Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Recipe: Sunshine In A Glass (Cremesicle Smoothie)

I think we all could use some happy vibes right now...

What do you think?!

February is almost here, which means a step closer to spring and all things warm and fuzzy and Valentines. But right now, January has provided little more than a major dose of cold weather and winter doldrums... making us all wish we could run away to some tropical island. Or stay inside all day and cuddle on the couch with a fuzzy pup piled under a stack of warm blankets.

Yes... exactly like that!!!
I was inspired to make this smoothie by the pile of clementines sitting on my counter top. I LOVE clementines. They're little nuggets of juicy happiness in their own special wrapping paper. Peel one open and you're immediately overtaken by the sweet smell of citrus. If you close your eyes, you can almost believe it's summer again ... but alas, reality check here: We still have many months of cold ahead!

So while you're waiting for warmer weather, make this tropical smoothie full of immune boosting Vitamin C and happy-vibe boosting Vitamin D that is sure to make you and your taste buds smile ... because life is what you make of it!


8oz vanilla soy milk
2 clementines, peeled
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1/2 banana
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp chia seeds

2 tsp maca powder


Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. 
Sip slowly and enjoy a little taste of sunshine to brighten your day :D

Can I get a "GO Hokies" ?!?

Kenya enjoyed playing in the snow while I was busy taking pictures.

P.S. Happy Hump Day! 

You're halfway through the work week... wooohooo!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Mantra: Commitment

I'm jumping onboard with an idea by fellow RD blogger, Nutritionella, in providing a few words of inspiration to jump start each new week on a positive note. Because we can ALL use a little more positivity in our life. Especially in the dead of winter when we've been battling single digit or even sub-zero temps most days. Is it spring yet?

I know just last week I was saying how excited I am for marathon training. THAT still rings true. Now the cold on the other hand I could do without, please?! As I was completing my first big long run last weekend AND freezing in the process, one word ran on repeat in my head: commitment.

That would be my lovely husband pictured!
Training through the winter months is not always easy or fun, but a necessary task for the year-round athlete and even more so those with early spring racing plans. I knew exactly what I was up again in opting to run a spring marathon, yet knowing and doing are two very different things, and extreme cold have NOT been very good friends here lately. There have been many days where I've had to mentally 'suck it up' and drag myself out the door, dress for the occasion and pray my body and lungs cooperate.

A little humor for your Monday morning... Thanks Runner's World.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned as an athlete over the past year is how to not be a fair weather runner. I know now that motivation to achieve my goals will most often trump the discomfort that suboptimal weather conditions often entail...I just might grumble a little more along the way :) On a similar note, winter is not going away any faster if I complain, so I might as well learn to adapt, problem solve and run through it... what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? A.k.a. Kristen needs to stop being a wimp already. Just sayin'.

Pretty hands post-run. yay Raynauds.
This was from an easy run on Saturday...I'm wearing shorts so it must not have been that bad,
dressed in ALL pink b/c it made me happy.
Thankfully this weekend provided a tad bit of a mental break from the cold.
Commitment means getting the job done, even on days when we just don't feel like it or life is throwing obstacles our way. A notion that I will be continuing to dwell on in 2014 as this is only the beginning of the hard work that lies ahead of me! And as with every year, the "winter weather woes" as I've been calling them will soon pass, spring will come and we'll all be better off for having consistently trained through the winter. For now, this is just another opportunity for me to push out of my comfort zone... something I will probably be doing a lot of this year.

For those die-hard treadmill folks, here's a fun goal for you to strive for this winter.

And here's a great article about dressing for the elements quoting local running store owner, James DeMarco of Runabout Sports.

Want more information on winter running? Head on over to this article by Runner's World.

Stay safe, stay warm friends... and Happy Monday!!

p.s. NEW recipe coming Wednesday that will hopefully put a smile on your face :)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Athlete Spotlight: Rudy Rutemiller

I'm pretty pumped about this month's athlete spotlight! And not just because he had a stellar race at this past December, placing 2nd overall against a stacked field at the Hellgate 100k, but because his love of running and all things active is infectious and motivating. Rudy Rutemiller, a senior of Virginia Tech and co-leader of the VT Ultra-Running Team, is one of the most hard working yet humble athletes I've had the pleasure of knowing. He works hard because he loves it, pushes self-limits in most things he does yet strives to find an overall life balance necessary to achieve longevity in endurance sports. Let's hear it for this guy!!

1. Tell us a little about yourself, how you got started with endurance sports and why you decided to make the jump to ultra-running.

Currently I am a senior at Virginia Tech set to graduate this spring with my degree in Urban Forestry, a follow-up to my first degree in Natural Resource Conservation. Growing up, swimming was my life, my entire family was involved with it. Though I pretty much peaked around age 12, I continued with it until my junior year of high school before giving it up. I attribute my swimming upbringing for my time management skills and for instilling a strong work ethic for sports and life.

As a freshman at Virginia Tech (2010), I joined the VT Triathlon Club. On a whim that following spring, I decided to run the Holiday Lake 50k with a few other teammates. Though I went into the race very much unprepared and ended up injured afterwards (IT band), I was intrigued by the challenge of running for the distance and wanted to give ultras a go. I still love triathlons too, but really, I love anything that involves being outdoors and active!

Rudy with fellow running mates at a recent 24 hr race.

2. Hellgate 100k (Dec 2013) was a breakout performance for you. At one point you mentioned how things just "clicked," something all of us competitive athletes strive for in a race. Can you describe that feeling and how it played out on race day?

At the start of Hellgate (as early as mile 3) I knew pretty early that it was going to be a great race. I consciously made the decision to start out fast so as to stick with a solid group of runners I'm familiar with through the night section (the race starts at midnight). As I was running in the pack, I noticed my effort level was considerably less than the other guys. I was feeling relaxed overall and my legs just felt "on." Even so, I stayed conservation through the night.

The combination of early patience, having a huge base of mileage through the fall, course knowledge and running with a solid pack of runners really contributed to my success. Once the morning came, I began to push the pace and my legs and mind just felt in sync. Positive self-talk really made a difference once daylight came and I was running alone. I would verbally motivate myself with a mantra, "You're crushing this. You don't have to run fast, just run steady." This helped me to put forth one of my hardest race efforts ever and was rewarded with a 2nd place overall finish (by only 8 seconds!) and PR'd by about 1 hr, 20 minutes. It's paradoxical because, though I've received a lot of outside affirmation for my performance, I often think more about the internal satisfaction that I gained by reaping the benefits of my hard work.

Pine to Palm 100 - Oregon

3. Describe your training gearing up for your fall 2013 races and a little about how you fuel for those epically long training sessions.

Grindstone 100, my first 100-miler, was set to be my A race for the fall. I was highly motivated and took my training seriously all summer, putting in high mileage weeks* (100+ miles) and many over-distance runs which attributed to building a huge endurance base. Once Grindstone was cancelled (government shutdown), I lost my motivation for the specificity of training but continued to be highly active in other ways. I put in one 22 hr week of triathlon training (major luxury of being a college student) and raced a flat 50k and even flatter 50 miler, setting big PR's in both. These two races allowed me to realize that I can drop time by running ultras, something I love moreso than just hiking through them. After these races I just strived to put in a few faster tempo-like runs and then maintain my fitness through Hellgate.

Fun snake encounter during a long trail run. Can you spot it?
As for fueling, I experimented a lot with liquid calories throughout the summer months with Gu Rocktane being my go-to choice. In general, I aim for 250-300 calories per hour of liquid + solid calories. I have experimented with other foods in my training sessions, but ultimately I stick to a few key reliable fuel choices that work best for me.

**Note: Rudy took time to build up to his high mileage over the span of a few years... it did not happen overnight and is not for everyone :)

4. How do you fuel on a day-to-day basis to support and optimize your training? What are some of your favorite foods?

Breakfast tends to be my biggest meal of the day and I load up on big bowl of oatmeal with almond butter, cinnamon and honey. I also tend to eat a lot of cereal, PBJ sandwiches and egg-bean burritos. At dinner, I try to include a large portion of steamed vegetables, mainly broccoli, edamame or green beans, paired with whatever else I'm having for the evening. I don't typically buy or prepare meat but I don't restrict it from my diet. I also love fish and wish I ate more of it! So in general, I eat a lot of food to support my active lifestyle and prefer to keep things simple.

5. What big races do you have in mind for 2014. How might you change up your training this season based on your experience and performances in 2013?

The Bighorn 100 (Wyoming, June 22nd) will be my A race for 2014 and my first 100-miler. I would love to throw in a random road marathon sometime this spring, otherwise the rest of my racing schedule is still up in the air. As for training, 2014 will be the "year of workouts" for me. I've never consistently done workouts for running and I think a bit of specificity and focus will help take my running to the next level.

6. You recently spent 2 weeks out west "living the dream," exploring new running trails, sights and scenes. What states did you visit and what was your favorite trail or run?

We spent the majority of our time in Colorado, and then traveled to Utah, Arizona, and hit up Tennessee on the way home. My favorite trail/run by far was Canyon Lands National Park in Utah (7,000 ft elevation), which is the most remote I've ever felt on a run and the most unique, diverse terrain I've ever run on. We did an 8-mile tempo run starting on the sunny side of the canyon, ran up and over the canyon and into the dark side where it was snowy and icy. At one point mid-run we just stopped for 20 minutes and took in the scenery before racing back.

7. What future races are on your "bucket list" and where do you see yourself as an athlete in 5 years?

Western States 100 is definitely on my bucket list along with the HURT 100 in Hawaii and the Leadville 100 when it gets back to its more traditional production. I also want to be competitive in some 50 milers, my favorite distance right now, because they are certainly runnable but you really have to dig deep to endure. 

In 5 years I would love to still be in California (moving there this summer!) or in Seattle. I plan to still be running ultras, just slowly continuing to build up my fitness while maintaining a love for the sport. I would love potential sponsorship if the cards line up for me, but that won't be my focus in training or racing.

8. What's one major obstacle you've had to overcome as an athlete and how did you work through it?

I have a tendency towards burnout, mainly because of how passionate I am about everything I do. To avoid going there, I try to keep longevity in mind when training and racing. I make sure to not race every ultra I participate in because I eventually want to be that 60-year old dude still kicking it! Training with others definitely enhances my enjoyment of the sport long-term while keeping me grounded. Also, at times I can be insecure as to how other athletes and racers view me, but I am continually reminding myself that I am training and racing for my own personal satisfaction and not to appease others.

Rudy w/ VT Ultra co-leader and training partner, Guy Love.

9. Do you have a favorite 'recipe' to share?

I love to cook but don't do elaborate recipes often. As I mentioned, I love simplicity, especially as a busy athlete! One of my favorite combinations is black beans on a wheat tortilla with shredded cheddar cheese and gobs of "red hot" sauce!

10. Any other thoughts, tips or words of wisdom?

Do what you do because you want to, not because it's the latest trend or someone else is doing it.

Thanks for reading and hope you've found some inspiration through Rudy's story. I'll leave you with his favorite quote (one that I love too!):

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Recipe: Veggie Stir Fry with Quinoa & Tofu

As mentioned in my previous post, I'm excited and finally motivated to get back into the kitchen cooking on a regular basis again. As time allows, of course, but somedays it's just easy for me to get swept away in cooking a meal and forget about the time. It's one of my favorite ways to unwind after a busy day: turn on some music...chop, chop, chop... dance around the kitchen some... and whip up something yummy! I'm really good at making a big mess in the process too :)

The other good news in my being back into my cooking habit is impending new recipes to share with you all!

Stir fry is one of my favorite go-to meals. Why this recipe hasn't been posted on here before now is beyond me! Over the past year, it's made almost a weekly appearance on my menu due to it's simplicity and versatility (two major criteria for me for most things food-related). It's simple to switch up the veggies included or choice of protein. I almost always make mine with tofu and edamame for protein, but sometimes we use Gardein brand beefless tips (the hubby's favorite). 


1 medium eggplant
1 bunch broccoli or 2 c. frozen broccoli florets
1 bell pepper (orange or red)
1 onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, diced
1 tbsp ginger, grated or diced
2 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 cup edamame (optional)

1 cup quinoa, dry
2 cups water

For Protein
1 pkg firm tofu*
1/2 cup edamame

For flavor
2 tbsp teriyaki sauce
1/2-1 tsp chili garlic sauce
1 tbsp peanut satay sauce
1 tbsp braggs liquid aminos or lite soy sauce

*Feel free to substitute ~5-6oz meat of choice


Boil 2 cups of water in a small pot. Add the quinoa and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. Set aside.

Divide up your tofu into 1" cubes. Saute over medium high heat until golden, stirring occasionally to brown all sides then set aside. Meanwhile, dice up your broccoli, eggplant, pepper. Warm frying pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil or coconut oil. Add your onion, garlic and ginger and saute for ~1 min. Add your remaining vegetables and saute about 5 minutes. Add your sauces and tofu and saute 2-3 more minutes to allow the flavors to combine and veggies to soften. Serve over a bed of quinoa and enjoy! Yields 4-5 Servings.

Portion size tip: I use anywhere from 1/2-1c. quinoa with 1c. veggie mix depending on my appetite :)

Time saver tip: Cut up the veggies and cook the quinoa in advance to cut down on cooking time for busy nights!

Hopefully I'll have more recipes to share in the coming weeks! Stay warm friends!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Getting Back on Track: Take 2

While I wrote a similar post around Thanksgiving about getting back into training post-50 miler, I thought I'd follow up with a second post as the process of kicking things into a higher gear now that the holidays have passed and races are looming! This year I took much more down time at the end of the season than last, and I'm thankful for that! Yet training adds some much needed structure to my life, which has felt unsettled and chaotic for a while now. Between tapering and racing Mountain Masochist, post-race recovery, moving into a new home mid-December, Christmas, New Years and a week in Haiti...I've felt all out of sorts!

Our family portrait from Christmas 2013. What a huge blessing to move into our first home with the help of family AND then celebrate Christmas together!
All these things have been wonderful and fun but now that I've returned from Haiti, I'm more than ready to get a little more 'serious' about the training lifestyle and settle back into my normal routine again. With how chaotic the past two months have been, healthy habits have slipped in regards to proper sleep, nutrition, hydration, etc ... Grocery shopping and cooking? I may have forgotten what those are!!

On our way back from Haiti, the hubby and I decided it was time we truly get back into gear regarding all those little things that lead to enhanced training outcomes, better health and a happier mood for us in general. We planned out our racing/life schedule for 2014 (it's a busy one), got our bills in order, hit up the store to stock up on healthy grocery essentials, signed up for a few spring races and are trying to motivate each other by streamlining training sessions when possible. Having a husband who is also an athlete = winning! I just love it. The other day we drove into town for our run together, and though we went completely separate ways, it was super motivating to have him out there at the same time.

Us kicking off 2014 in the best way we know: with a long trail run!
Getting organized over a cup of coffee with this sweet calendar... a gift from a friend!
First run post-Haiti with the hubby and pup.
Kenya is excited to be getting back into shape too!
Total body strengthening is another area I'm striving to add back into my routine more consistently. I've been back in the gym since early December, but not in the most productive manner... more like "warming up" to the idea of lifting again, haha. So now I've written out some workouts to get me back on track, keep me accountable and use my precious gym time productively. Sort of like running, the gym is my happy place! It's pretty pertinent for me to stay injury free too, so that in itself is motivation enough to get myself in gear and make it happen now that training is picking up again. Over the next few months, I hope to share a few of my favorite exercises, so stay tuned!

As also mentioned, nutrition is another area that's been slacking, as often does anyway on the off-season and during the holidays, but I'm feeling ready to settle back into packing my lunch daily, cooking a few key meals per week with planned leftovers, focusing on better pre- post- workout nutrition, pushing fluids and having my beloved green smoothies daily. Nothing too specific, just small tweaks along the way to optimize energy levels and enhance recovery, which I'll be needing both as I dive headfirst into this next training cycle...

Speaking of which, this past week I kicked off training towards my next two races, the Blacksburg Classic 10 miler in mid-February and the Shamrock Marathon in my hometown of Virginia Beach in mid-March. 2013 was a fun year of trail ultras, but I am oh SO excited to return to the roads for some faster running... And just LOVE all things marathon training!!! After seeing my new set of workouts for the next 2 weeks, I was giddy as a kid on Christmas. I enjoy the surprise of new workouts every two weeks, and with plenty of long runs, tempo runs, pace runs, etc back on the schedule, this girl could not be happier! While I look forward to working hard and clearly have my work cut out for me over the next two months, I'm continually reminding myself that these two are "just for fun."

Really, who have I become?! :D

Happy training y'all ! What are you currently training for ??

Friday, January 17, 2014

Haiti: Finding Inspiration in the Midst of Struggle

When Jordan asked me to join him in Haiti for a medical mission trip, I thought "cool! An opportunity to visit someplace different and warm." REality check: I knew very little of Haiti and was scared to pieces of the thought of serving in another country and the sacrifice involved in doing so. In the weeks before leaving, I strived to gain perspective from others and I'm glad I did so. Many people raved about Haiti and I knew it was my turn to find out why.

Port au Prince from the air
My overall impression of Haiti, CCH as an organization, the SU team and the REACHH team is one of great admiration. I admire the hearts of all those who were there to serve. To witness their compassion with the people of Haiti and towards each other was incredibly uplifting! I enjoyed the fellowship and learning from each of you! And to see the persistent hard efforts of the CCH team to make forward progress is improving the lives of the Haitians: incredible. They are working against many obstacles, and I'm certain somedays they are overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness, yet they continue to push forward because they believe in their mission and they are truly passionate for God, the people of Haiti, and for changing the status quo. A huge thank you to these people who ultimately made this trip all the more memorable.

People I am thankful for!
In all, there were 12 of us serving: 6 students from Shenandoah University, 4 medical professionals from Minnesota and Jordan and I.
Our fearless leaders, Jordan and Abigail, with Laura (center), Outreach Director for CCH.
Photo credit: Abigail Trader.
Also, a huge note of gratitude to those who have supported us in this endeavor, both financially and through words of wisdom, thoughts and prayers. Jordan and I have talked about serving abroad for many years now, so thank you for making this dream a reality! Haiti is without a doubt a very impressionable, captivating country and it's taken me sometime to figure out why. Again I will note, my words just continue to fall short in describing this experience! Hopefully the pictures can fill the gap... but what I'm really saying is you need to get out there and experience it for yourself!

A few of my favorite scenes near Jacmel.
Haiti is "life intensified," as someone told me before I left and I couldn't agree more. Being in Haiti presented me with the opportunity to feel what it truly means to live. To see the hand of God's creation in those endless mountains, to witness so much joy, hope, faith and love amongst dirt, trash, poverty, remaining rubble from the earthquake of 2010... For there is much beauty to be found in our weaknesses: despair, hurt, helplessness and need for others. That is probably the biggest lesson I've learned in the past year, that the beauty in struggle is that it so often reveals God's power to heal and to restore peace, that it causes us to draw closer to Him: "For my power is made perfect in weakness" has never rang more true (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

The beauty of Haiti is that it's raw and exposed. Its "flaws" are just as evident as its strengths with little effort to cover them up: there's nothing superficial about it. The people are open: they make eye contact on the streets and wave hello rather than hiding beneath the cover of being in a rush or staring at their phones. They treat each other like family, no matter if you've just met, and offer help without hesitation. Many streets are unfinished rugged paths, most vehicles bruised and beaten yet functional, our commute through the town of Jacmel felt chaotic without orderly stop signs, lanes or speed limits to the extent that we have here in America. Without the limitation of strict rules or the distraction of worldly possessions, the main focus is on church, family, community and just plain living.

No fancy church necessary! A simple alter on a hill.
Haiti was ultimately a huge lesson in excess and waste. Compared to Haiti, we are blessed with many luxuries: hot water that is safe to drink, a steady flow of electricity, a reliable roof over our heads... grocery stores, ovens, refrigerators, microwaves, healthcare services, education ... many of the things we often take for granted are the things they do without or that only a select few can afford. It was a lesson of excess in food consumption, something I will probably write about in a post of its own. I am thankful for this perspective because in our world, it's so easy to get caught up in wanting more or the next best thing, something we all probably need accountability regarding.

In Haiti I witnessed what it feels like to be both truly "alive" while experiencing hurt, pain and despair, which is why I think being there has impacted me in such a deep way. In the end, I am left feeling conflicted. On one hand, Haiti has given me a deep sense of appreciation for the life I've been blessed with. On the other hand, I'm left with this deep sense of discontent and am reminded that I can't just sit back and settle for the status quo. And what that means for me, I don't know, but it's so easy to get caught up in our everyday lives that we forget we are only specks in a very big world. There is so much more to living than our daily "to do" list. To live to is to be surrounded by community, to give and share, to love and follow God and enjoy His push beyond your comfort zone and to take leaps of faith not really knowing if you'll land on your feet!

Jordan at Pazapa
One of my favorite pictures: serving alongside Amparo (nurse) and Eddie (CCH staff/translator) to treat this adorable little girl!
To live is to see that this world is vast and spectacular, more so than we could ever imagine. Yet, no matter how "unique" we may be as people, we are all united as children of God, with the ability to not only help each other, but learn from each other and encourage each other while spreading love and hope. Thank you Haiti for being all of these things and more for me and being such a beautiful example of life lived by faith.

Another favorite: Abigail and Brisso. The simple fun of bubbles and laughter with this little one. So much love in this picture :)
To travel to Haiti and serve was a opportunity beyond imaginable and I am thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those we worked with. Though, how cool it was to return to work on Monday and realize that I am able to serve those in need on a daily basis. I just love my residents and love being able to make a difference in their life too!

2014 is still very new with so much opportunity in store...I am just getting started and excited for what lies ahead! While I have many personal goals in mind for the year, I am thankful to start the year off serving in this manner and to be reminded of the importance and blessing of living a life focused on others. God is good!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Haiti Day 7: Our Last Day & Sad Goodbyes

We've arrived safely in America and the Changs are hanging out here in Miami awaiting our final flight home. The SU team should be home by now and preparing to start another busy semester on Monday. While this likely won't be my final post about Haiti, here's a wrap up of the activities from our final day...

Abby and I before heading out to Mt. Fleury

Thursday morning we made our final trip out to Mt. Fleury to host a half day of the mobile clinic. Once again we were able to work with a number of individuals with great need. One particular young lady stands out in my mind: she was in her mid twenties and very much underweight, dehydrated and had not eaten anything yet that day. I handed her some water and then a can of nutritional supplement. When she moved on to see our nurse, we learned that she was 3 months pregnant. She was borderline anemic and we were able to provide her with an iron supplement and anti-nausea medication for her morning sickness. I provided education on the best foods for weight gain and the importance of eating for two, but I will never forget the worried look of insecurity on her face. I knew in my heart that she was trying her best and food accessibility would continue to be a challenge throughout her pregnancy. Her resources for help are limited and I'm glad we could assist in just a small way.

Abby and Brisso playing with bubbles 

Jackie giving this young girl medication with a mouthful of peanut butter!

As the morning went on the kids got out of school and came to visit us at the clinic. It was a blessing to see them one last time before our trip in Haiti drew to a close. I wanted more time, but the reality was that we would soon have to say farewell and return to our home. I walked around the immediate vicinity of the clinic for a while to just soak it all in and pray over the community... In the midst of need and poverty there is so much beauty to be found in Mt. Fleury, in Haiti, in the hearts of these people. They are so strong in their faith, ready and willing to learn, resourceful in ways we cannot imagine... They smile, and laugh... A lot! Mt. Fleury is a community of great potential and I am thankful for the work of CCH to continue to provide the resources and infrastructure they need to flourish. 

It was incredibly sad to leave the beautiful faces of those children behind. I know as a team, we are thankful for the warm welcome we received by the community of Jacmel and Mt. Fleury and the openness they showed as we tried to help them. I know above all things, they wanted us to walk away with the impression of just how beautiful Haiti is and how proud they are of their country. Don't worry, we did!

Molly and I enjoying some kid time

Just look at those smiles!!

Last minute goodbyes

The kiddos waving as we boarded the truck to leave

Thursday afternoon we had the opportunity to visit Bassin Bleu, a hidden gem about 45 min from Jacmel. We loaded into our usual truck and little did we know the ride over there would be half the fun! We finally were able to drive across the "river," which is just about empty right now from the dry season, and then up, up, up we drove on a rough, steep road with about 14 of us in the back of this truck! Safe? Definitely not according to American standards, but it certainly was a hoot and perfect fun for the adventurer in me! The view of the ocean and the city of Jacmel from above was simply breathtaking. Again, these pictures absolutely don't do justice to the beauty we've witnessed here in Haiti.

Joel, Nic, Jordan, Eddie and Rich

Ivanna, Abby, Kendall and Jen

Bassin Bleu is a waterfall/waterhole that features the bluest of blue water. I was told that the water is at least 80 feet deep in the center... Scary stuff!!! On the walk there, I managed to slip in my flip flops and put a nice slice in my big toe... I thought little of it until about a minute later when my entire foot was covered in blood (I'll spare you that pic!) and we had to stop for some emergency first aid on the side of the trail. Thankfully, Amparo is a nurse, pulled out her wound care kit and soon enough I was good to go.

First aid on the top of a cliff... Fun times!

We enjoyed the refreshing water and the uniqueness of Bassin Bleu. It was the perfect way to unwind after a long few days of work. The team was full of laughter and playfulness... It's great to see how close we've become as a group on just a few short days. Despite my toe being nicely wrapped, I too joined in on the fun after I overcame my fear and jumped in the water... screaming the whole way of course. Have I ever mentioned my fear of open water?? Coach would have been so proud of my form! ;)

The waterfall of Bassin Bleu

That would be Jordan convincing me to jump in.

What an incredible group of people!

The return trip to our headquarters was a bit more adventureous than our ride there. We once again enjoyed the beautiful views as the sun began to set in the background. I made sure to soak in those last moments of sunshine and warmth as soon enough we'd be returning to the harsh cold of winter back home.  

As we were crossing the river again, the truck came to a sudden stop and we all went flying forward. We found ourself stuck in the middle of a water crossing! Joel and Eddie, being such gentlemen, kindly carried each of us to dry land and then jumped deep in the water to assist in getting the truck out. Funny how things work in Haiti, people just showed up out of nowhere to assist in our efforts. It was truly a team effort and symbolic of the unity and kindness of the people here! 

Strong men!!

Such a great example of teamwork.

The evening was spent packing making final preparations for our trip home then once again sitting under the stars reflecting on the day and trip as a group. Sharing our "highs" and "lows" each night was a great way to hear about each other's experiences, reflect on the challenges and blessings we witnessed and bond and pray together as a group. This has been a great lesson for me of the power of prayer as a group and of being united in Christ.

Friday morning was all last minute packing and hugs and farewells, both to the CCH staff and the other members in our group, before we all went our separate ways. 

With CCH staffers Eddie and Joel. Joel was our security/bodyguard and, though he worked through the night, he volunteered many days with us in Mt. Fleury. Eddie is an agronomist who teaches communities around Jacmel how to make their gardens more productive. Two amazingly awesome individuals who always had a smile on their face.

There's no more for me to say! We left the same way we arrived, via an amazing small aircraft ride through the mountains. Good bye Jacmel, goodbye Haiti... Or shall I say see you later?!

There is so much to say regarding this trip that I just haven't found words for yet. I hope to write at least one more post to tie it all together, but I plan to give myself some time to process it all before I do. Thank you to those who have been reading along... It has been helpful to write and I am grateful for the opportunity to share! If you've missed my previous posts, please take the time to scroll back and read them all!

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