Dear Friend,

I made it! The semester is over, and I’ve survived the first week post-finals. I’m proud to say that, unlike my mid-semester predictions, I didn’t fail a single class… The end of the semester, however, has cross-cultural breathing down my neck. Next week is my last week of working at Chick-fil-A before I go, and I’ve already started experiencing my “last shift” working with some of my favorite co-workers (especially since people are going to be gone for Christmas next week). Some people have asked if I’m nervous about going to the Middle East, and I recognize that there are many reasons why being nervous would be more than completely normal: Being away from home/friends/family almost 4 months, general dangers of traveling, instability of the region I’m going to, not knowing many of the people I’m traveling with very well, etc.  However… in general I’m mostly feeling nervous about the fact that I don’t feel nervous at all and am wondering when my brain will compute the fact that I’m leaving the country in less than a month. January 11, to be exact. So I’ve been living life as though nothing extraordinary is going on…

  1. Tiny, apartment-sized Christmas tree in my living room? CHECK.
  2. Reviewing my packing list for the millionth time? CHECK.
  3. Gingerbread house-kit-thing made out of boredom? CHECK.
  4. Winter playlist finalized? CHECK.
  5. Radio turned off to keep away annoying Christmas songs? CHECK.
  6. Someone lined up to take over my lease when I leave? CHECK.
  7. High levels of Tea and Hot Cocoa in the pantry? CHECK.
  8. Half packed luggage for the Middle East in my bedroom? CHECK.
  9. Working regular hours at Chick-fil-A? CHECK.
  10. Plans to hang out with all my people’s before I leave? NO…

this one needs a bit of work… which is why you guys need to start telling me when you’re available to hang out because my future currently looks like:

This Coming Week: Regular work schedule with a break in the middle for Christmas

The Next Week: BOREDOM

The Following Week: Orientation

Then: Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Greece, & Italy

Beyond: Life Goes On…

Some of you are probably wondering when exactly I’m going to be gone, and if I plan on blogging while I’m away, and all of those random details. The truth is, I know very little about the “plan” we don’t have a set itinerary for the trip, so all I have are the countries we plan on visiting, limited flight information, and a very general idea of what I will be doing… and this idea is most likely different from what I will actually end up doing. I hope to be giving some sort of updates as I go, but can’t promise that I will do so on any regular basis or at all. In talking to friends who have gone on Cross-cultural before me, I’ve heard that staying connected to “home” makes the trip more difficult, and you get more homesick. That said, I know you will be curious and will try to remember to do at least a little bit of updating as I go along… So on January 11, 2014 (at about 6pm) our flight leaves Dulles Airport for Frankfurt, Germany where we will have a layover before continuing on to Cairo, Egypt… then I will have a crazy adventure through several countries with almost 30 other people full of awkwardness, jokes, laughter, anger, and who knows what else… then on April 22, 2014 we will leave Rome, Italy, by way of Munich, and return back at Dulles Airport exhausted and overwhelmed. THEN I will be able to give a better explanation of what all went down in the promised land. Maybe. That’s the plan anyway.

Speaking of counting down to exciting things, however, my favorite holiday is just around the corner… NEW YEAR’S EVE!!! I know that I spend every year talking about how the New Year is awesome because I like the chance to renew things and start fresh while also remembering all of the good things that happened this past year… but seeing how I just gave you the condensed version of that spiel, I’ll try to find some exciting new way of celebrating this year. Maybe with a list, I love lists…

Lots of Love, Mandi Jo

P.S. Like the new look?