32 and counting…

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I am five days away from my 32nd birthday. I know a lot of people who down play their birthdays and say its just another day. I am not one of them. I think I’ve tried the low key birthday before and just was not a fan. I’m pretty sure it all stems from the year that I threw myself a hawaiian theme birthday party with colorful plastic leis and little umbrellas in the drinks. I was 12 and it was awesome, just asked the lucky girls that were in attendance.

Actually I think I have my Mom to thank for special birthdays. When my sister and I were little my Mom started a tradition of serving us breakfast in bed on our birthdays. It started the day off on a special tone. I can remember getting up early to help prepare breakfast for my sister as her birthday is a month before mine. It was exciting to take the tray up to her room and walk in with a silly smile on my face to be the first to wish her a happy birthday. The tradition was that the siblings of the birthday child would sit on the edge of the bed and watch the birthday child open cards and eat breakfast and help celebrate the start of their special day. I love every bit of this tradition.

There were a few rough birthdays years. Years where I expected the day to be special but was disappointed by how un-special it turned out. (There was even a year where the entire day fell apart and I ended up crying myself to sleep, we don’t speak so often of that birthday) After a few of these less special birthdays I learned that it was up to me to make the day great. So for the last few years I took work off on my birthday and would create a special day for myself. I have gone out to breakfast, gone hiking, kayaking, shopping downtown Seattle, and got my butt kicked in a family game of croquet. (I think my Dad secretly practices so that he can bet us)

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Two years ago when I was turning 30 and feeling a bit unsure about it, some of my very good friends threw me a very glamours backyard party. My Mom made me a dress. (There isn’t anything this woman can’t do) It was magical. As friends were arriving and enjoying a cocktail before we sat down to a beautiful dinner outside under the stars I kept thinking to myself this is what birthdays are all about. Its a chance to bring friends together and celebrate.

This year my birthday magically felt on our R&R. So keeping with my tradition I will not be working and I will be in place where going out to breakfast is possible and perhaps even some fun shopping, good cheese and nice bread, and a movie in a movie theater. (Its the small things guys) My brilliant husband even orchestrated a trip to the spa the day after my birthday. (So perhaps we are celebrating for two days this year) Its going to be a special day. I will miss the gathering of friends and family and would prefer being with everyone over a day at the spa, but knowing that K and I are on vacation without a responsibility in the world sounds pretty magical as well. Perhaps, I will convince K to have a hula contest with me, it was a real hit when I turned 12. Twenty years later I think hula is still a great way to celebrate a birthday.

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.

rough week…

Just in case you think that all K and I do is fun and exciting I’ll share with you this last week’s challenges. Monday I woke up with red blotchy spots on the right side of my chest, underarm and up my shoulder. The spots were sensitive to the touch and super scary looking. But other than the discomfort of the spots I felt fine so I did what any good Vetter does, I went to work and didn’t think about it. Finally by Tuesday afternoon I was in a lot of pain and K convinced me to go to the clinic. At the clinic I was diagnosed with a staph infection and given antibiotics. Before sending me on my way the Dr. googled staph infections and showed me pictures of staph and what I should look for if it got worse, it was horrifying.

Now I pride myself on being a clean person and was totally disgusted with myself for having contracted a staph infection. I was embarrassed to tell K what I had and did not want to tell any of my friends and colleagues. I was super diligent in the medication regiment; it was four pills a day that you take on an empty stomach. So either an hour before you eat or two hours after; it sounds simple but it becomes a bit complicated and very structured. Not only did the medication make me feel like I was coming down with the flu but it also gave me wicked heartburn like I have never experienced. But still I carried on.

By Friday there had been no change in the spots and I was still struggling with the discomfort. I decided to return to the clinic for a follow up, hoping for a change in medication. However, on this visit a different Dr. introduced me to the Nairobi Fly and told me that I must have had a run in with one. He explained that while the Nairobi Fly does not bite or sting, if you come into contact with their internal guts it would leave a burn on your skin similar to an acid burn. Its best to flick them off your person instead of slap them or squish. I must have felt something on my shoulder or chest and rubbed it instead of flicking it off, hence all the burns on my skin. I was given burn cream, told to stop the antibiotics and sent on my way. The burn cream worked like a charm and I was feeling relief within the first application. I was also feeling so much cleaner to know that I did not in fact have a staph infection. Things were looking up.

K and I went about our weekend, had dinner out with friends and attended what was called “the party of the year” (which it totally was not) but near the end of our Saturday evening K began to feel a bit sick and went to the car to lay down. By the time we reached home he was burning up with a fever and feeling nauseated. It was a long night of cold sweats, losing his dinner and high fever delusions. In the midst of a high fever delusion K made me sweat that I wouldn’t use the fire extinguisher, he was extremely adamant. By 8am the next morning I was on the phone to the clinic to see if there was someone who could see K as it was a Sunday morning and the clinic does not have office hours on Sundays. Unfortunately, the clinic staff was up all night with a patient who had to be medically evacuated to Nairobi, so they were busy until 11am, but told us we could come then. So we waited out the morning. 15 minutes before we had to leave I noticed that there was a flat tire on the only remaining vehicle at our house, so I rallied some help in changing the tire (thank you Paul and Stanley) and finally drove to the clinic with the help of a good friend (Sarah Almari you are the very best there is). K was admitted to the clinic and given a shot to reduce the headache and fever. He was tested for malaria and several other common issues seen in Juba. All the tests came back negative, but the Dr. was convinced that with his symptoms that it was malaria. Often in the beginning stages of malaria a person will test negative. Its a tricky disease that malaria. K also had a chest infection, which gives him a nasty cough and could also contribute to the headache and fever. Pretty much he was a mess. We loaded up on medication to treat the malaria and chest infection and drove home totally exhausted.

We sequestered ourselves to our room, slept/watched movies and shows all day and it was lights out before 9:45pm. Although we had a better night we are still slow going. K will stay home for a few days to make sure that he kicks the malaria and chest infection. I am trudging through, but definitely slowly. Its been a rough week.

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.

 

 

new endings and beginnings…

The winds of change are blowing. (pretty awesome start to the blog post huh) But its true there is some major change for K and I in the next few months. As it turns out we will be ending our time in Zimbabwe at the end of September. The Zimbabwe team is having to down size due to lack of funding, so K and I are moving on to another adventure. What adventure you ask? Well you are in good company because we are asking that very same question. We aren’t quite done with our international living (sorry moms) so we will continue to pursue other jobs beyond the boarders of the US. K and I have loved living abroad and all the challenges that come with it. Some days are rough because I miss family, friends, and Target, but we both know that we are right where we are supposed to be. I’ll keep you posted as I know things, but for now we are living it up in Zimbabwe. And speaking of living it up, two weekends ago we went camping at Victoria Falls. I used the term camping loosely because we slept in beds, but the beds were in a tent, so it counts. The falls were absolutely amazing and well worth the trip. We went with our colleague who is an amazing photographer and she captured some really great ones of us. I promise we aren’t posing, we just really like each other.   We also went on a sunset river cruise on the Zambezi. K kept calling it the booze cruise, but it was really amazing. We gently cruised down the river and saw amazing wild life. The Hippos were my favorite. And then the next morning we got up and had coffee and this really beautiful hotel that is up on a hill over looking a waterhole in the bush. Elephants often wander through to get a drink. Well we didn’t see any elephants but we did have a special guest join us for coffee. Monkeys are totally unpredictable and often dangerously aggressive. So we were all a little taken back that this mother and baby monkey got so close. And mother monkeys are the worst because they will do anything to protect their baby… but we gave her a little distance and control of the sugar jar and it all turned out okay.

 

It was a really great weekend and I’m so glad we were able to visit while we are still in Zimbabwe. Its crazy here but we are loving every minute of it.

large and small adventures…

We survived moving day. Well, just barely. Poor K made it up the driveway to our new house in Bulawayo right before he passed out. Well not literally passed out but he certainly pushed it more than someone with strep-throat should. K slept most of the day on Thursday while I tried my best to direct the movers with the rest of our team. I’m pretty sure he has had a fever for the last several days. If fact funny story. We left Friday for our visa trip to South Africa and normally fly out of the Harare airport to Johannesburg (Joburg). However, now that we are living in Bulawayo we are now flying out of the Bulawayo airport, which is a converted airplane hanger. Needless to say its a very small airport and security is pretty minimal. In fact I left my leathermen in my carry-0n and it was discovered in the x-ray scanner, no big deal I was allowed to take my knife into a room with all the checked luggage and slip it into my bag. Simple.

After than minor knife debacle it was smooth sailing until we landed in Joburg. We dis-embarked (I love that term) the plane and quickly got into the non-African residence line to go through customs. We’ve done this four times now so it’s not really anything we think too much about. However, this month at the front of the line there was a man standing behind this camera asking everyone to take off their glasses to have their faces scanned. No biggie I thought, things are always changing and you just have to roll with the punches. I got scanned no problem. K got scanned and the man politely asked to speak with him in private. Ok… not really that bad right? K came back in line and I inquired as to the conversation the two shared. K looks at me totally serious and says that he needs to go with the man to the airport clinic after he is cleared through customs. The camera which the man was standing behind was a heat sensor camera and it detected that K was running a fever. So in my not-thinking insensitive way I say “Well that sounds exciting.”  Little did I know that K had already gone to defcon 1 (which is the highest deacon, not 5), imagining quarantines and anal probes. His response was not so light hearted.

We were quickly cleared through customs and ushered to the airport clinic. K was directed to fill out some paperwork and then the woman behind the desk took his temperature with an ear thermometer. She acknowledged that he did in fact have a fever and that he was experiencing flu like symptoms, but okayed him free to go. We were in and out of the clinic in 5 minutes and to the luggage carrousel in no time. K turns to me once we were on our own again and says “That was close I was almost quarantined.” I in turn said “I know it was kind of exciting.”

Ah the adventures we have. I’m pretty sure our mom’s are doing some deep breathing exercises right now. Don’t worry Moms we are good. I currently am sitting at our favorite coffee shop in Joburg enjoying a beautiful coconut latte and loving free unlimited wifi. Life is good.

We are going on a big 8 day road trip through Swaziland and down to the coast for snorkeling beginning on Monday, but for now we are resting and loving our king size bed. K is on the mend and I’m loving every adventure large or small.

moving day…

Wednesday is moving day. We are moving six hours outside of Harare to Bulawayo. We still haven’t heard for sure about funding for our next project but we are moving anyways.

Our whole team is driving the six hours to our new home tomorrow after the moving truck is loaded. We are taking six cars… yes that means I’ll be driving. Driving a standard… across the country… awesome.

I’m hoping my truck is slightly less full than the above picture… but come on its great use of space. Of course you have to be pretty trusting of the driver not to stall out or jerk to a stop… like I said my car will be slightly less full.

This will be K and my third move in the last six months… I wish it was as easy has just lifting up a house and putting it on a truck. It looks like a lot of work but I swear packing in boxes and organizing it all takes more effort.

I should have thought to just grab a few close friends to help with the move. I could have ordered pizza and played music… it would have been a party. I’ll carry the pizza and radio and everyone can grab a corner. (Someone has to be responsible for the pizza and music and as the host of this moving party it falls to me.)

Send us your love tomorrow as we move… oh and I forgot to mention that Kris has Strep Throat… can’t talk… he is organizing this move in totally silence. Awesome. When it rains it pours. Happy Moving Day!