Saturday, August 4, 2012

Home Sweet Home... Alone: Some Closing Thoughts

When I got home on Thursday, August 2, my family was away camping. Although I was more than anxious to see them, I got some much needed alone time.

I know I've already talked about some reverse culture shock, and after my stay in New York and Missouri, I was already reclimatized to the United States enough. But being home though adds something to the mix. I'm having some pretty condradictory feelings. There's so much to say, I hardly know where to begin...

I learned that I'm more capable and independent than I thought. I also learned that there will always be people I need to rely on, especially my church family. I took on traveling alone well enough, and I even thought I'd do alright in London by myself, but I was glad to find church family around the world to be there for me. In Lithuania, I found myself far more bold than I expected. I was okay with getting around, going places alone, and asking questions. It definitely drew me out of my shell. But again, I was greatful for my church family who made my stay incredibly more enjoyable and fulfilling.
I also learned a lot about culture and cultural differences. The program at ISM threw groups together from various countries, forcing us to work together and attempt to bridge the gaps and see eye to eye. This experience definitely helped me understand and appreciate the differences between people.
This leads me to say a little about my thoughts on globalization. I honestly didn't have too much of a positive or negative view of globalization before my travels, and now I can say much the same, only with a little more thought backing it up. I think globalization is a good thing in the aspects for what it can to for an economy. One of the friends I made in Lithuania at the church told me that in recent years, a lot of Lithuanian young people have been leaving the country to try to get a better chance for work elsewhere. Globalization can help this in a sense, possibly bringing more jobs to the country and thus boosting the economy. However, I understand that globalization can be detremental to a society's culture. All things considered, globalization is a good thing as long as the people of a society can hold firm to their culture and its elements.

After this experience and learning about people and places around the world, coming home to Colorado was bittersweet. I love this state, and I've lived here my entire life, but it almost felt like returning to a little box when I have had a chance to explore and venture much further out. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to be back, but I feel like a bird that just was made to return to a cage. Nonetheless, I am excited to return to UNC in the fall.

I do plan on returning to Lithuania, and if you want that whole story, read "The Bigger Picture: A God Thing," a post on this blog that you can get to by following this link:

I'm excited for what the future holds, and I definitely recommend an experience like this for everyone who has the chance.


One of my Bible quizzing coaches, Krystal, came to pick me up at the airport in St. Louis. I was greeted by a warm hug, and then we were off to the Renaissance Hotel, where we were staying and where the North American Bible Quiz Tournament (NABQT) was taking place.

I have to be honest, at this point, I wasn't very excited for nationals. I was missing Lithuania more than anything, and although it was nice to see my friends from back home, I didn't want to be back home. Orientation that evening seemed to drag on. Then we got some bad news.

I was on a team of five, and our usual team captain who is our best quizzer, was also on her way back from Europe, was sick and missed her connecting flight in New Orleans. She would not be there the next day for our first quiz.

So Sunday morning, we went in to our quizzing session, prayed, and began. We lost pretty badly. I felt like I couldn't process the quiz master's questions as he was speaking. I felt like I didn't know how to make my thumb hit the buzzer. It was incredibly frustrating, because I know I could've beat the other team to the questions, but I was out of practice, and so we basically handed the other team the quiz.

Luckily it was double elimination, and by the time we quizzed our second quiz, which would be on Monday, Lauren, our usual captain, would be there. It didn't really matter though. It so happened that the Texas team that took first place at nationals last year lost a quiz this year, moved down to what we affectionately call "the losers' bracket," and fell into place on the matrix to quiz against us next. Needless to say, my less-than-fully-prepared team lost, thereby completing my Bible quiz career.

On Tuesday evening, we gathered for "Prayer and Share" when last year Bible quizzers give speeches, and the quizzing community prays together. I have to say, I think this year's Prayer and Share was the best I've ever been to. Even though we had 30 last year quizzers giving 5 minute speeches each, and it went on for quite a while, every speech was great. Every single one of the quizzers shared unique experiences, and every word was from the heart.

Afterward, Bro. Faubert, our national quiz master for the experienced division, spoke on "The Donkey and the Titanic." Although brief, that was a great message to hear at Prayer and Share my last year. He spoke about how we can't be content with being "one and done" and how we have to equip ourselves to make sure we're not. It was a great night overall.

Wednesday was finals. The Texas team that beat us got second place this year, and Columbus, Ohio won first. That night we had our Bible quizzing banquet where awards for teams and individuals were given.
I have to give a huge shout out to our Colorado 1 team from Abundant Life Tabernacle in Johnstown, Colorado. Michael and Elise Schroeder are the best Bible quizzers I know. Not only did they master their material, preparing themselves to be competitive at a national level, and thereby earning 4th place in the country, the highest Colorado has ever gotten, but they are also great examples of what Bible quizzers should be, dedicated to the Word of God, genuine and compassionate people. Michael also got second highest scoring quizzer on the all tournament team and quizzer of the year, an honor he deserved more than anyone.

Although my last year was bittersweet, I'm glad to be done with my years as a Bible quizzer. The five years I had were great ones, filled with memories I'll never forget, but more importantly, they grounded me in what I believe and allowed me to get to know more about the amazing God I serve.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Was I Begging for Reverse Culture Shock?

I arrived at JFK Airport in New York the evening of July 26. I didn't sleep much during the roughly 11 hour flight from Kiev. Instead, I learned 50 more verses and reviewed my Bible quizzing material for the impending national competition.

Upon arrival, my foot was hurting more than it was when we took off. I don't think I mentioned this before, but my foot began hurting and swelling the last day of camp. I wasn't sure what I did to it, and I didn't think anything of it. But it was getting worse and worse, and by the time I got to my hotel in Manhattan the evening of the 26th, I could hardly walk on it.

The next day, Friday, I would have the entire day in New York to do whatever I pleased. I first did as recommended by my mother and grandmother and went to an urgent care center to have my foot looked at. The doctor there sent me to have it xrayed, thinking it might be broken. While waiting to be called with the results, I went to the New York Public Library and blogged. I was overwhelmed as I walked around the city. One thing vastly different about America is that there are people of all colors, shapes, and appearances; Eastern Europe is less diverse to be sure. But the thing that stood out to me most was the volume. I think one thing is that my surrounding every-day conversation for the past few weeks has been in languages I don't understand, and suddenly I could hear everything around me. But another thing is, yes, Americans speak really loudly! Plus, I was in New York city. What in the world was I thinking? Going from Vilnius to New York was not exactly an easy transition. Not only that, I was also going from being surrounded by people I know to being alone in a big city. Reverse culture shock hit me in that I probably looked like a deer in the headlights the entire day. When people I didn't know smiled or spoke to me, I thought it was the strangest thing because that doesn't happen in Eastern Europe. It was all very interesting.
Later that day, the doctor called to tell me my foot might be fractured, but there was nothing that could be done; however, I should stay off of it and ice it.

That was almost funny. I was travelling to St. Louis the next day for Bible quizzing nationals in which we dress up, and I was planning on wearing high heels. I was also planning on playing volleyball. And then I had a long road trip home. Staying off of my foot was not really an option.

As for my evening, I decided to take a walk over to the Empire State Building, which was a short 8 blocks away. I had to do something while I was in New York. What was I going to do? Be content with a doctor appointment and sitting in a library? No, I went to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building where I was met with a great view.

But this view was one that made me miss the views in Vilnius more than anything. Being the exact opposite, a busy, noisy, bright city, this New York view made me long for the smaller, quieter, more peaceful town surrounded by hillsides sprawling with forests in Vilnius.

Upon getting back to the hotel, I received a phone call informing me that my flight to Chicago (where I had a connecting flight to St. Louis) was cancelled. It ended up being a good thing, giving me a direct flight out of Laguardia, to which I could catch a shuttle for $20, instead of my flight to Chicago O'Hare from Westchester, to which I was going to have to pay about $120 cab fare. So I was actually grateful for the flight cancellation.

Saturday afternoon, I got on the plane, excited to see my friends in St. Louis.