Sunday, October 27, 2013

America!

Hello everyone!
I said I would update once I got back to America so here we go...

The final days of Peace Corps were a bit stressful with the amount of paperwork we had to do but it all got done and I set off to Tanzania with Joy and Farhan to meet up with my Mom.  We went to Zanzibar and saw tortoises, went swimming with dolphins and just enjoyed ourselves on the beach!
Mom and me reunited after a year and four months in Tanzania!

   
the streets of Zanzibar


After Zanzibar we took a lovely train ride (ha!) down to Zambia.  We went to Victoria Falls and did a safari in Botswana while we were there.  Unfortunately we were there during the dry season so Vic falls wasn't flowing as much during the rainy season but it was still beautiful!
Farhan cramped on the train
Victoria Falls!     



elephants in Chobe National Park-Botswana
Next we flew to South Africa and spent some time in Cape Town.  We hiked to the top of Table Mountain, rode bikes to Cape Point and went on a wine tour.  It was such a blast!!
the view from Table Mountain

biking to Cape Point!

 penguins :)

best wine tour ever with Wine Flies!

Next Joy and I flew to Rome to meet up with my roommate from college, Kyla, while my mom flew to London to meet up with my Dad.  We spent a couple of days in Rome and Barcelona and then went to London to start a two week bus tour around Europe. 

Kyla, Joy, Cara and me in Barcelona!
enjoying the beach like the locals ;)
The two week bus tour was with a company called 'Expat Explore'.  It was pretty rushed because we went to twelve different countries in just two weeks but it was nice to see so many different places.  Now I know where I want to travel back to (Switzerland and Prague for sure!)

London

crazy Amsterdam!

Prague

Budapest

Vienna

Venice

Switzerland! My absolute favorite!

Kyla and me behind the Notre Dame in Paris

I flew back to the States September 20th and to be completely honest I didn't want to come back.  I wanted to keep traveling and avoiding reality! But I got on that plane and spent a couple more days with Kyla in Denver, saw some old college friends and then drove down to Pueblo.  I was really stupid though and decided that going to Walmart was a great idea.  I told myself I needed to get a phone, an adapter for my computer and some food since my parents were gone and I knew there wouldn't be any at the house.

I ended up walking out with hot pockets and a pint of blue bell ice cream...


I ate all of the ice cream the minute I got home as well as a crapload of Cheetos. 

I was miserable.  I just could not imagine myself living in America.  Thank god my brother came by and got me out of the house because I'm pretty sure that entire super bag of Cheetos would have been empty with the ice cream carton in the trash can.

Since then things have been getting easier but this whole readjustment thing is definitely going to take some time.  I don't understand why people have to honk their horn at me if I do not go right when the light turns green, calm down!! And I feel socially awkward sometimes because I have nothing to contribute to conversations that involve nice, materialistic things. And why are we such a wasteful society? Is it really neccessary to buy bottled water when the water out of our faucets is clean, cold and here's the best part...free?!?

Now I don't mean to be a negative nancy, there are some pretty great things about America too.  It is so nice to be able to get in my own car and drive somewhere whenever I want, food is quite amazing here (finally got me some Chipotle!) and it is so nice to be working out at my mom's studios again.

But...I don't see myself being here for too long.  I am going to start applying for graduate schools overseas for a Masters in Public Health/Nutrition starting in September.  Until then I plan on working in Pueblo and saving some money.  The older I get the more I realize I am like a hummingbird.  I just want to explore and see as much as I can while I am still young.  And to be honest, a nice house with a white picket fence, manicured lawn, and expensive cars in the driveway is not a life I see myself living.  A life full of adventures, traveling and being challenged is definitely my cup of tea. 

I was such a lost little puppy when I first got back, but now I am starting to figure it all out...and I think it is going to be a really beautiful thing :)


"If we are not a little bit uncomfortable every day, we're not growing.  All the good stuff is outside our comfort zone." -Jack Canfield


Sending lots of love to you all,
Breezie






Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Beginning of the End

When I left Colorado two years ago I never imagined Peace Corps was going to change my life to the magnitude it has.  I am still the same old bubbly outgoing Breezie, but I am not as passive as I was, I am much more flexible and I have a hell of a lot more patience. 

Unfortunately I am not as confident as I used to be and a little more self-conscience due to being stared at constantly for the past 26 months of my life.  Being the only white person in a very black world can make you feel like a caged zoo animal.

Kenya is a world full of dichotomy.  One moment I want to choke the next child that screams, “HOW ARE YOU?! HOW ARE YOU MZUNGU? HOW ARE YOU HOW ARE YOU HOW ARE YOU??” while the next moment I want to pick up and hug the child that gives me a sunflower out of the blue on my walk home. 


Days here go by slowly but the months go by fast.  Some days are good, some are bad.  Good days are when I walk to town and the electricity is on all day so I can charge my computer and phone and the internet is working at a “decent” speed.  The local restaurant has what I want to eat for the day and I have a wonderful conversation with one of my coworkers.  Bad days are when my computer and phone are completely dead and I make the hour walk to town to find out the electricity is out all day.  I have nothing to eat but bananas because Peace Corps has not paid me yet and it starts pouring rain so I have to walk home in the mud.

In flip flops and I have no rain coat because I didn’t think it would rain.

Oh and right before this walk I got called fat by some man.

Yep…those days really sucked.

I have had moments of extreme guilt when people from home think I am making such a difference here.  In reality there have been days when I just sit on Facebook for hours on end and watch endless episodes of TV shows.  Not all days are like this but I have spent a significant amount of time on my computer during these past two years.

There are moments I will never forget, moments that will forever be engrained in my mind.  One day I saw a mother give birth to a baby boy.  Another day I saw a man brutally die from mob justice.  Both days I called my mom crying.

I will miss the simplicity here the most, days when the only things on my ‘to do list’ are:

  •  Laundry
  • Work out
  • Bucket bathe

 And if I am too lazy that ‘to do list’ just dwindles down to:


  • Read

I will miss Layla, the little girl at the top of my hill that always waves to me and says ‘bye bye!’  
I will miss Mama Jackie and my amazing host family, they have never treated me like a foreigner but rather as one of their own.  
I will miss Amani (my cat).
I will miss getting ready for the day in less than five minutes and not caring what I look like. 

I will not miss being stared at, treated like a celebrity or being asked for money on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis. 
I will not miss waiting.  Waiting for public transportation to leave, waiting two hours for someone to show up to a meeting, waiting an hour and a half for three photos to attach to an email. 
I will not miss cheap vodka with crystal light because I am too poor to afford anything else.  
Most of all, I will not miss peeing on my feet.  Western style toilets I am so ready for you!!

I remember in high school we were asked what we wanted to be in the future.   My answer was simply “to be remembered”.  My only hope after I leave Kenya is that I will be.  I will never be able to measure the degree to which I have helped a Kenyan but if it is in any way close to how they have helped me develop into a better and stronger person then I think I have succeeded.

If you have ever thought about volunteering, whether it be short or long term take the leap and do it.  You may be scared or uncomfortable but you will most likely take away more good from it than bad.  And well, if it is bad at least you’ll come back with a good story right?  There is so much more to life than fancy cars, smartphones and big houses.  The best thing you can do for your country is to get out of it.  Until you do, you will never realize what you have and how important it is to not take that for granted.  Step outside of your box, I guarantee it will open up your mind and your heart.

I am not really sure what the next chapter for me holds but I am traveling around for a while once I am finished in Kenya.  I will be exploring a total of 17 countries in Africa and Europe in 46 days! After that I plan on moving back to Colorado with mom and pops for a little bit and readjusting to American life.  I have been looking for public health jobs in Denver and I still have my mind set on grad school but we will see.  I have heard that going back to America is the hardest part of Peace Corps and now that I am getting closer to it I can see why.  I will have to get used to a life that is fast paced, full of choices and unnecessary excess.  People and places that I left two years ago are not the same nor will they ever be again.  It is just a matter of time before I freak out when I hear a 10 year old complaining about not having an ipad or when I have a mental breakdown in the middle of an aisle at Wal-Mart because there are too many choices of the same damn thing.  Also not being able to buy four bananas (or anything for that matter) for 25 cents is going to be pretty shocking.  It will take me some time to adapt to it all again but I know I will be okay (heck I'm sure hot showers and driving my own car will help with that!)

Thank you friends and family for your support these past two years.  I truly could not have done this without your gratitude and love.  I am SO grateful to have all of you in my life.  I will update once I am back in the good ol' USA :)

Love always,
Breezie

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Catching rain water at CBSM!

Hello everyone!

I have some great news!  The water project I applied for was approved, funded and get this...it's already built!!  I cannot believe it.  I received the funds from Water Charity one week ago and started ordering/buying materials on Wednesday and Thursday.  Construction began early Saturday morning and was complete the next day.  I am ecstatic!

Community Breskthrough Support Mission's rainwater catchment!




My "fundi" (carpenter) was such a pleasure to work with.  He was honest with me about prices and got the job done effectively and efficiently.  He even bought some extra concrete out of his own pocket on Monday and made the tap more secure because he was worried the children might put too much pressure on it and break it. 

The students and staff are extremely grateful for the tank because now if the tapped water gets shut off they will not have to suffer.  No one will have to make the trek down to the river to fetch water anymore!  
HOORAY for water!

Water Charity is a great organization that works with Peace Corps volunteers sponsoring projects dealing with water and sanitation.  My total budget was $555 and $200 has been donated so far.  Even though I have not raised all of the money they pre-funded my project.  In order for Water Charity to be able to continue giving funds to other projects around the world it is important that I raise the rest of the money for my project.  If you are interested in donating please go to this link:

http://appropriateprojects.com/node/1637

I would like to send a big THANK YOU out to Edna Duarte, Karen Usoff, Lia Hadley and Katherine Rowe for your donations already.  Keep an eye out in the mail for a little something from Kenya :)  Also thank you in advance to Angela Kisse and Corin Reuss for choosing this project as your favor donation.  Words cannot express how much I appreciate all of your support.  You all are absolutely wonderful and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Love always,
Breezie

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ethiopia

Hello everyone!
Sorry it has been a while since I wrote last but the internet at my site has unfortunately been getting slower and slower.

Things around here are good though! Last month I went to my last Peace Corps conference which was great.  We talked about resume writing, how to adjust back to the States after living here for two years and opportunities available to us once we get back home.  After a medical checkup in Nairobi (hooray for pooping in a cup!) I took a little vacation to Ethiopia for a week!

Ethiopia was fantastic!  The people are much more laid back and not as aggressive as Kenyans.  Also the landscape, food and coffee are AMAZING!  My favorite part of the trip was a day trip from Addis Ababa (the capital) to Wenchi Crater Lake.  We rode horses around the crater and took a boat to see an old monastery, it was so beautiful!  After Addis we went to Bahir Dar and Gonder.  We saw Blue Nile Falls and the Royal Enclosure (castles built in the 16th century).

Since Ethiopia I have been keeping busy at my site.  I helped my friend, Lori, with an HIV/AIDS Day she had about a week ago.  I taught about STIs and male/female condoms.  At the end of the day 60 people were tested for HIV (one was positive).  I am so amazed how the stigma about HIV and getting tested has decreased significantly.  It seems like most people want to know their status and are not afraid of getting tested anymore which is great!

I have also applied to install a rain water catchment tank on my school compound through an organization called Water Charity.  Currently the school has tapped water but it is not enough for all of the students.  Since Kimilili gets so much rain I thought a backup source of water would be a smart investment.  I should hear back from Water Charity in about 2 to 3 weeks and if they approve my project I will need your help funding it!  I will keep you all updated on that :) 

Other than that my mind has preoccupied with life after August 6th.  I plan on traveling around until September 20th when I finally fly back to Denver!  I'm very excited to go back to America and see all of my friends and family but I am terrified for reality.  I have no clue what I am going to do for a job or where I will live.  Ok well that's a lie...I know I'll be with Mom and Pops until I figure that out, thanks guys ;) But I still have no clue what I want to do with the rest of my life.  I know I want to go back to school (I miss learning!!) but I have so many ideas in my head.  I have thought about a Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology or a Masters in Nutrition or maybe nursing school?  I think the best idea for me now is to go home and shadow an epidemiologist, registered dietitian and nurse and go from there.  That should help me figure it out.  Well at least I hope it does! 

Till next time,
Breezie



Thursday, April 25, 2013

Busy & happy!

Hello!
Everything is pretty busy around here which is nice!  I have been helping out at a boy's camp near my site so that has been fun.  For the two weeks they are at the camp they have math, english, computer and life skills lessons.  The other day I taught them how to use condoms and we had condom races with bananas as the "penis".  Haha! 

At CBSM I have not started another world map in the other classroom like I thought I would in my last post.  That is the 8th grade room so if I paint a map in there the students could cheat on their exams which would not be good.  Instead I am going to paint the alphabet and numbers in the baby classroom.  I have also been asked by my supervisor to make a cook book and "how to bake a cake" power points/manuals so that when I leave they will be able to continue teaching the community on those subjects.  Pretty awesome in my opinion!

This Saturday Joy, Lindsey and myself are having a World Malaria Day event.  Technically World Malaria Day is today but we decided to have it on a Saturday so that the turnout would be better.  We are going to educate people on what malaria is, what to do if you think you have malaria and how to use/repair mosquito nets properly.  After this we are having two soccer games.  PSI and USAID have partnered together to provide us with t-shirts for our teams, soccer balls, and bags.  It should be a great day!

Back in February I had some of the kids at my school create a poster for a World AIDS Day poster contest sponsored by PEPFAR.  The theme of the poster was Kenya and America coming together to create an AIDS free generation.  I just found out a couple of days ago that one of the students from CBSM, Collins Omukata, is one of the top six finalists out of 75 for his age group!  There will be three winners and if Collins wins his poster will be recognized publicly and he will receive a certificate (and of course a cake from me).  We are so proud of him!

meet Collins :)
I guess that is all for now.  I can't believe I leave in August, the time is flying by!  In early May I am heading to Naivaisha for my last Peace Corps conference and medical check up.  Then I am heading to Ethiopia for a week with Joy because I have seven vacation days left so you best believe I'm gunna use them all! Haha I will update once I get back!


Love always,
Breezie




Friday, March 15, 2013

World Map #1 is complete!


Hey everyone!!

Sorry it has taken me so long to update this but I’ve been pretty busy.  I just got back from two weeks of consolidation outside of Nairobi with all of the other Peace Corps Kenya volunteers (there are 110 of us total!)  We were there because the presidential elections took place on March 4th.  Due to tribal conflicts and violence that happened during the 2007-2008 elections Peace Corps thought it would be best to have us all together in case violence broke out.

Thank goodness all was calm and I pretty much had a very relaxing and fun two week vacation with my friends.  The hotel we were at had a pool, sand volleyball court, soccer field, basketball and tennis courts as well as awesome food!  We had fun activities like Olympics, a talent show, trivia, prom and a bonfire to keep us busy.  

Of course there is always the emotional rollercoaster part of coming back to site.  Part of me is like “Yes! Back to ‘me’ time, reading a lot, working out every morning and eating healthy” but then the other part of me is like “Ugh this sucks.  I miss my friends and electricity and western style toilets and wifi and not being stared at 24/7…”
Eh, c’est la vie. 

Before I left for consolidation I finished the world map I was working on in one of the finished classrooms at my school!  I’m really happy with how it turned out.  Some of my favorite quotes from the kids include:
“Wow! Madam Breez you are such an artist! I want to be an artist like you!”  Aww J
“Madam Breez where are you from?” I show them…”Wow!! That’s so far away! Don’t you miss your family?”
“When I am finished with school I am going to Ireland or England or America or Australia or Iceland or …” 
the finished world map!!

The teachers and children love the map so much I am planning on doing another one soon! I also want to get a rain water catchment built on the compound for them, I will keep you all updated. I can’t believe I only have five months left here! It is going to fly by so I plan on making the most of it!
 Much love from a very peaceful Kenya,
Breezie

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!!
Well I'm back from my amazing vacation (with my fixed computer...yay!)  I hope you all are having a great new year so far. 

So let's start with Christmas. My girlfriends and I were all picked up in Nairobi and then taken to Nanyuki (about 3-4 hours away) to start our hike to Lenana Peak.  This is the shortest of three peaks on Mt. Kenya.  The other two are really technical and have to be summitted with rock climbing equipment and whatnot.  The first three days weren't too bad.  There were a couple of times I was out of breath, but the hikes were just so beautiful! The entire trip we stayed in huts which was nice because it was SO COLD!! The first night we were already at 11,000 feet and I was freezin my little butt off.  This Colorado girl has been outta Colorado for too long! 

The fourth day was summit day which meant waking up around 2am and starting to hike around 3.  We were walking by headlamp (and a full moon thank goodness) on hard compacted snow on a pretty steep and narrow ridge.  It was kinda terrifying but I just kept my eyes on the guide's shoes in front of me.  After that little part it became pretty hard to breathe.  I would seriously walk 5 or 10 steps and have to take a break to catch my breath.  I definitely had a few moments when I was like, "Aruughhhhh where the hell is the top of this damn mountain?!?" haha but I just kept telling myself I could do it and all of us kept cheering each other on.  We made it all to the top around 7am (I think?) and it was so unbelievably beautiful! We were up above the clouds and the sun was coming up.  We were there just in time because a few minutes passed and it started to get foggy and cloudy.  After a lot of pictures we headed back down the mountain.  At one point we were sledding down it!  Haha I did a train with Joy and we picked up so much speed, not to mention Christina tore a hole in her butt when she slid over a rock!

We kept hiking the rest of the day and didn't make it to our lodge until 4:30 that afternoon.  We were all so stinky and exhausted but we were able to take hot showers so it was all good!  The final day was an easy walk through a bamboo forest (unfortunately we didn't see any elephants).  Overall, I had such a wonderful time (thanks for my Christmas gift Mom and Dad!)  Hands down it was physically the hardest thing I have ever done but it was so worth it.  If anyone is interested in climbing Mt. Kenya and would like to stay in huts, have porters carry your things and have good food (but remember I'm a PC volunteer...my standards are kinda low for good food haha) then please check out Mohakin Climbers:

http://mohakinclimbers.com/mount-kenya/

They were really great to us!

all smiles at 16,355 feet :)

 After Mt. Kenya we all headed to Kilifi which is about an hour north of Mombasa.  We just relaxed there and stayed at a pretty cool hostel/ecolodge.  After that we took a 6 hour bus to Lamu, which is pretty far north and near Somalia.  It was so different compared to the other towns I've been to on the coast.  It is very conservative and muslim so we made sure to cover up when we walked around town.  The town itself is so old and really beautiful.  There are no cars on the island so everyone gets around by foot, boats or donkeys! I seriously felt like I was in Europe or something...all of the buildings are built up and you have to walk through little alleys to get around.  While we were there we did a lot of shopping, got henna done on our hands and feet, ate some amazing seafood and took a dhow boat out to the beach to see some ruins from a village that existed over a century ago!  It was such a good trip.

Well my wallet is very happy to be back in the village (and my butt from so much sitting on buses) but like always I'm having a little bit of trouble readjusting.  I can't believe I only have 7 months left though! It is definitely going to fly by.  I have some ideas for some projects I would like to get done before I leave so hopefully I can get going on those.  I will keep you all updated and post pictures. 

Love always,
Breezie