The GoGlobal Blog

Month: August 2016

Abaphumeleli- Home of Safety

Abaphumeleli- Home of Safety

“Sisi! Sisi! Sisi!” Before I can step foot inside the house half a dozen children are already upon me. Running, hugging, speaking, pulling me every which-way… and I absolutely love it! I come here at least once a week, to the township of Khayelitsha, and spend a minimum of three hours helping, talking, laughing, and having a blast with over forty kids at the orphanage.


Before I get into how much I love it and how the experience is so rewarding, I want to explain a little about the township and the orphanage itself. Khayelitsha is one of the many townships located in what is known as the Cape Flats. The region is exactly like it sounds: flat. During the apartheid era, black and coloured families were forcibly removed from the city center and placed in the Cape Flats. Since then, violence, crime, drugs, and poverty have been a rampant problem. Development in the townships has been slow and many of the services promised by the government have failed to follow through. Local organizations within the township have arisen with the goal of combating these issues.


12 years ago Mama Evelyn* opened her doors to the orphans of Khayelitsha and Abaphumeleli was created. She saw many children without homes and decided that she wanted to do something to help. She chose the name Abaphumeleli because of its meaning “Home of Safety”. This is what Mama wanted to give these children, a home. Since then, Abaphumeleli has provided shelter, food, clothes, an education, safety, and a family for the over 40 children currently in residence and the children who no longer live there. The newest addition to Mama’s family is a beautiful 2-month-old girl named Angel. Mama does not turn any child away. The children under her care come from different background, parents who gave them up, parents addicted to drugs and alcohol, and parents who have passed away.


It is hard to imagine anyone going through what these children have, and yet every day I see them they are full of smiles. They welcome all visitors and enjoy the company, showing off their spelling, jump-roping, singing, and dancing skills. My job here as a volunteer is pretty simply to have fun! No, that is not it exactly, but that is what it feels like it should be. I arrive and the first thing I do is get the children started on their schoolwork. I can only help with math, spelling, and English, so any Xhosa homework they have I am useless. After about an hour of work, most children have finished so it is time to have fun. There is a small play structure in the orphanage and the boys love getting the ball out to play soccer in the street. For the next two hours it’s games and dancing. I made the mistake once of trying to cheer up one of the kids with Snapchat filters. Suffice it to say, the next hour was spent taking picture of every child with different filters on their face. They had so much fun and it was hilarious seeing their faces when the filters would change.


I love volunteering. Helping others is one of my passions and always gives me such joy to know that the smile on another’s face is because of me. The fact that these faces are of children makes it that much more rewarding. I can already tell that my last day at the orphanage will be full of tears but it won’t be full of “goodbyes”, only “see you laters”.


*In South Africa when you are welcomed into another’s home, you call the woman/mother of the household “Mama”. It’s an expression of respect, endearment, and captures the unique perspective of community.

Word Intentionality

Word Intentionality

Three years ago my family and I visited Vietnam during Christmas break. In preparation for the trip, my father purchased a series of books on Vietnamese history and culture. Among these was Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried, a semi-autobiographical novel on his experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War, or the American War as it is called in Vietnam. It is a novel that will change you whether or not you think the conflict took place in Vietnam, and much of inland Southeast Asia, was warranted. It is piece of art that effortlessly explains the complex realities of war, love and humanity.

I began the book on the way to Thailand after finding that my Spotify had conveniently decided not work. Towards the middle of our stay in Chiang Mai, I came across a chapter in which O’Brien recounts the story his fellow platoon members greeting the corpse of man who had died in an air strike. Fairly new to the war, O’Brian refuses to follow the lead of his platoon members when they each shake the man’s hand:

“…I didn’t go near the body. I didn’t even look at it except for by accident. For the rest of the day there was still that sickness inside me, but it wasn’t the man’s corpse so much, it was the awesome act of greeting the dead…They proposed toasts. They lifted their canteens and drank to the old man’s family and ancestors, his many grandchildren, his newfound life after death. It was more than mockery. There was a formality to it, like a funeral without the sadness.”

Awesome? Describing such a morbid moment as awesome seemed out of the scope of what the adjective awesome can and should describe. In a brief moment of wanting to prove the word choice of a phenomenally brilliant writer wrong I looked the word awesome up:

Awesome /

Adj. extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear: the awesome power of the atomic bomb.

<SPECIAL USAGE> INFORMAL extremely good; excellent: the band it truly awesome!

Here I was 21 years into life thinking that the meaning awesome was limited to its informal usage. Some of you may already know what awesome means (in fact, I am almost sure most of you do) – but for me this discovery has changed the way I experienced the rest of Thailand and how I hope to experience Ho Chi Minh City where Emily, myself and seventeen other students arrived Wednesday. For me, awesome is no longer taking a really nice hot shower or a sarcastic response to a question.

On our second full day in Chiang Mai Emily and I visited a sanctuary for elephants about two hours north of the city. We got there in the back of a covered pick-up truck and proceeded to spend the next five hours loving, feeding and bathing elephants (baby elephants, too!). There was absolutely no riding, as all riding even if it is bareback is bad for their backs, and we were even taught about the realities of life as working elephant and rehabilitation. It was honestly one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. Holding a banana in your hand, screaming ‘BON BON!’ and feeling the earth rumble as elephants stampede towards you – that is awesome.

Soon we left Chiang Mai and found ourselves and a tiny little AirBnb in rural Bangkok. The guesthouse was situated right on a series of canals and Pao, the guesthouse owner, set us up with a boat tour on our first night. The next morning after breakfast he came running upstairs and said, “Big boat. Special surprise. You are lucky!” We grabbed our cameras and ran downstairs to hop on a larger boat then the evening before. Some amount of time later we were in a different village at a bridge blessing ceremony (although this was only discovered after finding someone who could explain what was happening in English). Seeing a crocodile in some rural Bangkok canal on a rickety wooden boat – that is awesome.

Now we are in Ho Chi Minh City where we will be for the next three and a half months. The food is delicious, the temperature is hot and the rain is torrential. We’ve spent the past two days getting to know each other, learning how to count ridiculous quantities of dong (Vietnamese currency) and napping. This morning at orientation we were reminded that our time here will in fact include school. This is the first time that all of my fellow study abroad companions have been to Vietnam and I am amazed at their willingness to put themselves out of their comfort zones. Leaving home for a new country and city they’ve never been to before – that is awesome.

I in no way want to make it seem like these experiences even slightly compare to the awesomeness that O’Brien and his fellow soldiers experienced in Vietnam. But with that said I believe that words are powerful and that using words in a purposeful and deliberate way is important. The vocabulary we choose and how we choose to use it says a lot about how we perceive and interact with our daily lives. For me the word awesome has forever been changed by Tim O’Brien, Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, random boat rides in Bangkok and my fellow Vietnam Center students.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary - Chiang Mai, Thailand
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Wat Pho - Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Pho – Bangkok, Thailand
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Packing for Rome: The Tyra Banks Experience

Packing for Rome: The Tyra Banks Experience

With T-minus 5 days until the group flight to Rome, my final week in the States has been a whirlwind of good times, good-byes, and good packing! When it comes to choosing which of my precious garments get to embark on a semester-long field trip to Europe, I feel like Tyra Banks at the end of an episode of America’s Next Top Model, when she has to eliminate a contestant BUT THEY’RE ALL SO PRETTY SO IT’S A REALLY TOUGH DECISION!  Alas, I learned that when it comes to packing light, versatility is key. So, in my best imitation of Tyra Banks, here I am, modeling how to style the same pieces for multiple situations!

Olive Green Sweater Dress in 3 Types of Weather:

Green Dress Hot

1. For the scorching hot days of September…

I’ll wear the sweater dress plain, but add sunglasses to protect my eyes from the scorching Mediterranean sun, slip on Sperry’s for comfy walking as I explore the Eternal City, and carry an oversized purse to fit my Loyola water bottle. Gotta stay hydrated!

Green Dress Mid-Autumn

2. When it starts to cool off in mid-autumn…

I’ll throw a tan cardigan over my shoulders and wear tall leather boots to fit the fall mood. A cute drop necklace really adds to this outfit’s bohemian vibe!

3. As the holiday season approaches…

I thrifted this comfy green vintage sweatshirt to compliment my green sweater dress, and black tights with black booties to keep warm. Hot chocolate not included 🙁

Green Dress Holidays














Printed Button-Down for 3 Different Occasions:

Blouse Intern

1. At my internship…

I’m channeling boss ladies everywhere, pairing my blouse with a conservative pencil skirt and some simple black flats. The Warby Parkers aren’t just fashionable….I actually need them to see.

blouse class

2. In class…

After I roll out of bed in the morning, I’ll opt for a simple outfit with blue jeans and my comfy Sperry’s. I suspect that class will also require a bit of reading, hence the glasses.

Blouse on the town

3. For a night on the town…

I’m imagining myself at a wine tasting (but that’s grape juice in my hand). Pulling out the sunnies again with dressy shorts (check out the gold buttons!) and adorable wedges (because stilettos and cobblestones aren’t friends).

I hope this was helpful for my fellow last-minute packers and future Rome travelers! Remember, “versatile” is spelled the same in English and Italian 🙂

Tanti abbracci (lots of hugs), Daryn

Pre-departure Thoughts

Pre-departure Thoughts

Watching the sunset over the Mississippi River in Moline, Illinois
Watching the sunset over the Mississippi River in Moline, Illinois

August 23

As I sit in probably one of the most scenic and calm places in my hometown of Moline, Illinois, I feel a mix of emotions build inside of me. After staying in Chicago for more than half a year, I forgot that so much beauty exists in the vibrant shades of green that is abundant nature, the unabashed curiosity of friendly passers by, and the calm that exists in quiet outdoor spaces. It’s crazy to look around and to recognize this place not only as my home but to recognize it as the United States, my place of origin and nationality. I look around and my heart tightens at the fact that I won’t be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of home for much longer; tomorrow, I will be leaving this all behind in order to study, explore, and immerse myself in South Korea, my mother’s birthplace and original home.

Much of the emotion within myself is barely contained excitement! To see the beautiful mountains, to hear the traditional music and dance, and to eat the spicy and fermented food of my ancestors with the mobility and freedom of a young adult is a chance of which just thinking of is making my eyes water with emotion! Finally being able to experience and understand the complex culture and nuances that are Korea will hopefully bring me and my mother as well as the rest of my family closer together. Family matters aside, living in Seoul, literally one of the biggest megacities in the world that is caught in between the not so distant past and the constantly changing cutting edge of the present, will no doubt be a chance to see all that Korea and its people has to offer(certainly being a young adult in any major city will have its upsides)!

Already I have written in my class schedule in my newly purchased planner, and I am beyond stoked to start learning about my majors and minor from a non-Western perspective in classes with students from all over the world! I am excited to see how university age students from Korea and from different countries interact and contribute towards class discussion and campus life. I have been in contact with the 9 other US students(most from Texas or the west coast) in my program via a Groupme chat, sharing tips and thoughts. Plus, I’ve even signed up for and been contacted by an Ultimate Frisbee team in Seoul called Seoul Train(yes, really) that has already started practices and will have 6 tournaments throughout the fall. I can’t wait to jump into life at Kookmin University, the greater Seoul area, and the rest of Korea!

Amid this excitement, however, is a fair share of anxiety. The obvious sources of this feeling being having to navigate international airports, fly halfway across the world, improvise nonverbal communication, find out who my roommates are, traverse a totally new culture, and trying to orient myself in what will be my home for the next four months. But, one source of anxiety that I believe not all study abroad students have to worry about is the prejudice that may exist towards foreigners and people of color specifically.

I am a Mexican Korean American, which in itself is a combination unique in the United States and will not doubt be in Korea. The United States, though far from perfect in terms of racial relations, has allowed me to explore my racial identity through it’s large and multi-faceted communities of color. In contrast, Korea is a country that is 96% homogeneous and reportedly has a lack of sensitivity around other races and lifestyles. I am afraid that my “otherness” will either be completely erased or unnecessarily exaggerated, and it would be heart breaking to arrive in Korea, expecting to feel at home but to face discrimination instead. However, I will try to quell my anxious and slightly pessimistic thoughts and try to enjoy my time abroad(but updates on this to come)!

In writing this blog post, the realization that tomorrow my journey truly beings really hit. I’ve been waiting for this trip for the entire summer, and I feel ready! Here’s to the journey being safe… and to the jetlag not being completely awful!


A moment for Italy

A moment for Italy

Sometimes while we are away from home, experience new and exciting things, we forget that the world around us goes on. This afternoon I learned of some news that made my heart sink and I want to take a moment to talk about it:

I want to take a moment to talk about one of my favorite places on Earth: Italy.


When I was 7 I threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome. The tale goes that if you throw one coin in the fountain you will return to Rome again one day. That was my hope, my wish, my dream…


Last summer I spent two of the greatest months of my life backpacking around Europe. I set aside two weeks of that time to explore the beautiful country of Italy, and I knew then as I know now that two weeks was not long enough. With its vibrant cities, historical sites, amazing culture and mouth-watering food Italy is a place that is, or should be, on every person’s bucket list. To hear about the devastating earthquake that took the lives of so many people breaks my heart. My favorite thing about Italy is the fact that when you walk the streets in any town, you are transported back in time. Seeing the pictures of all that history and beauty brought down to rubble is gut wrenching. I know people who are in Italy now and some who are planning on studying abroad there soon. I hope everyone is safe and that while you are there you take the time to soak in the awe of the world around you. Italy is a place I will never forget and it will forever be a place I hope to return to. I threw a coin in the Trevi fountain last summer with the same dream I had when I was 7, that one day, I will return to Italy.


Rest in Peace the victims of the Italian Earthquake

Cachai? Me entiendes? Got it? Living life on Chilean time.

Cachai? Me entiendes? Got it? Living life on Chilean time.

Being abroad is a big, fat melting pot of every emotion you could ever imagine. From A-Z, this is an all-inclusive, anti-discriminatory category. Some days you feel so many differing emotions that you wonder if it is actually possible to feel so much yet fail to be cognizant of what you really just emotionally experienced. Language, accommodations, city, people, lifestyle, customs, and culture: all foreign to you, yet you’re the foreigner—a backwards and stomach-lurching feeling that is all too real. Ok, truth. But that is the thrilling excitement of existing in a place in which you’ve never been previously exposed to before. It challenges the mind to remember what independence and confidence is, making you realize that, oh yeah, I really can do more than I believed to be true, or even thought possible. Exiting the comfort zone only helps you grow from the inside out, and taking risks and seizing opportunities is only advantageous to you as a whole person.

A month and a half after arriving in Santiago, Chile and I promise you that this metropolitan region has been navigated, cursed, loved, praised, and become a home to this first-time visitor. In this short chunk of life, I have hiked multiple hills, or ‘cerros’, that have allowed me to panoramically view the smog-ridden, yet still beautiful, city skyline; I have attended family barbeques, or ‘asados’, in my own backyard in which, I kid you not, I have not understood one word of the supposed Spanish that has been thrown around—Chilean colloquial Spanish, take mercy on my soul (and yes, I was just standing there like an awkward extranjero looking at my big brothers with doggy eyes of confusion until they explained things to me in what the rest of the world knows as actual Spanish). I have visited all three houses of the lovely poet and Nobel Prize of Literature awardee, Pablo Nerudo; I have eaten the best veggie burger my taste buds have ever encountered; I have attended a Santiago meet-up for locals and gringos alike, where I met two of my now good Chilean friends; I have skied the slopes of the Andes mountain range with a Reggaetone lovin’ crew; and I have danced the night away (eh, until 3am—early for these locals) at a Chilean wedding. I have watched the Chilean news and local Chilean soap operas (Teletrece, Srs. Papis, and Pobre Gallo, if anyone is interested) with my host brothers almost every night since being here; I have learned how to TRULY eat an artichoke; and I have tried these Chilean fried things called sopaipillas (street food: aka buy on the street…it’s called street food for a reason) and I haven’t turned back since. I have had a picnic in the park with friends and $1.50 wine to celebrate a 21st birthday; I have been told to “Have a wonderful day” every morning by a jolly old man when on my daily commute to school; I have come to fit into all of my jeans much better (sorry USA, your food is toxic); and I have met students and friends from France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Holland, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, etc. I have been off-road biking in the Chilean countryside, totaling anywhere between 25 to 35 kilometers; I have seen Saturn, Mars, the Milky Way, and a star cluster through a gigantic telescope at an observatory in Chile’s northern desert terrain; I have gone to a market where anything and everything was free, a true ‘take-only-what-you-need’ mentality; I have been jipped $11,000 Chilean pesos in change at a restaurant until it was kindly demanded back by us gringos J; I have attended a Chilean middle school fundraising Bingo night to watch my girl Ellie Kust do her thing and perform her musical talent on stage (yes, you are now highly encouraged to check her out on SoundCloud); I have been taught how to dance by a Chilean in a rooftop bar too small for dancing; and I have attended a Chilean vegan festival with a very, very happy heart (and a stomach full of mango juice, a sushi burrito, chocolate peanut butter cake, and an endless amount of samples).

I can say that I’ve had my wallet stolen at a bus terminal only to have it returned by an anonymous and kind (or maybe just karma conscious) individual; I can say I lived with three amazing Chilean big brothers only to have them leave Chile for a big European trip; I can say that I’m one of the seemingly few vegans (I know, there’s gotta be more of them than I realize) living in this big city, yet my host family and like-minded restaurant owners have made this situation adaptable, comfortable, and easy to maintain; I can say that I’ve already experienced strep throat, yet my dentist host brother personally prescribed me antibiotics, saving me a trunk of Chilean pesos, an insurance headache, and a lot of my time; I can say that my computer completely died on me for 4 days straight (legit black screen of death), yet my REAL big brother who is 4,918 miles away magically fixed it for me; I can say that my local Jesuit university was seized and taken over by the reform-seeking students, yet through it I have thoroughly learned about Chile’s educational, social, and political history; and finally, I can say that I arrived at school for my first day of class only to find out that the class (and many others, mind you) didn’t actually exist, yet very patient advisors took the time to sit down with me and inform me of other similar courses that are available and, to my knowledge, existent.

There are inevitable obstacles, challenges, highs, and lows to juggling life as an American and native English speaker in a South American city and Spanish-speaking community. What I have found, though, is that it is empowering. Figuring out how to survive life in a different hemisphere isn’t an easy task for everyone, and no matter who you are, I believe it comes with adjustment. Yet, with the city at your fingertips and a plethora of others who are along for the ride, navigating the world doesn’t seem like such a scary thing. I entered this country not knowing a soul, and I have already had the blessing of meeting remarkable humans from around the globe, all here on a similar journey. Many times since being here I have humbly paused upon the thought of how much different my life would be if I had never chosen to stress myself out in order to get processed and approved to enter this country. The experiences I have had, the humans I have met, the sights that I have seen…none of them would exist if I had never taken a leap of faith upon myself. And for that, cheers.



Bucket List South Africa Edition

Bucket List South Africa Edition

When travelling somewhere new and exciting I always say that making a list of what you want to do helps. There is always so much to do and there is rarely enough time….unless you happen to be in one place for about 5 months. Which, it just so happens, is the situation I am in! Below is the list of things I hope to accomplish (besides schoolwork) during my time here in Cape Town.

Cape Town Bucket List:

Hike Up Table Mountain

Hike Up Devil’s Peak

Hike Up Lion’s Head

Go Shark Cave Diving in Gaansbai (Shark Alley)


Bungee Jumping off Bloukrans River Bridge

See the Big 5 (Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, and Leopard)

Visit the Penguins at Boulder Beach

Go to all the markets! (Hout Bay, Old Biscuit Mill, etc.)

Bike along the Sea Point Promenade

Surf in Muizenberg

Go to the Vergenoegd Wine Estate and witness the March of the Ducks!

Recreate the picture of Mom on Victoria Falls

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Feed a squirrel at the Company Gardens

Have wine and cheese at the top of Signal Hill at sunset

Have high tea at Mount Nelson Hotel

Hug a Lion

I know I will be adding to this list and crossing thing off as my adventures continue so I will try and keep it updated as much as possible!

ALSO, if you have any suggestions of activities I should do during my time please let me know!!!

China: Yak Style

China: Yak Style

Our trip has finally calmed down enough for me to get to sit down and blog and sleep (!!) and think about what I’m actually doing aka studying abroad for 4 months.

Yesterday was by far the most “zen” and top 10 days that I’ve had in my life ever which is why it gets it’s own post. We traveled to a town in the GanSu province called Xia’he, which, is a significant Tibetan monastery town.

We started off the day by waking up at 6:30 am (well some of us) and walking to the Labrang Monastery, which attracts Tibetan pilgrims in the thousands. Here, we joined a local pilgrimage by circling the 1.5 mile long Monastery wall and turning the thousands of prayer wheels. While I didn’t go the entire way, it was amazing to see people in their element. To think of all the work that goes into making each wheel and even just the dedication of people who walk that route every morning is astounding.

Then, after eating breakfast at our hotel, we went back to tour the inside of the Monestary. While we were not able to take pictures inside each temple, I can assure you that each temple was so colorful and elaborately decorated.

Then we had some free time to roam the city and barter for clothes and eat. This brings me to my interesting point: the Yak. This city had yak everything from yak milk to yak meat, seems to be their staple which has lead to our running joke of yak style.

After family style lunch we visited a nunnery again near the monastery, except this time we were able to hike up to where they would do a sky burial and all the way back to the city. While we didn’t see a sky burial (which consists of chopping up a body, sprinkling it with spices, and letting it sit so that vultures can eat it and then poop it out all over the world) we were still able to climb up very high and look out over the entire monestary.

Then we treated ourselves to a nice snack of homemade dumplings (my favorite) and went for a picnic/ Tibetan pop party and bonfire in the grasslands. I’ve learned how to channel my sound of music self, but unfortunately cannot dance Tibetan style.

image imageimage

That’s all for now. Until next time ✌️



Hi it’s me. Literally one week ago I boarded a plane to China and since then I’ve been going nonstop. Currently, I’m sitting in the middle of  Tibet, 5 days into our 13 day trip to follow the Silk Road route.

To say coming to China would be a culture shock is an understatement, but it is an experience that I’m greatful for. The amount of people in all the cities especially Beijing is almost overwhelming, and makes Chicago seem like a rural town. We walk around each city and are constantly stopped because everyone wants to take pictures with us. Funny story: when Josh and I landed at the airport, we were immediately caught in a crowd of young teens and paparazzi trying to get a picture of a famous young Chinese star. Still wondering who exactly it is, but I guess I can say we met someone famous.

The trip we’re on right now has taken us to Xi’an where we biked the 6000 year old city wall, to Tibet, and we still have a trip to the Gobi desert where we are going to camp and ride camels to watch the sunrise. Each city and experience makes me appreciate the cultural differences I have to overcome by coming to such a foreign country.

I’m currently blogging from my phone in a coffee shop because I left my American SIM card in Beijing and wifi is spotty. More pics and details to come when I get wifi or when we return in 8 days.


Storm Cell Sunrise

Storm Cell Sunrise


I’ve settled into a habit of falling asleep at earlier and earlier times. My usual frame of a 1am-2am knockout has turned into a 9pm-10pm drift-off. While this is an advantageous thing on most fronts — after all, I’ll be needing to account for a seven hour time difference soon — it means I’m often asleep long before my roommates. Meaning: when my roommate Hiba texts me at 11:10pm I, in theory, won’t see it until morning. However, this morning, I happened to stir around 2am and catch sight of her message: Sunrise is at 6, wanna be up by 5:30?

Loyola’s MSA (Muslim Student Association) has a little tradition bookending each academic year in which whoever feels up to it is welcome to join a generally small congregation to the east of the Madonna della Strada Chapel for fajr by the lake. For those who may not know what fajr is: a great deal of Muslims follow a theology that prescribes five daily prayers. Fajr is the early morning prayer, before sunrise. Whereas the MSA doesn’t host fajrs by the lake over the summer, Hiba and I intermittently venture out there ourselves because, let’s be honest, it is awesome. I mean that not by the word’s connotation, but its denotation: inducing awe, admiration, or an overwhelming feeling of reverence. Clouds make up the most awe-inducing sunrises for me. With even just the slightest smattering of clouds, a spectacular palette of pastels wraps itself between the shadows. This morning’s just so happened to have a thinning storm cell easing in from the north that served as a sort of cradle for the light. The tail end of the cell sat just beneath the sun after it had risen a bit from the horizon, and by the end of the hour, you could see it dropping rain over the lake.

Sunrise by the Madonna della Strada Chapel

If there’s one thing to be learned about me, it’s that I thoroughly adore rain and storms. Hiba does as well. Maaria, on the other hand, another roommate of mine, is utterly petrified by them. Last summer, when Maaria and I first moved into an apartment together, we spent many a stormy Chicago night stationed at our northeastern window watching the lightning. I crouched at the sill with eyes wide while she often stood a few feet back, sunk into her shoulders as though needing to defend herself. Watching storms with Maaria always makes me think of a verse in the Quran: “Among His signs, too, are that He shows you the lightning that terrifies and inspires hope…” 30:24 [M. A. S. Abdel Haleem translation]. Toss the two of us into a storm and watch what reactions manifest; I feel we tend to illustrate that verse rather accurately. Of course, with Hiba added to the dynamic, the three of us now spend most storms with Hiba and I quite literally hanging halfway out our fifteen-story-high windows, arms splayed, and at times becoming downright drenched while Maaria tentatively calls us back inside from the wall furthest away.

This morning, Maaria was in the suburbs with her family so it was just Hiba and I for fajr by the lake. As soon as 5:30 hit, the two of us were out the door, walking less than a block north from our Sheridan Road apartment to the Lakeshore Campus. We spread out our prayer mats several feet to the east of the golden chapel doors and concluded our prayers in less than five minutes. Hiba set up her phone to capture a time-lapse, I took a few photos of the burgeoning sunrise, and we spent the remaining twenty or so minutes quietly commenting on the clouds and occasionally mulling over other things we’ve previously decided to do before my departure, like riding the new Ferris Wheel, visiting the Museum Campus, and holding a Lord of the Rings movie marathon. Truthfully, there’s only so much comprehensible conversation one can have in the last minutes of 5am; most of it was spent in a subtle silence. A sizable flock of birds frenzied in the shrubs to our left at each passing jogger, a security woman meandered around the footpaths by the Chapel gardens, and as soon as the golden hue of morning bloomed a bee fell into orbit about our scarved heads to which we could really only cringe and recoil lest we manage to make it angry. Subtle silence.

Today marks thirteen days until my departure and two weeks until my arrival to Rome. I unabashedly admit it: I’m terrified. I’ve been abroad before, though never for longer than a month. Granted, many whom I know regard my move to Chicago as its own cultural dissonance from what I’m presumably used to — considering my upbringing in rural Ohio — but while I agree with that sentiment to some degree, Chicago doesn’t speak a language foreign to me. I know English. I certainly do not know Italian, but I suppose I will be learning. So again: I’m terrified. Though… I am quite amused with the mostly adult figures who attempt to ‘console’ me at my mentioning my fear. I understand the well-intended expression of support and encouragement, but a part of me genuinely wishes for there to exist a space in which this apprehension is allowed to be. There are many kinds of fear, and this isn’t so much the fear one feels when threatened, but rather the fear one feels when pushed to do something they’ve never done. Believe me, I very much expect of myself by the end of this to be turning to anyone who will listen, shouting “Let’s do that again!” But for now, just let me be wary. Dare I say a little trepidation can be a good thing? Maybe. For the time being though, my mind isn’t so much on what is to come of my new presence in Rome as it is on what is to come of my absence in Chicago. Hiba and Maaria. Having lived together for a year, I already know that leaving them will be my biggest grievance.