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

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!


  1. oh i love this post and i love thinking about how important our lavida group has been over these past 9 (!) years

  2. i looooove this. that pic of us sneaking to the beach during solo time! i think that's when we really bonded. while i watched you eat and starved :) i love you amanda.

  3. and i totally laughed bc lisa's bandana was allllways sticking up in the back! you're right.