Being Brave in A New City

This week I took a bus all by myself to downtown Johannesburg. Mobility. Mobility in someways is independence, it’s freedom. I have been so afraid of taking public transport in South Africa to the point where it has almost disabled me. So after a week of sitting around in a comfortable house in a suburb outside of the city, I decided it was time to gain my independence and find my way around.

Before I moved to South Africa, this was one of the things about living in this city that scared me the most. I will try to explain this fear. I like to describe the transport system in Johannesburg as organized chaos. There are small mini buses going every which way but which way they are going and how they will get there is a mystery. There is no schedule that is published on the internet or an iphone app that you can download or even a city route map that you can find to show you when, where and how much. The mini buses themselves change routes and have no signs to signify their destination. Everybody seems to know whats going on but doesn’t know how to explain it. Luckily there are a few buses with specified routes and a somewhat predictable timetable. So I’m not completely lost all the time.

With this new skill of successfully riding a bus, I feel a lot more confident about living in this wild city. That if I can ride a bus, I could potentially do much more and come out alive. It really is the little things

Going Back to Africa

I’m back in New York, where I started my America summer three months ago.  Three months ago I got on a plane and left Botswana.  My brother was married three months ago and here I am again, at the tail end, visiting him and his wife.  Its been an eventful summer with some sacred and special experiences.  I needed this time with my family after my two year sojourn in Botswana.  Here is an ode to some of my favorite experiences this summer:

  • Paul and Suvi wedding in the Manhattan LDS temple.
  • Regrouping with old friends (Chaela, Courtney, Ashley, Crys, Melodie, Louis, Amber…) including an inspiring and uplifting roommate reunion with all the girls from my freshmen year of college.
  • Taking care of my nephew while my sister-in-law gave birth to my newest nephew, then visiting them in the hospital.  What a tender experience to visit and hold a newborn baby and to feel the light and love that was present.  It helped me feel connected to this family, the ones I love so dearly.
  • Girls road trip with Mallory and my Mom to Orange County, California
  • Visiting Kali and Zach in their home in Oakland.
  • Going through the LDS temple to receive my own endowments
  • Spending time with my mom
  • burying my Botswana wardrobe and buying new clothes!

What a great summer!  And now I’m ready to go back to South Africa into an unknown future.  When I think about this next move of mine, I stop myself from being paralyzed with fear.  Sometimes it feels as if I am stepping into the dark, not knowing where my feet are going to land.  And this is where I have relied on faith.  Faith in a Heavenly Father who loves me and knows me and knows what I need.  Faith in the good feelings I have received as I have knelt down in prayer.  And the love of a good man who will do everything he can to protect me, help me, cherish me and love me.

There are times when we have to step into the darkness in faith, confident that God will place solid ground beneath our feet once we do. And so I accepted gladly, knowing that God would provide. -Pres. Dieter F Uchdorf

I needed this rejuvenating summer to feel close to my family.  I needed it to be inspired by the ones who have always helped me to understand the important things in life.  I needed it to take away the burdens from the past two years and see the goodness that it has left me with. And while I have missed the hands of the boy in SA so deeply, this experience has strengthened us.  Three months has tested us.  Yet, we find ourselves still ready for this next step.  The step where I move back to Africa.

 

The Great Salt Lake

I like Utah, a lot.  I think Utah’s diverse landscape is the best in the country at any time of the year.  Red rocks, rocky mountains, arches, lake powell.  There is just so much in this great land.  And during my summer here I have wanted to be able to experience the Utah Summer.  I can’t say that I have knocked much off the list but I did, for the first time in my life, venture to the Great Salt Lake.


I really like natural bodies of water, and especially ones that are warm. I wondered why had taken me so long to go there. Because the salt lake can be plenty warm.
But something that makes the great salt lake not so appealing is the environment. The salt lake has these crazy gnats that you have to run through before you get to the water. But the water itself feels good. The sand wavers from muddy to scratchy to rocky. But overall, I would go again, if somebody wanted to go with me again.

On Fire

Today I looked out the window and saw this:

deck of my parent’s house

which then progressed into this:

Which later turned into this:

Utah appears to be on fire.

Tell A Story

I doubt I will ever have a summer like this again.  I have no commitments but to visit people and catch up.  Luckily, I still have some perks through my mother’s airline job, enabling me to just go wherever, whenever.  It really is the best but for a limited time.  This nomad life is beginning to wear on me and I yearn for the next phase of my life where i will grow new roots and begin again.  And I miss a certain someone in South Africa. I have spurts where I miss Botswana, but I’m not there yet.  I think the fact that i will be back on that great continent in just eight weeks lessens the longing.  BUT, I do miss my Francistown Branch of the LDS church.  During my last year as a peace corps volunteer I made a commitment to go to church once a week, travelling the 400 km round trip.  It was so beautiful to be a part of a congregation so special.  Having reflected on my service for a month now, I think that my attendance and participation in the LDS Francistown Branch was one of the most rewarding experiences.  So that makes it difficult to come back.

Most days, it hardly feels like I’ve left. Like I’ve been here all along. Did I really live in that village?  A few days after I came to the US, I met a friend of a friend, she was a recently returned Peace Corps Volunteer and I clung to her for support and understanding, even if I only was with her for an hour.  But she told me something and i have been thinking about that for the last months ‘Tell your story, people will listen.’  Thats a hard thing to do because its not like people don’t want to listen, it just takes the right time and place to be able to tell it.  I was on an airplane to Portland from Phoenix and the couple next to me let me talk all I wanted about my experience and were endlessly fascinated.  I appreciated that.  I felt like that is what I needed.  Because it is surprising how not interested people are in your experience.  But its ok because sooner or later I need to realize that I am not the most interesting person in Utah or in America or in my family, that everybody has a story, and most times I need to listen rather than be heard.

 

It’s Been A Long Time, Been A Real Long Time

Last night I went swimming for the first time in four years. I mean the kind of swimming you do in a lap pool and you do it for exercise. During my adolescents, I was on the swim team and although I was not a superstar I genuinely enjoyed swimming.  And I have been dying to get back in the pool and feel my hands glide over the surface of the water.  But I discovered something last night, I’m weak.  I can hardly swim 6 laps without becoming completely out of breath.  And I guess that is to be expected but I didn’t expect it.

IOWA

I finally came rolling home last week after a detour that took me through Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania,  West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming.  It was a fun journey across the United States with some dear friends and plenty of good food.  Including a lunch break in Iowa City to visit an old roommate.  Cassi Elton, you are the best!

pink house reunion

the great state

But I felt relieved when I arrived home and I enter the front door of my parent’s home.  That feeling of coming home after being away for a long time can’t really be replicated.  While I was in DC, I attended a Damien Jurado concert and it was so good and so moving.  And I couldn’t help but let the emotions pulse through me as I listened to his song ‘Ohio.’

 

Let Freedom Ring

I’m in AMERICA

A full post on my brother’s amazing wedding is sure to come.  It really was amazing.

After my family left, I stayed on in the city and visited a few good friends. NYC is probably the worst city to come to right after living in Botswana for two years.  People here walk super fast, even when they are just going on a picnic to central park.  And Times Square was so overwhelming.  It was really uncomfortable to be around that many people.

peace

But for the most part, I am enjoying America.  Its pretty awesome.  And the food… Oh my.  I cannot believe how much good food there is here.  Gyros, cupcakes, ice box cakes, pizza, lamb burgers, bread, tacos… it’s really a bit obscene.

picnic in central park

Icebox cake from Magnolias and other amazing treats

And the variety of choice is really too much. I went into a pharmacy yesterday to get a bottle of water and there were three fridges full of water and there must have been at least fifteen different brands of water to choose from.  Really America?

Brooklyn Bridge with Ashley

And now I’m on my way to Washington, DC to visit another good friend. Peace out.

Also, I love not being a peace corps volunteer. freeeeeeeeeeeeeeddddddddddooooooooooom.

GLOW continues

A couple of weeks ago I helped organize and facilitate a Girls Leading Our World Workshop for girls during the easter break. It was held over three days and targeted at girls 15-18 years old. We had the best time together. I have not worked with a pretty group in my entire service. They were open, intelligent, courageous, thoughtful… all the things you want young girls to be. And they were so responsive to everything we taught them and they had this hunger to keep learning. We lead sessions on gender roles, violence against women, delaying sex, etc. We also wanted to have the girls do something that would mark what they learned at the workshop, so they wouldn’t easily forget it. First, an organization gave us the side of a wall to paint and we held a mural competition. This is their beautiful product:

And the second project we had them undertake was a march in the village. On the morning of the second day the girls took this banner and marched around their village, singing different songs we had taught them and some they brought themselves.  I’m also in love with this banner:

Who says we can't?

Girls in the this community are susceptible to different kinds of inequalities within their homes, schools and communities. The kind of atmosphere where inequalities abound is stifling for young girls and puts them in vulnerable positions, especially concerning education and health. And these girls felt like it was time for us to teach them that they could be just as good as boys, just as smart, just as clever and certainly we tired.

It makes me a bit emotional when i think about some of these girls that I have been working with for two years and the amazing transformations that have come upon them. I am confident that they will succeed, even though most come from very limiting circumstances. And I just have a small hope that I helped even just one girl realize her potential

Of Cows and America

Today my coworker went to his cattle post, found a cow then promptly killed it and skinned it.  He brought the thing in the back of his truck and parked it right outside of this office and began selling the meat straight from the back of his truck.  And he wasn’t targeting the patients, he was targeting the nurses, doctors, orderly, drivers and cleaners.  So the workers dismissed their patients for about (not all but some) twenty minutes and went to buy some meat from the back of a truck.  Apparently it’s a much better deal then the local butcheries but its also illegal.  Anyway, since I’m not immune to these kind of village antics, I also bought some meat.  I think I saw this cow roaming in front of my yard yesterday.  And that was my grass. Full circle.

I recently watched Food Inc.  which freaked me out.  Is the food industry really like that?  Although some may be squeamish at the sight of a full skinned cow in the back of a truck with blood dripping onto the pavements, its actually pretty heartening when I think about the alternative.  Which isAmerica.  Where you can live your whole life and never see a cow but eat its meat daily.  I know I’m not going to go vegetarian, I really like being someone who will eat anything.  But it begs the question of big corporation, politics, environment, even immigration. And that is pretty heavy stuff, just for a piece of meat

And before I indulge you with my thoughts on the Americafood industry, this really is about the question of re-integrating back into America.  On one hand, I think some things will be so natural and easy to pick up again (I hope I can start saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you again, somehow those words slipped out of my vocabulary).  And some things I will give a sigh of relief (internet, no electricity outages, competent cashiers at the grocery store), but I think other things might throw me.  How can they not, after living in a foreign country for two years.  Like why wouldn’t we want a national health care plan? Why do Home Owner’s Associations exist?    And why can’t I renew my driver’s license online?  This isAmerica. 

I leave in five weeks and some days.  I find myself a lot freer then I used to be.  Maybe I lived for two years will be guard up and now as I am going, I more open, more giving.  Like yesterday I gave this kid 2 pula, even though I have a strict policy to not give away money, especially to kids, especially when they ask.  Which, I don’t know, is that the best policy?  I still don’t think its wise to give out money, but we must judge each circumstance.  Whatever.  I’m leaving!!!