Wow, a lot has happened since last Sunday. Last Sunday night I was hanging out in Dublin with two incredible humans before a wild adventure that I'll never forget. I live a pretty fortunate life serving in Germany, but I'm not exactly flitting about country to country because 1) money and 2) disability. However, in leaving the continent, I did want to have a chance to adventure somewhere new and take a breath in a beautiful place to have a reflection moment on my ten years living overseas. In conversations with my librarian friend Heather, once she found out I'd never been to Ireland and therefore never seen the Book of Kells, she immediately volunteered to remedy this situation.
We found affordable tickets and lodging - and the important accessibility boxes were ticked to book this trip. However, Sunday morning, I received a call from the hotel in Dublin where we were staying that night that their lift was broken and wouldn't be fixed for the duration of the stay. I mentioned that last week, and I also mentioned I wasn't going to be stopped by this inconvenience. So Heather and I boarded the plane and arrived at our hotel after a bus ride from the airport to drop our bags and meet up with my best friend at a pub down the road.
Yeah, that's right, Givorgy dropped in at the same time we were there. That was a total bonus that was unplanned when we booked the trip. We had dinner and met up for breakfast after Heather and I discovered our hotel not only didn't have a functioning lift, but they did have a functioning night club on the ground floor. It was rocking til 2:45, and we didn't get much sleep. However, nothing could tear me down; I conquered the stairs a second time to check out and head to Bewley's on Grafton which was recommended by a friend who grew up nearby. We walked through Saint Stephen's Green to get there, and my nerd heart almost exploded when I was reading James Joyce's century old collection of short stories later that afternoon and both of those places were mentioned.
But let me tell you about the Book of Kells. Okay, you don't really care, but this is one of the oldest books in existence, and it's like 1200 years old and absolutely beautiful. We wandered around the museum area that gave a lot of history information about the book and the copying patterns of the era before the security team helped me behind the curtain to the lift up to the special darkened room with the most beautiful book I've ever seen. Unbelievable. Then I went behind another staff wall to another elevator to go to the "Long Room" which more of you might recognise as the inspiration for the Jedi library in Star Wars. Also, they don't let you behind the ropes anywhere near the books UNLESS YOU ARE IN A WHEELCHAIR. So, I'll take my disability perks where I can get 'em after the broken lift deal. The last two pictures are when I was getting back into the elevator, and I'm obviously elated to be so close to such ancient books.
You'll notice, perhaps, that the long hall looks full of empty shelves, and that's because we discovered the books are being moved and catalogued and digitised and stored elsewhere for a while while the ancient room goes through renovations. It'll be closed near the end of this year to finish the project. We managed to get in just in time to still see a few shelves filled with books. The employee who helped me with the elevator was sharing some of the details and about how the previous display included an original Shakespeare folio; since I couldn't see that, I got a selfie with a bust of the bard and had plenty of excitement for the rest of the items on display.
After that amazing start to the day, Heather and I went to pick up a rental car, and this champ of a woman drove on the left side of the road for the first time to get us to Rathgillen Farm. If you ever find yourself in Ireland, please, I must insist you make every effort to stay at the Rathgillen Farm; reserve your spot on AirBnB. The host was delightful, and the fully accessible lodge was incredible. When we showed up, Peter, the farmer who owns the place, insisted on driving us up to the fairy ring fort in his car because I wouldn't be able to navigate it on my own in the wheelchair and it would be too soggy with the weather the next day. He told us these fairy forts were protected places in Ireland built by the original farmers 2,000 years ago. His was leased and had cattle grazing who showed up right after we did. Peter posed us for a photo with the cows and the countryside while we marvelled at this amazing view.
The next morning, we woke up and had a lovely day enjoying the Irish weather akin to our Oregon upbringing. One of Peter's cows greeted me in the morning, and as we moved in and outside depending on the weather, Heather and I enjoyed some great conversations and quality reading time.
Books and trees and coffee and quality time. This was amazing.
Then we headed back to Basel, and as Heather says, we flew the airline that punishes you for choosing them. RyanAir did a decent job with accessibility things... except for losing a 200CHF (about $225) carbon fibre mudguard on my wheelchair. Heather told me it was time to be the persistent widow and make a fuss until the airline pays up. I've submitted the request which could take three weeks to process, and I've ordered the replacement part from the company in Basel where I purchased my wheelchair. The Orthopädie practice apologetically told me the part won't arrive until July 17. Sorry for the inconvenience - again. At least this wasn't a "you can't stay with us" situation and I'm confident the woman emailing me in Basel understood the level of inconvenience I would be going through. If I'm not careful, my clothes will get shredded on the right side, and at the very least they will get very dirty in daily outside life. Heather to the rescue on ideas suggested cutting up my Ikea cutting board as a stopgap in the meantime. It's not perfect, but it's something.
So that seems like enough for one week, right? Well, I'm only at three currencies, and the title of the post suggests there'd be a lot. As I live my life in euros out of my US bank account and have to pay for my wheelchair in Swiss francs, I wasn't too thrown by the international moving company I got a quote from to request payment in British pounds. Once I got home, I scheduled the pick up for my boxes to ship to New Zealand (yet another currency to book and plan things in this week). The UK company confirmed July 7 as the pick up date, giving me time to itemise my boxes and have them emotionally ready to leave my house. Except I got a phone call Friday morning from the company saying they happened to have a driver in Milan who would be able to pick up my boxes if they happened to already be packed. After a brief back and forth about the level of detail needed on itemising the shipment, I agreed to have them picked up a week early.
After getting stuck in a couple hours of unexpected traffic, the driver showed up with his thick Manchester accent and picked up my 30kg (66lbs) boxes like they were pillows and loaded them up into his truck with a partner. "They'll be in London tomorrow," he promised before waving and driving off. Fortunately, my friend Alyssa was hanging out with me because it was a bit of a whirlwind with emotions and details getting these boxes out my door. This is my first actual physical movement of the whole "I'm moving to New Zealand." All my worldly possessions (read: my books) are on the way there already.
So here we are getting me booked to move myself. The next two currencies are the hotel bookings to actually travel and arrive in Christchurch. I've got a generous donor who volunteered to buy me into a lounge in transit - and when he found out it's the Singapore airport offered to pay for a booking at the terminal hotel. For those who don't know, this is a super rare airport in the terminal, as in past security, as in I should be able to get the airport special assist to take me there from the plane and hopefully pick me up before my second flight. This is part of why that connection was such a God thing to begin with. Singaporean dollars. That's currency #6 in my life right now (counting landing in NZ and using NZD).
Wild detail of my current situation is that I'm not super loaded, but I've got lots of generous people making sure that I can move and end well in Europe. One thing that I don't write about a whole lot on my blog is that living overseas as a missionary is only possible because I'm supported by generous people around the world. I can hope and pray that RyanAir will pay the bill for my wheelchair, but I also know that Luftansa never came through when they lost my $500 cushion years ago. Wheelchair users get screwed over by airlines everyday. I do my best to live responsibly and within my means, but my disability has real financial impact and this upcoming move has a financial impact as well. When I moved to Germany, I had to raise $5,000 specifically for moving and start up costs. The current budget I have is roughly that much to get me out of Germany and to New Zealand. One of the super cool blessings for RCC in my arrival as a part time staff member is that I'll stay on full time support as a TeachBeyond missionary. I'll have some hours assigned for TB, but I'm being seconded to RCC with a stipend from the church. This means that my support team has said they will keep financially giving to me through TeachBeyond in order for me to live and work in New Zealand as a youth pastor and missionary supporting transformational education globally.
This is a weird detail that I need to be transparent about: I asked every one of my supporters about this role change in advance of interviewing for the position in NZ. Every response was overwhelmingly positive for me to follow God's leading to this new assignment, and every one of them agreed to stay on my support team. Aware of the cost of living difference, one even immediately increased their monthly support. Because of the stipend from the church and my current pledged support, I am able to afford this move and continue service indefinitely. I also will be transparent to say that with this tight budget, the moving expenses and cost of living increase leave room for anyone who wants to join my support team. The "Donate" link above takes you to https://teachbeyond.org/support/lauras-journey/ where any American or Canadian can easily set up a one time or recurring gift. To give in any other currency, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hesitated to even make any comment on donations, but the kick in the gut about probably having to pay for extra wheelchair parts when I've been so careful to be responsible with my resources reminded me that there are generous people who support my ministry and want me to be holistically healthy rather than irritated and annoyed with disability finances. Rather than never travelling again, I'll still plan fiscally responsible trips as rest before entering new seasons of wholehearted service for as long as I'm alive. Thank you for anyone who considers a donation to help me be fiscally responsible with leaving well, my move down under, and setting up a home in Christchurch.