Singledom

As in drinking straight from the carton, Singledom.

As in eating cereal or popcorn for dinner, Singledom.

As in renting any movie from Redbox that I want, Singledom.

As in going to the gym everyday, Singledom.

As in sleeping in on the weekend, Singledom.

As in cleaning the house, and having it stay clean, Singledom.

And it’s all ending in 2 days.

I know I was blessed with a gift that most parents would snatch up quicker than the last Lego set at 70% off at Target at Christmastime.  And I would highly recommend every parent on the planet get at least a weekend, just to themselves. To do anything (or nothing!) that they want.  Just to remember, or discover, what they were like without kids and the responsibility of taking care of them and just making sure they live through the day without major incident!  I know it’s not easy to make it happen, but even if it’s just for an afternoon. Recruit your husband, a friend, a mother-in-law, or babysitter to help you out for a day.  You’d probably be surprised how quickly a “Yes” comes in response!

Oh, what’s that you say?  You could never do that?  I’m not a good mother because I was separated from my children voluntarily? Because I enjoyed my time without them? I would say the contrary. I’ve had a chance to remember how fiercely I love them and need to be with them. I’ve had a chance to reconnect with God and foster my relationship with Him without distractions. I’ve had a chance to let the stress of everyday life melt off of me, even if for just a short while. I didn’t realize how stressful daycares and pick-ups and drop-offs and early morning meetings and long-term unemployment is until it was removed, temporarily, from my day-to-day life. That stuff can build up, People, and weigh you down!  It’s so easy to get caught up in it all while you are in the midst of it. To quote Florence and The Machine: Shake it Off!  Shake it Off!

I’d forgotten what it was like to be “Single” and while I’ve done my best to enjoy it for the last couple weeks, I can’t wait for it to end so I can be reunited with my Sweet Hubby & Cuddly Babies!  It was good while it lasted, but it wasn’t without heartache.  I can’t wait to hug and kiss these people in a few days:

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Categories: change, Family, fun, love, Motherhood, parenting | 2 Comments

Home, for now

Whew.  I can’t even begin to tell you what a relief it was to walk in my front door to my own house this weekend.  I was (and still am) exhausted.  Thanks to our awesome neighbors, the house was safe and sound and my plants were well-watered and still living!  It has been quite the few weeks!  So, since mid-Jan, I have been away from home for 37 days; was in 6 different countries; took 12 different flights, and spent the night in 10 different hotels (plus one night at my friend’s house in Maputo); and wore the same 12 pieces of clothing (all mix and match – I only travel with a carry-on) the entire trip.  Needless to say it felt good to take a long, hot shower and sleep in my own bed!  It was also nice to dump out my luggage in the laundry hamper and put on different clothes!   The day I arrived, I could not, for the life of me, stay awake past 5pm.  So I went to bed at 5pm (thinking I was going to take a 1-hour nap), and woke up at 5AM, the NEXT DAY!  12 hours of sleep.  Yeah, Baby.  That is what I’m talking about.  It was delicious.  I probably could’ve slept longer, but I really had to go to the bathroom!  :-)

The hard part of arriving at home was that I arrived to a very EMPTY home.  Normally I travel when my parents are here so they can help with the kids.  So usually, when I come home, it’s to a very full house!  This time the house was quiet and just the way I left it.  The fridge had a couple boxes of baking soda, some Pepsi Max (which I don’t even drink), a carton of soy milk, and a bunch of condiments.  Fortunately my pantry was stocked and I had some fresh soy milk available.  Soup and Cereal it is, I guess!

Now I’m sorting my way though a month’s worth of mail and bills.  Going to the bank.  Going to the post office.  Visiting more daycare centers.  Getting the tax stuff ready to go.  Yep, back to the grind!

The good thing is, I’m only 16 days away before I get to see Anssel and the kids again!  I can’t wait!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Empty

Empty fridge

Empty fridge

This is what I came home to.  I guess this is as good of time as any to get out the gloves and clean the fridge!  (And go to the grocery store)!

Categories: humor, random, Travel | Leave a comment

Broken

It never fails.  On every work trip I make, I continue to have my heart broken. You’d think that I’ve seen it all by now and that nothing would get to me.  But I cry every time. Even with the good “success stories”!

So I’m in Uganda now.  One woman from a group of people living with HIV/AIDS told about how she was involved in an income generation activity of buying chicks, raising them, and selling them when they got older for a small profit.  Her husband died when her youngest (of four) was just 2.5 year old (he is 12 years old now) and she’s had to work to make ends meet so she could send her four children to school.  It’s been hard, but she is determined to keep her kids in school.  But of course, selling chickens doesn’t really do the trick, so their group is seeking additional funds for more income generating activities that they want to be involved in.  So the determination and success of the woman sending her kids to school humbled me to tears, then the call for more assistance also brought me to tears.

Every time I see a sick or crying child (especially around the age of mine), my heart breaks.  Every time I hear about an injustice, the anger brings me to tears. I have a hard time watching the news without something welling up inside of me. The flooding and loss of lives in Mozambique.  So many people displaced in Syria (not to mention those who have lost their lives). Child soldiers forced in to combat.  Young girls forced in to slavery.

I know that someday all will face judgment, but I can’t help but to want justice and peace now.  I know God is present everywhere. I just struggle with trying to reconcile it all. Why do some people starve, while others live in excess?  Why do some people work hard all their lives, but still struggle to make ends meet, while others don’t do much of anything but live off the fat of the land?  I won’t ever have those questions answered on this side of heaven, but sometimes I get so bothered by the “Why”.  Thank you Lord for giving me the gift of Compassion, but sometimes I wish I could tone it down a bit.  :-)

Categories: Do something, faith, HIV/AIDS, prayer, Travel, work | Leave a comment

American Woman

“American woman, stay away from me
American woman, mama let me be” – Lenny Kravitz

You can take the Girl out of America, but you can’t take the American out of the Girl.  No matter how hard I might try to “blend in” or to be the “Grey Man” (Or “Woman”, as it were), my culture gives me away every time.  Even if others don’t notice it, I do.  How, you ask?

  • Personal Space.  I appreciate it.  I like it.  I need it.  Get within 2 feet of my personal space and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that distance increases.  Stat.  I mean, what would make someone want to stand so close to you in an airport line, for example, when there is plenty of space around?  I can understand being packed together like sardines on the Metro during rush hour, but most passengers are Americans, and we’re all miserable.  But standing in line at a grocery store?  Now, is that really necessary? Do I really need to smell your breath wafting over my shoulder?  Sometimes I catch myself physically moving and have to laugh.  Yep, I’m American.
  • Time.  I like being On it.  I appreciate when others are On it as well.  I get annoyed when they are not.  In many places in the world, time seems to be recognized as something that goes by, but not much attention is paid to it.  People will show up an hour ‘late’ for a meeting without much of an explanation, and the people who were waiting seem to expect it and not really be bothered by it at all.  And when the meeting starts, instead of getting to the point, no tiny detail is left out – dead horses are beat and beat and beat.  What could’ve been said in 30 minutes takes 2 hours.  (That said, I’ve been in plenty of meetings that have dragged on and on with Americans who seem to like the sound of their own voice. Although the meeting likely started on time!)  Yep, I’m American.
  • Speed.  I had to laugh – in the Johannesburg airport, there are these huge posters everywhere that say, “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go further, go together. – African Proverb”.   They weren’t meant to be funny.  While the moral of the story is that you can’t go far if don’t work with others, I can’t help but to think, “But I LIKE getting there faster!”  I could probably learn a lot of lessons here, but Yep, I’m American.

It’s comical.  I grew up with two very different cultures – German and Filipino.  I married in to another culture.  You’d think these things wouldn’t bother me at all!  But clearly I’m a product of my culture and I don’t make any apologies for it, but perhaps I need to learn to relax and let it go a bit every once in a while!

Categories: culture, humor, random, Travel | Leave a comment

Safe

You use a hotel safe to ideally keep your things safe. Right?  Apparently not at Hotel Africa in Maputo…

The night before I was leaving Mozambique, I start to pack and try to open the safe in the room so i could get out my passport/money. It says ERROR.  I try again and the ‘too many tries” msg pops up. That’s strange: 1) I always use the same number for my hotel safe combo, and 2) I always test all hotel safes at least 3-4 times to make sure it opens/closes before i put my stuff in it, 3) I opened up up a couple times during my stay, so i knew the number was right. My *guess* was someone may have tried their luck at punching in a few numbers…

So i call the reception. Can she send someone to help me open the safe. It’s 9pm. Long story short, the hotel manager went out & she didn’t know when he was coming back. AND she doesn’t have his cell number. AND there is no one else on duty so i have to wait until he gets back.  AND It’s Fri night. Who knows when he’s coming back. So i ask her how i can make a call.  I want to call Erica.  She tells me that you can’t make calls out of the hotel. Only between rooms. Are you kidding me? What do you do in case of an emergency? You can’t call out, you can’t get ahold of the mgr, you can’t even get a taxi or order a pizza. I tell her someone is coming at 7am the next AM to take me to the airport. I’m leaving Moz and I need my money and my passport!

So tell her to call me to my room at ANY HOUR when the mgr gets back. Nothing. I finally go to bed at midnight. I wake up at 330am. Call the reception. Is the mgr back? Yeah, he’s back, but he can’t open it. Some other guy has the key. They’ll call him in the AM. He lives far away. I wake up at 530am. Panicked. I need my passport to leave.  Can you please call the guy with the key again??

I chew out the manager (via phone although he’s in the hotel in his room). It’s totally unacceptable. You don’t have a key on the premises, you can’t be reached in case of an emergency, and your guests can’t make calls. It took the guy TWO hours to get to the hotel this AM. The driver showed up at 7am to take me to the airport. But I still don’t have my stuff. FINALLY the guy shows up around 745am and they are able to get the safe open. We race to the airport. Thank God i made it. If i would’ve missed that one, i would’ve missed the next one.

Yeah, kids.  That’s how I roll.

Categories: Travel | Leave a comment

Mozambique

Mozambique is a different breed of Africa.  While most African countries in sub Saharan African countries were colonized by the British, Mozambique was colonized by the Portuguese.  I’ve never been to Portugal, but I’m guessing the people are VERY different than the Brits.  Well, it’s the same in Africa.  Because of Spanish, I can kind of understand about 30% of what is said, or what I read.  The other 70% of the time I have no idea what is going on.  :-)

My friends Erica (a former colleague and also Tulane alum) and Matias (her hubby) picked me up at the airport and I stayed at their house the first night.  Their two kids are adorable and it was fun being around kids again (made me miss mine)!  It was also the night that Maputo lost electricity – and it didn’t come on for another 4 days!  Apparently something big went wrong at a power plant. Regardless of what it was, it meant that there weren’t any lights or AIR CONDITIONING for 4 days.  Remember southern Africa is in their summer months now, so yes friends, it was HOT and HUMID.  Hotter than hell HOT.  Laying on a bed naked not moving and still sweating HOT.  The nights were miserable.  Fortunately, our office had a generator, so at least we got to enjoy the A/C at work.  I seriously considered sleeping under a desk at the office, just to stay cool at night.  Needless to say, I ended up working late in the office all week.

Maputo is a great city though.  It’s right on the water and because of the Portuguese (& now Brazilian) influence, people really tend to have a good time here and enjoy themselves.  There’s more of a ‘party’ atmosphere there compared to other African capitals.  Maputo even has a new water park!  I went to the water park with Erica, Matias & the kids on the weekend and we had a good time.  Total African-style though, they didn’t turn on the actual water slides until a LOT of people showed up, which wasn’t until about 3 hours AFTER they opened.  But we still had fun in the pools and lazy river until we could go down the slides.  I wish I would’ve taken pictures!

Seeing friends while on work trips is definitely one of the highlights of a lot of my trips.  It’s so great to catch up, tell stories, and laugh.  A lot.

Tina, Erica & me along the Marginal.  Hello, Indian Ocean!

Tina, Erica & me along the Marginal. Hello, Indian Ocean!

Mozambican Batiks

Mozambican Batiks

Christine, Erica, Me, Chantal & Jonas

Christine, Erica, Me, Chantal & Jonas

 

 

 

Categories: amigos, fun, photos, Travel, work | Leave a comment

Oh God Bless Our Land of Malawi….

All board!  Malawi!  A ‘homecoming’ of sorts.  The title is the first few lines of the Malawian national anthem.  The crazy thing is that I can still remember the song to the national anthem.  The students at the school I taught at had to sing it every week.  I loved it.  And what a special way to arrive in the country than to be on the same plane as the President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda herself!  We were met at the airport with 1000s of people.  Bands, dancers, singers, and media.  It was quite the production.  I just wish I had had the chance to shake her hand and tell her how excited I am about her presidency.

Airport reception

Airport reception

 

The entire time I was in Malawi I was thinking about my Peace Corps days and my PC Volunteer friends.  Honestly, Malawi hasn’t changed much in 15 years (other than everyone everywhere now has a cell phone).  Malawi is still so behind it’s African sister/brother countries in Southern Africa.  At least the capitals.  Johannesburg, Maputo, Kampala, even Kigali are so developed  compared to Lilongwe.    It’s hard to explain, but Malawi remains one of the most underdeveloped countries I’ve ever been to.  You won’t find any big Chinese developments (roads, airports, Presidential palaces, high rises) in Malawi that you’ll find in quite a few other African countries.  There’s nothing there that the Chinese want (diamonds, gold, oil….)  There might be some benefits to being underdeveloped sometimes.  Yet, Malawians are some of the kindest, sweetest, funniest, most gentle people I’ve ever met on the planet.  Seriously, they are my favorite Africans (sorry to offend any other Africans reading this, but remember, I am biased!).

One day we drove south of Lilongwe to Zomba, which is about 4 hours away, for a meeting.  While Malawi is a beautiful country with lots of hills, a few mountains, and a huge lake, the best thing to look at out of the window of the car is all of the names of the stores/shops/restaurants in the towns that we passed.  It used to provide hours of entertainment and conversation between the PCVs!  Here were a few of my favorites:

  • Double Vision Boys School
  • Tuff Bong Bike Repair
  • No Farming No Life Shopping Centre  (and the No Job No Lunch Restaurant that was right next door!)
  • Jesus is the Answer Butchery & Shop
  • Shiny Happy People Bottle Store

Most of my time in Malawi (other than the day in Zomba for a meeting) was in the office, having meetings!  So nothing really exciting in terms of updates there.  It mostly brought back a lot of great memories.  I loved my time in the Peace Corps.  I keep telling Anssel that it’s something we need to do together when we’re retired (wink wink, Ansselito!).  He’s a little skeptical.  :-)

Zomba Mountain

Zomba Mountain

 

 

Categories: photos, Travel, work | Leave a comment

HEAT

Next stop on the crazy train?  South Africa.  While there I went through the toughest, craziest, coolest, most exhausting (physically and emotionally) training I’ve ever been in.  HEAT training (Hostile Environment Awareness Training).  These training events are “designed to equip you with knowledge and skills to protect your own life and the lives of your fellow staff.”  Basically it was war zone bootcamp for 4 days!  The first 2 days were classroom instruction on everything from Small Scale Negotiation, to What to Do If You Find Yourself in a Landmine Area, to Hostage situations.   The next 2 days were all field scenarios where we got to practice what we learned.  The trainers are all ex-military.  The scenarios incorporated a ton of people from the surrounding communities as “actors”.

We learned what to do in case we were kidnapped, held hostage, caught in crossfire, got ambushed on the side of the road, or even came upon an accident on the side of the road.  Even a S. African film/movie/tv company that specializes in special effects were involved.  Yes, real bombs (with fire and mushroom clouds!) went off.  Grenades were thrown at us.  Real guns (fake bullets) were shot at us.  Yes, at one point we were even bound (hands) and hooded.  Right now you might be thinking, “Who in the world would have this kind of training, and why would anyone take this kind of training?!”   The reality of it is, most of us travel extensively for work.  Some work in, and travel to, high risk environments (I fortunately do not, but in case I ever do, I’m ready!).  They want us to be as prepared as possible for that 1% chance that something might happen similar to what we went through.  They also gave us a lot of tips and coping mechanisms to basically stay alive and as sane as possible.  Some of it was also very practical for any kind of travel (be aware of your surroundings, how to keep yourself and your things safe in a hotel/while traveling, etc).  I hadn’t been so bruised, hot, scraped, or bumped up since I was a kid!  We were honestly running and diving, hitting the ground, crawling, etc all through the S.African savanna.  It was awesome and I learned a lot!

After that, one needs a little time to recuperate, right?  Cue in Cape Town.  Ah yes!  The training was 3 hours from Cape Town, so I enjoyed 4 glorious days in my Favorite City in the World.  It is such a great city.  You have the mountains, two oceans (!), a great city, beautiful scenery, great food, and wineries!  What more could you ask for?!  So I did some sightseeing, ate well, and drank well.  I also got to see a friend that I hadn’t seen in 13 years who is S.African.  That was really cool.  Randomly, a University of Washington student who’s doing research for a few months in SA was staying with him for the weekend, so I also met him.  It turns out that he grew up just a couple miles from where Anssel and I are now living!  Small world, eh??  The thing I have learned about traveling alone is that you usually never end up ‘traveling alone’.  You end up meeting people along the way.  I also ended up doing wine tours with a couple I met from Ireland.  If you are open to meeting new people and open to new experiences you can end up having a better time than if you were alone.  The only ‘bad’ part about being in my Fave City was not being able to share it with Anssel.  Everything I saw and did I kept thinking, “Anssel would love this”, and “I need to bring Anssel here”.  Someday…

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Table Mountain

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Categories: fun, photos, Travel | 1 Comment

California Dreamin’

It’s time to move on from my pity party.  God continues to be with me and He has provided a lot of wonderful opportunities for my family and me in 2013.  I’m so behind on blogging (and even my work) but here are just a few highlights to counteract the recent sad posts:

I got to see my good friend, Roxanne, in Santa Monica, CA right after Anssel and the kids left for Guatemala in Jan.  She’s a friend I’ve had since freshman year in college.  She has visited me all over the world (literally) and so it was finally my turn to visit her.  We had a great time exploring her neighborhood and enjoyed the abnormally warm CA “winter” weather.  We spent the entire time outdoors and ate very well. It was a really relaxing trip :-)  It’s good for the soul to slow down and spend quality time with dear friends, especially those who have known you for decades.  Thanks for being such a great hostess, Foxy Roxy!

College Friends

 

Categories: amigos, Travel | Leave a comment

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