Farewells


I’m writing this in Fort Lauterdale, Florida.

I can’t describe the feeling I had when the plane lifted off the ground. Six months in a foreign country where most people weren’t too kind? Never again. I remember hugging my teddy bear and shivering with anxiety as I waited for the plane to get in the air.

Once in the air, it was the longest flight ever. I didn’t sleep a wink; for some reason, my mind was full of twelve different songs that mixed into a weird, warped playlist that drove me insane. I turned on my iPod and went through five albums (Cleopatra, The Lumineers–The Undoing, Steffany Gretzinger, Pines by A Fine Frenzy–among others.)

I left another Mariella behind in Lima, Peru. She’s in the past; the pressure is off, and when I arrive at home, I’m going to be a stronger woman. I won’t be the person I was when I left. I’ve grown too much, mentally and emotionally.

There are more adventures to come. I’m exhausted; I’ll sleep for a few days, and then I will come back to life, and I am going to shine. There’s no room in my life for people who don’t appreciate me.

You don’t get to choose your family, but you can choose your friends–and they become like family. I have a family of people who truly love me, aside from my parents and brother. I’m not alone; I will recover.

I can’t wait to be a full-time writer again.

Good-bye, Peru. I’m looking ahead–to home.

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Drained of Youth


These past six months, I’ve gotten older.

It’s a bizarre thing: colors seem darker, and smiles don’t come easily. So much has happened. It’s been a trip full of ups and downs; if I wrote a story about it, the reader would finish in a melancholy mood.

Does this mean it was a bad experience? No. It’s not a bad thing to see things with clarity. Hurt me with the truth, but do not shield me with a lie. I’ve always said I live by a policy of honesty: if I have to talk, I’m going to tell you how I feel, whether you like it or not.

Be careful encouraging me to opine.

Because of this policy, I didn’t know how to deal with liars. People I thought were genuine turned out to be faking with me. Please, don’t act like a friend when you really aren’t.

Since I’m a writer, I learned from this. It’s one reason why we write: to pour emotion into a tale readers can relate to. One thing I gained from this trip is emotion, the words for books with more depth.

Now I can write about heartbreak and feel it. I can describe disappointment. I know what it’s like to be stabbed in the back and see those I love cry. I even know what it’s like to live without water.

I know how to stick up for myself. I remember the day I stood up and said what needed to be heard. It was satisfying; I could tell by their reactions that someone had to tell them. My words were a long time coming.

Words are powerful.

Most of my stories so far have been hopeful, but we do need balance. In life, there is heartbreak and pain. This trip has put me through shadows, so I can write about darker emotions.

I have shed tears. I can write stories that shed tears.

Each experience made me stronger, made my future tales more powerful. I will be digging into sensitive parts of my memory.

Storytellers use our dark experiences to connect with readers. We see the positive side of suffering. We use our heartbreak to speak to those who read with broken souls. If this trip allowed me to one day help a person who’s hurting, I’m grateful for every tear.

I wouldn’t take back the memories. Everyone goes through times of suffering. I want my stories to mean something to you when, one day, you’re also hurting.

I leave this country with mixed feelings, a sore heart, and plenty of stories. I’m eager to share them. Reading got me through the darkness; one day, I hope my stories will help you get by, too.

Nothing in life is in vain, not even heartbreak.

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Turning the Page


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When an adventure nears its end, I feel a mixture of grief and relief.

During our stay in Peru, we’ve had good moments–our visit to Nazca being one of them. There have also been moments I wish could be erased from my memory, and though they’ll always hurt, I will give them to Him. He can handle them.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7, NIV

I won’t be walking away from purely painful memories. I made new friends here, and it hurts to wonder when I’ll see them again. I’m thankful that the Internet will keep us connected, but it can’t recreate happy moments spent together.

I have to say good-bye for now, but I will see them again. A part of my heart will always live in Peru with the people I met and grew to love.

My heart has broken several times here. We came for a heavy reason, which was my grandmother falling ill. I meant to blog more during our stay, but life happened and I couldn’t make time for it. I have to reflect on it now, though, since this chapter will soon come to a close.

I can’t brush hard times under the rug; this trip hasn’t been perfect. Still, moments spent laughing with beautiful souls made up for every hardship. The moments I gazed at the ocean and pondered His love for me–nothing can compare. And times when all was calm, times spent gazing at the wall hearing the city outside the window.

I’ve lived here for five months. In this time, I survived the water crisis. I had adventures and memorized the streets. I smelled the ocean and felt humidity, experienced summer in another hemisphere.

All things considered, it was lovely. I wouldn’t undo it, nor would I wish to have left earlier. The best moments happened after we extended our stay.

I will miss my friends and the ocean, the streets and the native fruits. But all adventures come to an end–that’s the only way for us to have new ones.

To the people who’ve been here all along, thank you. You have found a fond place in my story; I will never forget you. Now the chapter’s coming to a close, and in my heart I carry you home with me.

I choose to remember the good things, thank God for each moment of laughter, and remember the sun always rises.

Just hold on a little longer; it will rise.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:14, NIV

The Value of Water


The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
The Lord reigns as king forever.
(Psalm 29:10 NLT)

When you leave home, you should always expect to find yourself outside your comfort zone. Otherwise, you really aren’t gaining much from the experience; we leave home to see more of the world, experience new things, meet people.

While on this trip to Peru with my family, I’d already had plenty of experiences. My biggest fear was the mega-earthquake they’ve been predicting for decades; aside from that, I couldn’t picture myself in the middle of a real crisis.

Then the floods began. Water is rising from the rivers—the Rimac, among others—and it’s swallowing entire towns. Some people have drowned in the water; others lost their homes and everything they owned. It’s not over yet, either; we are waiting for things to get worse.

I am in a part of Lima where, thankfully, the water hasn’t reached the streets. It doesn’t mean we didn’t feel the effects of the disaster; in Lima we may not see floodwater, but we are struggling to find clean water anywhere.

When I first opened the tap in the bathroom sink to find it dry, I got worried but thought it would fix itself before the day ended. I was wrong. Soon a day had passed, then two, and everyone in the district was gathering water from the park in buckets to wash the dishes and keep bathrooms clean.

If you’ve ever spent a summer day deprived of water, you know how we depend on it to keep sane. The fact of knowing there’s water brings you peace of mind; if the heat gets unbearable you can jump in the shower or wash your face. For three or four days, we didn’t have that.

I know plenty of people don’t have the luxury of tap water, but if I hadn’t found myself at a park gathering it in buckets, I would have no experience to use as comparison. I would never know how precious water is.

There is an emergency water tank above the apartment where we’re staying. For some reason this tank had broken at the wrong time; thankfully, after three days it was fixed. When there was water again, how we cheered and praised God!

We are blessed with an emergency tank, but a great deal of Lima is still without water. I am praying for them, and hope you will, too.

From this ordeal, I learned the value of water. I learned about desperation, crisis, and the power of a community coming together—neighbors we’d never spoken to suddenly became friends. Above all, I learned about God and our dependency on Him.

We don’t realize how cozy we’ve gotten until we’re forced to step into the real world. I have learned how fortunate I am, and that things I take for granted now can be gone in a heartbeat. It saddens me to know that parts of Peru are still suffering, not only without water—they have lost their homes.

We are not invincible, and all this time I had been underestimating the gift of water. While I don’t think God has caused these floods, He used this time of discomfort to help me grow. It all caused me to ponder, How much can I endure when something vital is taken away? How deeply can I learn to trust in Him above all things?

Most of all, Can I learn to see Him in the darkest of situations, when I’m not as cozy?

I think the greatest lesson I learned is that God is present in the storm. He doesn’t cause the tragedy; He never does anything to hurt us. He is, however, always with His children to comfort them. He comforted me through this storm, and He will comfort you through yours.

I’m still afraid the water will be cut off (those floods go on every day.) This time I will be ready, knowing I won’t be going through it alone. If the water is cut off again, I will wait and seek shelter in Him.

As Scripture so beautifully puts it:

Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
(Psalm 27:14 NLT)

I Crossed the Wishing Bridge


In the district of Barranco, there is a bridge called el puente de los suspiros.

According to legend, if you can hold your breath while crossing it, you get one wish. Some people say it only counts the first time you cross it; at any rate, I didn’t know of this belief until a few weeks ago, after crossing it for the first time.

Today we visited that bridge, and I found myself in a situation worthy of a plot bunny. I was falling behind, losing sight of the rest of my party (it’s crowded in Barranco; a lot of tourists go there.) So I was sprinting across this bridge, trying not to crash into anyone, when a man shows up in front of me holding a green bracelet.

I didn’t see his face, because the moment was so quick. “To make a wish,” he said. “It’s an outward sign.” (Roughly translated—he’d spoken in Spanish.)

And I said a very firm no—but I didn’t do it out of a rude refusal to make a wish. I said it a bit harshly because I was looking for the crowd I’d come with, and he’d gotten in my way. Scanning the crowd for my mom and brother, I hurried past him.

At once I felt a twinge of regret. The bracelet would have been nice, I thought, even if the wishing part is only a legend. So once I found my party, I turned and tried to look for the guy giving out bracelets—but there was no one on that bridge giving away bracelets, or even selling them.

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I’m not terribly superstitious, but my heart did sink a little. I’m not sure if it’s because I probably sounded a little upset, or I really wanted a handmade bracelet, or I really thought for a moment I would have a wish granted.

But I’m going to live with that what if moment forever. I could have a bracelet. I could have made a wish—after all, I’d been crossing a “magic bridge” and the legend is hundreds of years old.

You may not believe in wishes either, and the regret is likely to pass. But I wanted to share my story, because it’s one of those times you do cross paths with magic—or walk through a legend—a split-second where your yes or no will haunt you, even if the situation seems trivial.

This bridge is beautiful. Behind us, a young man played his cello to make some money. Barranco is a place full of murals and artists, art fairs and tourists from all over the world. It’s so colorful and vibrant; I can say it’s my favorite place in Lima so far.

Maybe the third time I visit the bridge, I’ll run into another chance to take the pretty bracelet and make a wish at the magic bridge. For now, I take the memories—the adventure—and pictures of a beautiful place full of art and culture.

The Book Inspired by Peru


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It took a few weeks, but I was right: a new environment will inspire you with dozens of ideas. My idea for a book set in new territory has finally come to me!

When we first arrived in Peru back in December, I knew it would happen. Perhaps I would meet a person who wanted to be a character, or hear of a historical event that needed to be written, or describe a beautiful street.

Now I have a new book waiting its turn to be written. It’s still in the brainstorming stage, but it’s different from my other work, inspired by the sights, smells, and sounds of the busy Peruvian streets. I’ve been writing quick descriptions of every place I go so I can use them as reference when the time comes to write.

I don’t know yet if the story is going to be set in Lima or in a fictional place similar to it. I have a “filler” character name so I can build a backstory for the MC, but that name is likely to change. I don’t know much about the setting—what time of the year will it be? Winter or summer? How detailed do I want to be? Will I mix in Peruvian folklore to give it more personality?

This is the time for taking notes, character building, and seeing. Meanwhile, I’m finishing up the first draft of Allie’s third adventure (it’s currently at 44k, and it’s going to be the longest book in the series so far.) I also write short stories when I have the time, because I’m planning to put together an anthology (it’ll keep the plot bunnies happy.)

Back in December I decided 2017 would be a year for writing new material. Rather than scrambling to edit and publish new work, I’m going to spend the next twelve months practicing the craft, improving my prose and developing ideas. If something happens and I realize I have a manuscript ready later on, perhaps I’ll think of releasing it.

However, my fingers itch to increase the word count every day—I write 2,000 words before bedtime, and it may not seem like much at first, but look at my manuscript now! 44k!

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The book set in “Lima” is going to take some time. Since there is research involved, I don’t think I’ll be able to throw out 2,000 words every night—not if I want them to be good words. It’s fantasy, but not everything is going to be just made up. I want to stay as true as possible to my experiences and memories walking the streets myself.

I can’t even tell you what it’s going to be about yet—only that it is original and outside of my comfort zone. It’s going to be a challenge.

A visit to the Museum of Peruvian Literature doubled my motivation for this. I don’t have illusions of my work making it into this museum, but it helped me gain perspective. I will read Peruvian literature, study their folklore, pay attention to the people—I still have time.

I will work hard this year to produce a piece that’ll do justice to this wonderful adventure I’m living. I hope you will enjoy it!

Being a Traveling Pantser


DSCN9349.JPGI will always be a pantser, no matter where in the world I’m writing.

I had a loose outline for the third book of my series. I even made index cards by taking a notebook and cutting its pages into rectangles – I guess it’s easier for me to use index cards that aren’t real and not be afraid I’m wasting money?

Anyway, it’s a good thing I didn’t spend money on index cards, because the outline I made on these makeshift cards turned out to be a waste. I’m 20k into the first draft, and it’s nothing like I’d planned. At least for the Fallen Faery Tales, I will always be a pantser.

The story is coming along so easily! Words are spilling onto the page (or into the document) and I’m resisting the urge to edit, meaning I make faster progress. I think it’s the different location that keeps my Muse busy, making her feel generous.

dscn9350I’ve been trying to start a bullet journal, and though it isn’t pretty (certainly not Pinterest worthy!) my favorite feature is a writing goal tracker. At the end of the day, I fill in a box with the daily word count goal. I keep the goal small, just 2k a day, and have been able to fill in all of the little boxes since January 1. I hope to finish a new draft by the end of January, and if it winds up longer than the first two books, I’ll still be filling in little boxes come February.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading (The Count of Monte Cristo is quite a feat!) or enjoying the Peruvian summer (if it’s not too hot to enjoy.) We’ve gone to the beach and seen different parts of the city. All this helps with my projects.

Travel is a great for any artist. If you can get somewhere new, just for a little while, do it. Your story will thank you, your Muse will love you, and even if you don’t write during the vacation, there’ll be plenty of material to work with at home!

I Resolve to Know Myself


 

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That’s Inca Kola – the best soda ever. You should try it.

When you leave home and go far from your comfort zone, you make room for God to work wonders in your life. Not that He couldn’t work wonders if you stayed home–but it’s  more fun for you if you go where He leads.

What have I learned so far?

  • You are never finished learning about a different culture–the customs, ways people live. To know life in another country, you have to live it. Thankfully I’ve been here enough time to learn a great deal, and will be here a while longer.
  • In a different setting, you learn about yourself as a character. When you’re placed in situations you’d never imagined, an interesting thing happens: you grow as a person. You make progress on your Hero’s Journey.
  • This year I celebrated Christmas in Peru, so I learned that the Lord’s birthday isn’t limited to white Christmases and trees full of lights. It’s celebrated differently all over the world, but no matter where you are, the holy day is beautiful.

I will keep my updates brief. First, on the topic of writing. January 1 is the day I started work on the third book of my series, which has not yet been titled. Being in the place where the first book was inspired, I’m confident that the third installment will be full of magic and life. The story and characters have become oddly alert, as if knowing this is where they first became.

And on reading, I’ve decided not to do the Goodreads challenge this year, focusing instead on becoming familiar with classic literature. That doesn’t mean I won’t read a new book if it seems like it’ll be good. It just means that I’m not putting pressure on myself to speed-read anything for the sake of a number.

I’m learning to crochet! I made a unicorn a couple of weeks ago, and now I’m going to learn to make dolls. My next project is to crochet a mermaid; it’s really exciting to see your work take shape. I’d been meaning to learn a new hobby for a long time now, and it is also doing much to help me learn about myself as a person.

My only resolution for 2017 was to live more and find out who I am as a person. What’s yours? Do you have any awesome plans?

Being an Introverted Traveler


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I was not made for noise. I know I haven’t been designed to cope with the sounds of a big city. I’m an introvert; by now I’ve accepted the “proper care of introverts,” and I will tell people when something is too much–if I need quiet time–if I’m overwhelmed. Aside: The more people tell me to stop being an introvert, the more proud of it I am. The world needs introverts, too.

But this trip has been different.

There’s a way of hearing that doesn’t involve using the ears. In the weeks since our visit to Peru (which isn’t even close to ending) I’ve learned much by sitting at the window as an introvert and listening to the sounds of the city quietly. I’ve learned about Lima, about home, about myself and God. I’ve learned about limitations (there are none) and turned 23 with a deeper sense of knowledge about who I am.

This trip is helping me see things in a different light, and though I’ll still be an introvert–though I will still need quiet time with my journal and the Lord–the minutes I spend listening and watching, those are moments when my soul absorbs colors I’d never known existed.

Travel is not a waste of time. It’s scary, but it’s worth it, and you learn so much.

It can be tiring. You will spend some nights longing for your library of a bedroom (sometimes I do) and you’ll long for a white Christmas (because it doesn’t snow here) and you can be unnerved by all the faces everywhere when you go out for a walk.

I’m not perfect. It’s taken me a little while to adjust to a new place, but slowly, surely, it’s wrapping around me like a blanket. My inner adventurer is surfacing, and I am so glad to be here. When I return home, it’ll be with many dear memories, lessons learned, a journal full of reflections.

What are the limits if we can fly to other countries, speak to people far away, improve at a different language–soar above the clouds, gaze at the restless ocean, feel the wind play with your hair–but most of all, learn who you are?

I’m learning who I am. My blog has been dead because of this. I can’t wait to tell you the stories I’ve heard and been a part of. I was reluctant to travel and leave my comfort zone, but now I encourage you to do it if you get the chance.

Even if you’re tired and groggy, dragging your feet into the plane–you might be thinking of what you won’t have for a while, but some part of you will be fixed on the gain of the journey. Focus on that. Most of all, be yourself. That’s the best way to experience an adventure to the fullest.

I hope you’re having a beautiful Christmas–whether it’s white, or one by the beach!

-Mariella