Thursday, December 12, 2013

La Familia

In the past couple weeks I've been thinking a lot about family. This is reasonable, considering we are in the season of holidays that, for many people, is so centered on family. For pretty much my whole life the months of November and December are full of family togetherness. We travel from the various corners of the country and when we are all finally together it usually ends up with us belting out "I Believe I Can Fly" wearing blonde wigs and drinking whiskey... or some variation of this. So needless to say, it was very strange when Thanksgiving rolled around to see a photo on Facebook of my three siblings sitting in front of the fireplace and I wasn't there!

This is not my first holiday season away from my family. This will be my first Christmas away, but I've missed Thanksgiving before. It's always been hard, but what it's taught me is that family is really the same thing as community. And if you have a community, you have a family.

At Thanksgiving, my fellow YASCer Becky came to visit and we cooked enough food to feed about 20 people. Seriously. I had to freeze leftovers. We ended up having 6 people and it was truly better than I could have hoped. And I was with my Honduran community. My family.

I will have the pleasure of spending Christmas in Tela with Becky, and my family will come for the new year and I'm sure there will be no end to the singing and being ridiculous. But through this holiday season I've come to understand that I have family all over the world. And I'm incredibly lucky for this, because every time a member of my community goes somewhere new and begins to create their own community in this new place, we extend our family even further. So, my dear friends, what I would like to say today is that you never have to be without family. I love you all.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Difficulty With Prayer

I get anxious when I try to pray. It’s always been a struggle for me, but it’s something that I’ve managed to ignore for most of my life by never really taking the time to try and formulate my own prayers. My prayer life relies on already written and well-worn prayers. Sometimes though, I feel like a prayer needs to be more personal, and then panic sets in. WHAT IF I LEAVE SOMETHING OUT?? 

I find myself making laundry list prayers, never being able to end it, just going through my mental list of all the people who are important in my life and all the people who are important in their lives and their dogs and cats and birds and anything else. It’s paralyzing, and it makes it very difficult to pray. I feel like if I do forget something, then it disappears in a vortex of lost prayers. Intellectually, I know this isn’t true, and the God I believe in doesn’t let prayers, even forgotten ones slip through the cracks. But it’s times like these when I hear about the struggles of my friends and family and the people they care about that I feel like I should pray with something more personal, and then the unnerving anxiety and thoughts that if I don’t say a prayer for this person then it’s a minus 1 point in their prayer quota column begin bubbling up like a volcano. Again, intellectually I know that there’s no heavenly prayer ledger book where prayers are added or subtracted and the final quota determines the outcome, but my overly rampant imagination is a bad influence on itself and keeps building on these wild doubts. 

The beauty of the Episcopal Church for me is that when I have absolutely no idea what to say, there are ready-made prayers right there. And when you feel more than words, there’s the music, which sometimes says it better than anything. So while prayer is still a source of fear for me, I am trying to work on it by paying attention to what’s been working for so many years in our church. So I think for now I’m going to try to relinquish the power, and use words written and music composed with such grace and feeling by our Episcopal brothers and sisters, and hope that God, our Mother and Father, gets what I’m trying to say.  

I leave you with a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer that I love

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the spirit of Jesus. Amen. 

And with an incredible piece of music by composer Will Todd 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Medical Things!

I have been MIA for the past couple weeks, and for that I apologize, but there has been A LOT going on. One of my newest developments is that I’ve started volunteering once a week at the HIV/AIDS clinic associated with the Episcopal Church here in Honduras. The name of the clinic is “Siempre Unidos”, or “Always United,” which I just love. 

I’ve only been going for a few weeks, but already I’m falling in love with the people there. The people who work there are so caring and the patients have such great attitudes. Every morning, the patients and staff meet together in the waiting room to greet each other and discuss any upcoming events or activities. There is always laughter and discussion, and it’s so wonderful to see such a sense of camaraderie among them. This clinic is supported by donations and no patient is turned away. They pay what they can, when they can, if they can, and if they can’t, no one blinks an eye. What this clinic is providing is incredible. The medication is not cheap, and the disease is still highly stigmatized here. What this clinic is doing is providing a way for these people to live and control their disease, not be controlled by it. If you want to learn a little bit more about the clinic and its mission, you can visit the website 

I had the opportunity to work with a medical mission for a few days this week in Puerto Cortes near the coast. This group has been coming for years to Honduras, and this year, they came not only to set up a clinic, but also to distribute water filters to the people attending the clinic. This is such a great example of self-sustainability. It's a wonderful thing that medical missions come frequently to Honduras and give their time, energy, and emotions to helping the people here, but what this group is trying to do is make the help more long-lasting. By giving out water filters, explaining the process, and challenging the people using the filters to share and teach other families how to work them, this group is working to lessen the number of people infected by bacteria found in the water here. The Episcopal Diocese is also working on opening this clinic every three months, so that there is continuity for the people making use of clinic.

I worked as a translator, although many of the people in the group spoke Spanish quite well. It was a great experience for me because I was able to learn new vocabulary and ask questions about specific cases. This was doubly exciting because I found out on Wednesday that I've been accepted to the University of Mississippi Medical School! It has put my experience with the clinic and the medical mission into a whole new perspective. After a few years of hard work and study, I can come back here with medical knowledge and help at a whole different level.

Sorry to all of my readers for the the blog hiatus, I am making a concerted effort to be more on top of things! Love you all. Hope all is well. Peace. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Exploration Adventures

Over the past two weeks I've had the opportunity to do some exploring in this amazing country. I'm loving my city, but it's nice to get out and see some different areas. The past two Sundays I've traveled with Rick Harlow, who oversees regional coordinators of Episcopal churches all over Honduras, to see the progress these parishes are making and to attend various services. There are 156 Episcopal churches in Honduras and it's amazing how they are all working to strengthen the Diocese of Honduras. Many of them have clinics and nursing schools attached to their parish. One is in the process of developing an internet cafe to provide funds for the church.

On the 29th, we traveled 45 minutes north to Puerto Cortes and Omoa, which are both along the coast. We saw four different churches and a Diocesan retreat center. I was able to meet one of the regional coordinators, and she showed us around and explained her ideas for development in her area.

This past Sunday, we traveled further into Honduras to Siguatepeque and Comayagua. On the way we passed Lake Yojoa, which is the largest lake in Honduras. It was such a beautiful drive. Here are some photos, not many as I am terrible at remembering to take photos, but just to give you an idea.

Lake Yojoa. Now if only I had thought to take the picture with the window rolled all the way down... But no, that would make too much sense

Side of the road fish stand

Lake Yojoa

Cow. Just chillin

This was one of the churches in Siguatepeque. They all have the open bell towers at the front, which I just think are so cool 

Weird fruit

Another church. This one has the nursing school and clinic attached 

I think the spot on the mountain with no trees looks like a woman's face. She's laying down, sleeping. The dark spot is her eye. People are arguing with me about this, but I think it looks like a sleeping lady.

So there you have it for right now. I've passed my two month mark, things are still going smoothly. I'm going to begin volunteering at the HIV/AIDS clinic associated with the Episcopal church next week. I'm heading over to Tela to visit my fellow YASCer Becky in about two weeks. I will also get the opportunity to work with a medical mission that coming in from the states in a few weeks. Lots of things to look forward to! 

So much love to everyone

Monday, September 23, 2013

Finally figured out pictures!

This is Becky and I at a Habitat for Humanity ceremony in San Pedro Sula

 The tiny speck over the waterfall that you might be able to see is me! 

 Honduras in all its glory

My spider friend

 I asked a guy the name of this tree. He told me "the tourist tree." Why? Because it's red and peeling. Hilarious because it's true

 The bird that didn't like me

 My owl friend

The guide at the ruins in Copán told us this was a statue of an elephant. There were no elephants in Honduras when the Mayans lived there. It's the tail of a Jaguar. I never questioned it. Still living in blissful denial.

 For my mother. PELICAN!

My hot date for Friday night, President Lincoln


 My other spider friend

 My beautiful roommate Rosella on her birthday

Tree root growing through Mayan ruins in Copán

Friday, September 6, 2013

That's right, they call me Ms. Harkey

I AM A TEACHER NOW. There are some 70 odd students at El Buen Pastor Episcopal School who are walking around calling me Ms. Harkey. It's a bizarre experience for me, having just come out of college where I referred to everyone as Dr., Mrs., Mr. etc. Now I am one of them.

These past two weeks of school have been somewhat of a blur, but absolutely wonderful. My students have so much energy and excitement, which makes it that much easier to teach them. Any former/current teachers out there? Because I am always open to suggestions, advice, prayers, anything.

I'm teaching Social Studies to 8th, 9th, and 10th grade, and we're already in the swing of things, doing projects, homework (which they hate), group work (which they love), and just generally getting to know each other.

I've also begun study sessions with students getting ready to take the SAT and TOEFL. They are really excited for the next step in their education, and I can't wait to see where they all end up!

As for my life outside of school, I'm beginning to understand how the city works now, and I've been adventuring out and exploring. I found a Jiu Jitsu gym here (!) and I tried Crossfit for the first time, which just about killed me, but I liked it. I've slowly been meeting people and I'm starting to build a community here. Next week I'm going to start volunteering at an Equine Therapy clinic here in San Pedro that is run by one of the elementary school teachers. They work with children and adults with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, blindness, among many others. Check out their Facebook page

A quick shout out to my family, it's been a busy time of celebration! Lorna's birthday was the 25th of August, my Dad's was the 26th, Mom's the 4th of September, and their anniversary is the 8th. Also, the 8th is my Grandmother's birthday. I miss you all and love you!!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Episcopal Church: Universal, But Unique

One of the things I love most about the Episcopal Church is that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can go to an Episcopal Church and say the same words, hear the same readings, pray the same prayers, and feel just as at home as you would in your home church.

This fact has been a great comfort to me here in San Pedro Sula, because through all of these new experiences, new language, new amazing people, I can go to church and feel a sense of stability, because I know, with a few exceptions, what the service will be like.

When the YASC group met for orientation, we discussed at great length finding stability and a sense of calm during this year through prayer, and while I have prayers that I like, it’s still really nice to go to church and know what’s going on.

There are a few different things that really stand out to me, however. At Buen Pastor, my church here in San Pedro, there is an incredible amount of young people. I had the pleasure of attending a youth group meeting last week and the ages spanned from about 12 to people in their late 20s. It was such an all-inclusive group.

They pass the peace to every single person in the church. This has been something consistent I’ve found in all the churches I’ve attended in Honduras, (3, for those of you who are wondering. It’s a reasonable sample size) and I love it. It’s not just the people who are surrounding you; it is every person in the church. The clergy come out into the congregation, and the musicians play energetic music as all the people intermingle. It’s so joyful!

There is something particular about Buen Pastor that surprised me on my first Sunday. At the offertory, the priest places the offering baskets on the steps in front of the altar. He then asks people to make their way up to altar to give whatever they can to the church. He tells them not to worry about what they can and cannot give, that anything and everything is a blessing. And every single person in the church walked up there. Every single person. They made the conscious decision to move from their seats and give to their church. It was something I had never seen before. I think there were people who didn’t put anything in the basket, but to me, it seemed like an acknowledgement of the importance of the church in their lives. I think that’s pretty awesome.

On another note, I start school tomorrow. Stay tuned =) 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ambos! Mochila! De Véras! Las Palabras del Dia en Copán

These are just a few of our "words of the day" that we've had during our week in Copán. These words, ambos (both), mochila (backpack), and de véras (really?!), came from our quite excellent education at Ixbalanque Spanish School in Copán, which is a small city in the west of Honduras right near the Guatemalan border.

We arrived to Copán on Sunday afternoon and got settled in. I stayed with a host family, Lorena and Luis, who were lovely. Staying with a host family was excellent because if I wanted to communicate, I had to use my Spanish. Lorena and Luis were incredibly accommodating and patient with my unavoidable Spanish errors ;)

We had class Monday through Friday for four hours in afternoon. It was one-on-one tutoring and my teacher, Orbely, was a fantastic woman. I feel much more secure in my Spanish now. In the mornings, we experienced what Copán had to offer. We had so many outdoor adventures!! We visited the Aguas Termales, or hot springs, up in the mountains surrounding Copán. In some places the water was 90 degrees Centigrade. Yes I touched it (only for a second), and yes it was very hot. We visited Macaw Mountain, a bird park, just outside of Copán, which housed some incredibly beautiful birds, and the mayan ruins, which is the big attraction in Copán. We had a really fantastic guide who spent three hours walking us through the ruins and explaining the intricacies and meaning behind the carvings and specific building. We also went kayaking down the Río Copán.

We had spiritual adventures as well. We attended a prayer and song service at El Espíritu Santo Iglesia Episcopal in Santa Rita which is a small town just outside of Copán. We were invited by Concepción, who will be ordained as the priest of Espíritu Santo in the coming year. This was a very different spiritual experience for me. The songs were very upbeat, and between each song there would be a prayer. But unlike the prayers that I'm familiar with, these appeared to spontaneous. A different person would lead each prayer, and then everyone in the congregation would join in. But they would join in with prayers of their own, and the room was filled with voices saying individual prayers out loud.  There was something really beautiful about hearing the words that people needed to say in that moment all out loud, overlapping each other.

On Sunday, we returned to Espíritu Santo for church, and that day Lura made history. She not only celebrated the Eucharist IN SPANISH (which is hard. lots of long words), she was the first woman to celebrate the Eucharist in this church.

We met so many people in Copán who were fascinating and so kind. Concepción, who was so welcoming at his church, and took us to see the Aguas Termales. Lorena's niece, Fernanda, took the time out of her morning to show Becky and I around Copán. We met a young man named José, who is 17. He moved to Copán at the age of 11 BY HIMSELF to work and he's been in Copán ever since. That's courage that I can't even fathom.

It was a really wonderful way to begin my time here in Honduras. We're back in San Pedro Sula now and I'm all moved into my apartment. My roommate is still wonderful. We moved Becky into her apartment in Tela yesterday. She's got a really nice beach about three blocks down from her house. I will definitely be visiting. And I start school on Thursday. It turns out that, in addition to my college counseling duties, I will be teaching a few sections of Social Studies. I've been looking over the textbooks and it's pretty interesting stuff. Wish me luck!

Note: I'm trying to figure out how to put photos on here. When I figure it out, there will be photos. Promise. 

Friday, August 2, 2013


I'm here! And so begins my (hopefully more frequent) blogging extravaganza. My last blog post was almost exactly three months ago, which is not surprising to me in the slightest. I do plan on improving my blogging rate while in Honduras. 

Becky and I arrived around noon today without any problems, thankfully, and have spent the afternoon at the Diocesan office. It is connected to the the school where I will be working, so I was able to explore a bit and meet some people who are affiliated with the school. 

I met my new roommate, Rosella, who is a delightful human being. And her apartment. Oh her apartment. It's honestly probably the nicest place I've lived. Pictures to follow.  

I want to give a shout out to two members of my wonderful family, Uncle Phil and Aunt Allein, who were my very first supporters financially and their support is giving me this very first week in San Pedro Sula. Thank you thank you! 

Love love love and peace to all of you beautiful ones

Sunday, May 5, 2013

I change my mind a lot. I've attended multiple colleges, followed several different career paths, moved around... just trying to figure it all out. Sometimes I struggle with this aspect of myself. Can I really commit to something? Or do I just move on when it gets too hard? But then I remind myself that you can never really know if something will work until you try it. Up to this point in my life I've pursued careers in the theater, the church, teaching, music, and now medicine. I've attended school in Wisconsin, New York and Mississippi. I've declared majors in theater, history, music, and spanish. I've travelled all over the place. I'm 26 years old and I'm just now graduating college. This Saturday actually.  But for the first time in my life I have an idea of where I'm going. The choices I've made have led me somewhere really amazing. 

I'm moving to Honduras in 3 months. I'll be there for a year working for the Episcopal Church through the Young Adult Service Corps. And oddly enough... every strange path I've careened down in my relatively short life will have immeasurable benefits in this uncertain year ahead. In this next year, I will use everything I've worked on and learned about in every place I've lived. My blossoming and confusing spirituality will continue to grow and baffle me while I work with local high school students (teaching) and volunteer at hospitals and clinics (medicine). I'll be in a new environment (travel), speaking a new language (Spanish), learning new customs (so many things). And while the thought of this year ahead is slightly terrifying, I find it astounding that all of my seemingly different career paths and interests have come full circle, and I will use EVERYTHING in my year of service. 

And I think that's pretty awesome to be honest.