1. Fin.

    It’s time for us to start packing again, seeing as we leave the Philippines in less than two days.  We finished up the last of our village visits with International Care Ministries’ MCO program, which were a huge blessing in our lives.  We are going back to our favorite restaurants and shops here in Bacolod one last time, and attempting to say goodbye to this corner of the Philippines that we have called home for five weeks.  

    However, this time we’re not heading to some new and exotic destination.  The end of this chapter is not the beginning of some bold new adventure, or is it?  We are heading back to the States, back to our homes and families and friends, back to a familiar culture and lifestyle that we once thrived in, and we’re realizing that it’s likely that we won’t feel quite the same as we did when we left the country nearly four months ago.  Living in such different cultures for an extended period of time has left its mark on us and there is no doubt that we have been shaped and molded by the multiple contexts that we’ve been placed in.  Thus, returning to that which was once normal, everyday life to us may seem nearly as exotic as any shift that we’ve experienced in the last four months.  We are mulling over questions that will hopefully prepare our hearts and minds for the adjustments that it will take to call the US home again. 

    With all of that said, I would like to maintain the fact that I am not a completely different person from who I was when I started Kivu Gap Year.  I am not a new creation.  I simply have enjoyed more experiences, seen more sights, made countless memories and learned even more lessons over the course of this gap year.  I have left pieces of my heart in six different countries.  I have laughed with and shared priceless moments of life with people I will likely never see again, and some that impacted me so greatly that I will be willing to travel the numerous miles between our places of residence simply to share more moments together.  I’ve become familiar with my strengths and my weaknesses, and I’ve come to know the person I was created to be a good bit better.  In a way, I am more myself than I was before this gap year.  I am Kara Crenshaw and I know more of what that truly means now.  

    I hold tightly to the belief that only when you stretch and challenge yourself do you really hear the honest beatings of your heart.  

    Through this gap year, I’ve gotten a taste of a delicious life, and I want to keep seeking out and devouring all the adventures this world holds.  God didn’t call us to a monotonous life— the world is big, breathtakingly beautiful and diverse.  I am going to see as much of it as possible, so that each new place I go, I experience more of my God’s creativity and have the chance to thank Him for it.  I don’t want to live a “good” life simply because I was too afraid to do something unheard of, something a little bit crazy and filled with a lot more love than the life that our society has come to embrace and propagate to anyone who will buy into it.  

    All in all, I cannot express how thankful I am for this program and the people that have taught me through it.  This year will be held close to my heart for the rest of my life, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it continues to impact me.

     
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  3. I’m bad with titles

    As we have continued to work with ICM in the Philippines, we’ve come to love the culture here and the extent to which the Filipino people welcome us into their lives every day.  The genuine kindness that is being shown to us through the ICM staff and the village people we come in contact with is astounding, and we’ve learned through countless natives’ wide grins why Bacolod City is known as the “City of Smiles.”

    We have continued to work with ICM’s Malnourished Children’s Outreach program, getting updated height and weight measurements for children who have completed the six-month feeding stint, so as to help ICM understand how the program affects children and families long-term even after the feeding period has been completed.  Last week we were able to join in on one of ICM’s Transform programs, which includes a feeding program, as well as teaching lessons in three specific areas of villagers’ lives: health, livelihood, and values.  It was great to be able to spend an afternoon with the locals and to have the opportunity to inform them on how to prevent malnourishment in their families.

    As our time here winds down, I have been finding myself reflecting on everything that we have learned over the course of gap year and how these priceless lessons will continue to impact me over the years.  I am excited to see how I can use everything that I have learned in the college setting and whatever comes after, in my relationships with family and longtime friends, relationships that will be formed in the future, and through the rest of this beautifully confusing thing I call my life.

     
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  6. Last Stop

     We’ve made it to our final destination on gap year— The Philippines.  I don’t quite know how to react to the fact that gap year is winding down, but I’m sure I’ll unload all of those thoughts and rambles on this here blog sooner or later.

    For our time in the Philippines, we’re working with an organization called International Care Ministries at their base in Bacolod City.  For now, we’re getting information on children and families that have been affected by the many programs that they have set up to help care for the needy and neglected.  ICM makes it a point to offer hope to those that society has deemed hopeless— they seek out the neighborhoods that most organizations shy away from because the poverty runs deep in the residents’ blood and has been engrained into their way of living, making it difficult to get “success stories” even though the people are impacted in miraculous ways by the existence of ICM.

    Our time here has been challenging because it has personified poverty. Poverty has bright almond-shaped eyes, is named Divine, and lives on less than $0.50 per day.  Poverty’s name is Jhayron, who is unable to go to school because his grandmother can’t afford the fees and his parents are out of the picture.  Poverty is named Joseph, whose toothpick legs are somehow thicker than when ICM first started feeding him nutrient rich meals through their Malnourished Children Outreach program.  Poverty has so many names and so many faces and we’ve only met a few of them.

     
  7. Last days in India

     

  8. It’s hard to believe that our time in Bangalore is already over, and the India portion of gap year is winding down.  It was such a blessing to be able to work with Gerizim Rehabilitation Trust, and it was hard to leave the special needs orphanage for the last time.  I really enjoyed our time there and I wish we would’ve had more time to spend with the kids, since some unexpected plan changes happened during the last week and we ended up only having about six days with the kids.  

    We’ve been in Jaipur for the last couple of days, just seeing more of India and being tourists basically.  We’ve ridden elephants a couple times, which was super awesome and I’m probably going to sell my car when I get back to the States and start using an elephant as my main mode of transportation.  Tomorrow we will leave for Agra, and see the Taj Mahal the next day.  We leave for the Philippines that night, which is our last destination on gap year.  I can’t believe how fast time has gone, and how far we are into the program.  It’s going to be a long time before I can fully process everything that I’ve learned over the last eight months.