Blogging Away!

Back in the US of A June 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 7:36 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Hello, from the United States! It is good to be back for this all too short vacation. Eleven days isn’t so much time in the grand scheme of things. After all, we’re already leaving next Sunday! I had lost touch with how unbelievably hot Florida is in the summer. Absolutely suffocating. The weather of San Ramon up in the mountains seems like paradise about now. Wednesday morning was quite chilly when we set out for the airport just after 4:00 a.m. I actually recall saying to Andrew while standing in the San Jose airport, “It’s going to be so nice and warm in Florida when we get there.” Nice and warm? I’ve been a Floridian for 26 years which would be my entire life. What was I thinking by defining this scorching summer heat as warm?

All complaining about the weather aside, there’s really nothing like the feeling of summertime. School is out and whether you are of that age or not, you can feel the excitement of being a little more free. I was driving home from dinner the other night around 8:45. The sky was the most majestic shade of blue as it transformed from day to night. It gets dark in San Ramon at 6:00, so for me all the extra daylight is amazing. I love jumping in the car and going for a drive in the evenings, windows down, just cruising.

Everyone likes to ask if we’re happy to be on vacation. My initial thought is, what kind of crazy question is that? Who doesn’t love vacation? But in all seriousness, this is a much needed vacation. We have kicked off the summer team season at the mission. I can’t even put into words how much work that is. Everything from pre-planning before the team gets there to being on call 24/7 while they are there to sending them off and getting everything back in order for the next group arriving. I think it takes a couple of rounds before it feels normal and routine. The first team got off to the most awesome start. We had a last minute switch from the big bus to three small busses. We stood there with 34 people and all their luggage staring down these micro-busses in complete bewilderment. They had exactly enough space for all the people on their team. We had exactly enough space in the truck for all the extra luggage. The team wanted to go to a restaurant to eat lunch before going to the mission so we led everyone there first, all busses in line behind us on the pista. But then once we got there, the most amusing scene took place. The bus drivers asked us if we knew how to get to the mission in San Ramon. Whoa, whoa, whoa. You don’t know how to get to where you’re supposed to be taking this very large group of 34 people?? I think it was a cross between pulling it together and having a breakdown at the same time, but I went to the bathroom in the restaurant to just think through this situation. When I walked back outside, I saw Andrew and the bus drivers hunched down to the ground, staring at a “map” drawn with a rock. This was all accompanied by lots of hand motions and Spanish directions. At that point, I just had to laugh. Andrew and I went ahead to the mission with the rest of the luggage and prayed that the team made it back with their bus drivers safely, eventually. Which they did.

Part of the randomness that I mentioned above would definitely be referring to the number of bathroom issues we’ve encountered since the teams have arrived. Andrew has never unclogged so many toilets within a two week time period. I was laughing so hard, I had tears in my eyes over the last toilet overflow. Andrew started plunging and dirty water started sloshing all over the place. At one point, he said “if this water touches me, I’m done.” After many failed attempts at plunging, we go get the guard and ask him for another plunger. Man. Ronald came in there and viciously plunged that toilet like a boss. Of course, the water sloshing was at tsunami levels at that point. I think we used twenty-something towels to dry that mess up. Washed the towels twice. Bleached the whole bathroom three times. That’s the kind of excitement that teams have the potential to be a part of at this mission!

So let’s try that question one more time after reviewing the above recent events. Are we happy to be on vacation, away from overflowing toilets and total chaos? Most definitely. We have been caught up in a whirlwind since we landed Wednesday. It’s hard being born and raised here, having serious roots in Jacksonville, to come in for ten or twelve days and attempt to see everyone we want to see. And you’re never reminded more of how much you’re missing while away as when it’s right here in front of you. One of my closest friends had a baby about a month ago. I missed her entire pregnancy, the baby shower, delivery, and everything in between. I wish I had some sort of fluffy thing to say here about my time away all being for the kingdom of God so it’s no big deal. Maybe some people can say those things and believe them but I’m just not one of them. Whether I were living in Latin America helping traffic drugs or doing what I’m actually doing as a missionary, neither situation makes it easier to miss the events like this that happen in the lives of people who are important to me.

I was talking very recently with someone back at the mission before we left. I’ll loosely call this the “transition” talk. As many people know by now, Andrew and I originally committed to be missionaries at FSM Costa Rica for one year. That year is up on July 5th. Time has flown by. After much prayer and consideration of many factors, we have extended our stay through the end of this year. That gives us just about six more months there. So during this transition talk, we began to discuss how we would begin to shift some of the responsibilities that I currently take on to other staff and board members. I guess in my mind, I was more or less thinking that in September or October I would begin to get everything in order for our departure. It came as a bit of a surprise to be having such a conversation in June. I’ll preface this next part by saying that the reality is, it’s better to prepare as far in advance as possible to give the staff on the ground there the best chance at doing this on their own when they lose two full-time staff members in December. So it makes sense. But really, what am I if not honest in these blog posts? My initial thought when he brought up “transition” talk was to say “Hey listen buddy, I’m not ready for this! Take your transition talk and… ” That’s were we’ll stop that thought. But for the record, I have become OK with discussing the transition for the reason I mentioned above. It’s the rational thing to do. Rational is not a synonym for enjoyable or comfortable. That’s life though!

I really can’t recall if I have written this in a blog before or simply said it many times in many conversations with inquiring minds. There is your warning that I may be repeating myself. Andrew and I truly feel that at a year in, we finally feel comfortable enough with the language and where we are with our relationships, that it would be impossible to pick up and leave right now. The next six months has the potential to be a huge time of growth for everyone. We can’t imagine being in Costa Rica and packing our things to come back to the states for good next week. Truth be told, we cannot even imagine doing that six months from now. But somehow, someway, the transition talk gave me a good bit of peace to carry me through what I feel is going to be one of the saddest goodbyes of my entire life. Andrew has said it best and most simply when he said that we will always return to this place, but not like this. We will come back for visits a week or two at a time. The truth is that we will likely never live in Costa Rica full time again though. It hurts to think about that in such a way. And now here I am, sitting in the Panera on 3rd, with tears streaming down my face. These blogs are going to get progressively harder to write, and possibly to read as well!

OK, time to pull it together and wrap this thing up. I say all of these things to get to the main point that we are going to enjoy the heck out of the remainder of our vacation here in the states. And then… we return to finish this mission we were sent on! I don’t want to lose sight of how important these last six months will be. I absolutely cannot let the hardest part of saying goodbye at the end of this deal put a damper on anything that leads up to that moment. This year and a half stint of my life is hardly what defines my entire life. Andrew said recently that leading up to the decision to move to Costa Rica, the thought he kept coming back to was that if we went and did this huge thing that God was asking us to do, we’d never regret it. No truer words were ever spoken. Even through the most difficult of times, I have never regretted it. But should God have given us a calling that we never answered, we’d regret it for the rest of our days. So we finish what He asked of us, and we finish well.


Jazz “Brunch” June 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 2:15 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I hate that I haven’t blogged in so long. I continually tell myself that I am going to spend some time writing in the evenings, during lunch breaks, on the weekends… it just hasn’t happened. And in the last few days, I’ve actually become quite disappointed at every missed opportunity because I truly enjoy writing. It’s not as though there have been unbelievably memorable things happening, but just the little things that make life interesting here.

A few weekends ago was most delightful for Andrew and I. For starters, it was a weekend that wasn’t filled entirely with rain. We are certainly in the midst of rainy season so that’s a big deal these days. We were invited to go to a Jazz brunch that Sunday by a friend named Mike. He told us it started at 2:00, which seems like an awfully late brunch time. That’s not even lunch time anymore. Nonetheless, Andrew and I were excited to do something completely out of the norm for us.

Mike showed up just after 2:00 and it took about 10-15 minutes to get to the place. It’s called the Angel Vally Bed & Breakfast in Los Angeles. As we pull up, a woman approaches us to ask what we’re there for. I thought that was kind of an odd way to greet guests. When we told her we were there for the jazz event, she told us it was over. It was from 12:00 – 2:00. Yikes. I was partially disappointed because I thought the music would be amusing. I do admit that after taking a glance at the crowd that was finishing up their food and sipping on coffee, and realizing nearly everyone was over the age of 50, I didn’t regret missing it too much. But as I look back on the whole experience, that’s such a dumb conclusion to come to. Maybe it wasn’t a young crowd, but it was hardly a boring crowd. Most people left within half an hour of us arriving tardy to the party. I kind of thought we’d take off after that too but we decided to hang around. After the band had packed up and nearly everyone was gone, there were seven of us left.

I’ve pondered writing a book before. I love to read and write. Every time I’ve read a book recently, I’ve thought to myself ‘I could do that.’ Now what exactly I’d write about… that has yet to be determined. But if I do write a book one day, this scene will make it in. The atmosphere, the characters, the dialogue, the laughs. Every last detail would make it into this book I have yet to write. To kick off the conversation, Mike brought up the late Steve Jobs and his impact on the world through technology and branding. Another guy starts talking about his time living in California and how his wife was one of the higher ups in Apple working alongside Steve Jobs. He talked about how wild it was to read his biography and know so much of the content first hand from the man himself.

One of the musicians stayed behind for what we dubbed as the “after party.” His name was Joe and he was exactly what you picture when you think of an Italian guy raised in Jersey. I had actually met Joe before at an event we hosted here at the mission but was fortunate to get to know him better that day. Though jazz might not be my preferred genre of music, he shared such an interesting period of history with us of growing up and playing gigs in New York in the 60’s. He talked of how delightful the Catskills are in the summertime. I’ve heard my dad say the same thing, so maybe I need to experience it myself one day. Joe was listing off all kinds of people he played with back in the day. I found myself hanging on every word and desperately wanting to take notes to research all the names and places he referenced. At one point, Joe turned to us and said “I bet you didn’t know that Michael Jackson got his moonwalk from Cab Calloway. I played with that guy and saw it firsthand.” I thought, who the heck is Cab Calloway?? Commit that to memory and don’t forget to look him up! Sure enough, Joe was right.

The owner of the bed and breakfast, Gary, finally took a seat with us to relax a bit after hustling all morning and afternoon for this event. I don’t know who I previously considered the most fascinating person, but Gary probably takes the cake at this point. All Mike had told us going into this is that he needed to make time to talk to Gary and get to know him better. Apparently, Gary was raised in Rhodesia, which is now known as Zimbabwe. He was one of the many white people of Zimbabwe to lose their land in the land reform time period decades ago. This, too, was something I was trying to grasp and retain while listening so that I could look into it further once I got home that day. This is a little before my time so I don’t feel too terrible for not understanding a lot of what Gary was referencing but basically the land reform was an effort to more equitably distribute land between the historically disenfranchised blacks and the minority-whites who ruled Southern Rhodesia from 1890 to 1979 (thank you Wikipedia). It’s one of those things that if it weren’t a documented part of history, you’d think it’s such a crock. After leaving Zimbabwe, Gary came to the US to study aviation in order to become a pilot. While flying into Alabama years ago, he recalled not being able to understand anything the air traffic controllers were saying. I got a kick out of that. The even funnier part was when he mentioned flying a bunch of football players somewhere in Alabama and hearing all about a guy named Bear… ha! Andrew was quick on the draw to fill him in on who that was. The only reason Gary was able to remember the name all these years was because it was an animal. Any who, he spent years working as a bush pilot back in Africa and still does safaris when he returns to visit. We toured the inside of the bed and breakfast and saw gorgeous portraits of animals hanging on the walls and heard all kinds of stories on what it took to get those pictures.

Gary went on to tell us about some of the places he’s travelled, which includes over 40 countries in Africa alone. He pointed to a motorcycle parked out in front and told us he had it shipped to South Africa, rode it up to Morocco, across to Egypt, and back down to the tip of Africa. That’s insane. We started talking about some of the most interesting places everyone had been. Clearly, there’s too many to count for Gary. Mike mentioned that the Door of No Return in Senegal was the most powerful place he has ever been in the world. Again, taking notes in my head at this point to research later. And after looking into it and hearing them talk about it, it’s officially on my list of places to see too should I make it to the part of Africa one day.

You can’t live abroad and have a conversation about where you’ve been without talking about how you got to where you are. How did we all land in Costa Rica in the first place? Everybody has a story to tell and let’s face it, it takes a ‘special’ kind of person to move to another country, to say the least. Exchanging those stories is always fun to me. It’s especially amusing to meet new people from all kinds of walks of life that have something seriously worthwhile to add to a conversation. Anyways, next time I get invited to a function with this crew, I may purposely show up once it’s over so I can hopefully get lucky enough to be a part of such interesting conversation again in the after party.


It’s Just One of Those Days…

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 1:40 am
Tags: ,

It’s just one of those days… I’m not going to quote Limp Bizkit here, but I would if the song I’m thinking of wasn’t laden with such colorful language. The gist is that it’s just one of those days where things go wrong, people get on your nerves, and you want to break stuff! OK, I never actually have the desire to break stuff. It’s just not how I get angry, but I’m paraphrasing the song for my audience who isn’t familiar with the musical “talents” of Limp Bizkit.

The great thing about not having my life today turn out like some ridiculous song by a mediocre band from the 90’s and early 2000’s is that God was in control of my day. I know that sounds simplistic, perhaps cliché, but it was so obvious to me today when I guess it’s apparently not so obvious to me otherwise. Sometimes the simplest of concepts like ‘God is in control’, ones we teach children at VBS, don’t even make sense to grown adults until it slaps you in the face. And then you think, ‘Duh! I should know this by now.’ I had the most horrendous afternoon but then I went and did my preschool class with the little ones. I almost didn’t because we have a team here and I know how much the kids love being able to play with new people. But I will selfishly state right here, right now that I’m glad I stole some time away with them this afternoon because we just had the best time. My sweet angel babies wipe away the nonsense that gets in the way of the true value of life sometimes. We sang songs and then read one of our stories about the five little monkeys. They don’t always listen that well when we do stories, after all, they are still quite young and things easily distract them. They hung on every word today though, so excited with every passing page. Not to brag, but I think my storytelling skills may also be improving!

After that all too short of a break from the madness of the day, I really wanted to just go upstairs and relax for a bit by myself. That lasted probably eight minutes. Someone knocked on my bedroom door and told me Valeria was here to see me. She came in and sat with me for a while. She didn’t have homework to do so we just got to spend some time together and relax. We talked and talked and talked. Her English is getting so good, it’s scary. Within minutes, I forgot I ever wanted to be alone. Then Valeria’s mom came in, and there we all were in my bedroom hanging out. We took silly pictures with Mack, tried to teach him a new trick to no avail, talked about summer vacation coming up, and laughed over the silliest of things. We were having such fun that we lost track of time. The team was half way through dinner downstairs before I even realized I needed to get down there. And in that moment, I couldn’t have cared less about my dinner!

The one semi-decent picture of the 3 of us, if only Mack would cooperate and look at the camera!

The one semi-decent picture of the 3 of us, if only Mack would cooperate and look at the camera!

Trying to get a good photo

Trying to get a good photo… impossible!


Thank God I don’t always get to do things the way I think they should be done. I probably would have sat around today stewing over such crap instead of letting myself be cheered up by the very reasons and people that I’m here serving at this mission. Ashley Davis, get out of the way! God is in control.


Things that Plague Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 1:15 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

What a title, right? I spend most of time writing about the wonderful aspects of my life here so that I can remember those moments in the years to come. But occasionally, I realize that should my children or grandchildren read these entries decades from now, they won’t be getting the full picture if I only ever share the good. While I choose to focus on the positive, it’s certainly fair to say that there are struggles of being a missionary. Like everything else, it’s a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I like to read articles from People magazine online. Don’t ask why. Do I think it’s necessary to know when Kim Kardashian goes to the grocery store? No, not particularly. But in some ways, maybe checking out these ridiculous headlines makes me feel a little more connected to American culture from afar. Nonetheless, recently I have started reading the comments people leave on these articles. If you want to know what the deterioration of society looks like, check out what people have to say on things that don’t even matter. Go find the most heartwarming story you can drum up on and read the first twenty comments. Someone is bound to say something bitter and nasty no matter what the article is on. I guess I could understand if maybe it were an article on infidelity, bullying, or any other topic that upsets people. But anything will set some of these whackadoos off. One of my personal favorites is “Who cares?” yet they took the time to read the article and comment on it.

I guess I should get on with the point because random people’s idiotic comments on an article are not actually what plague me. The reason I mention all of that is because I recently read a piece about Kate Middleton. Talk about a woman who has done nothing to deserve all the hatred flung her way. What took me by surprise in browsing the commentary was that an unbelievable number of people in the world think that she loves the attention and wants to be in the headlines nonstop. Really? It reminded me of myself and of my life here. Yes I know I am not royalty or internationally known. Just hear me out. Sometimes people make assumptions about the positions others land in without ever knowing a thing about it.

Too many people to count at this point have made comments about me being in charge here. From what I gather, it’s rarely said in a negative way, but that it’s just what people assume whether good, bad, or indifferent. One of the things that eat away at me is when someone actually thinks that I have this desire to be in control of everything. Here’s the thing, I never asked to be head honcho here. I’m not even saying that I am, because it’s certainly not a self-proclaimed thought. I cannot help it that every single issue that comes up comes to me. If a teacher needs to leave early one day or recreation guy is upset with the ministry staff using equipment at night and not putting it away, I will hear about it. I’m here 24/7 and by default on-call 24/7. But to the people out there that actually think I want to be in control of everything, I would love to say what makes you think that I asked for this? I no more asked to be the person in charge here than Kate Middleton asked to be in the headlines over wearing the same outfit twice.  

There are people that want the power and control, I’m just not one of them. What everyone has to understand is that with great power comes great responsibility. I can’t tell whether I’m quoting Voltaire or FDR, but rest assured, I’m not quoting Spiderman. Can I handle the power and responsibility? You better believe it. I think life would be a thousand times easier if people who could handle the power and responsibility just stepped up to the plate and took it. Those that couldn’t handle it could just step out of the way. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think it’s completely commendable to admit that you don’t want to be the person responsible for everything. Being able to handle it and asking for it are two different things though. I feel as though so much of the time, there are people that really want the power and have little to no understanding of all that comes with it. But, man, do they want it! Sometimes, I want the critics to walk a mile in my shoes. Want to make the decisions around here? Great, go for it. It ain’t all fun and games. Just wait until someone doesn’t agree with one of the decisions you make. I’ve learned beau coups about what it means to try and make everyone happy and fail miserably. I’ve never been a people-pleaser kind of person, but something about working full time at this mission has consistently made me feel like there’s more at stake. That’s why I try so hard to keep it all running smoothly all while doing what’s right. Do I always succeed? Not at all, not even close. But I fully understand that to whom much is given, much is expected. Whether I asked for the responsibility that I have or not, God has put me in this position and I am doing the best I can. I make decisions here for what is best for this mission and the people that are a part of it because I know that’s what God expects of me.

As I said, most people who are commenting on how I run things here are mainly referencing the positive ways that I hold things together. I will forever be grateful for the kind words and encouragement from people like that. But this isn’t real life or an accurate reflection of my life if I never talk about the challenges of being here in this position that I am in. So there ya have it folks! Things that plague me!

By the way, I was considering going with the phrase “Things that Grind My Gears” as my title but then realized that the terribly annoying phrase itself happens to grind my gears!