Ecuador

“Adios” was the last word I said to my leaders before jumping into a night full of Spanish with a bunch of teens from Ecuador. I was with a group from my high school and our group’s leaders were young, fun, and full of brilliant ideas.

This particular day was pretty relaxing and low key. The rest of my friends and I were hanging around the hostel, walking the streets of Shell, and eating the local candy and ice cream from the vendors. We knew something was going to happen tonight but none of the adults would tell us what was going on. We ate dinner as a group later that night as then our leaders told us it was time to go on a walk. We started walking down the street toward some music that was faintly playing down one of the roads. It got louder and louder as we got closer and before I knew it I was standing at the opening of a gate in front of a building filled with kids my age. The music was loud, I heard a lot of laughing, and of course, no English. I looked at my leaders and they all had satisfied smiles on their faces. “Adios” they said, as they motioned for us to walk in and go figure out what was happening. Turns out, This was young life Ecuador style!

Inside the doors of the building we were welcomed with kisses on the cheeks and high fives. None of the kids spoke to us in English so we were forced to use the Spanish we knew to communicate. Luckily, I had taken Spanish for almost five years so I could understand what their general point was.

The best part about this night was getting to be kids. We played games, sang, danced, and had snacks. We were having so much fun we didn’t even notice that almost four hours had passed and our leaders had been standing at the gate watching us for the past little while. Throughout the rest of the week we saw our young life friends around the neighborhood and talked to each other whenever we had the chance.

My takeaway from this experience is to step out of your comfort zone whenever you have the chance. If I hadn’t have gone to their young life camp, my outlook on this Ecuador trip would be way different. It may be hard to communicate in words with the people around you sometimes, but it’s a good thing we all smile and laugh in the same language.

Lesotho

I walked through the door of the house that I was an assistant house mother for and I heard the yelling and screaming of my 13 kids. “Ausi Emily!” they all yelled as I entered one of the bedrooms. The kids are between the ages of newborn and 6 at Beautiful Gate Orphanage and their smiles and laughter fill the campus with so much light.

It started out like any other day, walking the preschoolers to school, feeding the babies, washing the clothes, and hanging them up on the lines out back. Then it was time to bring the kids outside to play and get the afternoon meal ready. As I worked in the kitchen I began to notice that the atmosphere was changing. The kids outside were drawn toward two new children that the campus nurse was holding. I turned off the sink and walked outside to go see what was going on. As I approached these beautiful children I noticed their tear stained faces and shy demeanors. When both kids noticed me approaching me they looked at me with pure horror in their eyes. My heart broke for these children and what I became aware of next filled me with rage. First, I was the first white person with blonde hair and blue eyes that these two kids had ever seen. Second, these kids had traveled from their mountain home with their father and found the orphanage so he could drop off his two precious children. How could a father do that to his kids!?

Sidenote: Living at an orphanage for any amount of time will bring about a wide range of emotions on a daily basis.

My heart was so sad and angry that this father so quickly gave up his kids just because he didn’t want to take care of them. What I didn’t know though, was the full story. Backup a few months, this man’s wife died of AIDS and he was raiding these two kid alone up in the mountains with few people around. He had AIDS as well and he knew it would only be a matter of time before he died as well. He couldn’t bear the idea of dying and leaving his 1 and 4 year old kids alone in the mountains so he make the heartbreaking decision to say goodbye to the two people he loved most. He wanted to give these kids another chance at life. He wanted them to have the proper medical care seeing that both were HIV+. He wanted them to be loved and cared for instead of be stranded alone in the mountains. These kids moved into my house that night and I held them as they wept. It wasn’t a quiet cry but desperate wails from the heart. They wanted their daddy back.

One of the biggest things I took away from this experience is how vital it is to know the full story before you atomically judge someone. Another thing I was forced to do was rethink the reason the other kids were at the orphanage. Did they come from similar situations? Here I am thinking horrible things about some of their parents, but in reality all they were doing was what they thought was best for their precious babies.

This was a life changing experience to say the least, and this is just one moment in time that has made me to be the person I am today.

This Is Me

Hello everyone! My name is Emily Slenk and I am a first-year student at Calvin College. I have a bubbly personality and a vibrant passion for life. Below is a snapshot of my 19 years of life.

School:

I went to Zeeland Christian from preschool to 8th grade. Then I switched to Holland Christian for my four years of high school and now I attend Calvin college. I am a pre-nursing major with a potential Spanish minor. I enjoy learning and am ready to take on any challenge thrown my way.

Free Time and Things I Love:

Some of my favorite ways to spend my free time are going on adventures with friends, being outside, eating, watching netflix, and of course swimming.

I love hugs, smiling, elephants, little plants (or in that case anything mini makes me really happy) Anything that is considered a new experience makes me super excited. I love dessert and food, and I love learning about other people.

Athlete Status:

I am a swimmer on Clavin’s swim and dive team. I swim the 200 backstroke, 200IM and 400IM pretty regularly. Catch me racing my lane mates, laughing with teammates, or spending any spare minutes hanging around the pool any day. The pool is a safe place for me and it’s somewhere I love to be.

Family Life:

I come from a family of 7. My parents, twin sister, and three other younger siblings are huge aspects of my life and I enjoy spending quality time with them. We adventure together, laugh a lot, all of us enjoy being outside, and sometimes random family sing-offs break out.

Why A Blog?

This blog is going to be a way for me to document where I travel to, what I learn, stories from experiences I have, stories I want to share with other, and so much more. One of my favorite things to do is travel around the globe to discover this intricate world I live in.

Below is a list of the places I have gone. This is where many of my stories and experiences will come from. Join me in my journey around the world.

-Philippines

-South Korea

-Ecuador

-South Africa

-Lesotho

-Switzerland

-Haiti

-Jamaica

-St. Maartin

-St. Thomas

-Israel