07 October 2013

enjoying our mini retirement.

It's been two weeks since we left our jobs and moved away from Dallas, so you may be wondering, what's been going on? Well stop freaking out and I'll tell you.

On September 20, we loaded up Heidi* with all that remained of our life possessions (four suitcases and one air mattress), and began our 20 hour road trip north to Minnesota to visit family before officially beginning the Class of 2013 Orientation Program with Maryknoll Lay Missioners.

*who is Heidi? this is Heidi, fool.

Visiting Family
Smack dab in the middle of Dallas, TX and Lino Lakes, MN is St. Louis, MO. There, we stayed overnight in Ashley's sister's dorm at St. Louis University (we love the Jesuits). Our time there was brief but wonderful nonetheless. Ashley and I were constantly asking ourselves if we still fit in with the college vibe or if we had become too old, prickly and flabby. We concluded that we had not.

Oh, in case you were wondering, the drive from Dallas to St. Louis is painfully boring. Never again.

After gazing upon the Gateway to the West, we continued our journey north via the Avenue of the Saints, which was acre after acre of good old American farmland. Merica!

we drove the avenue of the saints from St. Louis, MO to St. Paul, MN and felt increasingly holy as the drive went on.

Ashley and I spent a week with her family in Lino Lakes, MN which was really wonderful and filled with the goodness of family, friends and Archer Farms Chocolate Chip Muffins from Target (love these muffins).

After that, we took a brief plane flight to Chicago and made our way to fabulous Naperville, IL (AKA Naper-Thrill, The Ville) for a week of more family, more friends, and plenty of overeating and Catchphrase. Also wonderful.

So basically we have been on a mini retirement these past two weeks: going on walks, playing boardgames, talking about the weather, and living from meal to meal.

And that brings us to the present.

Orientation Program
Ashley and I are now in Ossining, NY - gorgeous Westchester County - and have just begun our ten week training and orientation program with MKLM. We have been here for roughly 48 hours, so allow me to hit the highlights.

the sign adorning the entrance to the Walsh Building, home of Maryknoll Lay Missioners (MKLM)

Our flight out of Chicago O'Hare was, in true fashion, delayed two hours. But it was due to weather so whatever, no one's fault. It's all good. Once we landed at La Guardia in NYC, we took a taxi to Grand Central, the Metro North train on the Hudson River Line (love us some Billy Joel), and then another taxi from the train station in Ossining to the campus of the Maryknoll Sisters (AKA The Congregation), which is our home over the next ten weeks.

Fun fact: we are staying in the top floor of the cloister building which sits atop the highest point in all of Westchester County, so we have that going for us, which is nice.

one of many signs adorning the may entrances to The Congregation, home of the Maryknoll Sisters. 

this sign points to a massive uphill driveway leading to the cloister building, which is nice and spooky at night.

The campus has a number of buildings sewn amongst 100+ year-old trees and rolling hills - absolutely beautiful, especially with all of the fall colors. At night, however, it's kind of tough to find things. Took a while (~30 minutes) to determine which building we needed to enter upon arrival (thanks Kristle!), but eventually we made it.

this is the random door we had to find. impossible in the dark of night.

At this point we were kind of wiped and a little annoyed about how tough it was to find the right door, plus it was getting late (around 11 PM). We found our room at the end of the hallway, and then reality set in.

with four pieces of luggage and one human inside, there was no room for anything else, let alone to open the sofa bed.

with the sofa bed open, the door could only open 1/3 of the way before smacking into the bed.

Not exactly a luxury suite. We opened the door and found a small desk, corner table, sofa and sink. In order to open the sofa bed, we had to remove the desk from the room and relocate the corner table. Oh, and none of our luggage could fit in the room, so all four pieces sat in the hallway and eventually we shoved them into a vacant room across the hall. So okay, pretty cramped and sparse quarters, but whatever, we signed up for this - this is the life we chose.

Then the bugs came. We didn't sign up for bugs.

Now I don't want to use the word "infestation" because that would be perfect and also freak out our parents, so I'll just say we had an insect issue. When we pulled out and unfolded the sofa bed, an army of stink bugs exploded from the confines of the bed sheets and mattress like they were trying to grab the last helicopter out of Vietnam. Unfortunately for us, they missed the ride and were stuck behind.

I ran to the communal hallway bathroom, grabbed a roll of toilet paper, and began obliterating bugs right and left as Ashley stood in the corner weeping and praying the Hail Mary. My body darted between the bed, doorpost, furnace vents, and window curtains like an olympic skier on a gold-medal run, while trying to comfort my hysterical and freaking out wife.

By our tally, we killed about 25 bugs that first night, completely dismantling and reassembling our bed and entire room in the process. After our heart rates dipped back below 200 beats per minute sometime around 2 AM, we attempted to go to sleep, but that proved tough with visions of stink bugs scurrying along every inch of our bodies and laying baby stink bug eggs in our ears, nose, mouth and every other terrifying bodily orifice. It was a good first night.

However, God provides and somehow, someway we made it through that night and began our first official day of orientation yesterday. It was absolutely wonderful meeting the other folks in our program, and reconnecting with the MKLM staff. So far we have basically been given an overview of what's to come, a tour of the various Maryknoll campuses, and had a fantastic indoor cookout where we had a chance to socialize with a ton of amazing people. Our spirits have certainly been lifted since that first night and we are ready to get going.

Plus, we get to stare at gorgeous surroundings like these this Fall. Thank you, Northeast. We missed you.

the view down the driveway from the cloister building where we are staying.

road that connects the campuses of Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters and Maryknoll Lay Missioners.

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