eight days and counting…

I cannot tell you how many times I check my phone daily to count the days until our next R&R. It feels like a lifetime ago that we were walking the streets of Greece with my parents, enjoying good coffee and eating as much greek salad as we could shovel in our mouths. The last several weeks have been extremely trying. Both K and I have been sick. (I am just now getting my appetite back after weeks of just crackers and 7UP) We also had to say goodbye to a good friend, who was heading home after a year and a half in South Sudan. Life here feels a bit empty without her, I keep waiting for her to come into my office with some crazy story or a weird food combination for me to try. I am laughing less these days without her, its been rough. So needless to say that we are more than ready for a break.

This little one wanted to give me a dirty rag... and then all the kids laughed.

This little one wanted to give me a dirty rag… and then all the kids laughed.

There have been some high points in the last several weeks as well. K has been battling with the elements (literally) to get supplies up to a remote field site. He loaded a large truck with supplies and day after day he tracked their progress (or lack of) and heard about delays due to weather, mechanic trouble, flat tires, and communities physically delaying the truck, you name it and it has delayed this truck. When it looked like the truck just wasn’t going to make it K chartered a flight to fly in supplies to this field site. (This is the man you want in charge of getting you supplies!) So he chartered this flight and bought all new supplies to send and loaded the plane. Can you believe that the chartered flight and the truck arrived with in hours of each other to this field site? You have to laugh, honestly more supplies at this field site is a win for everyone. It was a ton of work and coordination, but worth it… right K?

This little one was super happy to see her reflection. I couldn't help but smile.

This little one was super happy to see her reflection. I couldn’t help but smile.

I have been battling donors, project reports, and new proposals. A few weeks ago I was successful getting one of the proposals that I wrote accepted by a new donor. Its short term funding, but will really help bridge a funding gap in our programming. It was a really great feeling to have this proposal accepted. I felt like I might actually be good at my job! When sharing the news with my brother he kindly reminded me that even if it wasn’t accepted I was still good at my job. Love that guy.

Another reflection lover.

Another reflection lover.

I was able to spend a few days out at a field site, which I loved every minute of it. I was able to attend a community meeting and inter-act with the local community. I had so many memories of being in communities in Zimbabwe. It was a great trip to see our field teams in action. I did not see any scorpions during my visit which was a bit of a let down, but cause I was on high alert for these little creatures. But I did have a lovely wake up call by a baby bat, so not all was lost.

Little man super bored during a community meeting was pretending he was driving a motorcycle. It was awesome.

Little man super bored during a community meeting was pretending he was driving a motorcycle. It was awesome.

We are both tired and ready for some time just the two of us in Nairobi. (K has booked us a trip to the spa for my birthday!) And we are super pumped to meet up with our friends Nicole and Josue in Zanzibar and live on the beach. I can’t wait to take deep breaths of ocean air. It’s going to be amazing.

And Birdie keeps growing. I love that K is wearing the same shirt in both pictures.

And Birdie keeps growing. I love that K is wearing the same shirt in both pictures.

But for the eight remaining days I going to enjoy every moment of turning on our bathroom sink tap and have the shower turn on… don’t even ask because I have no idea.

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day to day…

I promised a few weeks ago to tell a bit of what we are doing in South Sudan, and also to share what Nonviolent Peaceforce does. Well I meant for this post to come a bit sooner, but K and I have been under the weather a bit. We both have a better understanding of the “Juba Welcome” that most foreigners experience once they settle into life in the city. To be totally honest I did not feel welcomed, it wasmore like there was something very unwelcomed, which had taken up residence in my body. We spent several hours at the local clinic one Sunday night trying to figure out what exactly K had that was causing so much sickness. It was pretty rough, I have not ever seen him quite so sick and felt quite so helpless. After three IVs and a shot in the rump he was a bit better and I took him back to sleep it off. The next morning in the shower K found the Band-Aid on his cheek and asked me where it came from. I chuckled, and told him about the shot. He did not remember half of our clinic visit; probably for the best. I on the other hand remember everything a little too clearly. 

 

We are now on the up and up and I am super glad to be on this side of things. Juba, we are officially welcomed… thank you?

 

Let me start by telling you what Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) does in South Sudan. We are an organization that works within the Protection Sector of the Emergency and Relief work in South Sudan. You probably heard somewhere that things are rather unstable in South Sudan.  It is true. South Sudan became a country in July of 2009 and has had an up hill battle to establish a government structure and peace. This process takes a long time and is incredibly complicated and often violent. (Watch out here comes a rant) I would love those who say that the US government needs to be reformed and we need a revolution to see what is happening in South Sudan. In a revolution many innocent civilian get caught in the crossfire and become causalities. It is horrible to know how innocent people suffer during this process. Let me clarify that I am not against reformation, and making things better but I would love that the term revolution not be thrown around without knowing the cost. The cost are innocent women and children, who are separated during raids, who have lost their livelihoods because it is not safe for them to work in the fields by themselves, who are raped and those who are murdered. It is an extremely high cost and not one that should be taken lightly. NP works with these civilians, the one whom the risk is so very high providing protection and advocates for stability in these communities. We have programs that provide protective accompaniment, which means that international staff walk or drive with vulnerable individuals to get them to a safe place. We develop local community protection groups to empower each community to protect themselves. We do child protection, which involves family tracing and reuniting children with their families after raids . We do trainings on Gender Based Violence (GBV) to educate communities, men and women on these topics and the services that are provided for them in their community. I have only hit a few of the highlights of our programming, but if you would like more information take a look at our website. We are non-partisan actors in the protection sector; we are here for the vulnerable civilians who are caught in the middle of fighting parties.

 

Okay so on to what we do all day long. Honestly, I should not comment about what K does all day long because I do not know half of what he does. I do know that he is one of the hardest working members of the team, juggling all kinds of information and logistical things. His official title is Operations Manager, which means he over sees all the NP operations in South Sudan. And it is a lot. From tracking cars, to field supplies, to managing staff, to water and food supplies for all field sites. (We have 7 field sites currently, and a few more are in the works) He is a busy man. He is on duty 24/7 all the while putting new policies in place to make the day to dayactivities run smoother.

 

I work as a Programme Officer. (Yes, that is with two M’s) My job is to manage grants that fund our projects. I work closely with the donors that have a presence in Juba and report our activities. I did a bit of this last year and enjoyed it, so I was excited to join the Programming Office in Juba with NP. The first few weeks in Juba I have been reading all the project proposals and getting up to speed on the situation in South Sudan. It is complicated. Isn’t always. But now that I have a bit more understanding I have been involved in writing future project proposals and meeting donors and other actors here in Juba that we coordinate with and work alongside. I am still working to become confident of my role, but I love the challenge it presents and cannot image doing anything else… well there is a Ugandan Bakery job that looks pretty attractive. Who says you cannot have it all?

birthdays in Africa cont….

I started this story a few days ago, if you want to catch the beginning start here.

 

I placed both trays of cake batter on a metal sheet and then the head baker carefully set the tray in the opening of the oven. He took a long pole and pushed it back into the oven into “the spot”. It took him a moment or two to find it, but he seemed to be looking for this perfect spot in the oven to bake. He then covered the opening with another metal tray with some kind of contraption that I cannot begin to explain.

 

I then began waiting on the sidelines of the bakery, to just watch the bakery production. I was in heaven. After a few minutes of standing aganist the wall a plastic chair that was missing its back was brought in for me to sit on. I was really flattered but felt super silly that I was sitting doing nothing, while all the bakers were working so very hard in a very hot bakery. Just sitting in the bakery was enough to make sweat pour down my back. After a few minutes I asked if it was okay if I took a few pictures, and they agreed. I got a bit braver a few minutes later and asked if they would be willing to teach me how to make mendazi and to my great joy, they told me to come back any time and they would be happy to teach me. (there was a small discussion before they agreed about wether I was strong or not, but after I lifted a few trays full of dough I seemed to satisify their doubt) After 25 minutes I asked to take a look at the cake, and the baker brought out his long pole and carefully pulled out the tray with my two cakes on it. I was extremely happy to see that both cakes turned out beautifully. When I looked up from inspecting the cake I realized that everyone in the bakery was huddled around to see what I had asked to bake. A few asked what I called it, and I responded “chocolate cake”. It seemed that most had not heard of chocolate cake, but then they asked me if I could teach them how to make one. I am more than excited to swap skills with my bakery friends in the near future. How great would it be to get my first bakery experience in Juba?!

 

I told everyone at NP that we would be having cake and drinks around 8:30-9pm that evening and everyone gathered together to celebrate K’s birthday. We were also able to find some whipping cream for icing on the cake. After about a half hour of hand whipping the cream was ready to go on the cake. And the party began. K introduced everyone to a few episodes of Portlandia and a few of his favorite SNL sketches… he was in heaven. The cake turned out better than I had imagined and even K was impressed. By the end of the day I was exhausted, but so glad that K had a special day. A little creativity and adventure paid off in the end. Happy 30th K, I am so happy that you decided to join me in the 30’s.

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a year ago…

In the midst of transition I often find it encouraging to look back and reflect on my thoughts and feelings from the last few years. I have kept a journal on and off for most of my life because I find writing my thoughts down therapeutic. But I also really enjoy re-reading my thoughts years later and remembering what it felt like in that moment and learning. Today, I came across something I wrote while visiting some really great friends before we left for Kenya just over a year ago. Its a pretty raw and honest journal entry, so I’m nervous to post it, but I find it necessary to do things that scare me. Could be a sickness I have, but here goes,  my thoughts from August 25, 2011.

August 25, 2012  – I went for a walk tonight because I was feeling stir crazy. I get that feeling quite often and feel like I either need to go for a walk and pray or sit and read my Bible. I feel like I’m searching for calm in during this transition. I’ve talked about moving to Africa for years now. I dream about it and long to do something useful with my life. I want to know that my choices in life made a difference for someone. If I’m totally honest I would like to my life choices to make a large difference in a lot of people’s lives. When people hear what Kris and I are planning to do, I’m often met with comments like “wow that’s so great, you are going to do amazing things.” Or “You are so brave and selfless to go and give of your time.” I don’t know how to respond to most, do I agree with them? Yes, it is great that I’m going and I’m a saint for giving my time and talent to those who have nothing. That feels horrible and not what I feel in my heart at all. Some days I am so pumped to go that I can agree and not feel like I’m getting a pat on the back for my good deeds but be genuine about the work that I am going to be apart of. I can really get excited about clean water and basic health care. But then there are most days, like today where I feel fear and uncertainty and worry about the future and if I’ll feel the calm I’m looking for. This is why I walk. This is why I feel like I need to put one foot in front of the other, because I know that moving forward in the only way for me. Even if I’m scared and feel all the fears and pressures of moving from family and friends, and an independence that I’m really really fond of.

I walk to reconcile the urgency I feel to move across the world to a place I’ve never been, to people I don’t know and can’t speak their language to help in anyway I can. To reconcile the feeling of loss I have for the comforts, relationships, certainties, and stability I have here. All the things I have here make life so easy and comfortable, and boring and claustrophobic. Here, the culture is to settle down, buy houses, have children, buy and sell cars, get jobs, move up the ladder. As I write those things I feel sick inside.  But I have never wanted that. I have always felt there was more out there for me. So moving to Africa seems like the next step right? It’s not quite that easy to explain, but this next step in life has to be an adventure, it has to include the elements of life that I am truly passionate about. I need to feel like what I’m doing is for the bigger picture. And yet I’m walking tonight because I am afraid.

I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid that when we go to Kenya that I will discover that I’m not content doing development work, which is what I’ve gone to school for and focused the last 7 years of my life on doing. I’m afraid that I’ve pushed my husband to move across the world to a place where he will literally melt in the heat to do work that he may only be interested in because of me. I’m afraid for the strain that this move will put on my marriage. I’m afraid I won’t have anything to give to my husband after serving those who have nothing. I’m afraid of letting my passion for clean water and health care will dominate my life and my husband will feel second place in my heart. I’m afraid that he will be second place in my heart. I’m afraid of hurting him. I’m afraid of finding that this goal and passion is not what will be my life’s work and starting from square one again. I’m afraid of that feeling lost in life and not knowing what direction to head in. The fear in this transition is almost debilitating, and yet I can’t even imagine not going. I can’t even think about the “what ifs” of staying here. So I walk, one foot in front of the other. Moving closer and closer to stepping onto the plane that will take Kris and I to Kenya.
I feel lonely in this place. I’m lost in my thoughts about the future and my fears. I wrestle with the idea that I can’t give enough love. It seems silly once it’s written down but in my heart I feel like I could be the type of person that is not able to freely give love. I know that because I marvel and can’t seem to wrap my mind around the idea that God has so freely loved and keeps loving me, while truly knowing who I am and what I am capable of doing. It doesn’t make sense to me. And yet I want nothing more than to love like God loves. How does that happen? I long for that change in me. And my biggest fear is that I don’t have a large enough capacity to love those I am passionate to serve.

 

 

where to sleep at night…

So with the impending change of leaving our place in Zimbabwe, I’ve been dreaming of what the next place will be like. Of course in my head the next place could be the house below, not anything remarkable, but just good bones. A place that we can make our own and feel at home. And of course in my head its by the sea, because that is where my heart is.

 

 

I would love our next place to be a space where you can feel at home. A place you long to be in, even if no one else is there. A place where beds are hung from the ceiling and the water is always in view.

 

 

 

 

I would love if our new place had a forest close by and tall windows to look out and contemplate life. I’d love to have lots of books on the shelf so that people can browse at their leisure or can say “you know I always wanted to read this book” and will promptly sit down and open the cover.

I would love our next place to feel like you are both inside and outside at the same time. To have both warm rugs and cold wooden floors. To have clean white walls and textured brick walls. To be a place of quiet and loud conversation.

 

But for now our next place is just in my head. I will continue to think and dream about it while we continue to think and dream about the future and where our plans will take us. Perhaps I should prepare myself for something a bit more small and  mobile, but as long as there is personality, I’m okay.

 

cape town and other adventures….

K and I just got back from our second trip to Cape Town, South Africa on Friday. We had an amazing time with friends and seeing the sights. Our first trip to Cape Town was in February in the midst of their summer. It was so very warm and lovely, we both just fell in love with the city. This time our trip was in the middle of winter, yet we still found our hearts over joyed to be in torrential down pours and have to snuggle in bed at night to keep warm. I think its official that we love Cape Town regardless of the weather.

We stayed with a friend of mine who I met when I worked with Mercy Ships who is from Cape Town. It was so great to hangout and get to know her husband and two beautiful girls more. We had a wonderful time and felt so spoiled by their hospitality, seriously I got coffee delivered to my bedroom… it was pure heaven! They also took us to a really great market Saturday morning we we ate great food, drank great coffee and enjoyed looking at all the goods people were selling.

I swear in another life I am an artisan bread maker who sells bread at markets like this one. I just love the atmosphere and the people. The market is just teaming with creative people who are passionate about their crafts. Did I mention that I loved it, thank you Vanessa and family for taking us!

On the one beautiful day that was sandwiched between crazy storms K and I went up Table Mountain. The view from Table Mountain is breathtaking and has to be experienced first hand to know how amazing it truly is.

It was chilly and windy at the top of the mountain but not a cloud in the sky and one of those experiences I will alway remember.

Later in the week we drove out to wine country, which I’m sure you will be surprised to find that we loved. I feel like I’m just telling you I loved everything… but come on guys you have to believe me when I say its one of the most beautiful areas.

Each winery we went to we had to pick our jaws up off the ground and wipe the drool away. From the amazing valley views to the old dutch architecture to the most modern minimalist decor we were over come with its beauty.

And then of course there was wine… does anyone else need more convincing that you need to visit?

Well we are back in Zimbabwe and ready to take on the next month and a half. I will be working on a well project. I’m hoping to rehabilitate 10-15 wells in some pretty rural places and K continues to manage our fleet of trucks, procure supplies and all kinds of HR tasks as well. He does so much its hard to keep it all straight. We are anticipating the next month and a half to be busy and fly by quickly.  So we will hold on tight and enjoy the ride.