Tuesday, June 3, 2014

joy in sharing

Knowing your neighbors

All of these aspects of life here are so intertwined with each other, and together they make up what is probably my favorite part of this culture and this country. I l o v e walking outside and greeting all of my neighbors as I make my way down these dusty streets.. And I l o v e that people genuinely care, whether you are sitting in the sun or you are not eating enough around the bowl. And I l o v e that you can walk into a courtyard where a woman is selling mangoes, and she gives you one just because "denga bax."
(denga bax=you are good.)

It's normal here for someone to walk into your home, and you stop what you're doing and just visit. Nothing important has to be said. Just spend time with each other-laughing and sharing life.

I've been thinking about this aspect of life a lot lately. Mainly the fact that I don't want to leave this sense of community, and I need to be intentional with incorporating it into my life in America. Here, it's easy to spend time with people. Most of their time is spent outside, sitting in chairs or on mats under trees. As you walk by, they call you over. Maybe you share a few rounds of tea together. Then, they invite you over for lunch this week. Next thing you know, you are visiting weekly with a family that has become so dear to your heart. You find joy in your conversations with them, and you love their children as your own. You have a solid friendship with them just because time was taken to call you over and talking was more important than any time arrangement that day. It's not a complicated process, but it's one that I had to move to a different country to see. 

Recently I came across Neighbor's Table, and I absolutely love that more and more people are seeing the need for knowing your neighbors, for opening your home, for spending time with people just because. We were made for community. We were made to love and laugh and find joy in the simplest of ways with each other. We need this.

It doesn't have to be hard. Write a letter to a friend just because. Bake cookies for the people living around you. Take time and truly listen to people. Send a simple package because you were thinking of someone far away. Live life with each other. 

Days are so much more enjoyable when this happens.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

loving the weird

nothing is normal.

one thing i love about living here is the fact that nothing is normal. even after living here a good while, i still find humor in the every day situations. sometimes it may take me a little longer to see the humor, but so many memories here are remembered with laughter because life has just been weird.

sometimes the abnormal comes in the form of riding a moto taped together because it is the only mode of transportation you can take at the time. or, sometimes, you may see your guard get his whole body stuck in the door of an elevator because the ancient model doesn't have a motion sensor.

two friends of mine are making a return trip here in the next few weeks. they lived here for two years, but returned to america last summer. as i have anticipated their return, i have been thinking about some of the memories we shared the year we were together in this country. one notorious memory is simply brought to mind by just saying the words "road trip." 

for some reason, four girls decided a 10 hour road trip cross country, during hot season, without a.c. would be a good idea.

nothing was normal on this trip. we drove the farthest part to see a "famous" waterfall, only to find out the road was blocked. we picked a random man off the side of the road to be our "official guide" for a "safari" we wanted to go on. 

we were chased by baboons, dried our clothes out the car window, saw a village called "house of the hyena" and we laughed. y'all, did we laugh. 

experiences like this are what i will miss. everyday something happens, and the only appropriate response is shaking your head while laughing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

when the change comes

emotions are a weird thing. such a complex war going on in my heart. the light is being seen at the end of a two year tunnel, and once again i feel so many different thoughts battling it out on a daily basis.

such love has been grown for this little town. as crazy as it seems, i find comfort in the dusty streets, & i seek the familiarity of greeting my neighbors after a weekend of travels. home is found in the smiles of the children that surround my house, and in the act of buying vegetables from my favorite stalls in the market, and cooking with a headlamp on because the electricity has gone out once again.

this past weekend two girls from my team made their way back to america. as we talked about their return, we wondered about the customs we've picked up that is our daily norm now. we laughed at the looks we'd see & how the people in america would most likely wonder about the difference in our lives. we might ask you if your body is at peace, and where is your house, and six other questions before we get to the point. we might greet in different languages, because greeting in one language is a foreign concept to us at this point. we may wear weird clothes made by our tailor & put on a jacket when it's ninety degrees.

however, not all change is bad. in fact, as i look at the change in my life that has occurred because of this small town, i am thankful. i have been bent & shaped & burned & molded. joy & pain have both happened, but growth has always been the result.

people seem surprised when at times i hesitate about life in america. they seem surprised when i refer to this place as "home." i want to show you a glimpse of why i struggle with return on some days, though. it's not because i am not excited. because hugging my people in the states is something worthy of a countdown, but it also means leaving my people here. so for the time i have left, that's what i want to do on this blog. i want to show you my favorite things about life here. i want to show you why it's easy to fall in love with a place that so many think it's hard to live. then, maybe, you won't see someone with weird quirks that she picked up in africa, but you'll see someone holding on to a culture that represents a sweet time in her life.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


"Get up! Get up! The greatest event of 2005 is about to happen! Dress warm and go hop in the car!" 

December 2005, and my desire to sleep in over Christmas break was quickly extinguished as my crazed mother woke me from a beautiful sleep yelling the above phrase, banging on pots and pans. A logical person would stop here and ask questions. However, being 17 and groggy from sleep, questions evaded me as I quickly dressed and joined my dad, brother and cousin already sitting in the car. Mom is laughing to herself in the driver's seat. Dad is sitting  in the passenger's seat, looking just as confused as I felt. This was not a good combination.
The conversation started:  "What in the world is going on?" "Donna, I have work in an hour." "Mom, I have basketball practice today." "WHERE ARE WE GOING?" 

Mom would just laugh, "I have it all under control." 

Now, the end of 2005 was a time full of heartbreak for our family. Events happened that rocked our world, and during this car ride we really thought these events affected my mom more than we knew.

"She's gone crazy." I whispered. The whole time she just laughed. This went on for AN HOUR, y'all! Finally, we had to stop for gas. As my dad reached to give my mom her wallet he found my brother's Christmas present hidden under the front seat. The trunk was opened, and we found new luggage-all packed with new ski clothes for everyone in our family.

It turns out she wasn't crazy, she just pulled off something no one could have guessed. She had called to get my dad off work, get me out of basketball practice, and had planned a week long ski trip to Colorado. Because of all the hurt 2005 brought, this was a much needed time of escape and healing for my whole family. And my mom had planned it all, without help. This is just who she is, and just one example of how she made so many things in my life special. I am so thankful to have grown up under her leadership and care. 

When she became a wife, she became a mother to around 15 boys living in a children's home. This shows her strength.

When she was in a car wreck and told she'd have trouble walking again, much less running, she ran a 10k. This shows her determination.

She has spent numerous hours decorating other people's weddings/parties/houses, all without pay. This shows her heart of service.

I have seen her love through my trials, I have seen her faith through her trials, and I have seen the way she truly cares for others through the numerous people she invites into her home. I am so thankful for the lessons she has taught me, and for the way she still teaches me, though an ocean separates us. 

Happy birthday, Mom. Hope you are celebrated well today. You definitely deserve it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

an open invitation.

I hear America is cold this year. Frigid. Icy. All things terrible. So, let's remedy this, shall we? You all pack up. Head to the nearest airport. Pray runways aren't iced over. Hop on that plane. Fly over that pond, and come spend some time in the sun with me. Sounds good, yeah?

Ok, now that we've established the fact you all are coming to visit, let's talk about one thing we would for sure have to do: 
Sunday Market.

Not that this market is knock your socks off great. Not that you can buy so many neat hand made items to take back and share with your friends from that one time you went to Africa. But, you could see culture up close and personal. You can banter back and forth with the sellers. See the ladies sitting around their huge bags of "stuff." Sift through piles of clothing. And, the fabric, y'all. You. Could. Look. Through. The. Fabric. Not that I even have to justify this, but seriously. Where else can you go, pick out fabric, head to the tailor, design an outfit with him, and pick it up in 2 days..all under twenty dollars? Also, if you're real nice, my tailor may even name your design after you. Because he's just that great. 

Coffee & basket for the market. All set to go!

Yes, ma'am. I did bring my coffee on a horse cart.

That fabric. Be still, my heart.

 Of course, there would also be the numerous conversations shared over my kitchen table and a pot of coffee. We'd head over to a friends house and help prepare their lunch meal, then sit around the bowl and savor every bite of it. We'd laugh, like old friends do, while trying to share in the dances with women twice our age. I would show you around, and you would catch me up on your life.

It would be one heck of a visit, no?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

the thankful project: an ability

Some moments you just need to BE there in the spirit of Thanksgiving. No updates on social media. No distractions. Just you, the laughter and friends you are surrounded by, and the feeling of being incredibly thankful for those moments. This past weekend was time for me to do just that.

I wanted to continue with the Thankful Project, but when you're surrounded by a place that looks like this, you don't want to spend time on a computer, right?

However, I am back and ready to link up once again with Kenzie from Chasing Happy to spend some time in thanksgiving. 

Today's Prompt:  an ability

Today, I am thankful for the ability to travel. Large trips or small trips-it doesn't matter. Each new culture I've been able to experience has been able to teach me so much..about the world, about myself. 

Cinque Terre




Glacier lake in  Northern Peru.

Dancing in the middle of local parade in the town I lived in.
New York

New Orleans

So often we get caught up in the world surrounding us, not even realizing there's so much more to see. We make excuses. "It's too far." "It's too expensive." "I just don't have the time." Some of these trips were made over a weekend. Some took a little more planning. All were completely worth it. Whether you travel 30 minutes down the road to eat at a new restaurant, or you take a 12 hour flight to immerse yourself in a language that sounds nothing like yours, get out. Go travel. See the world. Experience new things. It's just good for the soul.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Thankful Project: a talent

Today is another day of "The Thankful Project" were I'm linking up with Kenzie to write about some talents I am thankful I have. 

I am an extreme perfectionist..to the point of not starting a task if I have one thought that I can not give the proper attention to it. I also start many projects, then quit because I feel as if I'm not giving enough. All this to say I critique everything I do with a critical eye. I think self evaluation is very important, yet I want to make sure that I give proper thanks for things I do well.

Today's prompt focuses on that. Giving thanks for certain talents you have that you may or may not focus on  on a daily basis.

riding a horsecart.
Or driving one. Take your pick. This girl can handle both. Except for that one time I fell off the horsecart and had about 10 African women giving me advice. However, I came back from that incident stronger than ever, and can proudly say I have mastered this. It takes extreme talent!
(kidding, of course. all you really need is a sturdy back end, and you'll be fine)

 On a more serious note, language learning.
I am nowhere near where I would like to be in speaking this language. However, I have to say that I have worked so hard this past year to arrive at the level I am. I have cried over not being able to communicate. I have been frustrated. Yet, I still pushed myself to practice and learn. Now, I'm able to tell stories, joke & laugh with friends, and have good conversations in the local language. Like I said, I definitely need to continue working. But I am happy and sometimes amazed when I'm able to sit across from a sweet woman and fully understand the words coming from her heart.