Tag Archives: tanzania

My (Lack of) Style

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Here goes my first attempt at a fashion post.  And I’m taking it OH. SO. SERIOUSLY.

Sometimes, when you’re me, you look in your closet and realize you have no shirts.  Your few trips to thrift stores since coming home from travels have yielded a few cool skirts, pants, and dresses but your tops are all…meh.

So you ultimately decide that it is totally cool to rock a crazy khanga shirt with an unevenly-cut keyhole made by a Tanzanian seamstress that you got in the Peace Corps.  Hey, aren’t the skinny jeans and tunic top a somewhat stylish shape nowadays?  Or is this outfit really something I should not present in public again?

Tanzanian clothing

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The Whole Cheesy Story, Part 4

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First read Parts 1, 2, and 3.

Finally, the end of the “how we met” saga!

When we last left off in my long, drawn out love story, Zach and I had finally said the big “L word”, and the next day I got on a plane to start my two years of Peace Corps service.  I went off to Tanzania to learn Swahili, live in a village, and do my best to contribute something, and he stayed in Ohio, working on his degree.  We left our relationship undefined and I had no idea what would happen.  I honestly expected him to forget about me and find a new girl who wasn’t an ocean away.  But he didn’t.  And the trouble was, I couldn’t forget about him either.  I did my best to adopt a “whatever happens, happens” attitude to the situation and focus on the present.  But I couldn’t stop dreaming about the future, imagining us ending up together.  Every time I got an email or a letter or a super-expensive phone call from Zach I would smile all day.  I had never wanted to be in a long-distance relationship while in the Peace Corps, as I imagined missing someone would make it even harder than it already was to be so far from home.  Well, even though our relationship was unofficial, missing him was still incredibly hard.

My Tanzanian life

So, when my bestie got engaged and told me I had to come back to be MOH in her wedding, I was unbelievably psyched!  Not only would I get to be in her wedding and eat American food I’d been missing, I’d get to see Zach!  So I booked a round trip flight home.  I’d been away for nine months and despite the ups and downs of Peace Corps life, I had every intention of sticking it out and returning for 17 more months.  In the weeks leading up to my return, I couldn’t concentrate on anything besides counting the days and wondering if Zach and I would still have the same chemistry.

Boy did we.  The sparks flew so intensely during that whirlwind two weeks.   The morning after the wedding, I suddenly found myself sitting in a Tim Hortons, hours before my return flight, sobbing that I didn’t want to go back.  Thus began the most difficult decision I have ever had to make.  I was an emotional wreck, and Zach was amazing.  He never once asked me to stay.  He told me that all he wanted was for me to be happy.  After a few gut-wrenching hours, crying conversations with my family and best friend (yes, I called her the day after her wedding, I’m horrible), and general stress over the prospect of ruining my whole life plan, I realized that I just couldn’t leave again.

I swallowed my pride and I quit the Peace Corps for a guy.  Honestly, there were other reasons why I wasn’t super happy in Tanzania, but Zach was definitely the biggest one.  If I hadn’t met him, or if I had never come home for the wedding, I’m sure I would have stuck it out for the whole two years.  Like I said, this was the hardest decision I ever made.  Life was all of a sudden full of uncertainty, and I was plagued with guilt and feelings of failure for quitting.  To this day, I still feel badly for leaving.  I never, ever envisioned myself becoming the kind of person who would give up her life plan for a romance.  But, Zach was the first guy I was ever with who I was willing to do that for, and maybe that’s how I knew it was right.  Looking back, I don’t regret any of my Peace Corps service, and I don’t regret my decision to quit either.

Anyway, all of a sudden I had the man of my dreams, no job, no plan, and a scarily insecure feeling about the future.  “What should we do now?” I asked Zach.  “Let’s drive to California.” he said.  So we did.  And the rest is (recent) history.

Pacific Beach, San Diego, a week after I quit the Peace Corps

Did anyone else make an impulsive/irresponsible-seeming/risky/life-changing decision for love?  How did it work out?

Old Standby Asian Veggies

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Sorry I’ve been super MIA lately!  We got an apartment for the summer (pictures forthcoming), but we still don’t have Internet!  So I’ve got lots of blog ideas in my brain but haven’t had the ability to post them!

Today I’m sharing a recipe I can’t believe I’ve never blogged!  It’s Zach and my all-time favorite easy-to-make, for-when-we-can’t-think-of-anything-else dinner!  I first made this with a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania, and I believe he got the recipe from an Alton Brown show.  The great thing about this dish is that it’s so easy to customize and modify based on what you like and what’s in your fridge that there are endless possibilities!  I apologize in advance for the iPhone pictures.  My camera is in the shop.  It looks better than this in real life.

The basic concept is: COLESLAW+RICE OR NOODLES+SAUCE=PARTY IN YOUR MOUTH.

First, cook rice, pasta, rice noodles, whatever grain you want.  This time I used brown rice.

Then, chop up some cabbage and whatever other veggies you want to include.

Veggies, pre-cooking

Cook them in a pot with some oil and salt.  This time I was just cleaning out the fridge so I used cabbage, kale, red pepper, broccoli, and jalapeno.  Cook them down as much or as little as you want!  I also added an egg toward the end of the cooking time and stirred it up so it scrambled in pieces mixed throughout the veggies.

Veggies, post-cooking

Then, make the sauce.  You only really need four essential ingredients: PEANUT BUTTER, SOY SAUCE, VINEGAR, AND OIL.

The 4 essential ingredients for your sauce

Mix equal parts of each item in a bowl.  I use about 1/2 cup of each when I’m making this for two people.  Easy, right!  Actually, it takes a few minutes to get the peanut butter to mix in, but it gets there. Then you can taste it and adjust to your liking.  Some extra (but unnecessary) things I like to add to make it more flavorful include: brown sugar, mustard, red pepper flakes, and ginger.

Next, mix it all together!  You can eat it hot or cold and it’s delicious!  Adding peanuts can also give the dish an extra crunch and protein kick!  I just didn’t have any on hand this time.

Mmmmm mmmm amazing

There you have it!  Tell me that’s not a delectable and easy way to use up extra produce!  Let me know what you think in the comments!

Physical Challenge Life List

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As our time here is winding down, I’m overwhelmed with mixed emotions.  Partly happiness about going home to friends, family, grocery stores and farmers markets, microbrews, and a kitchen!  But a big part of me is very very sad to be saying goodbye (for now) to all the adventures, the constantly-changing scenery, the daily challenges of travel, the cheap street food, and the gorgeous hiking.

Feeling victorious after climbing the highest peak in El Salvador!

I do feel like I’ve matured a lot on this journey, and one of the ways I’ve matured is in regards to my outlook on health.  I used to say that I wanted to die before I get old.  I don’t want that anymore, but I do want to be a super healthy, on-the-go old person.  I think it makes sense to say that accomplishing that goal depends a lot on the investments I make towards it now.  I’ve preached about the organic, vegetarian diet on here before, so I don’t need to go into that again.  And yes, I will always have a sweet tooth and a baking addiction, but moderation is the key.

I’ve kind of gotten over drinking on this trip.  I think an occasional, special-occasion, in-moderation drinker is what I would like to be.  I’m just getting too old for the college-type shenanigans!  The less I drink, the healthier, happier, and more alert I feel.  I’m sure this is a normal transition that most people go through, otherwise there would be a lot more 40-year-old running around doing kegstands.  But still I read what I’ve written and think, “Oh my gosh I’m becoming a lame old lady!”  C’est la vie.

Also, all the hiking, pack-carrying, and occasional surfing we’ve done here has gotten me into better shape than I’ve ever been in.  I’ve still got a spare tire but I am stronger than I’ve ever been in my life.  And it feels great!  What sucks is that with our return to Ohio looming, I’m already missing all the awesome hikes, mountains, beaches, and activities available here.  I really want to maintain, and hopefully improve, my fitness level once we get home.  It’s going to be hard in Ohio, because I’m not a big fan of running, and gym workouts are just so boring compared to mountain climbing!  Our time in Ohio will be brief, however, and I’m committed to finding ways to stay moving somehow.  Once we head west again, fitness can become a lot more fun.

Because I love lists so much, I came up with a new goal list of all the “physical challenge”-type activities I would like to accomplish in my life.  This will probably get added to a lot as I think of new things.  Not all of them are super-physical, some are just outdoorsy activities.  Hopefully I can check one or two within a year of getting home.  These are the things that get me excited and motivate me to work out hard (well, other than wearing a wedding dress next summer)!

Physical Challenge Life List
1. Master surfing

2. Master rock-climbing

3. Master snow-boarding

4. Climb Cotopaxi (Ecuador)

5. Climb Mt. Whitney (California)

6. Climb Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)

7. Hike the Grand Canyon, to the river and back

8. Bungee jump at Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe/Zambia)

9. Ride in a hot air balloon

10. Really give yoga a try

11. Learn to swing dance

What do you think of my list?  Way too ambitious or do-able?  Has anyone else ever made a list like this?

Photo Favorite: Tattoo Idea

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I took this picture in Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya, in 2007.  The camera was a crappy point and shoot but I think to this day it’s one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken, compositionally.  This Acacia was the only tree in the middle of the enormous plain.  In my time in Africa I’ve seen plenty of Acacias (I had one right behind my house in Tanzania and have some cool pictures of it too) but I still think they’re the coolest trees in the world.

So, getting a tattoo is on my Thirty by 30 list.  I’ve been set on the location (shoulder-blade) and the words in my envisioned tattoo for a long time, but I keep waffling on the picture.  Lately I’ve been thinking that an Acacia tree would be perfect!  It could have color, meaning, and even be based on this picture that I took!  Including the road would be awesome and meaningful too.  Plus, it’s African-themed without being obvious (my first idea was an outline of the continent of Africa) and fits perfectly with the words I want:  “Tupo pamoja” meaning “We are together” in Swahili.

What do you think?????

Missing My Love

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In Swahili there’s no word for “miss” as in “I miss you.”  It’s a language distinctly lacking in words to describe emotions, and “miss” is one of the words that just isn’t there.  This made it so hard to explain my feelings to Tanzanians when I was there, because a lot of the time I was consumed with the loneliness of missing my friends and family.  I thought of Zach every single night as I fell asleep and often dreamed about him.  The missing was a constant ache despite how much I tried to ignore it.  I realized that the loneliness of KNOWING there’s a perfect person out there for you and not being with him is worse than the loneliness of just being single.  And you can’t tell people how much you miss the guy you’re in love with back home because their language has no words to describe it!

Fast forward a year and a half.  We haven’t spent even a week apart since I got back from Africa.  Now, Zach is working on construction project that is 2 HOURS AWAY from home.  It sucks!!!  We keep hoping that he’ll be offered a job closer to home, but so far no such luck.  This puts us in quite a pickle.  If he wants to come home at night he basically loses half the day’s money in gas costs.  Argh!  So he’s been camping out, sleeping in his truck in 100-degree desert heat most nights and just coming home once a week.

I miss him!!!!!  I can’t believe how lucky I am to have a partner who will endure such annoying circumstances to make our dreams a reality.  But I’m just so used to being with him that the world seems duller when he’s not around.  I can’t believe how much I miss him when he’s just gone for a few days at a time.  It’s crazy.  All I do when he’s gone is eat ice cream and watch Grey’s Anatomy, lol.  Regressing to the sad, single girl life.  Ultimately, though, it helps me realize how blessed I am to have a person I never want to be without.  Being able to miss someone like this is extraordinary.  It’s kind of a gift.

New Series: Photo Favorites

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I was racking my brain for inspiration today and I thought of a cool, easy, post series idea.  I love looking through my old photos because so many of them tell great stories, are super silly, or just bring back good memories.  So every once in awhile I’ll just post a photo I’ve taken, tell you the where/when/why, and maybe say a few more words.  Hopefully this will also encourage me to take more pictures so that I have continuous fodder for this series!

Here’s the first one:

Me and MoMo, one of my Peace Corps besties, during one of our “under-the-mango-tree” Swahili lessons.  Probably still our first month in Tanzania (June or July 2009).  What do you think of my braided hair?  I actually really liked the result, but it took HOURS of sitting still while my host aunt pulled on my head to get it done! ❤ Kibaoni (the name of our homestay village, where we lived with host families during Peace Corps training).