point in their life, where women are facing the highest pregnancy rate in Latin America, with teens 15-19 accounting for 27% of these births annually, where our sisters live in a country where prostitution for those ages 14 and higher is legal and often the highest paid occupation for a Nicaraguan female, the easiest way to provide for your family; where children and women are constantly trafficked to other countries, such as the United States, for sexual exploitation; where one out of three girls is sexually abused in her childhood; where 20 percent of the population is illiterate, and even in the urban areas, a pricey education system forces most to drop out before even completing junior high, Nicarguan women, our sisters, are somehow surviving.

With all these alarming statistics, we just knew we had to have some sort of youth program to encourage these young adults in Nicaragua, and we had a night of small group talks. Knowing that this was not a culture that encouraged open honesty and sincerity about personal matters, we just sort of dove into the conversation. It was really awesome to see the Nica girls talking equally openly to us, about how school, the pressures of participating in the family home, in church, working, balancing with personal dreams, with watching their girlfriends have boyfriends, or husbands, or neither, getting pregnant and having children, and wondering what our own place was, what Gods plans for us were.

When preparing to lead this group talk, I tried to think about how life was like for these girls. Imagine while growing up, no one ever asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up. No one ever entertained your wild ideas of being the first female President, or being on Saturday Night Live, or working as a whale trainer at Marine World. These were all dreams of mine at one time or another, and no matter how fantastical they are, my parents and family never mocked me or told me I couldn’t. I was always encouraged to follow my dreams, wherever those might leave me, and grew up with the confidence that I can be whatever I want to be.

Knowing how much women, especially girls and young women, are generally ignored in this culture, have very little encouragement to pursue a career that interests them, in a place where the only thing you can really aspire to be is a mother, and hope you dont have to raise your kids alone, where people don’t even really bother asking you what your dreams are, so you might not even think to have them, it was awesome to hear these young Nicas talk about, for maybe the first time in their lives, their dreams of becoming a missionary, of being a child psychologist, or of writing praise songs for the church, of a young woman who had found God, and while attending school and working, realized she had no time left for Jesus, and took a leap of faith and quit her job, asking God to help her find one that allowed her to continue working in the church. Can you imagine anyone in the United States ever quitting a job because it interfered with church? That is amazing faith. A young woman talked about how she felt, unmarried at age 23, like she was looked down upon in society, but she had faith in God, and was slowly going to university while working, hoping to complete her degree in eight years.

These teens were way more responsible and had more faith and more determination than most people I’ve ever met, and with the least favorable circumstances. I’ve never been so inspired.

We got to stay at homes of Nicaraguan families, which was really neat. We got very close with our mom, Emma, who ran a pharmacy of sorts out of her home. Before we left she stationed us in different parts of her pharmacy to pray over her business. She had a 14 year old son with jerry curl hair that was somehow stiff and gooey with gel at the same time, who I never tired of teasing about how lucky he was to have suddenly found himself the man of the house with three gorgeous older sisters! We also had a Toto-like dog named Princesa, who liked to hump your leg and had fleas. Lots and lots of fleas. The heat in the house was suffocating and water was come and go but it was a really nice house by cen Am standards, so we were really lucky. we watched Simpsons and Friends with Spanish dubbing, and the only thing funnier than the Simpsons is the Simpsons with Spanish dubbing. Such good times.

The food was aaaawesome. There was just so dang much of it! We could never finish our plates, beans and rice fried in lard called “gallo pinto,” and tortillas instead of silverware, and fruit for days and all kinds of meat. My mom accused me of having eaten before I came home from the church because she thought I wasn’t eating enough, when I was really on the verge of throwing it all back up.

The crazy thing about helping others is that you usually end up being the one who is served. You can go with all intention of serving with all your heart, and “teaching” people things, and reaching out to the poor and oppressed, and loving on everyone you see, but ultimately I came away from this last mission trip feeling like I had been the one who was saved. Like Nicaragua and the team from Hope Center I was with had a mission to fill up my heart, to calm my fears about the future, to hug me unexpectedly, to remember the simple things, and to feel my sense of purpose in this world.

There’s still so much to understand from the mission trip, but I know that right now, I’m really happy, I’m really at peace, and I really love God and the world he’s made for us to work and play and meet each other in.
Amen y Amen.

ps if you would like to learn how you can help out the church we worked with, or the american missionaries we worked with that are living full time in Nicaragua, email me or visit Christ for the City Internationl at

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