26 December 2010

Pole sana for the emo-fest to follow...

A few things have been on my mind quite a bit lately. One of which is the notion of people back home forgetting about me while I’ve been over here. [Yep, you can definitely thank Mr John Mayer for this little emo-fest. Culprit: Edge of Desire and the line, ‘There, I just said it: I’m scared you’ll forget about me…’] There are a select few who tell it (that they miss me and want me to come home) to me often, but I sometimes wonder about their sincerity. It’s not as if I doubt it, I just wonder if they’re saying it to make me feel better, since I obviously AM missing them, or if they genuinely mean it. Like, do they randomly think about me, who I’m with, or what I’m doing? Do they get random flashes throughout the day of stupid shit that we’ve done that reminds them of me or see things and think ‘Aw, Sarah…’? ‘Cause I know that happens to me every so often, like I mentioned in the previous entry. I don’t mean to come off as selfish, honestly, I don’t. You guys know me, unless I’m on stage, I do not like exorbitant amounts of attention. (Sometimes you wouldn’t think that about me, would you?) I’m just genuinely curious about what it’s like on the other end of the spectrum when people are gone.

I feel as if my life is at a standstill, where I’ve diverged from ‘the path’ we’ve all started on over the past few years, and everyone else has just barreled right passed me, leaving me in the dust. Part of me thinks that when I go back, they’ll be so far ahead and I’ll frantically try and catch up, but then not quite make it before heading off to Kyrgyzstan. And I know that peoples’ lives naturally progress and I can’t ask them to put their whole entire lives on hold while I figure my shit out, I just feel ostracized and alone because of it. And when you’re already thousands of miles away from everything you know, being pushed further is never a fun thought.

Sometimes I feel that some of the relationships and friendships I have in my life right now are so incredibly one-sided. I try so hard to keep in contact and touch and interested and yet there’s hardly anything in return. Is it because they don’t care? Or they have more important things to do? Or they’ve honestly forgotten that I’m no longer an immediate part of their lives? Or is it because they’re scared/nervous/intimidated/unsure that I’m doing something different with my life; going against the ‘normal’ path of life after finishing uni? If the last one is the case, isn’t that something you’d want to actively try and keep track of? Learn about it as much as you can, be excited for that person and try and come to the point in your own life where you’re as comfortable or enjoying exactly what you’re doing. I don’t know, maybe that’s the idealist/hippie in me, but I just feel like we all should be learning from each other and feeding off experiences of others and yourself, to try and become the best person possible. If there’s something that I’m doing that you want to do, DO IT! Life is too short for you to just continue on placating yourself in order to do the ‘right’ thing all the time. If you want to go geek out at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand ‘cause you’re a huge LOTR fan – GO! If you want to volunteer in a small African village with a bunch of gorgeous, precocious children – DO IT. What’s stopping you?

Toni and I had a discussion about this the other day, in terms of readjusting to everything and knowing how to interact with people. She thought that one of the reasons why she got into so many quarrels with her friends when she last visited home was because their priorities were no longer the same. They all had ‘grown up’ in the sense that they had aged, but they were all obsessed with completely different things: the friends are infatuated about the swanky car, spoiling the kids, making the most money at your job even if you hate it, etc. Whereas Toni, having lived in Africa for two years now, thinks about things that her friends could care less about – footballs for the kids on the beach, markers and coloured pencils, how ridiculous it is to spend £60 on a pair of shoes. Is this making any sense?

I really do love and miss those people I’ve left at home with my whole heart. I’m enjoying what I’m doing here, but obviously still wondering about life back home. Does that mean that I’m weird or too attached and haven’t been able to let go as quickly?

On a seriously more silly, light-hearted note, I am DYING wanting to know what’s going on with Fringe. My friend Ben gave me up to episode four of season three off of his hard drive (of which I only have two more ‘new’ episodes to watch!), but everyone else is now waiting for number 10, which isn’t until JANUARY! Four days before my birthday, to be exact. I would normally be alright with this fact – as I really can deal with the lack of pop culture/TV/whatever – but this season is getting SO GOOD. And my recent rediscovery of Tumblr as shown me what happened in episode 9. Oh. My. God. Are you havin’ a giraffe?! That conversation happens and I’ve missed it? Poor Peter and Olivia! And there are rumors that there may not be a fourth season? Yeah, not ok with that. Why do I always catch on to the good stuff when it’s on the brink of no longer existing? Sigh. Well done, me.

And how was Matt Smith in his first ever Doctor Who Christmas Special? Did he deliver? Were Rory and Amy in it? Aw, how was Michael Gambon as Scrooge?! I SO wish that I didn’t have to wait until February to see it. Haha. Oh well, I’ll get over it (hopefully). I guess I’ll just have to listen to Eleven’s Theme on iTunes over and over to suffice until then. ;)

Well, that was enough of a geek fest for you all, I’m sure. I apologize for that, I just had to get it out, even though I don’t know any of you that even know what the hell I’m talking about. Haha. Here’s me hoping that all of you had the very best Christmases – what swanky stuff did you get? – and missing you oodles!

23 December 2010

A very merry un-Christmas.

Who would’ve thunk it that I’d be writing this entry, the day before Christmas Eve, after just having walked the beach, talked to my rasta boys, and gotten a sunburn? Three months already, too! Crazy how life works out, eh? And just think: some of you poor saps are freezing your arses (yes, I realize I just wrote that the British way; I blame my incessant hanging-out with Toni…) off in Chi and Omaha and DC and wherever else you may be while you’re reading this. Not to rub it in or anything. ;)

I’ve definitely been going back and forth a lot recently between being severely homesick and then loving the hell out of this place. Days like this, where I wake up whenever I want (or whenever rasta boyfriends need to get hold of their girlfriends who don’t have working phones so I have to play messenger), experiment with making yummy milkshakes, and then take three-hour long walks on the beach while hanging with friends, remind me just how much I love this place. Seriously, I don’t think I could be in the more perfect place for this particular moment in my life, as cliché as that sounds. I just need the pace and the whole mentality of Jambiani right now. I need to be able to joke with the boys about how rubbish my Swahili is; to give the Masaais a hard time about how hard they try and pump mzungus to buy their jewelry; to see the smiling faces of the kids as they shout your name while you’re walking around the village; to just sit in the sand and read a book, thinking about absolutely nothing.

With that all being said, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have days where I desperately want to go home, just so I can have a large glass of cold, skim milk (oh my God, that with a warm Christmas cookie right out of the oven? Yes, please!) or just so that I can text a friend something insanely stupid after a night out and have it not cost a trillion dollars. It’s really hard to explain – I feel like a giant pendulum going from one extreme to the other. And not being able to articulate why this experience of being away from home has been more trying than any others is maddening as well. I just can’t do it. I’ve been away from my friends and family for longer than four months – um, hello, Edinburgh? – so why is this time so difficult? I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve been doing ordinarily mundane things during a day and then had an incredibly vivid flash of something/someone in Chicago or at home. I’m going to be an optimist and say that I’m like this because I’m missing my family and friends at this festive time of year, as opposed to me not being able to handle the separation. Gotta knuckle down and toughen up before good ol’ Kyrgyzstan comes my way.

Speaking of Kyrgyzstan, oh, the Peace Corps and I are going to have some good times with one another, I can tell. Luckily, my trip to Dar and the US Embassy wasn’t a COMPLETE waste, as my application has been sent off (barely) for my new passport. However, the visa I need for Kyrgyzstan is proving to be the problem, one that no one can really tell me a definitive answer on how to solve said dilemma. And, of course, since we’re America, everything’s now shut for the holidays until 29 December. YES. I either get to a) go to Pretoria, South Africa and find a Kyrgyzi (seriously, what the hell is the shortened version of this country’s name?!) embassy and do it there, b) wait until I get back to the States in the middle of February and just do it while I’m visiting DC – however that brings everything quite close to the deadline of my departure date, never a good thing – or c) somehow come up with another option that doesn’t require me to come back to the States early and do it there. Never a dull moment, huh?

OH! Guys, seriously, pay attention. So, I’m reading this book (it’s number 10, so far), called Night Train to Lisbon. The copy which I’m reading is actually quite rubbish – isn’t the whole point of an editor that you don’t have any typos?! I mean, come on! – but parts of it have really made me stop, put the book down, and really think about what I’ve just read. One of the lines that has really gotten to me is this one: ‘Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us – what happens with the rest?’ RIGHT?! How awesome is that? Like, of all the decisions we make day after day, what happens to those paths that we don’t take? And if we turned back time to take that other path, would we still turn out the same people? I don’t know, this is just the silly stuff I think about when I have no vols here to look after. Haha.

And because I’m feeling quite type-y, I am now going to make you all suffer through a list of things I miss the most right now. You’ll more than likely laugh/roll your eyes at some, if not all, of these things, but deal with it.

  • FRIENDS AND FAMILY – Obvious. I cleaned out my iPhoto library over the past few days and God, have we had some amazing times. I miss each and every one of you like it’s my JOB.
  • SKIM MILK – Seriously, powdered milk just doesn’t cut it when you need to make yourself a proper cup of tea or coffee.
  • TWIZZLERS – Lavy, you need to cut it with the reminders about these things. I actually salivate when you mention them.
  • MAC & CHEESE – As juvenile as it sounds, I could go for a box of good ol’ Kraft right now. Ri, get it ready for DC.
  • DECENT BEER – Love me some Kili, but Meleeny, you’ve gotta hook a sister up when I come home.
  • DOCTOR WHO – I’m actually crying on the inside because I’m missing the Xmas special. And the fact that I read Russell T Davies behemoth of a book about his experiences writing the show (it was actually fascinating!) doesn’t help.
  • SNOW – Yeah, not kidding. I know I’m more than likely going to get my fair share in Kyrgyzstan, but I could definitely go for a pile of snow right now.
  • A PHONE THAT DOESN’T DRIVE ME NUTS – After my BlackBerry was nicked, I got a replacement phone. It works, which is really all I need it to do, but it drives me mental; it’s rubbish!
  • CLOTHES – I was tired of the clothes I packed about two weeks into this whole ordeal. Haha. I would pretty much give my right arm for a pair of flats or Chucks, skinny jeans, another of my t-shirts, and one of my cardigans. Yes, please.
  • TURKEY – When you go both Thanksgiving and Christmas without havin’ a giant turkey, something is wrong. Plus, where’s the fun of it when you can’t chuck the carcass out a second story window? ;)
  • GUM – No jokes. It gives you that little kick of sugar and helps the oral fixation.
  • BEN & JERRY’S – Cookie Dough, Half Baked, Brownie whatever. YES.
  • ITALIAN FOOD – Pesto pasta, bruschetta, fettuccini alfredo, breadsticks. Basically, a trip to Olive Garden is in order for whomever wants to come. Fab 4?
  • PINKY’S – You better bet your bottom dollar that I’m going to stock up on these when I hit NZ in February. Kathryn, get ready. Or be prepared to send me packages to Kyrgyzstan. Haha.
  • HAWKS GAMES – No matter how shit they may or may not be doing right now, there’s nothin’ like being at the Madhouse on Madison.

I’m sure there are other things, but my brain is quite content at the moment (either that or it just doesn’t want to work).

Missing you all and wishing you the very merriest of Christmases. Enjoy your family time and know I’m thinking of you! And if you don’t hear from me before the New Year, have a BLAST! Have a shot for me (Disney peeps in Chi!) and ring in the best 2011!

PS – as long as this may be, everyone needs to convince me that I need to purchase a Kindle (with what little money I have left) for my PC service. The book-nerd in me will just not go along with getting ready of physical books… Gigi, this is all you!
PPS – How’s Josh Groban’s new album?

12 December 2010

Am I cut out for this?

Yesterday, one of the vols with whom I've become quite good friends - and one of the girls who endured the events of the Full Moon party with me - asked me how I managed to readjust to life back in the Western world after all of my previous time in Africa. It was such a good question, which furthered into a really good, thought-provoking discussion. It was really quite difficult for me; I don't know if any of you remember how I was last August, but it was far from an easy task. Especially with all of the bullshit that surrounds life in retail during the Holiday Shopping Season (The House of Mouse will forever be tainted to me because of my life in Zanzibar).

Basically, I told her that it's not going to be a quick fix; you're not going to be able to shut off and ignore all of the things you've done, places you've gone, people you've met, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences you've had. It's just impossible. In fact, if you were able to do so, I would personally think that there's something wrong with you. To have gone through that much only to throw it away instantaneously in exchange for a swanky new phone or the hottest fashion items of the season. I believe it all comes down to not being incredibly hard on yourself as well as not jumping down other peoples' throats and blaming them for being 'insensitive, materialistic, etc.' It's not their fault that they weren't with you in the sweltering heat, in a small classroom - devoid of desks, chairs, and school supplies - with a bunch of rambunctious 6 year olds shouting at you in Swahili. You can't recreate that for someone who is living in the middle of London or Chicago or wherever, no matter how vividly you may or may not be able to describe it.

In my case, last summer, it took me a month and a half to two months to really 'get over' my reverse culture shock. And that was with insane amounts of journaling and numerous tearful conversations with my mom and best friends. I can only imagine how difficult it's going to be for me this time around, having been gone for twice as long and only having about four weeks in the States before heading off to Kyrgyzstan for twenty-seven months. I feel that it could be that case that I'll get home (to where in the States I have no fucking clue) in the middle of February and be hit with all of the American-ness, retell my stories to all of my friends and family - already I'm dreading that; can't they all just read my blog and look at my (at the moment nonexistent) pictures on FB and connect the dots instead of me rehashing the same story 30+ times? I know I've said before that reading the blog is NOT the same as me spinning my tale with my own goofiness, but a girl can only recount her random nights dancing with rastas in rasta bars so many times - and then a few weeks later be forced into an emotional goodbye with my mom and brother only to be shipped off to the other side of the world.

With that conversation this morning, my brain hasn't really been able to let it go. I'm definitely going through a stage where I am starting to freak out about my decision for March. I haven't been able to go to the American embassy in Dar yet in order to get my visa and PC passport figured out. [And for those very few of you who know that I was in Dar for three days this week, don't assume that I got to do anything useful while I was there. I was there because one of our vols had to go to the hospital for a really terrible corneal ulcer. Never a full moment in my life, eh? There were some good things to come from that trip though. Hello, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One and then BACON; real bacon.] And it's not as if they're very helpful in being open and accessible when you need them. Closing on Tanzanian/Islamic holidays, in addition to American ones, AND only being open insanely obscure hours (weekends not included) is not very conducive to young volunteers who can only leave project over the weekend. Thank you, America.

I'm also quite worried that I haven't given myself enough time to breathe. Ending one large chunk of project/life and then jumping right into something that will be harder and longer than the previous. Will that be enough for me to take a fucking breath; to catch up on sleep and jetlage before acquiring copious amounts more? Will it be enough time for me to talk with all of my friends and catch up on the past four months of their lives before scuttling off and not seeing any of them for two more years? Will I have enough time to get my 'family fix'? I won't even dwell on the tangent regarding my grandparents, because it's depressing and will definitely make me start sobbing, even though it honestly never leaves my thoughts. Will that four weeks be enough time for me to sift through all of my experiences and mentally prepare myself for learning another language, being on my own  - in a former Soviet country, no less! - and take on this huge task of teaching and molding young Kyrgyzi (is that how they're described?) minds? Talk about daunting... Am I really cut out for this?

Side note: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. YES. This is the kind of book that makes me love the fact that I have a history degree. And makes me desperately want to go back to school for another degree so I can delve that deeply into research and learning and experiencing. If you've not read it yet, it's a fabulous book. Not quite sure how I feel about the ending, but that's beside the point. READ IT.

Know that I'm seriously missing each and every one of you. Enjoy the snow and cold for me - I seriously wouldn't mind jumping in a giant snowdrift right now to cool off! You're all in my thoughts every day and can't wait to hear everything about your individual hijinx. :) I hope you all have a bloody amazing holiday season; wish I could spend it with you.

All my love from that tiny island of Zanzi.

02 December 2010

Christmas Wish-List

Dearest and darlingest friends, I have just a small plea to make to all of you. If, and I know this is a big if - especially with the economy as it is and families of your own - you were planning on being stud muffins and thinking of getting me Christmas presents, could we tweak that idea? There isn't much I'm really going to need for my upcoming expedition to the wiles of Kyrgyzstan, so this might be a smidge more useful for your time and money. Instead, could you maybe put together a bunch of school supply kits for the nursery schools where I work? These kids are the most amazing kids on the planet and what better to spend your money on, instead of silly things I'm not going to be able to take in a few suitcases with me!

Here are a list of items that are greatly needed and appreciated:
  • Pencils
  • Erasers (both large and the kind one can put on the end of pencils)
  • Coloured pencils
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Stickers (fun, silly, glittery ones)
  • Construction paper
  • Chalk (white and coloured)
  • Glitter
  • Markers (fat Crayola and skinny ones)
  • Paints (face and poster)
  • White and lined paper
  • Colouring books (for boys and girls - try, however, to stay away from Barbies and magic-y stuff)
  • Scissors (for both kids and adults)
And whatever else you can think of, I guess. Just please remember that it is a Muslim community, so everyone's quite conservative; which means you might want to stay away from Transformers or Bratz items... ;)

I know it's a LOT to ask, what with the prices for shipping things to Africa and it would take at least a month to get here, but it would mean a lot to me and these kids, as well as acting as your good deed of the year. Haha.

Also, on a completely unrelated note: Fringe. Totes hooked. John Noble is brilliant. Show is wonderfully, unrealistic brain candy. And seriously, when did Joshua Jackson get attractive? I'm fairly certain he's gotten much better-looking since his Dawson days... I mean, come on, dude's a lefty. What more can I say? Haha. I know it happens in almost every cop drama where there's a male and female lead, but the tension between Peter and Olivia? Definitely a proponent. JJ Abrams, your brain-children have taken over my life. And I kind of enjoy it.

All my love and best wishes.

25 November 2010

Spare keys, anyone?

Remember last time when I wrote about that acronym ‘AWA’? Yeah, words can’t really express how much that statement can sum up my life over the past weekend. I wish that I could just say ‘Full Moon Party in Nungwi’ and everyone would know exactly what I meant, but I can’t. Haha. So my train of thought (and nothing is left out) is all organized, I need to write out bullet points and then go from there. Deep breath.

  • Flavia’s jigger and Chris’ tropical ulcer
  • Van ride up north
  • Full Moon Party
  • Post-Full Moon Party
  • Stop at the Police Station

Now, that might not look like the most interesting weekend, but once I divulge the happenings then you’ll understand. Basically, once a month one of the resorts up north in Nungwi throws this kick ass party to celebrate the full moon. A bunch of tourists go, but there’s also always a good chunk of locals that like to check it out. It’s a great way to let loose, dance, have fun with your friends, etc.

Anyway, so Toni and I (well, mostly Toni and Rasmus) organize it so that all of the vols go up for the weekend. Right before it’s time to leave, one of the vols Flavia asks me whether or not she has a jigger in her toe. FYI – a jigger is a worm that somehow gets through the soft tissue of your foot and just hangs out there. If it stays in there long enough it lays eggs and then dies. Very awesome. Needless to say, I tell her yes, ‘cause I’m 99.9% sure that that’s what it is, despite her fiancé trying to tell her differently. So, I ask one of our cooks Fadhili if it is, he says yes, and then he proceeds to get it out. Not as gross as it sounds, just definitely not something you see back in the States. Then her fiancé Chris starts looking at this thing he’s had on his leg for quite a while – which I about a week before this had said was lookin’ like my tropical ulcer did and that he should get it checked out – and said that it was hurting him. ‘Cause we were all in doctor-playing modes, Flavia and I start trying to care for his leg. Let’s all remember back to when I talked about mine; had to cut the scab open and squeeze all the shit out of it. He wasn’t impressed. And THEN (right before we were all set to leave) he decided that maybe he wants to go to Dr Hamza. Well-timed, sir. ;)

After all of the shenanigans were over we were on our way. Our van was deemed the party van, purely because of the sheer amounts of crazy (people) that were in it. Quick breakdown: two Germans, one Brit, one Swede/fake-Brit, two Aussies, and an American. Yeah, it was nuts. The van ride up was just epic. Everyone was in a goofy mood, so we were all jamming – and I mean that literally; there was even water bottle microphone singing! – to people’s iPods and just being pretty much idiots. Range of songs to which were listened: ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?,’ ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,’ ‘Run This Town,’ and some good ol’ Whitney Houston.

Once we finally arrived Friday evening, it was just in time for everyone to drop their stuff at respective lodgings and then regroup for dinner. Pretty calm dinner and walking around… Yeah, no, I totally lied. I forgot that after dinner a group of us went to this beach bar and continued to knock back some drinks. Yeaaaaah. Forgot about that one. Haha. It was good times. Totally learned more about people than I really needed to and found out that I am forever destined to be like people’s best mates and never anything more (not that I’m bitter or anything…). Checked out a Rasta bar but didn’t stick around for long – for some reason I just can’t quite make it past 2 am anymore. Called Ri, got a semi-update about how ridiculously awful my boys have been doing while I’ve been gone. [Although Tazer’s Hatty and then their subsequent win in Vancouver (right? Crawford’s almost-shutout of 7-1?) are starting to redeem themselves. Keep it up! Aaaand they lost to San Jose. Well done, guys.]

Saturday day itself is quite lazy: laying in the sun and swimming in the most beautifully clear water ever. Don’t know why I didn’t dive; in hindsight, I totally should’ve! After lunch – which I didn’t mind, but I guess everyone else found it terrible? You can so tell my standards no longer match other people’s or what they used to be – we all headed off to our respective hotels ‘cause we were all knackered and wanted to be ready for the party that evening. Had a GLORIOUS two and a half hour nap before getting my shit together, taking a shower, and getting dressed (yes, like a female!) for the night’s events. Finally got to Kendwa Rocks – the hotel where the party was to take place – and ordered our dinner. While waiting, we partook in silly antics some of us cooked up before we left for the weekend. For example, I had to say ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!’ before I started a drink and right before I took the last sip. Someone else had to do a chest pop every time the word ‘drink’ was said. And only a select few were in on it, so whenever it happened, we would all burst into a fit of giggles. The English speakers tried to teach some Germans and Dutch people how to play Ring of Fire and that ended up being quite… interesting/entertaining. Some people were a bit sullen for unknown reasons, but then after a few drinks were consumed, everyone started to loosen up. I know I did – as I don’t normally do splits on the middle of beaches. Haha. I don’t know exactly what flicked the switch, but around half 12 everyone hit the dance floor. So. Much. Fun. Excellent jams, just kickin’ it with friends and one of our students from Jambiani – a story in itself… – and totally just enjoying the night!

However, since all good things must come to an end, around 2 o’clock one of the vols comes up to me and she’s like ‘Greer’s bag is gone.’ I’m fairly certain that you could’ve knocked me over with a feather when that was said. For one, that means a vol’s bag was stolen, but in addition, MY Blackberry (I knew I shouldn’t have gotten one of those to take with me to Africa!), small digital camera, some cash, and my sweater were all put in there for safe keeping as well. Without really reacting, I just peaced out to go sit on the beach and just stare at the water. Two of the vols came out after me, but weren’t overbearing, just kind of silently sitting down next to me and letting me just process through it out on my own. And when I was finally ready to face the situation, they pulled me into a hug. Head back into the party only to be told the real kicker to the situation: the keys to the car in which we rode were in the bag as well. Which meant that we were unable to get into the car to get back to our hotels, not like we would be able to get into our rooms, ‘cause a bunch of us had locked our room keys in the car for ‘safekeeping.’ Isn’t it funny how karma works? Drunken frantic running around trying to figure out what next to do ensued. Taxi was taken back to Nungwi, where I burst into a fit of hysterical laughter, grab two of the girls, and literally run straight into the ocean, fully-clothed. It just needed to happen. We had talked earlier about doing a midnight swim anyway, and half 2 in the morning, after all of this shit seemed like the perfect time to do it. :)  But then again, it once again came back to kick us in the ass, ‘cause when Greer, Ben, Jess, and I headed back to our hotel, we were told that the manager herself was at the Full Moon Party, so we’d have to wait until she got back for us to ask for spare keys. Are you havin’ a giraffe? So, the four of us jumped into a hammock, a couch, and two pulled-together chairs and slept outside – with the MILLIONS of mozzies whining around our heads – for two hours, the time now being 5 am, until someone came back to the hotel. When that happened, we had a chat, as much of a chat as you can have to someone who only speaks kiSwahili, only to find out that THERE ARE NO SPARE KEYS for our rooms. I promise I’m not making this shit up. So, all four of us, the three girls all shivering because of our wet clothes and the cold of the night, got to crash in some random room for another two hours before we had to get up for breakfast and try to get all of our stuff out of our respective rooms in time for check out. Greer left earlier ‘cause she had to get back to her hotel and find HER spare key, as well as get to the police station, if you can really even call it that, to file a police report. Which meant that when Jess and I woke up, since our dresses were still wet, we had to take the sheets off of our beds and make couture kanga gowns out of them in order to not be naked while going to eat. I seriously wish I had had my camera so that I could’ve taken a picture in all of our ridiculousness. Long story short (too late), got into our rooms, got our stuff, checked out, thanked the guys working profusely, and then headed to the other hotel.

When we got there, we found out that since we didn’t have the key to the car we left in Kendwa, we were going to have to wait for a fundi – handyman – to be driven out from Stone Town so he could break into the car and then hotwire so we could return it to its owner. Oh, have I forgot to mention that both of the cars we took up to Nungwi were rented and that we were going to be charged a fortune if anything happened to them?! Yeah, adding to the drama. So, we’re all sitting around, waiting for news and the latest update only for Toni and Rasmus to roll up and then hand over the small clutch in which I had everything the night before. BUT the only thing that was in it were the car keys (weird, right?) and the key to Greer’s hotel room. It’s funny how things work out, eh? We all finally get into the car around 2 pm, but before we can head back to town, we have to make a stop at the police station, so Greer can amend her police report to include my camera and the cash that I had in my clutch. The asshole police officer won’t let her, so I have to go in and file my own police report. Dude was a dick to us, asking us why didn’t we include it to begin with and why had we waited until just then to report it instead of first thing in the morning. Luckily Rasmus was with us so he used his Swahili charm to tell them that we were volunteer teachers and it wasn’t our fault, blah, blah, blah. But that took a good 30-45 minutes before we could actually head to Stone Town to drop off the cars and have lunch before heading back to Jambiani. Had a delicious meal at Lukmann’s, although that’s always the case. Brooded out the window all the way back from Stone Town, had dinner when we got back to Grand, and then basically crawled into bed and slept until it was time to get up for nursery school.

Exhausting weekend, that’s for sure. And in hindsight, I enjoyed most of it. There are parts I’d obviously like to forget (some more obvious than others), but when it all comes down to it, the things that I lost were just material objects. Granted they were a bit pricey, but all of the pictures from my camera were already on my computer and my Blackberry only had numbers and texts that needed to be saved, nothing more. At the end of the day, that isn’t the stuff that really matters. Everyone is safe and sound at home, no one was hurt, we all have hilarious anecdotes from the experience and we’ve become (mostly) fast friends because of it. Definitely an AWA moment, but now that it’s over, it’s quite hysterical. I’m sure reading this is not going to be as entertaining as it will be to actually hear it from me ‘cause I’ll be able to add funny random tidbits of information. But until I get a chance to see all your beautiful, smiling faces, this will just have to do.

In the mean time, I need phone numbers from pretty much everyone and their brother. Either FB message them to me or text them to my American number. Won’t necessarily be able to answer your texts, but I will get them. Have a new, working phone at the moment, so I’ll use that through the rest of my travels until I get back to the States and use my old one.

Know that I love and miss you all!

07 November 2010


Despite how much I’m able to journal and blog about what I’m feeling on a daily basis, I’ve come to the conclusion that I physically have NO IDEA how to tell people about myself in a formal, professional way. I’m currently wracking my brain trying to figure out how best to ‘introduce’ myself to my host country staff for the Peace Corps so they can better place me once I get there. Talk about nerve-wracking. I have a hard enough time writing flipping cover letters and resumes ‘cause I always feel as if I’m bragging or I have the problem about not being formal enough and trying to infuse such things with my personality and humour (which I guess you’re not allowed to do?). How is a document on a computer screen going to fully explain how I can place six degrees of separation with practically any actor and then tell you where they dry clean their clothes or that I have the utmost love and respect for the people in Jambiani and other villages on the island of Zanzibar? I just don’t think it’s possible and that frustrates the hell out of me. Or everything I write comes out as short and detached with no feeling behind it; saying that I have a strong academic interest for 15th-18th century British history or about the Crusades does not really describe how much I loathe the TV show The Tudors because they’ve bastardized one of my favourite historical figures ever or the inexplicable love I have for the movie Kingdom of Heaven because of the way Ridley Scott has portrayed both ‘sides’ of the story.

In other news, as you might have noticed my recent change of Facey-B status, I have a new acronym that has taken over my life. AWA. It’s the new TIA, I swear. Firstly, let me clarify that we all know what ‘TIA’ stands for: This is Africa. It is usually used when something has happened, such as the electricity going off for a good chunk of your day, and you’re resigned to the fact, simply because it cannot be helped. Example: ‘Aw, damn, I’m in the middle of a cold shower after a long (extremely) hot day’s work, and the electricity in the whole village has gone off, leaving me soaping my hair in the dark… TIA.’ Alright, so we’ve got that settled so we can move on to the new one and the one that has really come to embody my life within the past few days. AWA = Africa wins again. Usage is very similar to TIA, except for the fact that using it seems to be a bit more negative that if you were to say TIA. Having heard it from a Canadian VSO member the other day, it’s become quite apparent in my life.

Now, I’m sure I’m overreacting and being dramatic, but whatevs. The other day I went to the local clinic (an experience unto itself; Mom, you may or may not be shocked when you see it) to get my leg checked out. On Wednesday morning I had woken up with a blister on the outside of my calf, not knowing what it was or where it had come from. I let my body try and deal with it naturally; expecting that I had just burned it somehow or it was a spider bite or something. Anyway, after it had done its thing and started to ‘heal,’ it continued to get red and the skin around the scab was getting quite hard. Toni – my boss and current roommate – said that I should get it checked out because it looked very similar to the tropical ulcer she had on her foot earlier this year. After good ol’ Dr Hamza checked it out, sure enough, it was the beginning of a fabulous tropical ulcer. Basically, it’s a bug/parasite/thing that gets into a wound and seals it self in, the infection spreading underneath the skin. Pleasant, eh? Yeah, try going to a clinic in the middle of rural Africa and having the doctor use a small razor blade to cut off the scab and then squeeze out all of the ‘sluff’ (as Toni and I call it). With no warning or painkillers. Yeah, that was definitely a fun experience. NOT. And then to have it done again yesterday for my ‘check-up,’ living the good life, I am. Haha. As of right now I’m healing fairly well – seeming to have good vibes from the doc himself. I now have a legitimate excuse for not doing my cycling every other day with one of the local dudes and not to get up for early morning runs. Yesssss.

My mind is currently all over the place. It’ll definitely be interesting to try and refocus my brain to finish my aspiration statement in the next 30-45 minutes before running off to have dinner with the rest of the volunteers (who are a right trip this time around). Maybe after John Mayer finishes this amazing rendition of ‘Belief’ – from his Where the Light Is DVD – I’ll put on some Madge – her Confessions tour DVD, for Joe, if you even read this anymore – and jam that way. OH! Before I forget, everyone who knows my mother needs to help convince her that she and I need to go to Melbourne while in Australia so that we can try and see good ol’ Philip Quast as Mr Banks in Mary Poppins. It needs to happen. No jokes. And I need to see Meggie while I’m there. Obvious Yodel love night. ;)

Keep me updated on everyone’s lives! What were you all for Halloween? How was Bonfire Night? What is everyone doing for Thanksgiving? How freezing is it in the good ol’ UK and US of A? I’m dying of heat, but loving that I can sit in the sun and tan when friends in Chicago are suffering the rain and cold (has it snowed yet?).

Miss and love you all!

28 October 2010


Talk about throwing a monkey wrench into the equation that is my life. Guess who was pretty much offered a job with GAA (my internship since January) to help set up a community library in a rural village outside Moshi in Tanzania. That’s right, this kid. And if I hadn’t already accepted Peace Corps, I completely would’ve jumped at the chance to do it. Is life/fate trying to tell me something by my boss asking me when he did? Or is it just really shite timing? After I was finally coming to terms with my decision and getting completely comfortable with the idea of picking up life and resettling it in Kafrakifrangipanistan for two years, this big ‘un hits me upside the head. In the end, I’m still going with the PC, since I already told them yes – although, to be fair, I haven’t actually started filling out any of the paperwork – but it doesn’t help that my brain goes into overdrive and starts overanalyzing whether or not I made the right decision.
And something else has been weighing heavily on my mind recently – the fact that I get too attached to people too quickly. I’m not sure that I 100% thought about the implications of doing a ‘job’ like this one (in Zanzi): I meet, interact, and live with pretty much a different group of people every few weeks. Me being the type of person that I am, I definitely latch on to people with whom I get along for the need of some semblance of distraction from missing home and/or friends. For example, I was with this awesome Kiwi for three weeks and we just got on incredibly well, adding a swanky Brit into the mix for two of those weeks. When both of those girls left, I felt as if little bits of me were leaving with them. Good Christ, that sounds so cheesy. But when you’re me, it’s just inevitable – I haven’t gotten to the place in my life where I can detach myself so easily from everyone and just side with those that’re going to be constant for me – in this case: Toni, Dulla, and the random kids/students. I’m finding it really difficult.

The other day while sitting in nursery school with the kids, I realized how utterly absurd primary/nursery school is in the States. Is it really that necessary for every single student to bring their own box of 24 crayons to put in their own Hannah Montana/Transformers (if that’s what the cool kids are even bringing to school nowadays) school box?! I’m currently teaching a class of over 30 students and they ALL share a tub of broken crayons and they do just fine. And they each only have one pencil and writing book as well. It baffles me how materialistic and individualistic the US is/has become. It’s no longer about the act of learning and community and being together, but who has the most pimped-out pencil or desk accessories. As underprivileged as schools like the ones where I’m teaching are, the students are still learning. And they’re learning a foreign language from a bunch of crazy mzungus at the ages of 6 and 7 (which is definitely not an easy task, that’s for damn sure)!

The past couple of days have definitely been hard for me. Just haven’t been in the right headspace for much, lately. Don’t know if it’s the issue of not having a constant group of friends that changes or if I’m going through massive America-withdrawal or scared about the future. Who knows? I sure don’t.

Miss and love you all.

15 October 2010


Well, I think I’ve made my decision. I’m absolutely flipping terrified. But I’ve been reminded that that’s completely normal for as big of a decision as this is, yet I can’t seem to shake how different my life is going to be from March onward. I have made countless pros and cons list, cried buckets loads of tears, spent far too much of Mom’s money making her ring me to discuss my options, lost sleep over this, have gotten myself sick stressing, and have had an hour long conversation with one of the besties (please know how much I appreciated that! <3) going back and forth. And I think I’ve come to a conclusion. *deeeeeep sigh*
As much as it’s going to affect those around me, I think I’m finally accepting and getting comfortable with my decision – I’m sure you can figure it out based on this entry alone – but I’m really hoping that everyone will understand that I need to do this for me. I think I really need this as a way to figure out 100% who I am, the kinds of things I will or will not stand up for (ew, preposition at the end of a phrase...), meet and experience fabulous people and cultures,  and how I cope with everything. Using my year abroad in Scotland and my two adventures in Africa as jumping points and comparisons, I’m not nervous so much about going somewhere SO different (although, let’s be honest, I’m scared shitless), but the length of time I’ll be gone is twice as long as any I’ve done thus far. Big steps. It’ll be a change. Only an idiot wouldn’t comprehend that.
I think one of the things that has scared me the most about making this choice has been how ‘grown-up’ this makes me feel. Only grown-ups start making these kinds of decisions, basically setting the ball rolling for how the rest of their lives are going to start shaping. [And I know that those of you who are super close to me are going to roll your eyes at this next sentence, but bear with me.] My life at this precise moment in time can pretty much be explained through the lyrics of one John Mayer – yep, here come the eye rolls – from ‘Stop This Train’: So scared of getting older; I’m only good at being young. I really think that’s part of the reasons I haven’t been able to so readily say ‘HECK YES, LET’S DO THIS!’ I feel like once I’ve said yes, that’s it, my childhood/youth is over, despite being only 22 (23 when I officially head out) and having so much life left to live. It’s going to be hard to come back after this and totally revert to the girl who willingly lets Grandma scratch my back, Grandpa make ‘faffles’ with lots of syrup every morning, who can work at the Disney Store (as hellish as it was) just because she loves watching Disney movies so much.
At the same time, though, another JM lyric comes to mind that I think will really help me find peace with this decision: I believe that life’s gonna see all the love I give returned to me. That pretty much sums up something I’ve always said; it’s part of the reason behind my infinity symbol. Not that I’m expecting someone to praise me or shower me with money and gifts once I return from service, but just knowing that I’m doing something to ‘help’ (hopefully) so many people – whether it’s by doing a silly dance and making a person smile or if it’s developing a clean water system for a village – I’m hoping to be build up a store of good karma. And we all know how karma works... But having said that, if you just so happen to marry rich (*cough*Tazer*cough*) and have extra money that you need to do something with, I’ll gladly let you hire me to run your NGO or charity. ;)
Please be patient with me as I use this place to vent my frustrations, tweak about my fears, and be excited about what’s to come for me in the next three years. Also, if you don’t agree with my decision, please keep it to yourself. I honestly don’t think there will be many, if any, of you, but just in case... I’ve been hard enough on myself as it is and this is my turning point: I’m doing this for me. As much as I value your opinions, I don’t need you to tell me how to live my life. Encouragement and well wishes would be MUCH more widely appreciated. Anything to help my transition would be great. And just know, when I get back from Africa, I’m going to need to spend as much time with most of you as humanly possible. ‘Cause let’s face it: how many of you, other than Mom and maybe Mike or Dad, will actually truck your ass out to Kyrgyzstan to come visit me?
Miss and love you all.

10 October 2010

Life-altering decisions (not to sound melodramatic)!

So, the other morning, after being 'stood up' for my training session with one of the local guys (I'm biking with one of the lads every morning to a - stay in shape and b - train for Kili if that's what Mom and I decide to finally do), I started writing in my journal and this is what came out:

Pretty much had a mental breakdown last night (6 Oct). I was checking my email when I saw one from the Peace Corps. I opened it, of course, and not to sound melodramatic, but my heart literally stopped and my life has since changed. They've already decided where they want to place me: Kyrgyzstan, teaching secondary level English. Oh, and I would leave on or around 25 March, 2011. Do you realize how flipping soon that is?! It might be October now, but that basically means that once Mom and I are finished with whatever we're doing at the end of Jan - whether it's climbing Kili or going to visit Kathryn and friends in Sydney and NZ - I have less than a month and a half to legit say goodbye to everyone (friends, family, etc.) and to pack up my life for three years. I mean, I figured this day would come, but actually having it become a reality and to see so much of my life in such a short span of two lines of text... It's fucking mental, man. I feel like Melina: I'm not 100% sure that I'm ready for this (even though I'll more than likely accept the invitation and say yes), plus who says 'Oh, no thanks!' to the Peace Corps?! You just don't do it.

I called Mom just sobbing and I've gotta say that she took it like a champ. It canNOT be easy to hear your child freak out that much and learn that she's going to be so far, in the middle of nowhere, for so long. But then again, she's always been like that; she's always put Mike and me above herself and always been supportive and stuck with us through thick and thin.

I am so fucking confused and frustrated about the whole thing. Peace Corps has given me SEVEN DAYS to make this life-altering decision. Are you having a laugh?! I can barely decide what I want to cover in my lesson plans for my students today! It's not as if I'm  unhappy that they've let me in or that they've placed me so quickly, it's how impersonal and nonchalant the invitation seemed to be; how easily they just cast away 2.5 years of my life and how they didn't think much of it. I don't know. I have a LOT of soul-searching to do in the next four or five days. I really, really wish that I could talk to certain people about this face-to-face and just panic/sob and talk it out with them before deciding. Being in paradise/Africa is really not conducive to the discussion and making of life-changing choices.

With something like this looming over me, it really makes me want to say forget the hardships of climbing Kili (although if I don't do it in Jan, I do want to do it eventually!) and go have the chance to see Kathryn one more time before I have to settle down in a rural, Soviet-esque village for almost 27 months.

Thoughts, anyone? I could really do with some discussion. I know at the end of the day it's pretty much wholly my decision, but I'd like to get your thoughts...

Oh, on a more positive note: Zanzi is lovely. Today's definitely a lay in the sun with a book and do nothing day. And it couldn't be nicer or more well-needed. All of that will change with the coming of a new week and all of the kids and lesson work we have to do. Fun, eh? :)

Miss you all.

29 September 2010


Well, chaps, I have finally made it to Nairobi after about a gatrillion hours in airports and on numerous planes. Sleep total since Sunday evening: about four hours. And it's now Wednesday, 29 Sept, 2010 at 5.12 p and I have to wake up in about 12 hours to make my flight to Zanzi. Don't you just love it when mothers schedule your flights for ridiculous times? ;)

And since I have no ability to sleep on flights, I ended up watching abooooout 6 films? They, and my reactions to them, are as follows:
  • Sherlock Holmes - even though I despise Jude Law, I'm pretty much hooked on the franchise. And the fact that Stephen Fry was just announced to be attached to the sequel (PLEASE, let it be Professor Moriarty!) makes me even more excited.
  • Date Night - had seen it before, but Tina Fey and Steve Carrell never cease to impress me.
  • Avatar - Sam Worthington. Enough said.
  • Iron Man 2 - I was on a Robert Downey Jr binge. Haven't seen the first one, so obviously had no idea the background for any of this shit, but RDJ can really do no wrong. Unless it's Less Than Zero, which was just... wrong.
  • How to Train Your Dragon - blissful brain candy. And who wouldn't want to listen to a whole movie where you get to hear the Scot-ness of Gerry Butler and Craig Ferguson? 
Ok, so there were about 5, although I feel as I'm forgetting one, so that list could vary. Right now, just kind of vegging out in the hotel, getting ready to order room service for dinner, watch last night's Glee (BRITNEY! Thank you, Wi-fi!), and maybe an episode of Supernatural. Who knows? Hopefully the next update or two will be a little less Western/consumerist and a bit more about re-adjusting to life back in Africa.

Miss you all.

26 September 2010


Yeah, so I forgot to let you guys all know where you can send me snail mail (which I absolutely adore) while I'm gone. At least until I leave Africa. And then we'll reevaluate the situation. Haha. :)

Ms Hoppy (or however you may know me...)
c/o Timo or Megan Lehmann
PO Box 3422


And they're off...

So, I'm currently sitting in my swanky Chi apartment, next to mi madre, surrounded by all of my stuff that's getting packed up within the next two days. Today has been completely non-productive at all, so tomorrow - yeah, it's going to be absolute hell. Putting everything you own in either two-ish suitcases and/or boxes to be driven home, it is incredibly unnerving.

I've been trying the best way to describe my feelings right now and I'm having a hard time. Like, I'm absolutely ecstatic about heading back to Jambiani and being with Toni, Dulla, and all my little kids again. I really am, you please have to believe me. But I've gotten to the point in my life where I feel as if I have a 'life' here in Chicago. I have a steady, reliable (most of the time - with last night as one of the exceptions) group of friends. I have been working at this wonderful internship since January and have met some amazing people through it. I'm worried that life isn't going to be the same as it is right now. I'm not 100% sure that I want it to be, even, but right now, it's comfortable. It's where I am in my life and I'm OK with it. And the next time I'll be back in Chicago for an extended period of time, it will be three years from now and I'll have been through more life-changing experiences than I ever thought a person could go through.
  • Heading back to Zanzibar for 5 months, working as a liaison between the volunteers and African Impact.
  • Hoping to summit Kilimanjaro with Mom.
  • Going somewhere with the Peace Corps for 27 months doing who knows what.   
Wish I could be more coherent at the moment, but I'm just completely overwhelmed. Plus I'm watching Forrest Gump. Once I finally get my act together (hopefully at least once more before I head to the airport) or once I get overseas, I'll try writing again. 

And I'm ready to be back here in a few days. Good lord, it's beautiful.