I’ve Been Preparing For The Jungle For Years

A few nights ago I was on the phone with my friend Daphne, and she mentioned that when she spent some time with our friend Elizabeth a couple of weeks ago, they would pretty much laugh their heads off when my trip to the Amazon would come up in conversation. Both Daph and Liz have known me for most of my life, so they are well-familiar with my very consistent pattern of Avoiding All The Nature.

Suffice it to say that the irony of this trip to Ecuador – well, it isn’t lost on them for one second.

Anyway, Daphne and I talked for ten or fifteen minutes about some trip-related stuff, and in the middle of our conversation I remembered a critical detail I hadn’t yet shared with her.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Have I told you about the canoe ride?”

“What canoe ride?” she asked.

“The 40-minute canoe ride we have to take in order to get to one of the Compassion projects we’re visiting.”

“YOU’RE riding in a canoe? YOU’RE RIDING IN A CANOE?”

And y’all, I couldn’t even answer her, because my sweet friend Daphne must have laughed for the next five minutes. Cackled, in fact.

Honestly, I don’t know when I’ve heard her sound so delighted. Except for maybe the third quarter of the State / Ole Miss game in 2009. Now that I think about it, that may in fact be the most delighted that any one human has ever been in the history of all time ever.

I finished telling Daphne about the canoe, and we laughed some more, and at some point I said, “You know, by the time I put on all my Amazon clothes – my shirt with SPF built into it and my collapsible hat with a brim all the way around it and my cargo pants and my hiking boots – I’m pretty much going to look like I’m dressed up to go to some sort of costume party. Like when we were at State and had that swap with the Sig Eps.”

“I REMEMBER THAT!” Daphne said. “It was a jungle-themed swap! You’re going to look like you’re going to a jungle swap!”

And then she laughed some more. With me, of course. Not at me. With me.

I hadn’t thought about it in years, but as soon as Daph and I started talking about the jungle swap, the memories came flooding back. I wore some sah-weet khakis from Banana Republic (back in the day when Banana Republic had a big Jeep parked in the middle of the store), plus some faux-hiking boots that were really just flannel-lined booties but nonetheless lent a air of realism to my outfit. And since I apparently felt like any time spent in the jungle would result in contact with a lot of foliage, I somehow attached a large branch of magnolia leaves to the back of my head.

Because, yes. Magnolia trees. You’ll find them all over the Amazonian terrain. Of course you will.

Daphne and I eventually wrapped up our conversation, hung up the phone – and about ten minutes later, she sent me an email. With a picture attached.

For the record, the picture made me clap my hands.

First of all, WAY TO GO WITH THE PERMS, GIRLS.

Nicely done.

Second of all, if you look closely you can see two large magnolia leaves behind me. They were a part of the aforementioned branch. It’s a look I’m praying that I don’t replicate in the Amazon, because if I wind up with a branch in the back of my head in the Amazon, it will most certainly be the result of an unanticipated run-in with a tree and not because I PINNED A BRANCH TO MY HEAD FOR A PARTY.

Third of all, the guy in the middle is my husband’s best friend, Todd, and I have to say that when I saw this picture a few days ago, my very first reaction was “OH MY WORD HE’S A CHILD. WHAT IS HE DOING AT COLLEGE?”

Now he’s all grown up, though. Happily married father of two. Which is no small feat considering that his parents clearly sent him off to college when he was nine.

Tonight I remembered a picture of Emma Kate and me from that same swap, and I’m so tickled that I found it because, well, just look.

That’s a whole lot of leaves on my head. And do you know what I love the most? The fact that Emma Kate opted to wear a big white bow in the jungle.

Also: PLEASE TO LOOK AT OUR BANGS.

So tomorrow I leave for Ecuador. And I keep thinking that if anyone had told the 19 year-old (with the bad perm) in those pictures up there that she was gonna find herself on a real-live airplane to South America in 2011, she probably would’ve rolled her eyes and said, “Do they, like, have When Harry Met Sally in the movie theaters there? Because I really, like, need to have access to When Harry Met Sally at, like, ALL POSSIBLE TIMES.”

Oh, I was a real ray of sunshine, I was.

I’ll be updating here as much as I can while we’re gone, and you can follow our group on Twitter, too. There’s also a Compassion Bloggers page that’s a hub for everybody’s posts, so if you like a one-stop shop, it might be a good option for you.

I’m so grateful for each one of you and appreciate your prayers for our group more than I can ever say.

I’m also so grateful that the Lord has delivered me from my poor hair-related choices in the late 80s. I was foolish, but He is faithful.

Vamanos, y’all.

Vamanos

I have been trying to write this post for, let’s see, ABOUT THREE DAYS. I can’t seem to make it past the first paragraph because for whatever reason, I struggle when there’s actual news to share. But if I’m writing about, oh, CRACKERS, I can hammer out 1,000 words in record time. In medical circles I believe this condition is known as AN ABNORMAL PREOCCUPATION WITH THE CHEEZ-IT.

It’s AAPWTCI for short. We have group meetings and stuff. You’re welcome to join us.

As you can imagine, our snacks are delicious.

So here’s the deal: in about three and a half weeks I’m going to Ecuador with Compassion International. I couldn’t be more excited and terrified and thrilled and anxious. From what I understand there is A LOT of nature in Ecuador, and I also understand that said nature contains a lot of very active animals. So as you can see, Ecuador and I already have a problem.

Oh, I’m kidding. After all, back in 2008 I traveled to Uganda with the inventor of The Original Monkey AlarmTM. I AM SO PREPARED, Y’ALL.

I was thinking yesterday that before the Uganda trip, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I’d never been face-to-face with third-world poverty before, and I couldn’t fathom how I would react to it. My reaction wasn’t always, you know, composed, but what I realized pretty quickly is that as difficult as it is to see all that hurt and brokenness, the ministry of Compassion shines light into dark places. So in the midst of all that hurt and brokenness, there is hope. There is Hope. That Hope changes everything in the lives of countless children.

And you know what’s even better? That Hope is is there for the long-haul. Because that Hope, by God’s grace, transforms the hearts and minds of those sweet children – and, in many cases, their families – and changes their lives for eternity.

I mean, come on. That’s the greatest good there is. I’m so grateful that Compassion gives all of us the opportunity to partner with them through local churches in third-world countries all over the world.

By the way, when Shaun first started putting this trip together, he sort of off-handedly mentioned that there will be a portion of the trip where we have to travel by canoe. You have never in your life seen two people EMAIL EACH OTHER IMMEDIATELY like Melanie and I did in that moment. And over the last couple of months, THE CANOE has come up in conversation over and over again. How will we get in the canoe? How long will be be in the canoe? Where will we go in the canoe? Will snakes be interested in the canoe? How does one fend off snakes while in a canoe? Can snakes drop out of trees and into a canoe? Should a snake land in a canoe, would it be advisable to then jump out of the canoe and into the Amazon and then be, alas, canoe-less?

Listen. I have full confidence that the canoe is going to be a source of some memories.

So there you have it. Ecuador it is. November 8-12. With Kelly, Ann, Amanda, Melanie, Keely, Patricia and Shaun.

And with every single one of you, too.