Vagabound.

The leaves

Begin

To dispose themselves around my feet.

I feel the cold front,

Winter,

A metal barrel pressed against my chest.

Cold.

I remember: you are supposed to be happy

You are supposed

To be.

Be.

Do not forget the lights, the dusting, the warmth,

The pinecones, the sugar, the glow, the laughter,

The cold.

I am back to that one Christmas tree,

That eternal zero degree warmth

And the couch that held

You.

Back then

It was my greatest accomplishment to make you laugh

Back then;

Your laugh shimmered in Christmas lights

Reflected in one

Snowy

Peak.

We have all been weathered into loneliness.

I will be:

Weathered, away,

Here.

The leaves,

They take my breath away,

I think, coldly, warmly,

Elucidate me, leaves

I am falling

With

You.

Gratitude

Quito, Ecuador

 

Since the start of my senior year of college, I have become more and more grateful for my semester in Ecuador. It’s still surreal that I lived there for four months, fumbled through another language with my host family, learned to navigate public transportation, and drank papaya juice every morning. I owe so much to the Global Engagement Fellowship Program for giving me this opportunity.

(Mostly) Unnecessary Update

I suppose this is one of those posts that don’t make a whole lot of sense to anyone reading it but is still necessary for me, the writer, in order to make sense of myself and the place I am living right now. I’ve been spending a great deal of time getting angry with people who ask me “how was Ecuador?” expecting anything other the very long-winded truth that leaves me near tears and them wishing they’d never asked. I cannot tell you how Ecuador was in three words, if you really wanted to know, you would choose to be important enough in my life to see how it was just by looking at the circles under my eyes and the stars in them. Everyone that got to stay in Ecuador keeps posting pictures of the things they are doing and it makes me want to peel off all my skin and put someone else in that frame, so that Hannah Asfeldt wouldn’t be able to remember the might of last semester. I guess to put it plainly, I am jealous and I already feel forgotten, two things that I haven’t ever let get the best of me before, but now it seems they are. I want someone to say, “I wish you were still here”, heck, I wish I was still there. Do you realize how lucky you are? Do you realize how easy it is for a place that once felt like home to start feeling like a coffin?

 

I’ve been staring at my homework for hours lately, just staring, not doing. I’ve been staring and wondering if any of it is worth it, if I wouldn’t actually be happier running away into the Great Unknown, (seriously attempting to make money off of my words and my music), buying some little trailer and just driving and camping wherever I need to. I could settle down in Glacier National Park and strengthen my new found faith in ice people. I could crash in the Redwood National Forest and speak to trees all day long and tell God that He did well. Or I could (finally) conquer my fear of Utah and discover canyons and rock I have never experienced before. I still do not know what the desert looks like. I had real fun for the first time last night in a while and it had a little bit to do with the phenomenal company and whole lot to do with the wind in my hair and the lack of a destination. The call of the Great Adventure is turning into an incessant pounding of drums at the forefront of my ears and I’m wondering how long I can resist for the sake of ‘adulthood’ before I go and once more join in that song.

 

It seems I’ve started thinking three years ahead of everyone else around me and that makes justifying anything Undergraduate related seem positively ridiculous. My degree is now the only thing that matters at college, and I can’t even muster the motivation to work better at that. Everything is foggy.

 

God has been making me trust Him more as of late. I always trusted Him, in the way a trapeze artist trusts that the net beneath her will catch her, but she does the whole show perfectly anyways so it doesn’t even matter that the net is there. Now that I know life doesn’t have a safety net – if you believe it does, you haven’t lived – God is telling me to give the show all I’ve got anyways because He will catch me when I fall. Note that I said when not if. He’s been telling me lately that I really don’t know anything of true trust, that I’ve never actually let anyone in that deep. Sometimes we talk for hours and sometimes we don’t even speak for a minute, sometimes I can’t look Him in the eye without my walls up, but He tends to take them down in the most violently loving way possible, so I’m learning to just leave them there, down.

 

Scandinavian music has become the soundtrack to my life as I have finally realized that I have to stop chasing the understanding of everyone else’s background and finally start chasing my own. So far one of the most surprising things I’ve found is that my old Viking ancestors were way more religious than I thought. Naturally, they believed in different gods than I do, but their faith was just as much if not more guiding than the compass of the man at the helm of those ships. Even though I don’t believe in those gods, I’ve found their stories to be a comfort; I’ve found their truths in my own blood regardless of their level of fiction. I’ve found Loki hopping between my neurons when I sit down to write, I’ve found Thor chasing behind me when I run, I’ve found Forseti perched upon my shoulders when I read the news, I’ve found Vidar hold my chin up when it starts to fall, and I’ve found Skadi placing a crown of ice on my head when I feel my beauty is a thing to be ashamed of. I wonder if they know they aren’t real. There is a reason people keep writing books when the world already has enough to fill several lifetimes. Stories are what keep us alive.

 

Basically, being alive is really good. My future is unknown but it’s bright. My body is doing things it’s never done before and my mind is falling in love with what it’s convinced itself to do. I miss Ecuador and it’s mountains and the way everything felt alive always. I miss feeling alive always. I’m at about a 77/23 where I am now. But I’m learning, as one tends to do in college, and I’m listening in places where I’ve previously heard silence and the whole of it is beautifully loud. I sometimes wonder if people want to hear the things I have to say. Is there anyone out there who would listen if I wrote more than this website? Maybe it doesn’t matter, I think that’s part of being an artist, making art for creation and not for reception. The more I listen the more I have to say and to me, that’s why God is an empowering God. He never tells me to be quiet, not the way the god I thought was God used to.

 

That’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll be going to South Dakota for the summer (which is surprisingly sooner than you would think) and hopefully the openness of that place will help clear the fog away. Life is good but the future is confusing. Or maybe it’s life is confusing but the future is good. I’ll take it either way.

I’ll tell you of Ecuador

I’ll tell you of Ecuador, and all of its splendor

With passion my memories race

In the sunshine, the mountains, my heart, it grew tender

When I unpacked my little suitcase

 

My arrival was quick; ’twas late in the night

And I watched the bright lights so intently

At two in the morning, awaiting daylight,

I drifted to sleep oh so gently

 

Weeks passed as I learned to write and to speak

And to navigate all on my own

I greeted new friends with a kiss on the cheek

And submerged myself in the unknown

 

I visited cities with lights of warm gold

And beaches with waves of cold vigor

My eyes, they saw creatures, so loud and so bold

Would I ever find anything bigger?

 

Like a flash of bright light, four months had gone by

A plane swept me up and away

And an emptiness held me, its embrace a bit shy

So I smiled and told it to stay

 

It’s a feeling that lingers, just under my chin

A warmth and a chill mixed together

And I begin to remember the sun on my skin

The vendors, the mountains, the weather

 

And I can’t help but miss the places I saw

and the wonderful people I met

So I lower my head and begin to withdraw

But remember there’s no need to fret

 

I’ll tell you of Ecuador, and all of its splendor

For I have begun to agree

In the sunshine, the mountains, my heart, it grew tender

When Ecuador opened to me

Leaping off the Bus

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 – 9:18 A.M.

I went to Colombia.

In order to save money (plane tickets would have been $450+) my two friends and I bussed all the way to the coast of Colombia, to a city called Cartagena. But let me rewind to the beginning. The three of us were planning a very on-a-whim trip and had not considered anything but buying a bus ticket for a 30-hour bus ride to Santiago de Cali, Colombia. The day before, we ran into another of our friends at the Rio Coca bus station and found that he was also planning to go and actually had a solid plan, as his host father was Colombian and had written out a thorough itinerary. Naturally, we latched onto him.

That evening, we bought $70 plane tickets for a small part of the trip (between Colombian cities), and planned to meet at the Carcelén bus station at 3:00 in the morning. Yes, 3:00 A.M. I remember waking up at 2:00 A.M. after having gone to sleep at midnight, and I thought to myself, What the hell am I doing?

But I quickly packed my backpack full of clothes, toiletries, and several hundred dollars, and met one of my travel companions outside of my host family’s apartment, where he had arrived in a taxi. From there, we went to Carcelén and boarded our bus at about 4:00 A.M. That ride lasted approximately five hours, and I chuckle now because at the time I had no idea how horrible I was going to feel.

The ride was freezing cold, as the temperature dips very quickly at night in the mountainous areas of South America. I was shivering and uncomfortable the entire time, but after a few hours, the sun rose and warmed me a little. The unfortunate part of this ride in particular was that the bus stopped frequently to allow more passengers to board. I only hated this because all the lights were turned on, and we had to stop, sometimes for several minutes, and all I wanted to do was get off the bus.

From there, we arrived at a sort of truck stop where there were lots of vendors selling anything from fried bananas with cheese in the middle to plastic cups of chopped fruit (watermelon, mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.). We got a taxi and went to Ecuador’s emigration building, where we waited in line for about half an hour to get a “salida” stamp in our passports. Right after that, we went to Colombia’s immigration building to get an “entrada” stamp. We exited that building and were met with a small group of men with thick wads of U.S. dollars and Colombian pesos. We exchanged our money (and later found out that we’d been stiffed about $30 each – lesson learned) and then took another taxi to the next bus station.

I’ll summarize this since I could go on forever. This bus ride lasted at least twelve hours, and then we had two more 12-hour rides after that, at night. David scheduled them this way so that we didn’t have to pay for a hostel, and at first I thought the idea was ingenious, but that was before I realized that I could not sleep on a bus. Especially a bus traveling through the sharply winding, bumpy roads of Colombia. I didn’t sleep at all, and this persisted through every ride until I became hopelessly nauseous. I tried several times to close my eyes, to change positions, to listen to music, to turn my music off, to eat junk food, to chug water, to think of a pleasant situation. Nothing worked.

By the time we’d visited Ipiales, Popayán, and Medellín (the cities we went through to get to Cartagena), I was nauseous and exhausted to the point of tears. I didn’t cry, as I was actually too exhausted to even do that, but I felt like death. During the bus rides, I always had pretty healthy snacks: Doritos, Snickers bars, Sprite, chocolate wafers, so there’s no way that my diet contributed to my brief illness. But on the final bus ride (the one that took us to Cartagena, the coast), I was so close to crying. I was beyond frustrated with my exhaustion, migraine, nausea, and most of all, the helplessness that I felt. There was literally nothing that I could have done short of leaping off the bus, so I did my best to discipline myself and calm down.

When we arrived in Cartagena, the first thing that I remember noticing was the overwhelming intensity of the heat. I felt like I had stepped into an oven, and it did nothing to help my nausea. We got a taxi that took us to our hotel, and it took a good ten minutes to sign paperwork and show our passports before we were led into our room. To my delight, the air conditioner was not functioning, so the room was almost as hot as it was outside.

We were exhausted, so we lied on our beds and took a nap for a few hours. When I awoke, my entire body was wet and sticky and hot, my head was throbbing, and I actually thought that I was on the verge of fainting. We went and spoke to the owner, and she made a phone call to get someone in to fix our air conditioner.

With little to do, we decided to explore the city. We ate lunch, explored markets and stores, and enjoyed being in a new country before returning to our hotel. The air conditioner had been fixed! I collapsed onto my bed, took a shower, and slept.

Overall, the trip consisted of nauseating bus rides, exploring different cities, eating lots of food (junk food galore), and enjoying a week away from school. I bought three cool shot glasses and a knitted bag for my friends back home, and when I finally arrived back home in Quito, I was absolutely relieved.

Overall, I had a fun time and thoroughly enjoyed getting to see another South American country.

Midway Through

Saturday, October 8, 2016 – 5:24 P.M.

I haven’t journaled in a while because I’ve been traveling every weekend (the beach, Cuenca), so I have some more to say.

Basically I’m in a state of limbo right now with my life. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m doing, what I want, how I can make a positive impact on the world, and it’s all overwhelming – pathetically so, because my problems could be so much worse. I acknowledge this wholeheartedly.

It’s just that I want to do something that is useful and that I enjoy while also having a fun life with fun people, but it’s not easy. If I had to choose my absolute favorite things to do, in this moment in time, it would be to write, to weightlift, and to explore forests. I’m not necessarily in love with my chosen area of study, but it’s definitely too late to go back now. I’m not sure what I want to do after graduation, even though I have unofficially attached myself to the idea of law school, simply because I enjoy critical thinking, and I think I’d thrive in that environment.

I’ve also seriously considered going to officer candidate school and then joining the Air Force or Coast Guard, as I love physical activity, being outside, and having to adapt and exert myself physically. When it comes to brains vs. brawn, I used to think that my preferences tipped toward the brains side, but I have now realized that they do not. I love playing sports and lifting weights and hiking and kayaking and doing things that require physical stamina. I thrive on these things. In contrast, I often get bored in school and wish that I could be running or deadlifting or trekking through the rainforest or chopping down a tree. I don’t know. I just think that my physical and mental toughness are better suited for the military or something like that, and I hate letting this part of me go to waste because I’m pursuing a different lifestyle.

Aside from this, I’ve completely adapted to Ecuador, and I’m a bit bored. I get up early every day for a sweaty, 80-minute bus ride, I go to school, I eat lunch, I spend another 80 minutes on the bus to get home, I work out, I do homework, I eat dinner, and I go to bed. My group of friends and I travel on weekends, and I have thoroughly enjoyed that, but I’m not sure what I’m doing here. I don’t know why. I expected to thrive, and I was very happy at first, but now I feel as though I’m just going through the motions each day with no real end goal.

The worst part of this is that I don’t want to go home. When I’m home in Oklahoma, I often feel disinterested and disconnected. This hasn’t happened to such a degree in Ecuador, and I’m grateful for the reprieve, however temporary.

The Day of Arrival

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 – 1:10 A.M.

Right now, at this very moment, I am sitting in pure silence (save for the padded clicks of my keyboard) in my new bedroom. I am in Ecuador. I am finally here.

The plane ride from Houston to Quito was very uneventful. I listened to the same twenty or so songs over and over again (thanks, Apple, for making it impossible to sync your iPhone with a new computer without losing all of your music. Okay, this is actually my fault, but still) and stared out the window, leaning my head against the hard plastic frame as I watched the billowy clouds and the navy blue expanse of ocean below.

I felt so tranquil the entire time, which surprised me and still surprises me as I sit here typing, still calm and rational. Several times, I caught myself smiling at the window and breathing deeply and letting the reality of this adventure sink in. It is so surreal. To those of you (Global Fellows, in particular) who are planning a semester or year abroad, you must accept the fact that you can never prepare yourself for how you are going to feel when you step off the plane in your new country. You cannot prepare for the way your stomach will feel a little tight as you collect your luggage from the baggage claim or how you’ll catch your breath when you see your host family waiting for you or even the way your body will finally relax when you’re in your bedroom after hours and hours of traveling.

Obviously, I am no pro at this. I’ve only just begun, and as I sit here at my little desk in my bedroom in Ecuador, I feel so fulfilled. I– I just can’t properly articulate how I feel. I’ve only met two members of my family thus far, as I arrived when the others had gone to sleep, and I spoke Spanish with them. Again, I am no pro at this. I tried my best, and they were so kind as to use gestures and emote to extremes to help me understand. But it is so incredible that this is finally happening.

It’s just past 2:00 in the morning, so I’m going to fall asleep now. Until later!

Before Departure

I’m going to allocate two posts for each of the three segments of my semester study abroad experience. Two for before/the beginning, two for the middle, and two for the end. Here is the first.

Thursday, August 11, 2016 – 5:03 P.M.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table, and I hear my mom’s car pull into the garage. Her door opens and closes, and she comes inside, turning on the TV to catch up on the Olympics. I move to her bedroom and close the door because I need quiet. I need to think. On Sunday, at about 4:55 in the evening, I will board a plane to Quito, Ecuador, and it is there that I will stay until May.

I am genuinely anxious and very nervous about this, so I’ll go ahead and preface what I am about to say with this: I understand that there are so many worse things in the world. I understand that this journal will be filled with first-world problems. That’s just reality.

When I began the application process for this study abroad program, I was lying on my bedroom floor, legs bobbing up and down mindlessly as I chewed a granola bar. The idea of living on another continent was too surreal to have actually burdened my mind at the time, but I knew that I wanted to do it, so I poured my heart into those application essays, I asked my favorite professors for recommendations, and I reached out to several other students who had already spent semesters in Quito. I applied for several scholarships, met with advisors, and suffered (the waiting stressed me) for two weeks while OU’s College of International Studies decided which three students would be admitted to The University of San Francisco.

When I received the email of my acceptance, the feelings of euphoria were indescribable. I felt bliss. All of the paperwork, the essays, the fees, the deadlines, the stress – they were finished. And I was going to Ecuador. Strolling around OU’s campus, I felt confident and excited, and I was fully looking forward to August when I would be on my way to a beautiful new country, my home for a short while. Could anything feel better than this? I thought naively.

Slowly, emails rolled in from my international advisor. First it was time to get a visa, then it was time for the Spanish placement exam, then I had to enroll in classes and receive my host family assignment. Then my host family emailed me, I registered for a new cell phone, and I started packing my suitcases. And each little event tumbled forward, one after the other, until I arrived at today. Three days until departure.

I’m sitting here with a little more packing to do, and I am so nervous. I knew that I would feel this way, but it didn’t start happening until just now, and I don’t think that any of this will feel real until I see my host family holding a poster with my name on it in the airport in Quito. I’m worried about communicating mainly in Spanish. Even though I have wanted this since my first semester of college, the reality of it is daunting. I’m worried about navigating a completely foreign city and going to school at a university that I have never seen before. Again, a few months ago, I was elated at this prospect, but now, it’s causing me immense stress. Even worse, I’ll miss my close friends in Norman. I know that I can communicate with them via technology, but the lack of physical presence will wear on me.

Despite all of this, I know that it will be okay and that I will adapt quickly and that I will probably fall head over heels in love with my new, temporary life. But right now, I’m scared. This is that annoying, anxiety-filled middle ground that must be crossed to get to the promised land. Can I just be on the other side already?