A Great Way of Growing Up

Melissa Peralez, 2017-18 NBA XPLOR Resident in Hiram-Mantua, OHMelissa Peralez, 2017-18 NBA XPLOR Resident in Hiram-Mantua, OH

My name is Melissa Peralez, and I am from San Benito, Texas. For those of you who don’t know, it’s part of deep south Texas, which is about 40 minutes away from Matamoros, Mexico. I decided to join NBA XPLOR to grow spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. I’m a huge introvert, and I am extremely close to my mom and the rest of my family. So leaving for 10 months sounded like a great way of growing up!

Bonnie Osei-Frimpong and Melissa Peralez at NBA XPLOR TrainingBonnie Osei-Frimpong and Melissa Peralez at NBA XPLOR Training

I love Bonnie, who doesn’t? She is the director of the NBA XPLOR program, and it just so happened that we had the same shirt so we thought, “Let’s be twins, why not?”

View of Gateway Arch from metroView of Gateway Arch from metro

This is the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, from the MetroLink that we took. I had never been there before; it was a great place to explore. I think having XPLOR Laboratory (orientation and anti-racism/anti-oppression training) in St. Louis was a great idea.

MetroLink TicketsMetroLink Tickets

Taking the Metro in St. Louis was a fun experience – if you don’t have a seat, you better hold on for dear life.

Clock in Ian's boss's officeClock in Ian’s boss’s office

I am dyslexic, so telling time isn’t my friend. The numbers literally look like this sometimes! So the story goes on Thursday of the first week I was at my host site, the Hiram-Mantua house has a meeting with my roommate Ian’s boss, Mark. After the meeting I ask Mark if I can take a picture of his clock because I really like it. He takes it off his wall and says to me, “If you like it so much, it’s yours. Anything else in my office that you like you can have, too.” Now that I have that, I don’t need to tell time, but I can just look and know that sometimes time doesn’t matter it’s… WHATEVER.

Flowers in IndianaFlowers in Indiana

After Laboratory we stayed in Indianapolis on our way to Hiram-Mantua with the Barnes family. It amazed me that there were fresh flowers in every room in the house. This was the dining room.

Hiram signHiram sign

The Hiram sign to let us know we finally made it!

The street that the Hiram-Mantua house lives onThe street that the Hiram-Mantua house lives on

This is the street we live on (and what a fun name it has).

NBA XPLOR Hiram-Mantua houseNBA XPLOR Hiram-Mantua house

This is when we finally arrived to our home for the next 10 months on August 26, 2017.

Leaves changing colors in Hiram-MantuaLeaves changing colors in Hiram-Mantua

Being from south Texas, I don’t think I have experienced leaves changing colors. It is so exciting to see, especially because my favorite colors are green and pink.

Pink sunflowerPink sunflower

This was totally new to me; I didn’t know that a pink sunflower even existed.

Takeout container from The Lucky DragonTakeout container from The Lucky Dragon

This is from a restaurant in Garrettsville, Ohio, called The Lucky Dragon. I have always wanted a “to go” container like this, and I finally got it.

Hiram College flowerHiram College flower

Again, this was my favorite flower I saw at Hiram College. I kept stopping to take pictures because the colors were overwhelming to me the first two weeks.

Maple bacon doughnut from Maggie'sMaple bacon doughnut from Maggie’s

This is the maple bacon doughnut from Maggie’s, a doughnut shop that is literally down the street from our house.

Popcorn store in Kent, OHPopcorn store in Kent, OH

I LOVE popcorn!! This is a store in Kent that our spiritual companion Linda took us to and bought us some popcorn. YAY!!

Derthick's Hill, OhioDerthick’s Hill, Ohio

Long story short: I am afraid of heights. This is Derthick’s hill, which I have to drive over to get to Mantua Center Christian Church, my host congregation. This was my real-life Goliath, and I can proudly say I conquered my giant.

Melissa Peralez is a 2017-18 NBA XPLOR Resident in Hiram-Mantua, OH serving with Mantua Christian Center and Hiram Farm.

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NBA XPLOR is a 10-month service residency opportunity for young adults ages 21-30, with the purpose of empowering young adults to discern and develop a “heart for care” as they live together in simple community, engage in direct service and justice work, engage in leadership development, and discern their vocational calls to honor the various communities they are called to serve. Learn more and apply at nbacares.org/xplor.