11 years ago my friendship with Ericka began in a most fitting manor for both of us fun loving, free spirited girls. Ericka then 14, and myself one year older, met at the fair and proceeded to seek out the most adventurous rides that could procure shrieking screams, sick stomachs, and the melody of teenage laughter.
Since becoming friends with Ericka, years have passed by, but a stable friendship has remained. Both of us live by the flow of a low maintenance friendship. Like me, Ericka can be pretty hard to track down at times. However when visits do happen, adventure does too. The two of us friends are usually up for anything which has led to trips to Canada and DC, crashing weddings, rock climbing, hysterical square dances, and a memorable Thanksgiving trip up north which did involve a hot tub, Wisconsin weather (snow) and stocking caps with frozen hair underneath as we sat both freezing and boiling to death with the same youthful attitude that we possessed so many years ago at the fair.
Though Ericka has traveled extensively, and did spend a summer volunteering at an orphanage in Peru, her longstanding dreams of dedicating herself as a Catholic missionary took some time to get to. However, last March, after much planning and preparation the time had come for Ericka to live out her dream. While searching for the right organization, Ericka discovered her the ideal fit: Heart’s Home. Hearts Home is an international Catholic non-profit organization that has a global network of volunteers who assist and form deep personal bonds with troubled, disadvantaged and socially isolated individuals in some of the world’s most desperate areas. Heart’s Home is active on five continents, with 41 centers in 21 countries.
Before making the final commitment with this organization, Ericka traveled to Heart’s Home retreat center and headquarters which is located near the Bronx, in New York. After her time with active members of the community and daily interactions with those in the Bronx, Ericka felt confident the she was with the right nonprofit. Because Ericka is skilled at learning languages, she was asked to go to Thailand. In Bangkok, Ericka has worked towards learning to speak Thai. Her living conditions are difficult as she lives in a slum, but she has found great joy in meeting and caring for the local woman and children that she encounters on a daily basis.
Before Erika left for her 15 month stint, I promised I would write her, not email, but authentic snail mail that takes a long time to receive and is filled with the ups and downs of life, misspelled words and blotted out lines. Sarcasm, melodramatic narratives, embarrassment, and humor jotted on a most random assortment of paper have migrated to Bangkok via airmail.
The monthly exchange of my letters will soon be over, as Ericka will be back in June. Though June is a few months away, I already am looking forward to a non- paper communicated visit with my friend followed by a weekend trip with her and her boyfriend, Ryan to Devil’s Lake for a day or two of rock climbing. Devil’s Lake may lack the foreign wonder that surrounds Ericka right now.
I know that when my friend went on the climb pictured below, she was able to see monkeys and had all sorts of unusual encounters. However, the wonder of traveling cannot beat how wonderful it is to have friendship on nearby terrain. Hoorah for for June, and the melody of laughter.