10 For 2010


It’s the last day of January, which is the month in which you tend to make your resolutions and commitments for the year to come. I figure I am writing this just in time.

A few entries ago, I wrote about how I think New Years Resolutions are kind of funny, and how last year I decided to keep it simple and make three goals that used only eight words: Wear sunscreen. Drink more water. Stand up straighter. That was 2009. Back to basics. Living in Africa. My entire life drastically changing.

Anyways, I feel like 2010 is a bit different… I feel myself a bit more focused, a bit older, a bit wiser. And I wanted to set some goals for this year, before January escapes us. And I am posting them on the blog not because I think the world really cares much about what I want to accomplish this year, but also because it makes them more real to me. This list is far from exhaustive, but includes most of the puntos chaves (key points). Some are measurable, some are far from it. But that’s okay. Here they are.

1. Reprioritize my life by putting God back at the center. I claim to try to live a God-centered life but so often, it is anything but. I know that nothing in this life is certain and that the best is yet to come, so I want to get back to a good place where I am making decisions for Him and not just for myself. If there’s anything I have learned it is that God’s plan is perfect (whether or not we can see that from our human perspective) and that my plan, more often than not, sucks. Well, I tend to think it’s pretty good but… you know.
2. Straighten up! AKA, stand up straighter (no more slouching!) and swear less. I would like to make these habits now to follow me for the rest of my life.
3. Rock the GRE (which is six days away and I should be studying for it right now instead of doing this); do a more profound research of graduate programs (do I want to do ID, an international MPA, or international comm.?); apply for graduate schools and scholarships/fellowships. Phew. This one exhausts me just writing it. Goal plan B: if said planning for future exhausts me and I feel like I have more to offer here in Moz, wait on the whole grad thing and extend a third year here instead.
4. Succeed in integrating HIV/AIDS/health, gender, and group training into every sector of the SEED project before I leave, as well as bring more health information to colleagues and participants, and provide English and IT help at my office throughout the next ten months.
5. Continue to commit to a healthy lifestyle, including drinking lots of water, exercising six times a week, eating as healthy as possible given my limitations here, minimizing alcohol and other things that kill you slowly (or quickly). If possible, lose a few pounds to get back to my “happy” weight BUT if that is not possible and I am healthy in every other possible way, that is fine for me. Moderation is key.
6. Travel! I am here in Africa, I want to take full advantage of it. Plans that are pretty strongly etched in my brain currently are Swaziland (for a music festival), South Africa (for this thing what’s it called I forget… oh yeah, the World Cup!), and Tanzania (Zanzibar? Kilimanjaro? Serengeti?). Included in this “travel” goal: see animals. I have lived for 16 months in Africa and have not seen a lion yet. Fail.
7. Develop an awesome blog with my writing, random musings on African life, and pictures, instead of settling for an okay but overly verbose and not that interesting one. Post at least once a week.
8. Stop selling myself short.
9. Own my time here in Vilanculos. It seemed never-ending at the outset; now it seems as if it is going by too fast. I am already at nine months and change til my COS (Close-of-Service) date, and the last thing I want is to look back on this time I spent in the Peace Corps and have any regrets. I have it figured it out now, now it’s time to dive in headfirst (not that I didn’t dive in already, but still) and make sure to get everything I can (and give everything I can) throughout this year.
10. Practice living in the moment. I know that may seem ironic as number 10 on a list of goals, many long term, but goals and plans should be markers, guidelines to spur us through the uncertainty, rather than unyielding obstacles that must be overcome. I want to practice looking to the future yet allowing myself to experience the beauty and wonder of each moment instead of rushing towards the next thing. As it has been said, living in the moment may very well just be the key to the meaning of life.

So there we go… 10 for 2010. Bring it on.


  • TIA: The Ants Come Marching In


    Great things come in small packages.

    But sometimes the biggest, most overwhelmingly huge and frustrating problems come in the tiniest little bodies that you just want to murder in the most violent manner possible until your house is littered with the dead.

    I’m talking about the ants.

    Living in a bamboo house with a thatched roof means making peace with all of God’s creatures who make themselves at home. Since moving in, Sarah and I have enjoyed the company of rats, birds, mosquitoes, cats (or other unidentified cat-sized animals in the roof…) cockroaches, spiders, moths, snakes, a tarantula, and bugs that fall from the sky (roof) onto our heads. All of these have maybe given me a scare (the snake on my apron), grossed me out (roaches cuddling up in bed with me), or left me looking like a scarred leper (mosquitoes). But none of these have succeeded in ruffling me like the ants.

    Whoever said they come marching one by one was sorely downplaying the gravity of the situation. Add a handful of zeroes after the one and now we’ll be speaking with veracity.

    They moved in sometime during the fall months—well, the spring here (September, October), right about the time I started getting towards the end of my rope. It was innocent enough at first. Some in the food I accidentally left out, or making the occasional other appearance in the kitchen.

    But then the troop surge came.

    I can’t remember an exact moment, but something changed and all of a sudden our house was flooded with ants. They were everywhere. Including, but not limited to:
    • My loofa sponge
    • The sinks
    • The animals’ food and water
    • My makeup bag
    • My roommate’s bed
    • Inside our water filters
    • My precious jar of nutella
    • All over the shower head (so if you turned on the shower when you were already in it, your first shower would be a fresh dose of ant bodies)
    • All throughout our stacks of clean clothes
    • My underwear “drawer”
    • Inside a sealed box of Pop-Tarts I got in a package (found their way into the box, then chewed their way through the foil packages. Splitting each precious tart open revealed a series of tunnels left where the miscreants had devoured their way through the heavenly cinnamon brown sugar filling… I felt my heart break in my chest. I ate several bites anyway. Hey, I think all the ants had left by then… I hope.)
    • Anything damp. Apparently they aren’t just looking for food, they are looking for water. In any and all forms.

    I don’t know what it was about these ants that got us so pissed off. Well actually, I do. The rats, they come out at night and we don’t really see them. The roaches try to keep to themselves, but when they crawl out of our sink while we are washing dishes and scare us half to death, they get squished. Etc. But the ants… literally nothing can be done. And believe me, we have tried everything. From bug spray so lethal that I am quite convinced I feel my own brain cells dying a poisonous death whenever we spray it, to ant traps that did nothing, to having to dry every single dish we ever washed in fear of leaving out something with drops of water on it (and then the damp drying cloth turning black with ant bodies before the evening was out), to cinnamon (apparently ants hate it? Lies), to bleach… each massacre just brought them back stronger than ever. The breaking point was when they finally, after a protracted effort on our part, got into our water filters. All three of them. Which led to me drinking our sink water unfiltered (which tasted more or less healthy…) and then getting sick. I could hear them laughing.

    So it seemed like there was nothing else to do really than to make peace with them. Or as much peace as possible when finding them crawling through the refrigerator half an hour after I had cleaned it and nearly erupting in a fit of rage. Nothing like bathing yourself with a sponge filled of ants… or washing your dishes with a scrubber that they’ve probably been nesting in… or lifting up a cup of precious hot chocolate to take the first sip and realize the several dark spots you mistook for non-dissolved cocoa powder are really tiny little ants, floating there innocently in what was your supposed to be your indulgent cup of creamy goodness. Like it or not, there is no escaping them.

    Part of me has to admire their evolutionary prowess: fifty of the little buggers can fit onto my thumbnail, and yet still they are the only thing we cannot seem to kill off. But the other part of me questions how they remain so prolific despite obvious stupidity (they love water, so when we refill the dog’s water bowl, they climb in for a drink, and fall in and die. Literally, ten minutes after we fill it, the thing will be black with dead ant bodies. And yet they continue trying!!! How do these species survive??? Oh look, mommy and daddy and thirteen thousand of my closest friends just went for a swim and drowned themselves, guess I should join them too!)

    The season was just supposed to be a month or two. But due to lack of rain (or so they say… I am dubious of the truth of this claim) they are still around. Let me remind you, it is February. (Tomorrow). It rained for the first time in nearly two months this weekend. Still the ants remain. But we will see if they go away. Something tells me no.

    I wish I could say that I have accepted the ant’s omnipresence, but that isn’t entirely accurate. Although instead of erupting into primal screams of rage (it has happened), I guess we could learn a few things from these ants. They are small. They might get stepped on, eaten, drowned. Perhaps some of their insect compadres don’t take them seriously, assuming they are too small to do anything. But yet despite this, they overcome. Defying all odds, the smallest creature has triumphed over Goliath, joining forces to work hard and never give up, succeeding in conquering the house of man in the true picture of resilience for the victory of all ant-kind.

    Okay maybe that is a stretch.

    But still, while they stick around, part of me wonders if there’s a life lesson I can learn from these little creatures. Use them for inspiration and metaphor instead of wasting way too much of my life trying to kill them when I know it will make no difference. But hey, no one can eat my Pop-Tarts and get away with it.

    It’s been a rocky relationship. But until we finally break up for good, there will be more tiny tales to tell. And until then, may the squishing continue. At least it’s kind of therapeutic…

    don’t you feel squeaky clean showering with this???!!


  • Home Recap


    Three weeks in America. Not enough. But certainly enough time to have some fun. Some of the highlights were…

    –Eating punch bowls of cereal (honey bunches of oats or honey nut cheerios) every morning.

    –Hang time with my beautiful sister!

    –Seeing some amazing girls…

    –Hot water. Hot water. HOT WATER!!!


    –Keeping my car radio tuned to the new 90’s station because I didn’t recognize anything on the top 40…

    –Lake time

    –Constantly shivering despite wearing two shirts, a scarf and a coat. Hey, I came from African summer and its practically freezing, gimme a break here!


    –Wandering the aisles of Raley’s, Whole Foods, and Target for hours and being thoroughly entertained. Unfortunately I am not joking. HOURS.

    –Girl time!

    –Going shopping in my own closet. For anyone who is dissatisfied with their wardrobe, i highly recommend moving to africa and rotating the same three unflattering outfits every day for 15 months. then come home and have your mind be blown by how TOTALLY AWESOME the contents of your closet are. Providing everything still fits…

    –Go Karting. I may or may not have come in last. But at least I looked good doing it.

    –Getting over my slight sense of snobbery when it comes to sophisticated taste in music and busting out GaGa lyrics at dozens of relatively inappropriate times.

    –Tours luvin’ reconnect.

    –Taking lots of pictures of pretty food and drinks to torture myself with back in Moz.

    Speaking of food, I glanced at my blog from before and had a 30-something percent success rate with said food goals. The apparent failure comes from the fast food category (Wendy’s, In-n-Out, Taco Bell, Daphne’s…) because there were just so many BETTER things to eat! But I did hit all of the highlights (SUSHI, chipotle, chocolate milk, sushi…) so in my mind, a success.

    It’s been a great trip. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do or see everyone that I would have loved to see, but it won’t be too long until I have another chance.

    I get on the plane in just a few hours. Last time I got on the plane for Africa, nearly 500 days ago, I was feeling all sorts of things. Nervous. Sad to leave my family. So excited for the unknown. Today I am feeling none of those things. I am in a completely different place. Excited and nervous I am not. Rather, going back feels like a duty: not in the sense like it is something I am forced to do, but rather, it was my goal to complete my PC service successfully, and I am returning for a year of working hard to take full advantage of the experience and to make as much of a difference as I can, and help in whatever way I can, why simultaneously continuing to learn and grow, because I realize now that PC is temporary. Getting on that plane in September 2008 felt overwhelmingly impossible, because the time commitment stretched out so long in front of me made it feel like I would never come back. But now, I may be a bit sad to be leaving my family and this amazing place I took for granted for so long (and the hot water and the sushi doesn’t hurt) but I realize now that this time is temporary and I need to take advantage of it. Can’t wait to see where I am at this time next year. Next time I blog it’ll be from my house in Mozambique, God willing. I guess you do always find your way back home.