Saturday, December 28, 2013

Looking Back On 2013

2013 was a year of self growth. Of all my years on this Earth, I've never been challenged, pushed, or questioned more than the past year. Another year come and gone... Here are (a few of) my highlights of 2013. 
New Years in Germany with Michael and his family

Quality time back in my village : making cookies, playing with kiddos

Reading all the sweet moments I wrote about in 2012, setting new years resolutions
My parents visit. Period. 
MARCH 2013
Shakawe 5K event

Evening walks with my family in Kang

Visiting the Okavango Delta & Tsodillo Hills 
APRIL 2013
Celebrating ONE YEAR in Botswana

Trip to the Tuli Block

Local highlights: starting new youth groups, hail storms, etc. 
MAY 2013
My 24th birthday 

Girls GLOW camp at Matsha

Steinmetz 10 K event in Gabs 
JUNE 2013
Shekgalgadi Language Week at my house

Boys GLOW camp at Matsha 

The President visiting Kang

Mid-Service Training with Bots 12 
JULY 2013
My supervisor's new baby girl 

Khama Rhino Sanctuary 

Saying good-bye to some delightful friends 

Visiting my family, my grandparents, my friends. 

The Mountains. Muddy Buddy. 
Michael's visit 

Goodhope GLOW camp 
Girls Weekend Trip to Chobe/Moremi

Helping Jan say goodbye to Kang & welcoming a new volunteer 
Starting our new garden

Quality time around my village and in my community

Saying bye to graduating students I mentored/tutored 
Visiting Tsabong, to see my good friend and ride camels

Preparing for Christmas/Christmas in my village

Staff Christmas party/ Staff weddings 

* * * * * 

A year. 365 days. That's nothing. 

Time flies. I loved 2013. 2014 is going to slip away just as quickly. Enjoy the last days of 2013! 

Bring it on, 2014. I'm excited! 

Love & Light, 

Exploring With Love

A long overdue blog post : Michael's Trip 

After a crazy, whirl-wind two weeks in the States in August, Michael flew back to Botswana with me to stay for a month and see my new life. We had separate flights to South Africa, but we were able to meet up in Johannesburg at the airport and fly the last leg to Botswana together. It was a huge relief to see him at the airport... it helped a lot with my transition back to Botswana. I had to say goodbye to friends and family - - but not quite everyone. At least his goodbye was delayed for another month. 

Upon arrival, we were just.... exhausted. I can't quite explain it. We got back to Gaborone and fell asleep at 4 PM. We didn't even move until the morning when we headed back to my village, and even getting up to get on a bus felt like a huge amount of effort. 

I was so happy to see home. So happy to hug & kiss my little ones and finally introduce Michael to all the people I love and care about here. I paraded him around the village, introducing him to more people than he could possibly remember. I showed him all the silly, mundane parts of my life - - like hand-washing clothes (something he was NOT fond of), cleaning the endless amounts of sand in my house, etc. We just took it easy, got lots of rest, played farkle, made plenty of delicious homemade meals, and enjoyed my quiet village life. 
introducing michael to my village life
After spending some time in my village, we packed our bags and prepared for a road trip we had been looking forward to for months. We took a bus to Johannesburg where we rented a car and the journey began... 

Our first stop was Lesotho. Lesotho is a small, landlocked country inside of South Africa. It's mountainous and a fave vacation destination among Peace Corps Volunteers. Having a rental car was very nice for me, as I'm used to being crammed into whatever form of public transportation is available. Our tiny matchbox car was great... but maybe not so great for the mountainous pass we had to endure on our way to the lodge. Two wheel drive wasn't the problem, it was the lack of clearance under our car that made us cringe. Regardless, we somehow made it to the lodge in one piece... and our car did too. 

We stayed at a lovely little place called Malealea Lodge. It was an adorable place to stay and the owners give a LOT back to the community, which of course makes my Peace Corps heart smile. We opted for two mini-adventures while staying in Lesotho : a pony ride to a waterfall and a hike to see rock paintings. I personally loved seeing elevation after living somewhere so flat! Although it was winter time and crops weren't in harvest, I was in love with the beauty of this country. They speak Sesotho there and it's very similar to Setswana spoken in Botswana, so it also made me happy to be able to pick up on a lot of what they were saying. 
After Lesotho, we headed out for our next destination: the garden route in South Africa. From Lesotho to Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa was quite the day of driving... but Michael handled it like a champ. (also - let's point out that he only scared me a few times while driving in countries that drive on the left side of the road. he did a far better job of driving than I think I would have done... well done sir). 

I may have been the happiest woman alive when I saw the ocean. WATER. Water, folks. I can't even explain. After all this time in the desert, water was just a delight. We checked into our backpackers, soaked up the lovely view of the beach, and headed out to meet up with one of his friends from back home. Randomly enough, Michael has a friend from CO that was living in Jeffrey's Bay volunteering with Christian Surfer's. We had dinner with her at a cute restaurant and I absolutely loved chatting with her about what she was doing there. 

She recommended that we stop at Tsitsikamma National Park & I'm so glad we did. The next day, we drove along the coast to Sedgefield, our next stop. The views were breathtaking. I feel a bit guilty that I got to enjoy it more than Michael since he was driving - - but we did stop along the way to soak it all in. We enjoyed some delicious meals, beer, and time playing at the beach. I really can't complain. :o) 
the garden route
Next up was Cape Town. Goodness, we crammed a lot in. Michael stuffed his face with sushi the first night & we had an early morning the next day. Somewhere along the line, I let Michael talk me into shark cage diving. It's something I doubt I ever would have done on my own... 

We arrived around 6 AM to take the boat out to what they call "seal island." It was chilly (don't forget it's winter) and the water was choppy, but Michael was determined. We saw the island covered with hundreds of seals & we spent some time in the early morning watching for sharks to attack. I was a little disappointed at first, but really, I doubt I would have gotten in the cage to dive if I saw a great white feast on a seal first. 

I made Michael wait for everyone else to dive first, mostly because it made me feel better to see them come out alive. The crew got us all fitted in wet suits and weight belts to weigh us down in the tank. I don't think I've ever felt more vulnerable. Oh hello, shark. I'm a rubbery, weighted down human... aka a fat, blubbery, rubbery, seal that you enjoy eating. Michael is stoked. I'm petrified. 

We were able to use respirators so we didn't have to come up for air. But goodness, Michael was down in the tank for quite a while before I was able to convince myself to be completely submerged. I had to fight all human instincts to get in the cage. But once I managed to get into the cage and anchor my feet, we had quite the show. Great white sharks are GIGANTIC. and terrifying. and slightly dumb looking... but that didn't fool me. My heart was racing as I sat in the cage next to the man I love, watching a shark that could eat us alive. It was insane. and wonderful. and I'm thankful Michael talked me into it. 
Cape Town 
After the morning shark shenanigans, we had a relatively normal day for tourists. We went down to the Cape of Good Hope, saw the African penguins, and headed back to Table Mountain to end our day. We took the cable car to the top, and the view from up there was just breathtaking. Exhausted, and feeling very alive, we had another sushi evening & and relaxed. 

The next day, we went to Robben Island & explored the area of Cape Town and near Lion's head. I enjoyed learning more about the history of apartheid in South Africa. Cape Town was good to us. We really enjoyed ourselves! 

We had a few more days back in Kang before we left for the weekend to go to Maun. I wanted to be sure that Michael saw some of the wildlife in Botswana, so we booked a day trip into Moremi Game Reserve. Animal viewing is always a hit or miss... but we got really lucky. He even got to see four slumbering lions after a feast - - complete with blood stains on their fur. It was just the two of us with a guide, so we had a very personal and informative day. I'm thankful we had such great animal sightings! 
Moremi Game Reserve 
After our trip up north, we had to get back to Kang, pack his bags and get ready to send him back to the states. It was a very busy couple of weeks... and the time really flew by! 
I was, of course, a flood of tears at the airport. Good-byes just never get any easier. But I am extremely thankful to have such a loving, supportive man in my life. He has really helped me through a lot of this experience and believe me when I say it hasn't been easy for either of us. He's a trooper. It was a fabulous month, exploring the world with the man I love. I love you MAC :o) 

Love & Light, 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Your Heart Is What Carries Your Home

a delightful reminder from a dear friend of mine... if only the world could be full of people more like her. Thank you for making my heart smile & reminding me that my heart will safely hold my home. 

* * * * * 

my dear TMV,

I just wanted to write you a quick note to let you know that I am thinking of you always.... These last six months will be hard for you, for sure, home is where you make it and you have made one where you are loved and cherished, where you are understood and understand, where you love the traditions and life and where the people from your origins don't understand. But amor, after the transition, and when you come back to this other world that loves you, please remember that you are loved no matter where you go. You have a family wherever you go.... Your family next door and in Kang right now and your peace corps volunteers, and your family and friends here all across the US. Your Kang family is going nowhere, just as we are not. You're stuck with us ;)

I guess what I am trying to say is that during this Christmas, during these holidays, please remember how cherished you are, please remember that your heart is what carries your home. It will be hard, undoubtedly.... And hard every day. Things you will never forget while at the same time trying to move on with life.... That's an impossible thing. But with a New Year will come endings and beginnings.... And all of us will be with you that entire time. Right there to listen, to be a shoulder or an ear, or to drive to good times and burn our tongues on fries.

You inspire me daily.... You are incredible and brave and you give a world with an open heart and open arms.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, happy new year.... I love you always.

* * * * * * 

Love & Light, 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Sweet & Simple Christmas

This year, I stayed in my village for Christmas day. 

As soon as I woke up and made coffee, I had these two sweet little ones at my house, sharing my oatmeal breakfast and coloring for hours. 

Following a lazy morning, I went to visit a dear friend of mine who is back in the village from studying at University. I stopped by to bring her daughter, brothers & sisters coloring books and craft supplies. 

After visiting my friend and her family, I headed home to make sugar cookies with the little ones and play around the house. 

Romeo came over with his brothers - - all excited about their new matching attire. Dress shoes & all! 

Loved on this sweet little one... 

Fussed over all the kiddos who were just so darn proud of themselves for how well they can clean up....

And headed out to the local kgotla for the traditional Christmas choirs. I stood with my family & community watching several local choirs sing and dance the day away... 

And ended up back at home, enjoying a traditional Tswana dinner with a delicious dessert, chatting with the family in the living room, cuddling kiddos to sleep in my lap. 

My Christmas was complete with a Skype date with Michael and my family as well. 

Sweet, simple, perfect. 

No big fuss over presents... just rejoicing and enjoying time together. 

A Christmas I'll never forget. 

Love & Light, 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Home for the Holidays

It all started this morning... with a cup of coffee and some cloudy weather. 

I was suddenly blessed with an overcast morning to go and transplant the last of my seedlings to my garden. Thankful to not be working in extreme heat, I removed my beloved seedlings from inside my house and prepared to uproot them and put them in an entirely new environment. For weeks, I've nursed seeds (both inside and outside) in an attempt to start a garden for my family next door. Each member of the family has helped clear the yard, prepare the soil, build shade, and water the small seeds. Even the tiniest of humans have carried cans full of water with both hands, only to beam the brightest of smiles when a few successful drops of water reached the seedlings. A garden is a lot of work. Especially out here in the desert. 

So as I'm transplanting the last of the seedlings today, I sat back in wonder of how remarkable plants really are. I physically pulled these plants up out of the comfortable, happy environment it once had and moved it to a much more hostile environment. So frail, so vulnerable, and yet so strong. Tiny, tiny roots grow into big, strong roots. Despite being uprooted, they will get a grip again, keep growing, and fight to keep the plant grounded. As I looked at these tiny roots, I smiled to myself, and gave thanks for my own ability to uproot myself and carry on. My soul rejoiced. Those tiny little plants... that was a me. 

And here I am, less than two years later, with my roots fully intact. After removing myself from all the material comforts and precious relationships in my life, I was vulnerable. I was showing my roots. I desperately needed some sun, water, and time.  

* * * * * 

I made the decision to stay in my village over Christmas and New Years this year. It's a decision some other volunteers don't quite seem to understand. Although I value my friendship with other volunteers, my heart longs to be home for the holidays. And now, at this stage of my life, Kang is home. Somewhere along the way, I've received enough love and nourishment to allow me to put my roots down here. I've been accepted into the lives of another family. I've witnessed the first steps of the kiddos. I've heard them say my name for the first time. I've had the granny call me her daughter. I've watched several family members cry at the thought of me going home in June. I've celebrated birthdays, cried at deaths, and laughed at life with them by my side. 

* * * * * 

This family has provided the proper environment for me to grow. Each one of these people have given me the strength to put my roots down. They are the reason I'm so grounded here. And the reason it's going to be so painful to uproot myself again. 

Setting down my roots here has opened my heart, challenged me to love harder, and allowed me to grow. While I'm here, I will soak up every last bit of love, laughter, and friendship I possibly can to help me with my next chapter in life. And so, here I am... HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. Home to hug the kiddos, make Christmas cookies, play in the yard, cook together, and spend time as a family. 

Merry Christmas from Botswana, everyone. 

Love & Light, 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Currently {December}

I have been very absent from blogging as of lately. It's not because I don't have the time either... I think I am just stuck. Writer's block. I decided to grab a list of verbs and describe what's been going on in my life this month (and some time before that). As I chose verbs, I realized I picked a lot of happy-feel-good-self-growth-kinda-words. And I think that's rather fitting. Here's an update on me: 

Accepting that I certainly do not have the power to change some things. 
Admiring other Peace Corps Volunteers who pour their heart and soul into our work here. 
Acknowledging my shortcomings. And making peace with them. 
Appreciating all the beautiful blessings in my life; lessons, opportunities, people. 
Believing that there is a higher purpose for all of us. 
Challenging my previous believes and stances on life. 
Clearing a space in my heart for all that is to come in life. 
Compiling video clips of the cutest, sweetest, most wonderful kiddos who have stolen my heart. 
Crying because I'm heartbroken over the daunting task of saying good-bye to loved ones in Botswana. 
Delighting in the Lord and His work. 
Developing a plan for how to get the most out of my last six months here. 
Enjoying the clouds that are currently bringing the temperature down a few degrees. 
Entertaining Peace Corps Volunteers passing through my village for their holiday adventures. 
Expanding my mind with new readings on my Nook.
Feeling like I can breathe again. Feeling like myself again. 
Forgetting all the times I've let myself down and all the things I cannot change. 
Forgiving myself for my imperfections. Forgiving others for theirs too. 
Gushing over Michael and how wonderful he has been to me the past two years. 
Hoping to leave some kind of lasting impact on the people in my community. 
Hurting from ignorant conversations with men about Gender Based Violence. 
Ignoring the sand that constantly blows through the windows and doors. My house is never clean. 
Imagining life back in the states and what it might look like for me. 
Laughing at the TV show New Girl
Learning that no one has all the answers or right moves. 
Leaving Botswana in less than six months. Yikes. 
Listening to the playlist I've compiled for my video montage of the kiddos. 
Longing for some real produce selection and the money to afford it. My diet is highly unbalanced. 
Loving each and every person in my life. 
Missing my family, friends, and boyfriend during the holiday season. 
Mourning over the violence and hatred throughout the world. 
Noticing that life is much more simple than I ever imagined. 
Overflowing with joy, love, and compassion. I just love people. 
Painting a beautiful picture of my life. 
Playing with my beloved kiddos, each and every day. 
Pondering about how to fix the health care system. 
Realizing that someday, there will be an imbalance of my yesterday's and tomorrow's. 
Rejoicing that I have learned so much about myself and life at such a young age. 
Remembering all my sweet friends fighting back home fighting against cancer. 
Standing strong, standing still. 
Steering my life in a direction I'm excited about. 
Teaching patients at the clinic how to take responsibility for their own health.
Thanking my lucky stars for this life of mine. 
Thinking about how life is a never ending to-do list, and that's a good thing. 
Trying not to melt in this lovely heat in the Kalahari Desert. 
Understanding that everything really, truly happens for a reason. Nobutseriously. 
Waiting patiently for all the pieces to fall into place. 
Wanting Kate to hurry up and get here so we can spend a month traveling, talking, and catching up! 
Welcoming all life lessons, no matter how frustrating or annoying the situation may feel at the time. 
Worrying about how I'm going to cope with my transition in June. 
Writing more often and more honestly. Promise. :o) 

Love & Light, 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Unchanging Foundations of Love

"We do not do it alone, of course. We are companioned through life by those few who are strong when we are frail, wise when we are naïve, certain when we are unsure. Underneath it all, holding us up as we change, are the people who love us. They make the present bearable and the future possible. However much we find ourselves in the throes of life, they stand by until we land again on solid ground, find ourselves again, get up in the morning ready to start over. Because of them, we stay steady on the path. They provide the unchanging foundations of love that enable us to risk change."

      - Joan Chrittister, from Called to Question

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving to everyone who creates my unchanging foundation of love. I'm in constant awe of all the love and support and I genuinely wouldn't have the strength to be here without each of you.

I am so incredibly grateful, so incredibly blessed, and so incredibly happy to be serving here in Botswana. This thank-less work may leave me feeling like I haven't done anything here, but in my heart I know I'm making a difference. I'm thankful for that.

And I'm thankful for you.

Love & Light,