A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Peace Corps Wishes

I was at the park standing in line to use the bathroom and over heard a conversation behind me between two women discussing public bathrooms. One woman was expressing her disgust with public bathrooms claiming how dirty they are. In my head I am contributing to the conversation saying I agree and that I prefer latrines. You squat and go, not having to worry about a toilet seat. As I am thinking this, the very words are expressed by the other woman! She then starts to talk about her experience with latrines in Haiti back when she was in the Peace Corps. At this point, I have to turn around and introduce myself. We chat about the Peace Corps and its tremendous influence on our lives. We exchange numbers and both smile at the small world we really live in. And then we enter our respective stalls both wishing it was a latrine.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Melissa Visits!

Melissa came to visit. Yay for great sister time and exploring Redwood forests, seeing the "Painted Ladies" (Full House houses) and partying with good friends in Oakland together.

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Model

I go to a yoga class at the Y on Wednesday mornings. I have been going for a few weeks now and there is one woman who stands out to me each time. She is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. At somewhere in her 70's, she has shoulder length silver/gray curly hair, high cheek bones, and strikingly perfect posture. When she is doing yoga every position is model perfect. Everything looks so easy when she moves and poses. I admire her greatly.

Yesterday, after class, we were in the same cove of lockers in the locker room. We made eye contact and smiled and then she said, "I'm glad to see you in class again this week. Thanks for coming." That was pretty much the extent of our conversation but it made my day. My yoga hero recognized me and was glad I was part of her class! I want to model this behavior and also make others feel welcome and important.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Fear is a funny thing. For some people it is ever present. For others, it creeps up and surprises you. The latter is more of who I am. I am not a fearful person. I have been in scary situations: My sisters drug me on an awful amusement park ride when I was young; I went through a riot in Uganda; I swam up to the edge of Victoria Falls. These are all isolated incidents, not a way of life for me.

Now, I work in a great city with its pockets of crime and disturbances. We send our volunteers into some of the roughest neighborhoods which means I too sometimes find myself hanging out in these places. With all the stories and warnings we are given I haven’t felt the fear I am told I should feel. As a pedestrian I am only another body walking in the crowd.

Last week I had to pick up one on my staff members from a pretty sketchy street/alley. I have been on this street a million times. This particular day, I was driving a car and I pulled up on the curb to wait for Jake to come out. There was a man weaving his way down the street talking to himself. This is not a new scene to me. There are many drunk, high, mentally disturbed people in this city. But as he got closer I felt that first prick of fear. What was different about this time? As he got closer he seemed to be stumbling more. As he gets closer I lock my already locked doors and roll up the windows all the way. I pretend not to be watching him and pray that I blend into the street somehow. Right as he was even with my back light he trips and falls into the drivers’ side of my car. I watch in my mirror as the man falls to the ground in the street. My first thought is, “I hope he’s not hurt too badly because I’m not getting out of this car.” My heart is pounding and I feel fear. Fear of the unpredictable. While I am much more clear minded and able to react faster, this man is completely unpredictable and I don’t know what to expect. So I wait. The man gets up and continues stumbling and weaving down the street like nothing had happened. Jake comes out and gets in the car and we drive off. I tell Jake the story and as we turn the corner we see the man sitting on the curb lighting up a joint.

What is interesting to me is that I was more afraid in that car than if I had been a pedestrian. For some reason I think I am safer as just another body on the street. I'm not alone on the street. I can run if need be. Or I can scream. But alone in my car, I feel fear.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Life of Privilege

It is funny the parts of life I repeatedly come back to. In high school and college I was introduced to the atrocious foreign policies the great United States of America has made throughout history that benefited us but caused extensive damage for others. I have met people over the years that are dying from malnutrition, who are living on the streets and who live in abusive relationships. These terrible situations show me how privileged and blessed I am to be a white, middle class, confident American woman from a loving family. How do I identify with those who live a "harder" life than me?

The other week I got on the MUNI (public transportation) with Maggie to go to the Castro to watch a documentary. We got 2 stops into our ride and the train stopped and was flanked by the police. We were told the train would not be going any further and we had to get off. Being concerned we would miss the movie, we didn’t want to wait around for another train to come. So, we got on the train going back to our house and picked up the car and drove in. I was angry with myself for the easy and speed I was willing and able to trade for the time I would have spent waiting for public transportation. I talk about wanting to understand and become part of a community but I often times find myself with more choices than those I want to be a part of. I have been blessed with a life of privilege in many respects. But where is the line of forgoing some of those privileges to better understand people? To more fully be part of a community? To be a more responsible global citizen?

I hate taking the easy way out. Life isn’t easy. It’s about intentionality. I worry this trend will infiltrate every part of my life. There are a lot of options we have as American’s everyday that others around the world do not have. American life can be more convenient. But I want to take time to think through my actions. I want to be intentional with my relationships. May I continue to fight these internal struggles and not become passive. Blessings and privilege also bring responsibility. May I be every growing, ever changing. And may I choose wisely.

Saturday, July 2, 2011