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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Love Makes The World Go 'Round

I have a new love. He's only a few short days old but his wrinkled hands, translucent skin and murky eyes have captured my heart. My friends Ashley and Bart had a baby boy on Sunday night. It was moments of tension, disbelief, excitement and a new love previously unknown. New life is one of the most incredible moments in life. I am always in awe.

The funny thing about love is that it can be limitless. It multiplies, grows and spreads beyond human comprehension. I have many different loves in my life. Numerous experiences and opportunities have given me the chance to love and be loved. Love is something I am always learning about and hoping to spread.

It is with much love that I say goodbye. This is the end of my blogging here. I used this space to share my life and experiences living in Uganda and then my readjustment back to life in the States. The time has come to move on now. I am moving back to the West Coast tomorrow. I think readjustment will be a life-long process because Uganda forever changed my life. I have learned more about myself, my values and priorities, my desires, my family and friends, my responses, my hopes and my understanding of love. One thing I appreciate about life is that it is always changing. As hard as change is for me, I am excited to keep on changing and growing and learning more about myself and life as time goes on.

May peace and love reign!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Leaving The Familiar

My chest is heavy and the tears are constantly at the back of my throat. Change is coming. I am making lists and deciding what to pack in my head. I am having last minute coffee dates and quick trips to all corners of the State. I'm saying goodbye to friends and family. I have been fairly displaced for the last few months traveling from one adventure to the next using Minnesota as my base. Now, I am making that last jump to be permanent for an indefinite amount of time. But it means packing one more time and having to say goodbye to people and places I love.

The Land of 10,000 Lakes has a beauty of familiarity for me. This is where I grew up. The combines harvesting in the fields, the sun setting on the lakes, the Minneapolis skyline, the bluegrass bands playing with washboards and spoons, the flannel wearing bearded urban woodsmen, are all pictures of comfort and safety. It is a world I understand.

It is also a place where snow covers the ground for way too many months and temperatures don't rise above freezing for weeks/months on end. As much as my heart loves this place, I don't love winter and I don't want to do it this year. I can't go back to the equator right now but I can take myself off to a place without coming snow, ice and freezing temps. I am looking forward to not having to shovel my car out and pay high utilities because of heat.

I don't fear change since I make it happen so often. But I really hate it. And I struggle with the process of change. Once again, and hopefully for the last time for a long time, I am fighting that clench of anxiety and overwhelmingness that courses through my whole body making me shaky and often immobile. I have made this choice to move and I know it is right but it is hard.

Becky was visiting from Georgia! She loves Fall and even Winter in Minnesota
but notice she doesn't live here anymore either.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Once Upon A Time I Met My Best Friends

Once upon a time, in 2003, I went canoeing in the Adirondack Mountains for 12 days. The liberal arts college I was going to attend required a wilderness credit and I chose to do it before starting school so that I would meet people and have friends going into my freshmen year. When I received my list and discovered I was assigned to the all girls patrol I was not happy. What I didn't know was that this group of girls would become some of my biggest supporters throughout college and some of my best friends in life.

LaVida (the wilderness program) introduced me to 9 very different women from across the United States. We didn't all become best friends but we were all friends. And we were there for each other during our years of college. We would reunite once a semester and catch-up on what was new or the same. I always knew those girls would be there for me if I ever needed them. And now, a few have stayed close and continue to share in my life.

Lisa was very quiet on LaVida but she had an adventurous spirit that was evident. She liked to sit back and observe everyone. She wore a blue bandana and it was always sticking up in the back. Throughout my college years Lisa remained a friend. She made me laugh and she thought I was funny. Flattering. As the years since college have flown by we have had similar gypsy tendencies and found ourselves living in different cities and countries - never together but both experiencing similar lives.

Once again Lisa is wanting to travel and so I found her in Minnesota for one day interviewing for a job in Germany. I couldn't pass up the fortune of us being in the same State so I picked her up from the airport, waited while she had her interview, then spent a few hours catching up before she flew out once again. It was good to chat about the world and our place in it.

Lisa sleeping in the lean-to wearing her blue bandana - 2003
Lisa and I drinking tea and sharing adventures - 2011
I've written of her before but Bridget and my life also started together on LaVida. She cried as the LaVida van pulled away and she left her mom. She claims I asked ridiculous questions. But despite our rough start, thinking the other was crazy, we built a friendship. We lived on the same floor as freshman and later shared an apartment. We have vented over dirty dishes and cooked fun meals together. We have been there through break-ups and new relationships. We have asked personal questions and shared our hearts. We have written letters and made expensive phone calls when the distance separated us. We have stuck it out and owe a lot to LaVida.

Bridget and I snuck to the lake while we were supposed to be on a solo time - 2003
Bridget with her baby Parker at the beach - 2011

And, always, there was and is Jenelle. Jenelle is my kindred spirit, my best friend. From knowing what it means to be gluten-free to digging in a little harder with that J stroke in the water, she's there. Jenelle lets me rant and rave and understands what I mean at the end of it all. She asks the maddening question, "How does that make you feel," and won't let me get away without being introspective. We've lived together as roommates and confidantes. We've tried oil swishing diets and daily walks to the beach. We've procrastinated papers together and skipped work. We've shared more tears than anyone could imagine over both rational and irrational feelings. We've come a long way from that canoe on Lake Placid. And I'm so glad we're still going.

Jenelle and I in bandanas cooking dinner on LaVida - 2003
Jenelle and I with Oakland and San Francisco behind us - 2011

Those girls I met on LaVida shaped and defined much of college for me. Some of them are still providing guidance and comfort. I am so very thankful for getting assigned to that all girls patrol and canoeing around the Adirondacks with them. My life is greater because of these friends. May we carry on many more adventures together!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


It is about time for me to head back to the Bay Area. I've spent the last few weeks farming and enjoying Fall but it is now time to go back and work. I have been applying for jobs and even had some phone interviews. Hard to imagine on the farm, right? What do phone interviews even look like when in rural MN out of reach of cell phone service? Well, I drive to the nearest cell phone tower at a gas station and sit in my car. When I think about the other person on the line seeing me like this I laugh. I am quite the site let me tell you.

Yesterday, two of my sisters and myself all had interviews. I went to the gas station while the other two had face-to-face interviews. Ash was offered the job immediately. Melissa and I have to wait. But it is encouraging to have made it to this step. It's exciting to think of the new lives we can make for ourselves. The possibilities are somewhat endless. So here I go once again. Making moves and choices and creating new adventures.

Sisters together for the first time in almost 2 years!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Progression of Life

My childhood friend who I went to visit in Montana when she had a baby came back to Minnesota to visit. Her dad was in an accident so she came to see him and help out. Mostly, I would say changes in my friends are slight and the evidence of time is not so apparent. None of that can be said in regards to children. With Sarah, who hasn’t changed, came Adelynn, Sarah’s 5 month old daughter. I met Adelynn when she was 2 weeks old. Now, at 5 months, she looks like a different person. So much growth and change has happened.

My friend Ben and his wife had a baby and I went to visit them. It was so fun seeing Ben holding this little girl (Margot) and knowing that he is now a dad. Forever more Ben is a dad! What a crazy concept. One day you are not a dad and the next day you are. I love this stage of life: being part of my friends lives as they get married, buy houses, start families - what a cool time. As much as I hate personal change, I do love the progression of life. It amazes me. And makes me so excited.

My sister got engaged! She was pretty confident Phill would ask her this weekend but she was very surprised when it happened on a Thursday. Phill was pretty nervous and excited beforehand. Afterwards, both were jittery with excitement and happiness. It was fun seeing them. Phill made a comment of how Ang was no longer his girlfriend. She is his fiancé now. And soon will be his wife. Events change words. How beautiful is that?!

And so, life continues to progress in all its different forms.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Hunter and I in Uganda (2010)

Are there words to convey the feeling of being completely understood? I often fail to find them to fully express myself. But you know when you are talking with someone and what they are saying resonates deep inside you? Even when words escape you, you still feel connected and understood? I recently had a time like this with my good friend Hunter.

Hunter and I were in Uganda together and throughout our service I found him to be a very understanding friend. We left around the same time and I have found he continues to put words to my feelings and he experiences some of the same struggles that I do. Hunter came to Minnesota the other day and we spent time catching up and processing life over plantain pancakes and tea, how appropriate.

It is comforting to find another person who feels the duality of life. We are happy, but sad; content but uncomfortable; driven yet directionless. I am really thankful for the time we had together. As Hunter says, "It really was great to see you. I don't think the saying, "misery loves company" is appropriate here, but it was reassuring to know that those times that I think it's really difficult, at least there's some other crazy person who may be agreeing with me!"

Yes, Hunter, I too am crazy. But we'll just both keep living and take comfort in knowing we are understood in that department.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Left Behind

I didn't come to love traveling and visiting people completely on my own right. I was influenced by my family. Growing up, we took family vacations and the talk of world history, events and politics was always present at our dinner table. It really isn't surprising that they too like to travel around the world.

What I find surprising is that I am on the other end this time. Usually, I am asking my family to take me to the airport or pick me up. This week, I was the one dropping off and will pick them up. My mom is off to South Carolina with her friends. My sister and brother-in-law went to Boston for a wedding and to visit our sister. And my sister in California went to Las Vegas with her friends.

Where am I you ask? This time I'm the one left behind to cook and clean and man the home front. Yes, I am a little jealous. My farmer father also may be less than happy to be left behind. But I think the meat and potatoes guy is most disgruntled with being left behind with a vegetarian daughter.