Apr 22, 2016

When I Dream of America.

This morning when I made my coffee, I found that my tin can full of sugar was full of ants. It was 6:30am and I was due to the bus stop for the first part of my commute at 7am. So I stuck my tea spoon in the container, spooned out some sugar and drank a few ants. No problem. Or as they like to repeatedly say in Rwanda, Nyakibazo.

I laughed to myself as I finished the cup of coffee. "Haha, I live in Africa and I've lost any idea of normalcy. I just knowingly spooned ants into my coffee." And then the pang of worry reared it's head. The worry I sometimes have that I have lost touch with American culture. That I have become culturally ambiguous and thus...quite strange in my behaviors.

Sometimes I dream of what life is like in America. I mean, I technically know what life is like in America, but for the past 8 years I have only had a few weeks home a year and distorted social media to link me to the land of my birth. Sometimes, my friend's posts online surprise me. I am surprised by what is seen as important, what is "share-worthy" or what is popular back home. It's hard to "like" another picture of a friend's toddler in Lily Pulitzer clothing when the kids outside my gate don't have shoes. I sometimes look through Facebook and think I'm looking at another universe, where anyone can say anything - no matter how ignorant, guns are normal, which stroller to buy is a life-changing decision, and a music video sparks more interest than a terror attack in West Africa.

Though aspects of American culture appear foreign to me, there are so many wonderful parts of the American ease of life that I look forward to almost every day. As my return to the land of plenty looms, I mostly think of food and cleanliness. The social aspects of American life will take time to adjust to. But food and cleanliness! Oh man. I am so, so excited to be an American in America after so long.

I dream of:

A big bowl of salad.
Shaved carrots, boiled eggs, fresh arugula, topped with a sauce of some sort.

A bowl of berries.
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries...so sweet and luscious.

Bacon.
Give me all the bacon.

A pint of ice cream.
I want to sit on a couch, with a pint of chunky ice cream in my lap, watching reality tv.

A bathtub.
Full of clean, hot water.

Women's Community.
Exercise classes. Book club. Walking group. Dinner Potlucks. Bachelor Mondays. I want it all!

A Washing Machine.
Clean clothes. That don't smell like outside. Oh my goodness.

Clean Feet/Shoes.
I want to wear nice shoes. And feel pretty.

I also want: long walks, to learn to bake bread, a chiropractor, to drink soy milk, to buy a big cat scratcher for Mushu, weekend brunch, regular hair cuts, hockey games, to be able to wear my hair up (must be down in a moto helmet), to wear contact lenses again, a gym membership, regular church services in english, to spend hours in the greeting card aisle, curly hair products.....

America, you're a silly place. At least you look silly from far away. But oh man...I can't wait to be clean and have wonderful food available to me. I can't wait for constant running hot water and a fridge full of whatever I can dream of.

There are hard and wonderful aspects to life anywhere. But as I begin to mentally prepare for life in America, I am thinking of what awaits me. Ben and Jerry and a hot bath will ease the social awkwardness. Oh yes.

Ant-less coffee.

82 days.

But who's counting?




walk slow. xoxo.



Apr 20, 2016

To Zanzibar With Love.


“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” 

-Rumi



I went to Zanzibar. 
My heart soared. 


spf 100 required. 

cats everywhere! 

view from bed. 

fruit and tiles. in Stonetown. 

looking for snacks in Stonetown. 

Freddy Mercury's birthplace, Stonetown. 

Daniel and Michael, Masai selling trinkets to tourists (I succumbed). 

Ours. 

Biking adventure. 

low tide beauty. 



cloudy sunset. 

Prison Island 


Old Fort Stonetown

church built at the site of the former slave market. 

sailing away. 

Street Food = Chinese memories. 

I was taught lessons on forgiveness, grace and trust on the shores of the Indian Ocean. 
Spicy tea, thatched roof huts, coconut rice, stray cats, wooden boats, and sunsets. 
Thanks for the memories, Zanzibar, with love.  




walk slow. xoxo. 

Coming Home.

The 22nd anniversary of start the Rwandan Genocide was April 7th. Every year in Rwanda there are 100 days of mourning (almost one third of the year!) for those lost in the 100 day genocide from April - July, 1994. All Rwandans must participate in government mandated and controlled meetings for the "commemoration week," and thus, most foreigners up and leave.

I struggled a bit if I should stay or leave. Ultimately, I decided to take advantage of the time off, and also get away from the heaviness of it all - the air is really, truly heavy in Rwanda - , and booked a flight to Zanzibar. 

(More on that later). 

Last Thursday I arrived home after a week of bliss in Tanzania. I gave Mushu some loving and went outside to grab a moto to run some errands (stock the fridge, get cat litter, buy electricity coupons from random people outside, etc). When I hiked up my long skirt, threw my leg over the moto, grabbed my purse close to me and gave the driver a confident, "OK!" It hit me...riding the motorcycles makes me feel like I am home. 

Rwanda has one thing really going for it that other Fellow placements do not have - ease of transportation. As a solo female, I can grab a moto and get anywhere I need to in town for less than $1.50. It's more expensive than the bus, but faster and more convenient (and less smelly). Sure, motorcycle taxies are ridiculously dangerous. I've seen 2 horrific accidents, and peace corps volunteers are not even allowed to take them on paved roads. But we fellows are not bound by State Department rules, and motos are my main form of transportation in Kigali. 

It's a feeling I get when I get on the moto after being on a trip where I was confined to taxis and busses. It's somewhere between fearing impending death and imagining all the ways it could happen (the helmet is worthless, the moto is going to slide, the driver is high/drunk, someone is going to hit us, etc) and the feeling of absolute freedom as the wind blows past my shoulders and we zoom up and down the never-ending hills of Rwanda - green growth and brown and red earthen colors beneath an ever-reaching blue sky. 

Riding a moto. It's a feeling I only have in Rwanda. It's the feeling of coming home. 




walk slow. xoxo. 


Apr 7, 2016

When Water Thunders: Victoria Falls.

I don't believe in "bucket lists". For many reasons, actually, one of which being that you never know where life will take you. Bucket lists can box you into what you think you what your life to look like, but what about all the other possibilities you don't even know exist! Case in point: Victoria Falls. 

For me, in all my life, I never thought about going to Vic Falls (as the Zimbabweans call her). I've heard it mentioned as a possible destination by many of my fellow fellows and thought to myself, "Ya, that sounds cool." But when the opportunity came to venture south to Southern Africa, I was stoked. If I were to have a bucket list, Victoria Falls would be on it. 

We spent the first few days in Harare (post to come) and then flew one hour north-west to the Falls which lie on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border. We stayed in Vic Falls town on the Zim side and had a glorious 3 days touristing around the sights and bleeding money (so expensive thanks to zero economy....) It was amazing.

I'll never forget the first glimpse we had of the Falls. We paid our 30$ entrance fee into the park and meandered down the well-maintained rock path, following the sound of water rushing. We turned a corner, and there she was! Victoria Falls! I was excited like a kid at a circus. My heart raced and I couldn't wipe the goofy grin off my face. She was as magnificent and spectacular to behold as I had imagined. Worth every penny and hour in the airport. 

We went at "high tide" time when the water is really high and strong, thus there was a lot of smoke and water flying from the tops of the Falls. While walking along the trail we got soaking wet at the end as the trail bent closer to the Falls. The local guides kept saying "It's raining," which made me laugh. 

After walking along the Falls we walked across the Victoria Falls bridge which is an architectural wonder in itself. The bridge links Zimbabwe and Zambia, so we had to get immigration passes to walk the bridge and have a coffee in Zambia before walking back. How fun. To be having coffee in Zambia and walking home to sleep in Zimbabwe. That never would have made my bucket list because I couldn't have made it up if I tried. 

I kept thinking to myself that Victoria Falls has been flowing with such power and majesty every day of my life. And she will keep flowing, tides rising and falling, for all the days that I will live. I could have missed it, but for one day of my life I got to bear witness. It was very existential to think about all the wonders across the world that are existing every day. Amazing natural wonders doing their thing. And hopefully our paths cross at some point, to see some of the beauty of the earth between the "normalcy" of human life. 

Thanks for the glory and wonder, Vic Falls. 


Warthog, Impala, and Beef 

Drumming at the Boma

Zimbabwe: Africa's Paradise 




"You are now entering Zambia" 








My friend Rebecca (ELF Namibia) and I

walk slow. xoxo

Mar 20, 2016

Ethiopia: "Oh, ya, I have a job."

After almost 2 weeks of reunions, travel, and touristing in Ethiopia, it was time to get down to business and acknowledge that we were actually in Ethiopia for work purposes.

The real reason we were summoned to Addis was to attend the English Language Fellow Africa mid-year conference. Each region of Fellows has their own conference at the 5 month half-way point to bring everyone together, get new ideas, encourage each other, plan upcoming events, and network.

Twenty five-ish fellows and our bosses conjoined from across the continent at a hotel in Addis where we spent 3 days in workshops for ourselves - re-examining US policy towards soft diplomacy and realizing though our countries are very different, our experiences as fellows are not so different. After 3 days of sitting in the hotel, we had a day off  and then gave a two day conference for Ethiopian Program teachers and university lecturers. My Rwandan co-fellow Robert and I did a presentation on active learning strategies for large groups (more than 80) students. It was work, but it was good work.

One of the greatest takeaways of this fellow program for me will be the other fellows. The fellows this year in Africa are stellar. These are my people. The kind of people who quit stable jobs to go live in Africa and teach, because you only live once. The kind of people who discuss books, who complain about inefficiencies in learning systems around the world, and who truly believe that each class makes a difference because true change is people based not technology based. I love these smart, interesting, culturally aware people.

The countries represented were: Mauritius, Togo, Burkina Faso, Benin, Gabon, Niger, Senegal, Ethiopia, Sudan, Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Malawi, Egypt, Ivory Coast. Our Fellow in Ivory Coast was with an American delegation that was scheduled to be at the restaurant that was attacked last week. Her group decided to visit a museum first, and thus was spared. This incident hits close to home. Our girl is safe, and for that we are thankful. I was originally matched to this job last summer and ended up in Rwanda instead. This stuff is real. Keep West Africa/Ivory Coast in your thoughts. 

I was reminded yet again of the broad scope of programs that our government is involved in. Each with it's own agenda and initiative. I'm proud to be a fellow here in Africa. While my fellowship has not been exactly what was expected, it's still a rollercoaster I'm happy to be riding. Especially with these crazy teachers along for the ride.


team Rwanda...always so serious 

Couldn't seem to get a decent group pic, ha. 

team East Africa with our trusty boss




team Rwanda filling out visas for..... somewhere awesome, TBD! 

2/3 of team Rwanda talking about large classes and how to deal effectively 

that's a handy name 


white girls in kitenge. one of my favorite things. 

international gift exchange night! 

Sudan, Namibia, Rwanda, Malawi represent. 

mid-presentation photo because...we can. 


Gabon Dave letting the crowd in on some teaching tips

more white girls in kitenge. 

Proposal and grant writing session

Korean dinner! 

With the US Ambassador to Ethiopia and representatives of the Ethiopia Ministry of Education




walk slow. xoxo.