Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On Gratitude and Greed

These last couple weeks I've been working with students at a school called Junior Learners.  The school is basic at best - dirt floors in tiny classrooms separated by wooden chalkboards, where the noise of other lessons creates a constant soundtrack.  Resources are scarce.  From what I can tell, there are about 2 recess balls for a school of 170 kids.  And yet, it is one of the best schools I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.  I have left every day with a smile on my face and a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. 

Junior Learners is such a joyful place to be.  It is clear, even in just a few hours, that both the kids and teachers are happy to be there.  When it's time for P.E. in the nearby field, everyone plays - the teachers and students together.  It's awesome to see. 

The students here are bright, interested, respectful individuals.  I am impressed with the level of scholarship that is achieved given the available resources.  They put me to shame when I attempted to review with them for final exams.  Not only that but they are eager to learn and ready to ask the tough questions.  They have critical thinking skills and want their instructors to help put them to good use.  The students took every opportunity we gave them to soak up whatever knowledge and expertise we could share with them.

It is obvious that the students here have been taught with love and respect.  You can see it in the way they interact.  They have excellent manners.  They understand how to share, listen, have patience and just generally respect each other.  They also have a great capacity for gratitude.  We brought equipment for P.E. on our first day and all of the kids were overjoyed, just to have a tennis ball or a skipping rope to play with for 30 minutes.  An announcement of pencils for the class was met with raucous applause.  You would have thought I'd just announced that they'd won an Oscar.  And yet, their gratitude doesn't spill into greed.  The children are grateful for what they are given and don’t expect anything more. 

Case in point, on our final day we took them on a field trip to Haller Park, which basically amounts to a very large, sprawling zoo set in the forest.  At the end we passed out a snack for the kids.  The students were excellent about making sure that everyone got their snack and only their snack, without any hiding or hoarding.  There was an utter absence of greediness.  I have seen groups of kids who have everything, that would milk the situation for everything they could get.  And yet, these kids, who have so little, were not trying to get as much as they could, even though they probably needed it.  There was a very inherent graciousness  and generosity in their behavior. 

I am grateful to the Junior Learners for allowing us into their school.  Just being with them has reminded me of what is really important in life and how lucky I am, a lesson which is particularly pertinent during this season of friends, family and rampant consumerism.  Despite every advertiser’s best efforts to persuade me to the contrary, more isn’t what matters.  Most of my life is a luxury.  And now that that’s out of the way, I can go about the business of appreciating the things I have and, more importantly, the people, the wonderful wonderful people, that surround me.   

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Things I'm excited for at home...

- seeing everyone!
- a very clean, properly functioning home
- properly functioning plumbing and electricity
- an utter lack of insects
- apples
- unfrozen bread
- my big computer
- fast, reliable internet
- a dental cleaning (yes, really)
- TV/movies
- driving places
- not having to walk in bad weather
- Christmas!
- snow
- new nephew!
- fixed prices
- the lack of pop music in my life
- privacy
- frozen yogurt
- proper couches
- not feeling like I'm walking around with a dollar sign for a face

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Downfall

It's been a bit since my last post and I kind of feel like I've been lying to y'all by omission. My last post was definitely written at the pinnacle of my time here so far and things have degraded a bit since then.

We've run into some trouble with some of the staff at my school. A new headteacher was hired right about the time that I arrived. He was hired to make changes, with the intention of making the school function more like a school. Unfortunately, some of the changes he tried to make had to do with discipline and they went a bit far.

Corporal punishment is very common here, even though it has technically been outlawed. For the most part it takes after the States of not so long ago - something akin to a rap across the knuckles. At our school, the new headteacher took it to some new heights and it started to verge on abuse. Obviously, that is not a practice that we can support, and GVI was forced to pull out of the school. We are still providing limited financial support until the end of the term in a couple weeks (for the sake of the children having water, etc.), but none of the volunteers have been teaching. So far the kids haven't been given very much information about what is going on, they just know we aren't there.

There have been a lot of meetings between the head GVI staff and the directors of the school. The directors had been taking a step back from the school and were largely unaware of what was happening. Now that they are aware, GVI is sort of waiting to see what action they decide to take. Unless things can be resolved satisfactorily, we'll be forced to pull out for good. Frustratingly for those of us on this end, the school is approaching things the Kenyan way, which means polepole - slowly, slowly.

For the time being, us displaced volunteers have been doing some other things in the community. There is an orphanage that is just getting started very near my school. It is run by an Australian woman who knows one of the staff members here, so some of us have been helping out there. The rest of us have been visiting a different school called Junior Learners. It is a little bit farther from our village and has some random connections to people here.

I have been working at the school, which has actually turned out to be an amazing experience. It's a wonderful place to be. The children are very smart and respectful and the staff are so welcoming and joyful. It has been an absolute pleasure to be in a school where everyone is happy and respectful - to go to P.E. and watch the teachers playing and joking with their students. It is a nice change from Olive's. The atmosphere there has not been so nice lately.

This week is the end of the school year here, so it sounds like we are going to be doing some extracurricular things with the kids at Junior Learners and next week we will be doing the same with our kids at Olive's. I'm looking forward to being with them again. I miss my class a lot. I'm waiting, though, to find out what will happen in the long term. I want to know what I am coming back to in January. Right now, everything is bittersweet.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lack of Communication

I'm not sure if I've just gotten used to not talking to people or if I'm too busy doing things or if it's because there are so many people around or because it feels comfortable to be here or what, but I don't miss people from home the way I usually do when I am away.  Of course I miss everyone and I can't wait to see them in a month, but I don't really miss having a skype that works consistently.  I have hardly talked to anyone since I've been here and it's not really stressing me out like it usually does.  Like I said, I'm not sure why this is.

Monday, October 31, 2011


The other day someone asked me what made me choose to come to Africa. I didn't have an answer for them. All I could say was that, one day whilst sitting in Costa Rica, pondering the rest of my life (as college students are wont to do), I had an epiphany. I realized that the life I had always expected to lead - the one where I graduated, got married, got a job, had kids and probably taught in the same school in the Midwest for 20 years - didn't have to be. Not that it was such a bad life to lead, it was just that there were an infinite number of other possibilities to consider. For whatever reason, the first possibility that popped into my head was doing aid work in Africa...and that is the one I stuck with.

I don't know why. I had never thought of doing such a thing before. But once the idea had taken root, I couldn't let it go. I've been waiting to get here ever since and I knew that I couldn't settle down until I had gone and had this adventure. (To be honest, I was a bit worried that I wouldn't make it here. It took a bit longer than I had intended.)

It sort of feels like the universe just knew that I would like it here and gave me the necessary pushes - a random idea here, a bit of restlessness there, some life experience - to make sure that I would get here and that I would be ready for it when I did. Now, I realize that that sounds kind of hokey and maybe I am just getting far too into the new agey side of my yoga practice, but I can't help this overwhelming feeling that my presence here puts me in perfect sync with the universe.

I'm not generally into the whole higher power thing. I find any existence or nonexistence to be somewhat irrelevant to my life. That said, I occasionally have moments where it seems possible that there is a sort of universal force that connects people to each other and to the overall fabric of the human experience. Of course there are also moments where this sounds completely and utterly absurd. At present, I'm having an extended series of moments where such a driving force seems not only possible in the abstract, but also to have been rather active in my life.

Regardless of whether it was a push from the universe or simply random chance, the feeling of rightness that I have here is absolutely amazing. Occasionally, there are people in your life that just fit perfectly. You meet them at just the right time and you click immediately. It's as if you've always been friends, even though you've only known them for an hour. That's kind of how I feel about my work here. It just fit so well, right from the first day.

I kind of like to think that all the detours between my initial epiphany and my actual arrival have been a sort of preparation for my time here. All of the experiences I've had are coming together to make me feel happy and comfortable and confident with what I'm doing. It's such a good feeling. After years of waiting for my life to begin, it's wonderful to finally have arrived. To leave behind the gnawing anticipation and feel that I am in exactly the place that I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. I don't know where this adventure will take me yet and, for the moment, it doesn't really matter. I'm here and it's perfect, and I'm ready to let the universe take me where it will.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Never a Dull Moment

Life here is starting to get interesting.  There has been some political unrest due to tensions between Kenya and Somalia.  This week there were 2 bombings in Nairobi.  According to the media, the bombings are not linked to the Al Shibab unrest, though personally I think it seems rather coincidental.  At any rate, we have been encouraged not to go to Nairobi, nor to go too far from our home here in Mombasa.  Which is not a big deal, because we spend most of our time here anyway.  It has, however, added a level of excitement to our lives.  As far as I can tell, things are a little crazy, though that's actually a pretty normal state for Kenya and we are not in any immediate danger, though we should probably be cautious.  Just in case anyone was worried.

On top of that, we got a brand new schedule at school, which includes me teaching another grade level.  Woot!  They had asked me about teaching Standard 7 as well as Standard 6 last week, but no one had gotten back to me to tell me that I was for sure doing it until Sunday night at like 8pm when Katie brought us our new timetables.  And, sure enough, on Monday morning I had 3 blocks of English with Standard 7 right off the bat.  After my time here, I will be able to take anything that happens in a public school in stride.  There were a lot of last minute changes in the States, but nothing like here.  They make big changes and expect them to happen an hour after you've been told.  It's ridiculous.  I still haven't gotten any books for Standard 7 and I've been teaching it for almost a week. 

I also discovered yesterday that I don't really have any curriculum to follow for Standard 6 or 7 at this point.  Neither standard has had a volunteer for a long time, so GVI doesn't have the curriculum prepared for them.  Which means I get to make it up as I go.  The good news is, I know that I am perfectly capable of doing this and doing it well.  I also know that the kids are getting quality English instruction.  The bad news is that it's a bit more work and a bit more stressful right now. 

On a more positive note, I was talking to one of my students yesterday and she asked me how many weeks I would stay.  When I told her I would stay at least until March, her eyes just got huge.  She couldn't believe I would be with them for so long.  She told me that it was good, which was nice to hear.  I think that the kids are so used to people coming and going so quickly that it is nice for them to know that they have some consistency for awhile.  And I'm glad to be here with them for a long time.  (Don't tell, but right now Standard 6 is my favorite.  Standard 7 is making me a little crazy so far.  I'm still working out how to crack them.) 

Hopefully this is all the excitement for the week, but it's only Wednesday and, of course, T.I.A. (This is Africa).

Notes on Sustainability

A lot of people have asked me how I ended up here, doing this program. I'm not really sure what drew me to Africa. Maybe, on some subconscious level, I just knew I would like it here. Maybe it just seemed like a place that could use some help. At this point, it doesn't really matter, and, while I can't tell you what brought me to the continent, I can tell you what brought me to this place and this project specifically.

My main concern when looking for an aid program was sustainability and actual helpingness. What happens frequently is that organizations come to a place and provide a service, which is good while they are there. But then, by the time they leave, the community has either become dependent on them or the organization has destroyed the local infrustructure and the community is actually worse off in the end than if the organization had never come at all. Sometimes, the effect is merely neutral. In choosing a project, I wanted to make sure that my time and money would go toward a project that would actually benefit the community.

It took a lot of overwhelming research on the internet, but I found a few organizations that seemed to have the values I was looking for. I sent off some emails and GVI responded with all of the answers I wanted to hear. Their projects all over the world function on the same principles - namely, that the host community knows what they need best and that GVI is not a long-term solution. We come to communities that have identified a need that we can address with volunteers and work with them to solve the issue in a sustainable way. GVI never sends just money or supplies, they support their communities through human volunteers, though the money that we pay does go to support the projects financially.

My project specifically supports 2 child centers that are working to become fully recognized schools. We help the local staff with teaching responsibilities - mainly with English. Right now GVI gives a lot of financial support, but we are working to help each school develop an income-generating project so that, eventually, they will be able to sustain themselves. One school has a greenhouse to grow and sell produce, the other is going to be making shoes. The goal is that, eventually, GVI can pull out and the centers will be able to continue running as fully functional schools. To this end, we do what we can to keep the schools from becoming reliant on us, like giving one-time donations, rather than things that need to be renewed continually. (Chalkboards vs. daily lunch) It's going to take quite awhile before the schools reach any sort of self-reliance, but I really appreciate that all of the work we do is toward that goal. I know that the work we are doing is going to continue to help the community long after I leave.

GVI has several teaching projects in Africa, but I picked this project in Kenya mostly because there was a long-term option. As a teacher, I feel like a few weeks is not enough time to really accomplish very much with a group of students. It's nice to be with them for a long enough time to actually see the growth that a few months makes. Now that I'm here, I am actually really impressed with the way that GVI handles the high turnover of volunteers. They have created a scheme of work that outlines exactly what is to be taught each week of the school year, so that, as volunteers come and go, they can pick up exactly where the last one left off. They also put multiple volunteers in each class and overlap them, so that there rarely is a class with two brand new teachers.

Overall, I am really happy with the work we are doing here. I really feel that we are making a sustainable change in the community, which is what I set out to do. I am looking forward to my coming months here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oh Happy Day!

Today was a total win.  It is a national holiday, so we didn't have classes, but we had to go into school this morning to do some organizing and have a couple meetings.  Most of it was boring, but we had grade level meetings with the local teachers and volunteers, as well as the head teacher and volunteer coordinator and that went really well.  The local teachers here can be hard to connect with and the head teacher especially comes across very harshly, which is really off-putting.  I haven't been very sure about him as of yet.  But today in our meetings, we actually had a good discussion and I started to feel that, even though he tends to come across very condescendingly, his heart and his intentions really are with the children.  He really does just want the best for them.  It's unfortunate the way he comes across, but it was nice to catch a glimpse of what is behind the gruff exterior.  I am looking forward more to working with him in the coming months.

The other thing that was great about our meeting was that both the head teacher and the local teacher had really positive things to say about how I am doing in the classroom.  The local teacher commonly sits in the room and marks papers while I am teaching and the head teacher will pop his head in occasionally, so it was nice to have positive feedback from people who actually see what I am doing.  It's doubly great because I actually feel like I'm doing a good job. 

After our school excursion, I went to what amounts to the largest thrift store I will probably ever find.  It is an outdoor market full of secondhand clothes.  If you have ever wondered what happens to things that you donate to thrift stores, you can rest assured that if it doesn't end up in a store back home, it's probably here in Africa.  We found all kinds of ancient "treasures" punctuated by few diamonds in the rough.  I had a great time digging through it all - I can't wait to wash and wear my new vintage dress!

As if that weren't enough of a good day, I met up with a friend of a friend at her hotel on the beach and ended my day with an absolutely lovely dinner.  The hotel was gorgeous, the view beautiful, the company wonderful and the food delicious.  We were even treated to an amazing acrobatic show before I headed home.  All in all, an incredibly relaxing, peaceful evening.  Thanks to the friends that made it possible. 

And now I think it is time for me to get some sleep.  The house has gone to bed (I can't believe I'm the last one up) and apparently Western breakfast is happening tomorrow morning.  Word on the street is that there are pancakes something British that involves bacon and buns, so I better get ready.  I am sending positive thoughts your way in hopes that y'all are having an equally wonderful moment in your lives!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thoughts About School (Transient)

I've noticed that my feelings about my school are changing drastically very quickly. When things like that happen, I think it's important to write down what I'm thinking before I settle into a mental state and lose all of the ones that came before it.

We visited the school briefly our first Sunday and Monday in Mombasa. I think that the staff here expected us to be surprised about what it is like, expecting it to be better or worse. However, I'm me and, really, nothing really phases me anymore, so I wasn't very surprised. I'm not sure that I had any solid expectations beforehand, but it kind of seemed like exactly what I expected. It really does look like all the pictures I have seen of people volunteering in places like this. (Probably better, actually, to some degree - we have an actual building.)

Then, last Tuesday, I taught my first lesson. Afterward, during my break, I went and sat in on a kindergarten lesson. Throughout the day, in my own classroom and as I watched the kindergarteners, I had this overwhelming feeling that this school in this place couldn't possibly be any other way. It just wouldn't be right. To plop down some other school building in this place just wouldn't be right.

At the end of last week, however, the sadness of the situation began to hit me. We had exams (I thought I was getting away from standardized tests!) and watching them take their tests was really heartwarming and depressing at the same time. To start with, there weren't enough tests for each child. They had to share, 2 or 3 kids to a test. Which was amazing. I was so impressed by how well most of them did with this. They were understanding and patient with each other as they squished into each other's space to see the exam. They waited for others to finish before going to the next page. They were careful to cover up their answers. I didn't see any cheating. None. Despite how easy it would have been to just glance at a neighbor's paper.

But, even as my impressed heart warmed, watching them also made me rather depressed. To see 3 teenage boys crammed into a tiny bench sharing one test, doing their best to get an education was crazy. It made me stop and really see just how sad the situation is. How hard is it to get enough copies of the test? It's not that expensive, and they weren't even new tests. It seems worth the $5 investment to make a set of copies to use each year. But that doesn't happen. Instead we get what we have and the kids have to make it work. Which they do. But think how much better they might do if they each could have a copy in front of them, rather than straining across a desk in the dingy light trying to make sense of something they can barely read.

My intention is not to make it sound like a dingy, depressing place, because it isn't. It's very lively and welcoming and the whole thing functions fairly well. But no matter how well it works, if you compare what they've got to what we have at home, it's nothing. All of the things that I take for granted in my classroom and complain about not having or not working properly are amazing conveniences. It's amazing how much one little thing can improve what we can do for the students. Just to have copies of the test for everyone would make a difference, let alone lights or, god forbid, a computer or a smartboard.  (I would even take an overhead projector!)  It makes me realize just how little it really takes to get the job done. Because no matter how basic Olive's is, it's still a school and the work and the mood of it are just the same as any other school. No matter what, we do the best we can with what we have to help the kids learn.  And they do learn.  You really can do a lot with very little. You just have to be a bit more creative about it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

First Thoughts on Kenya...

Today makes day 7 in Africa and I'm not even sure where to start. The first few weeks in a new place are always a roller coaster of emotions and this week has been no different. On the one hand, this place is completely new and absurdly strange. But it doesn't really feel like it. It just feels like, of course it's this way, how could it be any other? And my presence here feels completely natural. How could I possibly be anywhwere else? I'm already having deja vu, which I have been told means you are in the right place in your life. Which is kind of an amazing feeling. I'm probably getting ahead of myself, though.
Let's start with my arrival. 38 hours is way too long to get anywhere. I thought the 14 hour flight to China was bad. That is nothing compared to getting to Africa. From Omaha, it took 4 flights, totalling 19 hours in flight, with another 19 hours in layovers to get to Mombasa. By the time I got in, all I wanted was a shower and a bed.
I spent the first night at a pretty nice hotel in Mombasa with most of the other volunteers for GVI's projects in and around Mombasa. There are a bunch working on my program and also a bunch doing conservation work with monkeys and marine life on an island south of Mombasa. Saturday morning we were picked up ridiculously early by the program coordinators and taken to our home. We live in a suburb of Mombasa, literally just around the corner from Bombolulu Villaged, the slum where our students live. It is bizarrely nestled in the midst of a fairly nice suburb. If you walk 5 minutes in any direction from the edge of the village (and it does feel more like a rural village than a city slum), you are suddenly surrounded by posh gated communities. It's very strage to have such a blatant contrast in wealth.
The project has 2 houses in Salama Estates, each with 4 dorm style bedrooms housing about 4 people each, along with a living room, dining room, kitchen and 2 bathrooms. We all take turns cleaning our own house and cooking for both houses on weeknights. I haven't had to cook yet, but they put us right to work cleaning. The majority of volunteers are from somewhere in the UK. We actually have a fair amount of Americans right now and a couple from other places in Europe. (When I come home with a bizarre British-Irish-Kenyan accent, you'll know why.)
The staff on my project here don't waste any time getting us into the swing of things. On Saturday and Sundy they took us into town to see what it's like, gave us a tour of one of the schools, fed us lots of local cuisine, introduced us to all of the forms of local transport and sent us to the beach nearby. Monday we had some training and visited our schools and by Tuesday we were teaching classes. With the turnover of volunteers here, there really isn't class time to waste.
The project works with 2 "schools" here in Mombasa. Technically they are not certified schools yet, though they are essentially run as such and certification is the end goal. The school where I am working is called Olive's Rehabilitation Centre. It is incredibly basic. The building is stones and cement with a corrugated tin roof. Each class has a chalkboard and several bench/desk combos that seat 3 or so kids. The classes are 30-50 kids each. The school employs local teachers for each class to teach Kiswahili, religion, social studies, etc., while the GVI volunteers are responsible for most of the English curriculum. Most volunteers are not certified teachers and work in groups of 2 or 3 to a class.
I am teaching Standard 6 on my own. The students are around 12-13 years old, I think. I'm still unclear about how the grade levels compare to American grades. I'm teaching English, reading, science, library and a creative arts class to 34 students. So far, I love my class. They are a pretty good bunch. They will definitely keep me on my toes but mostly they are mature enough to manage themselves. Hopefully, once we get things established, we will be able to have a good time. It's only been a couple days, but so far I feel really good about it. I'm actually excited to go to school.
Like I said, being here feels good. It's such a strange place but somehow being here doesn't seem srange at all. There are definitely a lot of things that I will have to get used to. Like living with 11 other people. (Say goodbye to privacy.) And I am quickly learning that getting anything done here takes 3 times as long as it does back home, with at least twice as much frustration. Not to mention all of the things that just don't work consistently the way I am used to them working. On the flip side, just being here has been an incredible experience so far. I think that teaching and working with these kids is going to more than compensate for the inconveniences of life here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


He's the one who files my taxes
and worries about my car.
Who helps me find insurance,
searching to make sure that it's on par.

Who makes sure I change my oil
and slips me money for gas.
Who helps me handle it all
when I have an accidental crash.

It's he who taught me football
and how to use a hammer.
Who taught me to mow a lawn
and water it in the right manner.

He's the one who fixes things,
whenever they are broken.
With him I am always sure
what he says with his loving token.

We may not say it often,
but I know that he loves me.
With me and Papa, we use
loving actions as our currency.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Mother Taught Me...

...a million things
more than I could ever actually quantify

...things important and mundane,
quick to realize and slow to rectify.

She taught me... to clean a bathroom
and make a bed.
...that the kitchen isn't clean unless the floor is swept
and the counter cleansed.

She taught me... to present a gift
and not just wrap it;
and that I should never go to the bathroom a lone.

She taught me... to know when to just
step away.
...and how good it feels
to make someone's day.

She taught me...
and common courtesy,
and how to clean up after myself.

She taught me...
...the beauty of surprises
and how to care for a child.
...and what it feels like to always have somewhere
to come home from the wild.

She taught me... to care,
and to share,
and to put my fists away.

She taught me... to love,
...and how to show it,

She taught me...
...a million things
more than I could ever quantify.

...things important and mundane,
quick to realize and slow to rectify.

She taught me... to love,
...and what it feels like to always have a home
to keep me grounded.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


i think that it's worth taking time every once in awhile- ok, actually i think it's worth taking the time very often, to notice the good things in your life and say thank you in some way - to god, to the universe, to fate, to the flying spaghetti monster, to nothing at all, whatever. the very act of noticing and recognizing that it doesn't have to be that way is an incredibly powerful positive force.

today is a day when i feel overwhelmed by how lucky i am. maybe i'm just being emotional or sentimental today, i don't know. regardless, i've been incredibly fortunate in the circumstances in my life. i am surrounded by people who love and support me. i have every opportunity open to me. there are so many people in this world for whom one or both of those statements are simply not true.

i'm not saying every moment has been easy and wonderful. i know that life isn't perfect. i know that the real trials are still to come. but, for today at least, my ducks are (mostly) in a row and life is good. i am happy and grateful.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moroccan Alphabet

A is for Ali Baba and his 40 thieves.
B is for Bear Grylls's ridiculous antics.
C is for camels for eating and riding.
D is for dunes waiting for climbing.
E is for Erg Chebi, our desert home.
F is for French for speaking (or faking).
G is for green, life-giving oases.
H is for hammams for scrubbing and talking.
I is for imams who call for the prayers.
J is for juices made from avocados and oranges.
K is for kasbahs made to be rocked.
L is for lions, the biggest danger of all.
M is for monkeys, fed in the snow.
N is for Naim, our driver and guide.
O is for olives served with every meal.
P is for pictures of buddies with thumbs at the ready.
Q is for quaint towns of locals with smiles.
R is for red clay for buildings and pots.
S is for snails to be slurped form their shells.
T is for tagines made of beef, chicken or goat.
U is for unwanted guides at the ready.
V is for values to be had in the markets.
W is for winding streets of medinas.
X is for x-pert Mohamed, our desert guide.
Y is for yogurt, made fresh at home.
Z is for zingers galore, thanks to Andrew and Gabe.

Smile, you're in Morocco!

There was
camel in Taddart and street food in Fez.
snails in Casablanca and pastries in Paris.
tagines with meat and couscous with vegetables.

But always
there were french fries on the side.

rode camels to the desert and climbed the dunes.
watched the video then met the man.
strolled the markets and ancient squares.

But always
we stopped for sweet tea with mint.

There was
snow in the High Atlas and sun in the desert.
green oases by rivers and red earth everywhere else.
bustle in the cities and peace in the villages.

But always
there was Catan.

fed the monkeys and watched the flocks.
braved the lion and the tannery's stench.
toured the mosque and rocked the kasbahs.

But always
we laughed - Ali Babba, Shakira, Mak and their Bodyguard.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

if women are growing up on chick flicks and romance novels and men are growing up on porn, it is no wonder to me that people have such a difficult time forming functional relationships.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

how are babies born?

interesting lunch conversation for today: "if we're 70% water, how are babies born?" i still don't even know what the correct answer is to that.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

sappy thank you to the people in my life

i had the pleasure this week of introducing my roommate to my college friends. i find it an interesting experience to introduce someone to something that i know very well. whether it be a favorite movie, song, activity or person, i almost inevitably wind up seeing it in a new way.

i find that as i share, i begin to see the thing through the eyes of whoever i am sharing it with. i watch and analyze and make judgments about how they will react to it. sometimes this goes well and the person loves it. sometimes it doesn't go so well and, for the first time, i realize how silly/strange/awesomely bad the thing is.

luckily for me, this week was a very affirming experience. i got to watch my friends welcome and accept kersten into our adventure. and when i really stopped to observe them as an outsider, i realized how kind and sweet they really are. somehow, amidst the ridiculousness that is life in the dorms, we managed to put together a pretty good group. we are kind and considerate, honest and fair, absolutely ridiculous and always a good time. in short, y'all are good people.

so, as i leave home and head back to my life here in houston, i'd like to share my gratitude. i don't think i can express how lucky i feel to be surrounded with so many good people, from my many friends (from college and otherwise) to my wonderful family. i would like to say thank you for the pleasure of being a piece of furniture in your weird lives and having y'all as fixtures in mine. to all the people who have laughed and cried with me, who have nudged me forward and helped me grow, thank you, thank you , thank you. you have made my life a pretty marvelous thing.