Monday, September 22, 2014

Common Ground Country Fair

My brother and his wife invited me to join them at the Common Ground Country Fair yesterday, which we all went to together last year as well. (Unfortunately, Jonathan couldn't come last year because he was in class on Friday when we went, and this year he had to work...) Despite forecasts of rainy, stormy weather, we lucked out with just a bit of mist and light rain as we arrived, which soon stopped. By the early afternoon, the clouds had disappeared, the sun came out, and before too long we were a little bit frustrated at our outfit choices (sweaters and shoes/boots), although delighted at the wonderful warm weather. We spent our time at the fair looking around at the booths, enjoying the sights and smells and tastes, and making a few purchases. I did a good bunch of baby/kid-watching (one of my favourite sports :) ) and saw so many parents with babies and young children. Most of the kids I saw seemed to really enjoy the tactile activities available and just being able to run and play in the open spaces. And, while we didn't stop in at the animal buildings, I know those are always interesting for kids, as well. If you're ever in the area, I really recommend visiting the fair and taking in all it has to offer!

Throughout the day, I snapped some pictures on my phone (smaller to carry and less obtrusive to take pictures with than my camera, although the pictures are worse quality). I'll let the photos share a glimpse of how we spent our day.

A native man demonstrating how to carve a paddle
Beautiful native basket
Simple, homemade wooden coffins, an idea that I've thought for several years makes a lot of sense

Amanda heard singing not long after we entered the fair grounds and we quickly found the tent it was coming from. It was a shape-note singing demonstration, which Amanda and I were thrilled to join. I don't know much about shape-note singing and fumbled my way through the first 'verse' of each song (a practice verse of sorts where the singers read the shape notes to sing the melodies in 'sol, fa, la' style). Once that first verse was completed, though, we had usually picked up on the tune and could make it through the rest of the song. It was so much fun to join in the sing and I hope it's not the last time I can try my voice at shape-note singing!

This hymnal is going on my wish list :)

Tyler took a more professional-sounding recording of another song. Click here to listen.

Loved this clever idea for a "price tag" (but no, I did not buy a carved chunk of granite for $900...)
I thought this was a very clever idea for a shed with natural lighting
Tyler and Amanda looking at the lavender
One of my favourite flowers in one of my favourite colours. Love the bright fall look!
My favourite booth at the fair, the succulents. I bought one last year and miraculously, it's still alive!
Selection of bonsai trees
Last year Tyler bought a jade bonsai tree, and this year he bought another, a ficus bonsai tree, to keep the first one company.
Loved these handmade wool stockings! When we eventually get family stockings,
these are the kind I'll be looking for, handmade with beautiful, unique designs.
This was such a bright and pretty display of painted bird statues.
It made me think of my Mum and Grandma and other relatives, who love birds.

Amanda loves knitting and I love bright, happy colours. We both enjoyed wandering through the fiber arts tent and booths.

This Angora bunny was being sheared as Tyler and I waited for Amanda to make her wool purchases.
It was fun to watch passersby smile as they caught sight of the relaxed bunny getting a haircut. :)

As we were heading out at the end of the day, we walked by the demonstration tent (where we'd done the shape-note singing earlier) and came across this happy scene of dancers learning new dances as the moves were called out.


On our way out of the fairgrounds, we got to walk through the farmer's market section. The booths were all set up so nicely with yummy-looking produce acting as the actual decor.

What a cute, little popcorn trolley!
I loved the hanging herbs and other produce
All the food looked so delicious
I loved all the different and interesting ways of displaying the produce
Apples are the epitome of autumn
Amanda and I couldn't resist the apple cider. Such a autumn drink!
(And I was so excited to see a Maasai blanket as the tablecloth)
The kids enjoyed this grass sliding hill
Hoola-hoop play never goes out of style
The Elf, an interesting-looking vehicle just near the exit

I had such a fun day at the fair and am already a little bit sad that I likely won't be in the area next year to experience it again. Hopefully I'll find an equally good fair to go to annually wherever Jonathan and I end up. :)

Thanks so much for the invite, Tyler and Amanda. It was great to spend the day with you at this fun event!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September decluttering challenge

On Monday I came home from work and found a beautiful e-mail from my Mum in my inbox. It started like this:
"I was wondering today who I could share Jesus love with and then I thought who better than my children and nieces and nephews. So this is to let you know how much I love you and how much God loves you too."
She then went on to detail some of the ways she was proud of me, from things I helped her with as a young child to things I do now. The e-mail ended this way:
"So I have a challenge for you. The challenge is this: What will you do for the month of September that would make Grama proud of you?"*
As I finished reading the last few lines of the e-mail, I racked my brain, trying to think of something I could do this month that would make my Grandma proud of me. Something that I could actually manage to do throughout the majority of a month. I knew that promising to do something like cook three-course meals every day or stop eating sweets would only last a few days before I gave up and went back to my normal ways.

It wasn't until Tuesday night as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep that I had a thought that might work: decluttering. For the past several years, since my grandparents moved from their house into a smaller condo, my Grandma had been working very hard to give items from her home to others who could use them and would love them anew. She made an effort to go through trinkets and other items and give them to relatives who would treasure them, and she gave away most of her precious library to her children and grandchildren, always brilliantly knowing who would most appreciate this book or that series.

After all the work Grandma went through to pare down her household items, I knew that going through my own and only keeping the things I really love and use often would have made my Grandma proud of me. And I also know that I really need to do it anyway to prepare to move when Jonathan is done his master's in December. On top of that, on Tuesday afternoon Jonathan had gotten a call from our landlady's daughter, who let us know that our 93-year-old landlady, who was previously living with her daughter, is now going into a residential care facility and her family needs to sell her house in order to be able to pay for her care. While it's likely that this old farmhouse will not sell within the next three months, we know it is a possibility, and the more we can go through and sell, donate, or otherwise get rid of, the better if we unexpectedly have to find another place to live while Jonathan finishes up his schooling.

So here I am, ready to dive into this decluttering challenge throughout the rest of September, and likely throughout the rest of this calendar year. There are many boxes and files I have purposely left alone until now because I know they will be incredibly hard to go through. I have several boxes of childhood trinkets that I don't really want to display because, although they are filled with memories, I absolutely hate dusting, and trinkets on shelves collect dust like kitchen counters collect crumbs. I have many files of high school and college papers that I've gone through once or twice already to weed out homework assignments, quizzes, tests, and notes that I can easily just look up online. I will now have to go through them again and decide which papers and essays and short stories and news articles are good enough to keep, and then scan them so I can keep a digital copy and finally feel free to recycle the hard copy. This will not be easy as I am quite sentimental about some of these items, but it needs to be done and is long overdue.

Please wish me luck! If I find or think of anything moderately interesting to write about as I go through this process, I'll consider posting updates. If not, I'll just keep plugging away. Here's to the end of 2014 finding this apartment a lot less filled than it used to be! :)

*My Grandma found out that she had lung cancer near the end of last September. In one way, it seems so long ago, but in another, it seems like almost no time has past since then.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ice bucket


This is a kiddie pool.

My two young charges and I have soaked ourselves in this pool at least once a week for most of the summer.

By soaked I mean, a 1-year-old vigorously splashing hands and feet in excitement (or sometimes frustration, when he got too cold) and chucking water toys all over the place, and a six-year-old slipping down the small slide to create waves, spraying me with water guns (yes plural, a small and a large), and dumping buckets of water over my head.

And did I mention that with only one exception, each time we went out to use the pool it needed to be filled up. You see that hose in the photo below? We used that to fill the pool. Guess how warm the water coming out of there was? Cold, you think? Try ice cold.


Yeah, pretty sure I've already fulfilled the challenge... Beat you to it, Jodi!
:D

Oh, and by the way, we had a blast!

*Pool in photos is upside-down and empty because I didn't take a picture of it other weeks (remember all that splashing?)
and this week it was emptied in preparation for the beginning of school and autumn.
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Details: I was nominated by a friend. I am not officially nominating anyone else by name, but if you, dear reader, have not done the challenge yet and would like to be involved with cold water in some way, please do so with gusto and much creativity! (More info here.)

FYI - I do understand what the challenge is all about. I do think it is a worthy cause. I don't, however, believe in peer pressure, in relationships, society, or social media. For the record, I did not do the real challenge and I don't intend to (dunking in a pool of cold water multiple times a summer is more than sufficient :) ). I did not donate any money at this time, although when my husband and I are actually bringing in money rather than pouring it out to schooling, we may do so. We also may donate to other organizations instead that are dear to our hearts. Who knows, we may donate to both. In any case, if or when we do, it will be after much research has been done, and we probably won't let you know about it. Just thought you should know the truth about the details of my "doing" the challenge.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Change

Change is hard for most humans, although moreso for some than others. I am part of those who have a harder time with change. Curiously, I have a harder time with small changes (setting up and sticking with a new routine, or trying out a new way to do something that I've always done differently, for example) than with larger ones (such as moving to another country for months, or making a big life change like getting married).

Within a few months, Jonathan and I will be in the midst of a change. He is set to finish his master's degree in December and we will most likely be moving to wherever he gets a job. This coming change is already affecting me mentally. Although I am glad he will be finished his schooling and moving into a new chapter of his life (and he is probably much more excited about it than I am!), I'm apprehensive about picking up our lives here in Maine where I'm finally becoming fairly comfortable and moving to a new place where we'll have to start all over again in finding a place to live, a new church family, new friends, new favourite places to explore, etc.

Change can be rather daunting (especially for an extreme introvert like me), but I must continually remind myself that change in life is good. Change keeps us from growing stagnant and set in our ways, change can invigorate us and help us to see things in a new light, and change can rekindle our lives spiritually as we learn to let God lead us to go where He wants us to go and to do what He wants us to do. And that is what I'm going to focus on for the next few months as we get closer to another big life change.

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My musings on the prompt 'change' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Tell

Ty and I hanging out on a Provincetown, MA beach

My younger sister and brother and I decided to spend our 2009 spring break in New England to take in all the Northern states we were missing from our "States We've Been To" count. (At that point we needed all of New England (excluding Maine), Delaware, and Louisiana. We got all except for LA on that trip.) We based ourselves in southern Rhode Island and took day trips around the area to experience as much of New England as we could get to in seven days.

One day near the end of the week we drove to Provincetown, Massachusetts on the tip of Cape Cod. After exploring the beaches and town, we headed back in the late afternoon. And on our drive back our conversation led my brother Tyler to suggest we give mini "eulogies" to each other. Although that may sound creepy and weird, it wasn't. It was beautiful and a really special time of sibling bonding where we told each other all the things we loved and appreciated about each other. We spent the drive telling each other things that might have otherwise only been said about the person at a funeral -- rather than to the person while they are living.

This idea had been brewing in Tyler's mind since the summer before, when one of his high school buddies had died in a terrible motorcycle accident. That incident had made Ty realize how important it is to tell people, while they are living, why you appreciate them, how they've made a difference in your life, and, above all, what they mean to you.

And that simple but heartfelt conversation in a 1989 Honda Accord with no heat on a drive from Cape Cod to Rhode Island will never be forgotten. Sometimes, or more like, often, it gets pushed to the back of my mind when other "more important" things crowd in the way. But when all the other distractions are cleared away again, I remember that the most important things in life are relationships, and that one of the most precious things you can do to maintain and grow a relationship is to verbally acknowledge it to the other person.

I'll let a few paragraphs Tyler wrote finish up this post for me, because I could never write these thoughts out as well as he already has:
"Scott's death was painful for me, but out of it grew something beautiful. While Scott's death took away my chance to express my thanks for his friendship, it also gave me thousands of new chances. His passing made me realize how many people in my life are constantly making a positive impact on me, and how few of them are ever thanked for it. As a result, I've thought long and hard about these opportunities, and how I can make the most of them."   . . .

"You see, I believe that there are incredible possibilities right at our fingertips. Thousands upon thousands of human beings are within each individual's sphere of influence, and if we work at cultivating this potential, there is no telling what we might be able to achieve. Appreciation is key. Simple affirmation of a person's positive abilities and tendencies makes them want to continue doing good. Expressing your love and thankfulness of another individual causes them to be uplifted and proactive in doing the same to others."
~ Tyler
Take time today to tell the people you love and appreciate why they are special to you. And tell them again and again, whenever you think of it, as much as possible. Because you never know what effect your words might have on them.

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My thoughts on the prompt 'tell' for last week's Five Minute Friday. Please read the link for more information on why the word 'tell' was chosen. And, of course, join in tomorrow if you feel inspired!
It took me a while to collect my thoughts on last week's prompt, but late is always better than never. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Refresh

For the past couple months I've had posts percolating in my mind, but severely lacked the motivation to actually get on my blog and write them. Some of this is because I traveled to Alberta and BC in June/July and since returning to Maine have only had one weekend at home. But most of it is because of the asthetics (or lack thereof...) of my blog.

I am an extremely visual person. When my home or work space is messy, cluttered, or otherwise unappealing I am so much less likely to enjoy living or working there, and will try to avoid the areas that give me mental unrest. This is true of both the real world and the virtual one. For a while now I've been wanting to update and refresh my blog. I've tried out all kinds of different templates and backgrounds, but none were quite what I was looking for. So, frustrated by my lack of success, I gave up trying for the time being and just pushed the blog refresh to the back of my mind.

Then last week my Mum asked me if I could do a bit of work on her personal blog to take out old, unused links and get it looking a bit more up-to-date. I told her I would think a bit and try to come up with something that fit her personality, her photography, and would kind of coordinate visually with her professional photography blog. I looked around the Internet for some new template ideas and came up with a few.

This morning I woke up early and decided to take the plunge. Suddenly inspired, I tackled my blog first. After trying quite a few of the new templates, I decided that I really did like my old tried and true favourite Blogger template the best. So I set my blog back to that and looked for a nice, subtle background image to base my redesign around. In the past I've tried to use a spring-green theme for my blog, a colour both energizing and rejuvenating, but recently I've noticed that most of the blogs I find the most visually attractive incorporate a lot of white, which makes for a bright and fresh look. I happened to find a link to BackgroundsLab.com that I saved a while ago, and while perusing there found a set of backgrounds tagged 'subtle patterns,' exactly the sort I was looking for. After trying a few, I settled on this subtle floral pattern. Clean, bright, fresh, with just a tad of cheery whimsy. Just a few adjustments to the blog template's colour scheme and I was thoroughly in love with the new design!

I quickly moved to my Mum's blog, hoping that my inspiration would hold. After trying out just a few new templates, I found one that met all my criteria, then customized it to look and feel Glenda-like. Now, with the two blogs fully refreshed and back in good functioning form, I am having a hard time keeping myself from switching back and forth between the two just to admire them. :) Ahhhh, it's like a breath of fresh air entered our little spaces of the Internet and revitalized them!

I still have a few things I want to tweak on my blog, namely the name and URL. For the past couple years I have settled with The Write Life as the name, but every time I see it, I feel a little bit guilty. I know that "write" is a play on words, but when I read it on my blog header, I feel like I'm backhandedly saying that my life is the only right one. This is not at all what I believe, nor what I want to portray on my blog, so I'll be working on coming up with a better blog name and a matching URL. Since I have a portfolio website that incorporates my own name in the URL, and I want my personal blog and my work life separate, I would like to use something a little more private for this space. I still have some work to do, but at least, finally, it's coming together!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Clean-out

The past week has been a whirlwind of going through clothes and some of our things in storage. Between Tuesday, Friday, and today I've gone through my entire wardrobe, trying on most of my clothes and carefully critiquing all of them to decide if they are appropriate for a 6-months-to-30-years-old woman to wear.

You see, I've had a problem with my wardrobe, one that many other people might not identify with. While most people grew out of their clothes throughout elementary, middle, and high school, and college, I didn't. A pair of running shoes I bought slightly large to grow into in grade 6 or 7 were still slightly too large on me when I graduated from high school. And there is one skirt in my current wardrobe that I've had since grade 8 (I have, for now, decided to keep it, since it's a style/pattern that doesn't seem to ever go out of style). For the most part I didn't grow out of my wardrobe from my younger years, and somehow most items survived those years without too much trauma and still looked almost as good as new when I was done with them.

Of course, even though I didn't wear these clothes out or grow out of them, many of my clothes from high school have long since left my wardrobe. But I do confess to still owning clothes from my early days of college (almost 11 years ago now). Year after year, I would cart my favourite clothes to and from college, and until we moved ALL my things to Maine last year, I didn't have my whole wardrobe all in one place since heading to Southern in 2007. So this week, I went through them all. Old clothes, new clothes, select clothing items my sister decided to give away a few years ago that I thought could work for me, pajamas from every Christmas Eve for the past 10 or so years, all of them.

The end result is that 42 clothes hangers have been emptied* (and several of those held more than one item of clothing), my hanging clothes have much more room in my closet, and my dresser drawers are not packed to overflowing. Two bags of clothes -- one normal plastic grocery bag and one extra-large one -- have already been taken to Goodwill while running errands in town last week, and two more extra-large bags are tied shut and waiting by the door. One will follow the other two to Goodwill and the other will hopefully go to a local consignment store.

Jonathan also went through much of his wardrobe and found quite a few items he simply wasn't ever wearing and didn't think he would ever really wear again, and we donated them, too (part of that first extra-large bag we already donated to Goodwill).

Bags waiting to go to Goodwill and the consignment store

What actually got this whole wardrobe-revamp-ball rolling was that early last week Jonathan and I decided to go through some of the items we're storing in our back room (a half-finished bedroom where we're keeping all his tools, part of my personal library, tons of games, and lots of other stuff until we move into some place with more closets and/or a garage or workshop). In the past, we have mentioned wanting to get rid of this or that, but this week we grouped all those items together in a To-Sell pile. Jonathan spent hours taking pictures of each item and listing them on eBay and Amazon. If those options don't pan out, we'll turn to Craigslist. With only one more semester left before Jonathan finishes his master's degree, we're realizing it's time to get serious about deciding what we want to keep, pack, and move along with us, and what we want to let go.

We have a ways to go yet, but I'm sure we'll go through our clothes and some of our other items several more times in the next six months. For now, it feels good to get these un-used or under-used items out of our house, and hopefully others will find them more useful than we did. I'm already enjoying more space in my dresser and closet and fewer choices to make each time I get dressed!

Notes: Ironically, I read one of Mr. Money Mustache's latest blog posts during this past week. It was quite timely and gave me some extra fortitude to keep on going through my clothes, and hopefully soon to go through other items as well.
*Those 42 hangers are from both mine and Jonathan's wardrobes.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Close

As we were growing up, people always commented about us. "You guys seem so close." "You three don't fight like other siblings. You must be really close." "What makes you all so close?" We would either just smile and nod at the statements, or shrug at the questions. We didn't know what made us close, we just were.

As we grew up, we stayed closely-knit, even all eventually attending the same university, across the continent from our hometown. The first year all three of us were there together, we found out, quite awhile into the school year, that many people wondered which of us girls was dating the guy. They were always relieved to find out we were siblings rather than a strange love triangle. We found it all rather amusing.

After college we all went our separate ways -- my sister Bryna to Eygpt as a student missionary preschool teacher, me to Tanzania as a student missionary doing public relations work for an NGO, my brother Tyler in his last year of school. The next year Bryn started a one-year preschool certification, Tyler set out on his own student missionary stint teaching two missionary kids, and making and editing videos for the mission organization in Guyana, while I got married and moved to South Korea with my husband where he taught English and I worked at a textbook office. For two years we were spread across the globe, then the next year Tyler and Bryn worked and lived together back in our hometown while I moved east to Maine where my husband started a master's degree. Now my brother has moved here, too, while my sister still lives in the west. But it didn't matter how long we were apart. Each time we got together again, no matter how long or short a time we had to spend with each other, it was always like we'd never been apart. We fit back together again like a jigsaw puzzle.

Last night it was like that again. The three of us siblings, and now all of our significant others, hanging out together, conversations overlaid one on top of another, never a lull or a time of awkward silence. We are close and I can't think of anything that will ever keep us from being close. No matter where we end up living, what we end up doing for work, we will always slip right back to where we left off. I am so glad it's like that. And I hope my children will also have that same kind of relationship with each other. It's just...comfortable. And awesome!

Siblings in late 1989
Siblings after a performance in the early 2000s

Tyler, I'm so glad all of us, and many other family members and friends, are converging upon Maine this weekend to help you celebrate your marriage to Amanda. We love you both so much!

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My musings on the prompt 'close' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Since I've come home from Tanzania...

This is the fifth and final post in my commemorative mini-series about Tanzania. It's been great to go through old pictures and videos, and remember wonderful memories about my time living there.

Throughout my 29 years I have traveled quite a lot. During my childhood, my travel-loving parents were never afraid to pack up the family into a minivan or a motor home and set out on the road, and for that I am truly grateful. I don't remember everything about all the trips, but I remember some things, and those memories are special. Those road trips let me see how mountains can fade into prairies, how cool weather can gradually give way to hot weather, how accents can slide from crisp enunciation and short vowels to relaxed drawls and drawn out As, and so many more things. Even though I don't remember every detail of these trips, they have stuck with me because their main focus was not getting from point A to point B, but enjoying the journey and learning along the way.

As a teenager I began expanding my horizons and started traveling outside of North America. And because of those early cross-continent road trips, I was well-equipped to appreciate the distinct differences I saw. My nearly-16-year-old eyes passed over the dusty and garbage-strewn roads of India to drink in the brilliant-coloured saris worn by graceful women, the exuberant smiles of brown-faced children, the hardworking men who laid block alongside us Westerners and rejoiced that they would finally have a church building to worship in. That one trip to northern India with my father sealed my fate; the world amazed me and I never wanted to stop traveling, or seeing new places and learning about the people who lived there. The next year, then the next, and the next, took me to Costa Rica, Mexico, and Belize. Each a Spanish-speaking country in Central America, but each so distinctly different from the others. Spring break of my first year in university found me squished into a nine-passenger van with six other people and more luggage than should have been brought along with us to Europe. My family and my grandparents spent 14 days traveling south from Germany to Italy, then back north to England, visiting 10 countries (we count Vatican City as a country...it does have its own postal system after all) before leaving the van at the Frankfort airport, but returning to North America with two weeks of memories of springtime in Europe. Two years later I left the rigors of university to spend three and a half months in a small children's home in Guatemala City, where overnight I became a meal-and-hygiene assistant, playmate, discipline-giver, sitting-and-walking coach, swing-pusher, book-reader, singer, storyteller, and mother to 50 babies and young children. And another three and a half years later found me sitting on a KLM jet peering out the window into the inky sky scattered with infinite stars, trying to see through the dark to the African land below where I would be living for the next eight months -- thinking back on all my previous travels, and wondering what the future held for this new adventure.

Throughout those months, I learned more about Tanzania than I had about any country outside of North America that I had visited before -- or since. But by the time I left I still felt like I had barely scratched the surface in learning all that the beautiful Eastern African country offered. This is just a little of what I did uncover about Tanzania and what I have kept close to my heart since I've left Africa.
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- Fear: As you read in my first post, the travel doctor I visited before leaving for Tanzania was fearful and worried about what might happen to me if I walked around in Africa alone. Now, his fear probably wasn't exactly misplaced. Most of what we hear on the news that comes from African countries is negative (just as most news from North America is also negative). We hear about the bad things that can happen and just assume that if we are in that same place or a place similar, those things will also happen to us. What I learned in Tanzania is that most fear is imagined or misplaced. Before I arrived in TZ, I feared that seeing and/or avoiding snakes would be a major undertaking. In reality, I saw exactly two and a half snakes during the entire eight months: one was dead and two little boys had just picked it up with a stick and were looking at it as my friend and I walked by, one had been caught and purposely brought to our campus with the intent to scare me (it worked...), and the half fell from a tree a little ways in front of me as I walked from my office to my room -- it was the tail half and the best I could guess was that a stork or some other large bird had caught it and accidentally bit it in half as it was flying overhead. My fear ahead of time did not correspond at all to reality. Exactly zero of those snakes flung themselves out of the bushes and latched themselves onto my ankle as I walked by, as I had imagined they might. During my time in Tanzania I watched people pile into dala-dalas, buses, or catch a ride on a piki-piki (motorcycle taxi), despite the fairly high chance that an accident could happen. I watched young children walking to school alone, or in groups of others of similar ages, never for a minute worrying about all manners of dangers that could await them on their walk (remember, snakes could jump out at them!). Every day, some person or another would show me that, although bad things can happen in this world, worrying about them or living fearfully rarely keeps those events from happening, and always eats away the best, most beautiful moments of life. I learned (and this is something I'm still learning, still working on (as are all of these)) to let go of preconceived ideas, to try to loosen the grip that fear holds on me about so many facets of life, either big or small.

- Consumerism: It seems like these days almost no place can escape consumerism, and Tanzania is no exception. People buy and sell there, people want items that will make their lives easier, just the same as in most of the rest of the world. But I felt that the spirit of consumerism there was much more constrained. There were billboards along the highways, commercials for products on TV (from the little I saw as the Maasai guards watched TV in the kitchen/living room area while I made supper), open-air markets and dukas (shops) filled with produce and material and all manner of items, western-style grocery stores. But despite all that, I got the feeling that in Tanzania it is people, and especially family, who are the most important. I've never been all that into shopping or buying various items just because, but during that year I found myself questioning so much of the belongings that I'd acquired in my lifetime, and doing a lot of thinking about what kind of a home I wanted to create when I returned to North America and got married.

- Creativity: As is often the case in regions where the people have less resources to work with, the people I met and observed in Tanzania were remarkably talented in creative thinking and problem solving. Need a bucket to carry home cooking oil, but don't have money to buy one? Well, just find an empty plastic container that was originally used for something completely different, cut it into the shape that you need, and put it to work doing what you need it to do. This way of thinking was seen in so many different ways, and I was often pleasantly surprised at the ways I saw the Tanzanian people using creative means to adapt to a situation. I was very impressed, and since then have found myself wanting to solve a problem in the typical North American way before I finally remember that often times I could simply take stock of what I already have, and brainstorm ways to use these items or ideas to solve my dilemma.

- Strength & fortitude:
 When you think of a North American, strength of character and fortitude of spirit are seldom the first virtues that cross your mind. As I lived and worked among the people of Tanzania, I realized that they are amazingly strong and resilient. Men who lose jobs travel hundreds of miles looking for another job so they can take care of their families. Pregnant women work full days doing hard physical labour. Some of these same women walk for miles during labour to get to a hospital or a clinic to have their babies in a place that might give their children a better chance of survival. Once the birth is over, they wrap up their babies in colourful lengths of material, and walk back home again. Children work hard on their family's property or looking after younger siblings or cooking the family's meals or getting jobs to help support their families. Of course I'm not trying to say that every member of society is upstanding and hardworking. Obviously every community has some members who don't pull their own weight, or don't do as they're expected. I am simply saying that I met and observed so many people during my time in Tanzania who showed amazing strength of character and who had seen numerous obstacles, but had persevered and overcome. And it made me want to be more like these remarkable individuals.

- Time: No one can deny that North American society (and I'm sure many other societies as well, but I will stick with talking about the countries I know best) highly values the concept of busy. Hardly a conversation ends without one participant or the other using the term, and although the word is often used in a negative context, behind the actual words spoken there is a strong sense that busy is actually a positive attribute. [Now, before you think that I want society to sway to the opposite end of the spectrum and laziness to be the prevailing theme, I will make it clear that this is not my intent. I strongly believe in balance in all things, and this is why I mention time and busyness, in this post.] While in Tanzania, I noticed that the people there worked hard. They worked hard every day doing things that most people in North America have only heard about in stories their grandparents or great-grandparents told them when they were young. But when talking to these same people, the word busy was seldom, if ever, used. It just simply wasn't needed. You saw them work. You saw that they had a lot of work to do, that they needed to work hard and work fast to get their duties completed. But you also saw them doing things that would baffle most North Americans. Walking slowly down the road, seeming to be completely enjoying a relaxing walk. Sitting in groups around a coal cookstove, exchanging stories, their voices rushing, but their body language saying that they were in no hurry to leave. Patiently sitting on buses or dala-dalas, waiting without complaint for the vehicle to fill up to bursting before it left. And by watching these scenes day in and day out, I slowly came to realize something that must have been buried way down there in my soul, something I remembered from childhood, but that, over time, I had been encouraged to push down, cover up, and forget about. My realization was this: Life is best enjoyed when you work hard then relax freely, when you allow your time to be appropriately balanced. I saw the contrast between this mentality and the "go, go, go or you'll get behind" mentality very clearly half a year after leaving Tanzania, when Jonathan and I spent eight months living and working in South Korea. If you think North America values busy, try moving to S. Korea for a while. During our time there, I learned many more wonderful life lessons, but this was not one of them. I've spent a lot of time thinking about these two far ends of the spectrum and have come to a conclusion. For now, at this time in my life, I want to sit near the middle, but lean a little bit closer to the "work hard, relax freely" side. I want to tire myself out with work (either physically or mentally), then enjoy the sweet reward of free time, time to chose activities that will rejuvenate my spirit, rather than further tire myself.
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Tanzanian dadas (sisters) forever!
During the ride to the airport on the evening I left Tanzania ~ April 24, 2011

By far, the most life-changing part of living in Tanzania was definitely the opportunity and privilege I had in observing and meeting the people in my community, or in my greater travels throughout the country. I am so glad for the experiences I have had in my life to travel, and to be able to live for bits of time in various different countries. And to learn and grow from my experiences and the people I met along the way.

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Thank you so much for taking this blogging journey with me. If you missed any of the posts in this mini-series, use the links below to read them.

Read Part 1 here - Before I left for Tanzania...
Read Part 2 here - While I was in Tanzania... Part A
Read Part 3 here - While I was in Tanzania... Part B

Friday, May 02, 2014

While I was in Tanzania... Part C

Part 4 of my commemorative mini-series about Tanzania.

Much of my time in Tanzania was filled with just usual daily-life activities. But once in a while something exciting and/or out-of-the-ordinary happened. And usually when something like that took place I was so busy enjoying it that I neglected to take the time - then or later - to document it on my TZ blog. So it's high time I actually share some of those events and pictures with people. :)

(Note: Although there are tons of pictures of these events that I could post here, I'll try to choose just one or two of the best ones to showcase. I might consider doing an actual post about some of these events in the future, as there are some great pictures and stories I do want to share and have recorded for posterity. If you're interested, let me know in the comments!)

While I was in Tanzania...

- I went on safari, twice. The first time was with three other volunteers over a long weekend. We had an absolute blast, and saw so many amazing animals during our three-day trip to three different national parks: Tarangire NP, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and Lake Manyara NP. (I'll share about the second safari later on in this post.) ~ 10.15-17.2010
Kezia, Anika, me, and Danielle in our safari Land Rover in the Ngorongoro Crater

- I learned about the plight of the albino people in Eastern Africa. (Throughout my time in TZ, ADRA was working on programs to help them, so I had the privilege to meet quite a few albinos and learn more about their stories.) ~ Mukidoma School Presentation - 10.23.2010
Primary students from Mukidoma School singing a song with their teachers.
The school's primary and secondary students presented their albino
awareness campaign to the ADRA staff one Saturday afternoon.

- I randomly got a roommate for two weeks. Ann-Marie was traveling throughout various parts of Africa, and spent two weeks at our ADRA campus to do some volunteer video work for us, concentrating on the albino people in our area of Tanzania. I was sad when she left to continue on with her travels. (Sadly, I don't have a single picture of or with Ann-Marie - how did that happen?! If any other volunteer has a picture of her, please do send it to me so I can add it to this post...) ~ 10.13-27.2010

- I, along with Ruth and Jordan, two other volunteers from Southern Adventist University who worked at nearby Havilah Children's Village, Skyped with our school's chaplain and missions director for a Friday night vespers program. Although the internet wasn't the best that night, we were able to talk for a few minutes. Seeing some familiar faces and being able to talk to a few friends after vespers was so nice! ~ 11.05.2010
Ruth, Jordan, and me Skyping with Pastor Kirstein for SAU vespers

- my little sister Bryn, who was spending that year working as a preschool teacher in Cairo, Egypt, came to visit during an Egyptian national holiday. It was so great to see her again since she had left for Egypt at the end of June that year. This was the first time we had seen each other in five months! We made the most of our time together as I showed her around the Usa River/Arusha area. ~ 11.15-18.2010
Sisters in Arusha NP with our safari driver
Sisters hanging out at Mt. Meru Game Lodge
(Outfits in both pictures courtesy of each other's wardrobes...what are sisters for, eh?)

- Shae, one of the CoL volunteers, headed up a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving Dinner for US Thanksgiving (being the only Canadian on campus, I didn't have my own Thanksgiving, so I was happy to join the resident Americans in celebrating with them). ~ 11.21.2010
Our group of volunteers gathered around the Thanksgiving table
12 volunteers from 3 organizations (ADRA, CoL, & Havilah Children's Village),
and from 6 countries (USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, and Denmark)

- my Christmas present from my parents was financial help to travel to Egypt to spend Christmas there with my sister Bryn and her new friends!
Bryn & me being tourists at the Pyramids of Giza.
(We were ambivalent about riding a camel, but that actually
got us a great deal on the ride, so we jumped at the chance.)
Me playing Santa Claus for Bryn's preschool students (just the boys pictured)
Bryn & I planned to see The Nutcracker in Cairo, but decided it would be fun
to invite some of Bryn's friends and pay for their tickets as Christmas gifts.
Those tickets were absolutely the most fun Christmas presents we've ever given.
They were so thrilled and enthralled with the whole evening and thanked
us over and over. It was simply a pleasure to spend that special time with them!
L-R: Anita, Manal, me, Mervat, and Bryn outside the Cairo Opera House
One of Bryn's friends, Mervat, took us to Alexandria for a day. It was a whirlwind
tour, but we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Here Bryn and me are
at the Mediterranean Sea in Alexandria near a ancient seaside castle.

- my then-boyfriend Jonathan surprised me with a visit, just a few weeks after I got back from Egypt. I had known he was going to be coming to visit sometime during my time in TZ, but he kept the date a total surprise! He then whisked me away for a two-day safari trip, then a trip to the coast and to Pemba Island off the northern coast. It was quite a spectacular trip, for a few reasons. :) ~ 1.11-27.2011
Jonathan and me on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater on our safari
Cheetah on the prowl in the Crater. Just after this picture was taken
we got to see it burst into high speed to chase a small gazelle. It was
thrilling to see, but I was secretly glad the gazelle managed to get away.
On our first evening on Pemba Island, Jonathan surprised
me further by asking a certain question. :D I said, "Yes!"
Twirling from happiness (the day after our engagement).
We did a self mini photo shoot for Save the Date pictures.
Traveling by wooden boat from Pemba Island
to small Masali Island for a snorkeling day trip

- the other volunteers and I went on a day adventure, driving up the slopes of Mt. Meru, then hiking to a freshwater pool at the base of a tall waterfall where we spent the afternoon swimming. ~1.30.2011
Waterfall and pool on Mt. Meru
Darren, me, Danielle, and Kirsten enjoying the cool water

- a group of volunteers from another organization invited some of the CoL volunteers and me to a beautiful back-country freshwater spring where we spent the day swimming, swinging from rope swings into the spring, eating yummy food, and enjoying each other's company. We took another trip out to this spring a few weeks before I left Tanzania as well. Both were delightful! ~ 2.6.2011 & 4.16.2011
Majimoto spring - kinda, sorta near Moshi
Danielle, Kezia, Darren, and Liz relaxing after a swim and lunch
Stopping for a picture during the drive on our second trip out to Majimoto
L-R: Natasha, Amina, Danielle, Simon, Kezia, and me
Friends watching Kili come out for the evening

- I traveled with Jordan, a volunteer friend from Havilah Children's Village, to Nairobi, Kenya for a long weekend to meet up with two of her friends from our university who were in the process of traveling around the world, from cape to cape. (I blogged about this trip - read more about it here.) ~ 3.4-6.2011
Feeding a giraffe at the Nairobi Giraffe Center
Bjorn, me, and Jeremy eating a delicious breakfast
at a little shack restaurant we found behind our hostel

- the volunteers and I went to Arusha for an evening of fun to watch the Mama Africa circus. One person in our group had seen them perform before and told us that they often grabbed people from the audience to help out with various acts, so throughout the entire performance I was trying to make myself as invisible as possible, and thankfully, I was never pulled onto the stage. All in all, though, the acrobats were amazing, and it was a very memorable evening! ~ 3.26.2011
Acrobat and his trusty sidekicks
Final circus number

- I traveled with ADRA for some albino support programs. Our travels took us to Tanga, a city on the northern coast of Tanzania, and Moshi, a city an hour and a half-ish south of Arusha that is right on the edge of Kilimanjaro National Park, as well as to Arusha for a day. ~ Tanga - 4.1-3.2011 | Moshi - 4.9-10.2011 | Arusha - 4.17.2011
Crowd listening to speeches at the Albino Registration Day in Tanga
School children singing at the Albino Registration Day in Moshi
Volunteers at the Albino Registration Day in Arusha

- I took a weekend trip with another volunteer, Kezia, to the gorgeous town of Babati, a few hours east of Arusha and met a friend there who showed us around the area, and let us see the progress of some ADRA wells and latrines being built in various surrounding villages and schools. (I blogged about this trip - read more about it here.) ~ 4.18-19.2011
Gorgeous Babati countryside
Trying out one of ADRA's wells in a village near Babati

So those are the special events that happened during my SM year. Tune in again soon to read my final post in this series with my take-away from my time in Tanzania.
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Read Part 1 here - Before I left for Tanzania...
Read Part 2 here - While I was in Tanzania... Part A
Read Part 3 here - While I was in Tanzania... Part B
Read Part 5 here - Since I've come home from Tanzania...