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Disciples of the holy grove

Today, on our last day, our class ended early. Some of decided to go out to lunch together as a way to celebrate and say good bye to one another. It just so happened that 13 of us gathered around a table and our resident Jesuit, Tony, took the opportunity to recreate the last supper. He took the dinner roll from the salad of my friend Kari, broke it, and passed one piece around to us. As he held onto our piece of bread, some of us couldn’t help laughing at this goofy Jesuit acting out such a sacred, historical scene in the middle of a restaurant.

But as Tony (who will soon be leaving the Midwest to return to his home land of Syria to aid refugees) instructed us to lift the bread for a blessing the mood turned serious when he said, “thank you God for giving us this scene and these people. May you keep them close. May we create your kingdom. And may you allow us to one day meet again.” As we ate our piece of bread my eyes filled with tears.

Tony the christ with his 12 disciples.
Tony the christ with his 12 disciples.

Today in our final reflection our fearless leader, John O’Keefe, mentioned how even though this program is self-selecting , in that we decide we want  to go on it and sign up, it seems as though this particular group of people was drawn together for a higher purpose. Even as I think about our trip and how integral interviews we had not planned fell into place and how welcoming the people of Bethel were, it is obvious that the Holy Spirit has been working as the 21st member of the CUbackpack team.

When I think back to only 4 weeks ago when we were about to leave for Alaska, I was so uneasy. In fact, the whole week of boot camp I could barely eat I was so nervous about being good enough at video or not being able to respond well to surprises or hiccups in the plan, can you tell I am type-A? However, a month later I can say that the highlights of the trip WERE the hiccups. Crawling over a beaver dam with some of my new best friends because not all of us could fit in the boat to go film a village, hacking down a tree after a miscommunication about “free labor,” and even eating at a horrible, abandoned Italian restaurant in Anchorage on our last night (Guido’s, you are as terrible as your portions are large), are some of my fondest memories of the trip!

While I for sure learned a lot about story telling, videography, and editing, what I appreciated most about the trip is that it taught me to let go.

So what is one thing I can do differently based on what I learned? Be a better Disciple of the Holy Grove. 

My mom has a T-shirt with this phrase on it because I think that describes what the Holy Spirit is to me. It’s a realization that life is better lived when you trust that everything will work out, recognize the different “Christs” (Tony is obviously one for me) in your life, and give yourself over to the “groove of life.”

From the team, to the faculty leaders, to the adventures, to the people we interacted with, to the stories they told- this trip had a definite grove to it and I could not be more happy that I got to be a part of it.

Thank you for reading and for joining me on this journey of the person and the  heart.

Superlatives: Best at bonding

On our final night in Bethel, Mari and I (we are the self-elected social chairs of the group and are in charge of boosting morale and suggesting we go out for breakfast) decided it would be fun to come up with superlatives for our funny little group and read them out loud to everyone at dinner. While we didn’t have dinner that night, we managed to call everyone together by saying that Dr. Z needed them…HA! suckers. Everyone was a good sport and we had a lot of laughs as we closed out our chapter in Bethel.

Here are the superlatives we gave everyone:

Carol Zuegner: Best at forgetting to warn us of pending manual labor (she agreed to have us clear brush at the mayor’s fish camp for an hour and didn’t tell any of us)

Tim Guthrie: Best humorous editor (he added funny word bubbles to the safety pamphlet on the airplane)

John O’Keefe: Best at looking like Brian McCaffery (the biologist we interviewed. “it’s like you’re my mirror, whoa, a mirror staring back at me” *must be read in tune with the Justin Timberlake song)

Brian and John- twinsies! Photo courtesy of Tony Homsy.
Brian and John- twinsies! Photo courtesy of Tony Homsy.

Claire Storey: Best at explaining card game rules (or not…well, maybe if you have 30 minutes…)

Stephanie Tedesco: Best blogger (she made us look bad by blogging everyday. You go girl!)

Morgan Ryan: Best sunset instagrammer (every night a new 2 AM Alaskan sunset)

Social media and sunsets mix well
Social media and sunsets mix well

Tony Homsy SJ: Best at “sensing” when we want to play BS (he was right about half the time…)

Nico Sandi: Best at light packing and water conservation (he wore the same T-shirt everyday and didn’t shower until we got to Seward…almost 2 weeks into our trip)

TJ Moore: Best at mastering “the Yup’ik yes” *cue eyebrow raise* (we saw that a lot)

Scott Prewitt: Best at making everything epic (he put ranch on his pizza once and said it changed his life. Okay Scott)

Hayley Henriksen: Best “head hang” (we see it most after Mari and I embarrass her by telling her she’s the cutest human)

Classic Hayley head hang
Classic Hayley head hang

Leah Renaud: Best at never not singing show tunes (if you like hearing the Frozen soundtrack 24/7, you would have LOVED our trip)

Kari Welniak: Best at falling asleep anywhere and everywhere (airports, fish camps, etc.)

Hannah Mullally: Best at consistently dressing like she’s about to scale a mountain (it was North Face pants and Columbia zip-ups all day, everyday)

Catherine Adams: Best one liners (she’s funny and swift)

Erin Kurvers: Best at reading 17 Magazine out loud (she read our entire room our horoscope, so let’s just say a lot of us are looking forward to coming into money in July)

Madeline Zukowski: Best at apologizing after being sassy (even though the apology basically cancels out the sassiness)

Nichole Jelinek: Best at frequently playing Bananagrams (solo, in a group, it doesn’t matter… Nichole is playing)

Last but definitely not least, the group gave Mari and I the superlative “best at avoiding bear attacks” because they said we are so loud the bear would hear us coming. We can feel the love! This group went from  acquaintances to a family in a matter of days. Each student and teacher brought their own personality to the mix, making this trip an even more amazing experience than any of us imagined. There is no place we would rather be than with all of them.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” -Henry Ford

The Alaskan family. Photo courtesy of John O'Keefe.
The Alaskan family. Photo courtesy of John O’Keefe.