reality check

Some days are a real reminder of one’s own mortality. Watching death could not be a more intense force for recalibration.

On a trip from our banking town to the small metropolis of Moshi (a quick day trip to visit the post office), my friend and I bore witness to immense tragedy. As is the norm for travel here in Tanzania, we boarded a bus with about twenty five individuals. The journey was cramped and warm and my friend and I were smooshed on the backbench of the bus with four Tanzanians. I was listening to music, enjoying the scenery.

Everything seemed so normal. It was a sunny day, Tyler and I were nursing slight hangovers from the night before – chapati still warm in our bellies from breakfast. In an instant, everything changed.

As is normal, our bus driver went to pass the truck we were following. To do so, he moved into the lane of oncoming traffic, traveling at approximately sixty miles per hour. As he went to pass, he slammed on his brakes. It was too late. The front right bumper of the bus collided with an oncoming motorcycle (pikipiki). The collision happened at such speed that, as Tyler and I turned around to look out the back window, we witness both the piki driver and his passenger project off of the piki and into the brush on the side of the road. One individual lay unmoving. The bus driver continued on.

Shock. That was the first emotion. Tyler and I stared at each other, silent, while we wondered what to do. The bus continued on, a portion of the window shield now shattered. A slow murmur of conversation began to circulate the bus, whose passengers had before been silent. The bus continued on. Tyler and I, shock sinking in, looked around at our co-passengers, becoming a bit frantic at the lack of action taking place. The bus continued on.

After about twenty minutes (but what seemed like an eternity), the bus was stopped by a police officer. All the passengers unloaded from the bus and the police escorted the driver and the conductor (konda) to a nearby vehicle for what seemed to be questioning. One of our fellow passengers approached and asked if we were okay. He proceeded to explain what was happening – the driver would be taken to a central police station in a separate vehicle while the konda would follow with the bus and its passengers. We reboarded bus, along with one of the police officers, and continued on to a central police station.

Once aboard, our new Tanzania friend asked about our journey. We explained we were on our way to Moshi, but were concerned about the entire situation, in general. Our new friend slightly eased our worries, explaining he was also traveling to Moshi and we could travel together ‘tukopamoja’.

As we continued on to the police station, about fifteen pikis surrounded our bus. As it turned out, these drivers were friends of the piki involved in the collision. The police officer escorting the bus tried to fend off the pikis and explain to them that the driver was no longer in the bus. We would later realize they were likely coming to perform vigilante justice to avenge their friend.

When we arrived at the police station, our Tanzanian friend escorted us through the large crowd that had formed, and lead us to a bus that was traveling to Moshi. As we passed through the crowd, we overheard the piki drivers explaining that their friend had been killed.

Eventually, Tyler and I safely arrived in Moshi. We went to the post office, where I picked up a package containing a birthday present from my parents. We went to our favorite coffee shop and drank cappuccinos. We ran the errands we needed to run. We ate Mexican food and drank beer. The day seemed to so normal.

For me, the day continued on in a bit of a fog. But, simultaneously, I felt so incredibly alive. All my senses were heightened – so extremely aware of moving vehicles and individuals moving around me. As we walked the streets of Moshi, the normal fluidity of the hustle and bustle was somewhat jarring. A man had died, just mere hours before, and no one surrounding us was aware. That being said, all the young men who had surrounded our bus would be forever changed. They had watched their friend die. But, they would all likely wake up the following day, board their pikipiki, and head out for a days work. The world continues on.

Travel by motorcycle is very common here in Tanzania. They are similar to the taxicab industry of western metropolises. Thousands of young men drive motorcycles every day here in Tanzania, transporting people to work, school, church, and from town to town. That being said, road safety is not a top priority. Many drivers ride without a helmet and as such, do not provide helmets for their passengers. Buses go extremely fast on main roads, many of which consist of only two lanes. Passing into oncoming traffic is a regular occurrence, so the incident that we witness yesterday is tragically not uncommon.

Tyler and I, almost immediately, started brainstorming project ideas to help keep cyclists – and their passengers – stay safe. We have brainstormed an HIV/drivers safety combo course, in which we were bring in an instructor to teach on road safety and provide attendees with two motorcycle helmets; one for themselves and one for their passenger. Yesterday was, in a way, an intense call to action.

As we travelled back to Same, from Moshi, on a bus identical to the one we had ridden that morning, we sat in awe at our awareness of life. We stared at the window and chuckled at the fact that we do, indeed, live in Africa. That we are in the Peace Corps. That we share so much that only individuals going through this wild ride can even begin to understand. We hugged, and laughed, so incredibly grateful for each other.

The entire experience has been a jarring reminder of the fragility of life. As Tyler puts it ‘we really aren’t ever guaranteed a normal Saturday’.

July Recap

Another month in the books! This month was spent mostly at site and ‘on the mountain.’ As this month concludes, I am thrilled to say that I have made some great friends in my village and my Kiswahili has improved leaps and bounds. Though my lack of internet service felt challenging at times, it really forced me to spend time with members of my community and deep in thought. I have finished sixteen books (thanks to the arrival of my kindle in June) and have spent hours writing. And everyday, I just keep pinching myself that this is my life.

The month started celebrating Independence Day with a group of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers. It was so wonderful to connect with a larger community of individuals on this crazy journey. After the celebrations concluded, I spent a few days with some friends in our banking town. We spent time getting all of our important internet things taken care of, gathered the goods we’d need for a month at site, and even booked our first international trip – we’re going to India babyyy.

About halfway through the month, two of my friends came to visit and we attended the truly craziest party. My village threw a huge celebration to honor a member of my community becoming a bishop. I had been attending bi-weekly committee meetings for the celebration, so I had a small idea what we were getting into… but nothing could have really prepared us for that day. Though words cannot do it justice, I will do my best. For this celebration, my community built an amphitheater, of sorts, in the back of someone’s home. Benches were constructed from bamboo; a large house was built for overflow seating and preparation space; hundreds of kilograms of rice, bananas, vegetables, and meat were collected and eventually prepared; two cows, a pig, and countless chickens were slaughtered; copious amounts of fabric were collected for decoration. It was amazing, in every sense of the word. Over 1,000 people attended.

The celebration itself started with a two and a half hour mass, filled with incredible music from the choirs of three neighboring villages. After mass concluded, my friends and I were ushered to seats on the stage where we got a front-row view of the newly ordained bishop received hundreds of gifts. In Tanzanian culture, gifts are presented individually and groups of people dance and sing (in conga-line fashion) toward the recipient. The new bishop was gifted tradition gifts of kitenge, luggage, and money – along with a less common gift of a brand new motorcycle. After the gift presentation, the party really started. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks started flowing, the food was served, and soon, a dance party ensued. In the midst of it all, the newly ordained bishop ended up crowd surfing. It was such a spectacle and something that will truly be a highlight of my service.

About a week following the bishop celebration, a group of my friends and I convened at my site-mate’s house to celebrate his birthday. Though the festivities were no comparison to the festivities of the prior week, we did our best. One friend baked a bunch of yummy goodies (cake, pie, and cookies) – no small feat on a single-burner gas stove – and we cooked dinner and had some good ole western laughs.

The following weekend, I made a trip to another volunteer’s village, who also lives on the same mountain. We had just the best weekend. We spent time in her village center, conversing with the younger crowd who tend to hang out in the area. She fed me incredible food and we spent a couple evenings drinking truly some of the most awful sugar water wine I’ve ever consumed . . . but I would not have had it any other way. On my last full day in her village, we went on an epic hike. We walked along a river for a while, and when the path disappeared, we decided to go bouldering down the river. There were points of the hike where we had to take a dip in the freezing cold water in order to continue on our journey – and at another point, we had to descend down a tree, stripper pole style. It was incredible and we shared so many laughs.

During this month, my friends and I were informed that we are currently in Tanzania illegally . . . though the situation is not nearly as dire as it sounds. Peace Corps is simply facing some bureaucratic stalls that are not all that uncommon. My cohort has yet to receive our official, two-year work permits. We are only ‘illegal’ as we’ve overstayed our ninety-day tourist visas, which we were given upon our arrival in country. The visa process is indeed underway. Now all we can do is wait and avoid travel to other regions of the country, in order to avoid potentially uncomfortable run-ins with immigration officers. The biggest impact this delay has caused is that our Early Service Conference – which was supposed to take place during the first week of August – has been postponed until September. Though this means I have another month to get through before I can start any big project, I am excited to continue getting to know my community and explore the area with my new friends. Life is so good.

Xoxo

Recommended Readings:

1. The Handmaid’s Tale — Margaret Atwood

2. Life Will Be the Death of Me — Chelsea Handler

3. The Alchemist — Paulo Coelho

4. Dead Aid — Dambisa Moyo

5. A Field Guide to Getting Lost — Rebecca Solnit

6. Kitchen Confidential — Anthony Bourdain

7. Educated — Tara Westover

8. Just Mercy — Brian Stevenson

9. The Year of Magical Thinking — Joan Dideon

June Recap

Woah oh wow! June sure was a busy month. As a sit, now in the middle of July, and reflect on the last month and a half, I am truly flabbergasted by all that can happen in a month. Time seems to fly by, drag on, and stand still – all at once. My friends and I are constantly discussing time…how have I already spent five full months in this wonderful country?! I know I’m going to blink and then I’ll be home; enjoying the comforts of real showers, my TempurPedic mattress, and snuggles from my pup. So, I’m trying to soak in all the craziness, every step of the way.

I started the month of June in the city of Moshi for our superregional conference, followed by our regional inter-service training. Superregionals occurred over the first weekend of June. Peace Corps volunteers from the Kilimanjaro and Tanga regions converged to discuss life as a PCV here in Tanzania. We discussed everything from cooking methods, to daily ville challenges, to combatting ease of portraying the image of ‘white savior’ to our friends at home. It was a wonderful weekend, fostered by the ability to connect with a larger group of individuals going through different stages of this crazy experience.

In our down time, I had the chance to explore the little of city of Moshi. My friends and I spent copious amounts of time (and money) at a legitimate coffee shop and enjoyed far too many cappuccinos over the course of the five days. In addition, we visited many ‘safi’ food joints – places we could enjoy food that wasn’t rice and beans. We sipped cocktails of ‘the spirit of the nation’ (Konyagi) on the rooftop of a hotel. And we even took a sunset bus ride and watched the sun set at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro – a truly magical experience.

Our regional inter-service training was much more technical. We were required to bring a member of our community to the training and we were put through a myriad of hands-on seminars. For this specific training, I asked my village executive office (VEO) to join me, and she happily obliged. During the week, we learned how to incorporate more nutrient dense foods into the already established diets of people in our communities. We learned how to construct a small-scale water-catchment system. And finally, we learned the importance of hand washing and ways to encourage the practice back at home.

After the week of trainings, I went back to my community to continue my three-month integration period. I spent many days roaming my village, hodi-ing on my neighbors’ doors, enjoying great company, laughs, and deep discussions on village challenges – all over traditional Tanzanian fare. I continued in my efforts to make my house more homey and spent time bonding with my homestay mom over the many intricacies of life in a rural Tanzanian village. And, to top things off, I hiked countless miles throughout the mountains, continuing to get a lay of the land a feel for the place I’ll be spending the next 22 months.

In this moment, I could not be more content. My community is absolutely amazing and I am constantly pinching myself at how lucky I am. It is currently the cold, dry season, with temperatures dipping into the low forties at night. As such, in the evenings I get to snuggle up in my favorite Jeremy Wine Co. sweatshirt, curl up in bed, and read for hours on end. I have just finished my twentieth book since arriving in country (thank goodness for the long-awaited arrival of my Kindle (THANKS MOM)) and spend countless hours in deep reflection of life and the world.

Life is so so good and I just simply can’t believe this is how I get to spend these next two years. Thank you for tagging along!

on the last year…

It has been one of the greatest and most difficult years of my life. I learned everything is temporary. Moments. Feelings. People. Flowers. I learned love is about giving. Everything. And letting it hurt. I learned vulnerability is always the right choice, because it is easy to be cold in a world that makes it so very difficult to remain soft. I learned all things come in twos. Life and death. Pain and joy. Salt and sugar. Me and you. It is the balance of the universe. It has been the year of hurting so bad but living so good. Making friends out of strangers. Making strangers out of friends. Learning mint chocolate chip ice cream will fix just about everything. And for the pains it can’t there will always be my mother’s arms. We must learn to focus on warm energy. Always. Soak our limbs in it and become better lovers to the world. For if we can’t learn to be kinder to each other, how will we ever learn to be kinder to the most desperate parts of ourselves.” – rupi kaur

It has been over a year since I received my Peace Corps acceptance; over a year since I graduated college; over a year since I moved home, leaving a city with which I had fallen in love; over a year of contemplating what my life would be like in this very moment.

As the quote above mentions, this year has been one of the greatest and hardest years of my life. I was fortunate to travel all over the US and Europe. I had the privilege of finding a new type of home in a job I had been in since I was sixteen. I was able to focus on spending time with those closest to me while I prepared for this crazy leap of faith I was about to take.

But, in many moments in the last year, my life felt stagnant. I watched as my close friends from college moved on to careers, moved into apartments of their own, got engaged to their ‘person’. And here I was, back living with my parents, in a job that was not nearly challenging (though it had its days…). In the last year, I made some questionable decisions, be it with relationships, nights spent out on the town, or even the way I viewed myself.

This past year, I experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows that I can remember. All of that being said, I would not change it for the world. Everything that has happened in this last year (be it, in my life, for that matter), has brought me to this very moment: sitting on my bed, listening to Bon Iver, in the Pare Mountains of Tanzania.

I am grateful for this last year — for giving me the space to get things out of my system; for giving me the space to form and solidify some of my closest friendships; for helping me realize my own self worth.

I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question getting tired of their own bullshit.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

May Recap

In the past few weeks, I have been struggling with how to go about using this platform. Part of me wants to use it communicate my day-to-day life here in Tanzania; the other part wants to use it to share the weird workings of my brain and the many streams of consciousness living this strange existence allows. Today, I finally came to a conclusion: why not do both?

For the next two years, I will do my best to commit to a monthly ‘recap’ that will serve as a snapshot of my life here in the village of Kwizu. I hope to report on projects I’m working on in my community, events I attend, friendships I forge, hardships I face, and so on and so forth. In addition, I started to compile a list of topics I have begun to ponder since arriving at site. As I’ve said before, the solitude of life here coupled with immense amounts of free time provide the unique opportunity to really sit and contemplate many thoughts and emotions. I have read more in the last two months than I have in probably the last two years (thank you mandatory college readings…) which has subsequently brought up some unique emotions, thoughts, and feelings – all of which I am excited to reflect on and explore. But, for today, we’ll start things off with a recap of the last month(ish).

This last month, I’ve gotten to start to settle into life here in Kwizu. My little duplex of a nyumba* is starting to feel more like a nymbani* as I continue to decorate & find ways to quit living out of my suitcase. People are starting to get used to seeing me around town and I am warmly received everywhere I go.

In the first couple weeks in ville, my village executive officer (VEO) took me around town, introduced me to hundreds of villagers, and showed me the ruminants of the projects my predecessors completed. One day, we hiked nearly ten miles to inspect five water-catchment systems that had been constructed in 2016. Another day, we hiked nearly 12 miles to visit the homes of the ten villagers who had constructed chicken bandas* in 2018. It was a great opportunity to meet my community as well as familiarize myself with projects that had succeeded and were sustainable.

As I get more comfortable in my community, I have been forging my own relationships and connections. I have gotten to know quite a few of the mamas in the areas. All are so warm and welcoming. One local mgahawa* mama won’t let me leave her shop without consuming two chapaties* and a cup of chai*. Another mama, who owns the stationary duka* in town, frequently invites me over for conversation. We sit and talk for hours about anything under the sun: the community and its struggles, life in Tanzania, life in America, the weather, and how she thinks its ridiculous that, traditionally, women shouldn’t wear pants.

Most days here in ville look pretty similar. I am grateful for my ability to create a schedule for myself and have been pretty good at sticking to it. Generally, I wake up at about 6:30. I like to start my days with yoga, meditation, and some kind of circuit training. After breakfast with my mama, I head out for my run/hike. (Running in the mountains has proved to be a bit of a challenge – it wasn’t until this week that I made the plunge and started…trotting…for a twenty-minute portion of my hike.) When I return from my run, I spend an hour or two on ‘office activities’: studying Kiswahili, organizing project ideas, journaling, etc. I then make myself a nice lunch before I head out into the community to either visit the school, the gov’t office, the church, or just walk around and strike up conversation. Every evening, I eat dinner with my mama and her grandson, we watch the news, and then I hit the hay – completely and utterly exhausted.

Apart from my day-to-day schedule, Tuesdays are usually spent visiting my site-mate in the neighboring village of Mhezi. My village doesn’t have a soko* but his has one every Tuesday, so it gives the perfect excuse to visit. Nearly every week, I make the four-mile hike, we go to the soko, he (usually) cooks a wonderful lunch, we visit a couple members of his community and then I return home. It’s a great reprieve and I feel so fortunate to have such a stellar individual living so close.

Additionally, I have been attending the Catholic church with my mama on Sundays. The services aren’t all too long and they are filled with wonderful music and lots of laughter. My favorite part is, at the end of service, local goods are auctioned off as part of the offering – the price wars can get pretty intense! One week, someone brought in a live chicken as an offering and it squawked the entire service.

Finally, as a general rule of thumb, I have been staying in my village for about two weeks at a time. About every other weekend, my (government-issued aka Peace Corps) friends and I meet in our banking town of Same. We have a wonderful gesti,* Amani, that we have come to think of as ‘home.’ It is a true comfort – we spend hours sitting on the porch, exchanging stories, discussing potential projects, revealing deep ponderments, and eating more fruit, peanut butter, and ‘resiliency’ cookies than I even thought possible.

The people I get to share this wonderful region with have turned into fast friends. They are some of the most supportive individuals I know. There is something so unique about this experience, and there is no one else I would rather share it with. We laugh, we cry, we listen to teen-angst music (s/o to Avril Levigne)… I couldn’t feel more lucky.

As always, thank you for following along.

Xoxo

*nyumba = house

*nyumbani = home

*banda = coop

*mgahawa = café

*chapati = roti-like bread (aka the best food in country)

*duka = small shop

*soko = market

*gesti = hotel

*Amani = peace

on beauty…

Random streams of consciousness in full force again on this rainy day at site. Something I’ve really struggled with since my arrival in Tanzania has been feeling fully ‘myself.’ In the states, I put a lot of pride in how I presented myself. Sure, there were days where I wouldn’t shower and would go to Target (*reminiscent sigh*) in my pajamas – but overall, I enjoyed getting ready for the day. I put thought into how I was presenting myself and how I would be perceived by others. Walking out of the house feeling ‘put together’ largely contributed to how I measured my own beauty.

This was especially true when getting ready for work. I showered before every shift, carefully planned my outfit, made sure my makeup looked just so, and finished everything off with jewelry to accessorize. Here in Tanzania, everything could not be more different.

Culture plays a big part in this difference. In order to be culturally sensitive, my knees and shoulders must always be covered. Most days (and even days I have official meetings) I wear a mid-calf-length skirt and pair it with a quick-dry t-shirt. For more ‘formal’ events (i.e. church) I throw on a skirt made of traditional katenge fabric with a plain T-shirt. As it is the ‘cold’ season, most days I wear a traditional ‘konga’ as a shawl to keep warm. In addition, most Tanzanians refrain from wearing make-up. From my observation, this is due to financial limitations paired with the fact that any makeup worn would melt off by mid-day.

Since moving to Tanzania, I have worn makeup once. I have worn jeans twice. I have gone up to five days without showering and nine days without washing my hair. I have worn the same shirt six days in a row (because there’s no sense in getting another dirty when one hasn’t showered…). I have felt like the opposite of myself. I find myself constantly reminiscing about my wardrobe, my shower, and my preconceived notions about being ‘beautiful’.

All this being said, the coolest thing happened this week – something that really moved me and forced me to reflect. It was a pretty low-key day; I was finishing up my daily hike/walk/workout. I was wearing leggings (a time of day I thrive, as it is culturally appropriate to wear leggings under the guise of exercise) and a t-shirt on its fifth day of wear. I was sweaty & on day three without a shower. My hair was slightly damp – a result of getting caught in an early afternoon storm – and my ankles were covered in mud. This day, in my final stretch home I passed through my town center, filled with villagers finishing their day out in their shambas* and was stopped by a huge group of kids on their way home from shule*.

Out of habit, I stopped to greet most of the people I passed. This particular afternoon, with nearly every greeting I gave, I received an ‘umependeza’ in return. Umependeza roughly translates to ‘you are beautiful’ or ‘you have beauty.’ Bibis and mamas, dadas and kakas, babus and babas alike welcomed me with this greeting. I’m not sure what it was about this particular day, but nonetheless I was thoroughly taken aback.

As I finished my walk home, my heart was so full. Here I was, dirty, damp, unshowered, fresh-faced, and truly raw yet this was when individuals commented on my ‘beauty’. When I got home, I went through my ritual yoga practice with an entirely new appreciation for my body. This body of mine that allows me to hike miles kila siku*; allows me to hug & receive others’ warmth; allows me to go out into the world and exchange thoughts and ideas. My preconceived notions on ‘beauty’ have shifted. Of course, I still miss my wardrobe and the level of self-expression it allows. I still miss my shower and feeling clean and wearing makeup. But, I have found a new appreciation for the raw, natural beauty that is my reality for the foreseeable future. In addition to sitting with my own thoughts, constantly, this experience is challenging me to become truly comfortable in the raw, unaltered beauty with which I was born.

*shamba = farm

*shule = school

*kila siku = everyday

a month in…

It has been a month since I moved into my home in a village here in Tanzania. It has been an absolutely wild ride, filled with so much more than I could have hope to capture within the confines of a blog post. That being said, I’ll do my dardest.

Might as well start with April 17th – the day 59 Americans, after ten weeks of intense cultural and language training, swore in as Peace Corps Volunteers and became the official Tanzanian Health/Ag class of 2019. Together, we made it through the rollercoaster of training and adjusting to a new country, and together, we all swore the same oath. The day was surreal and feels like a blur. There were speeches and there was dancing and the playing of drums. We wore traditional kitenge and sang both the Tanzanian and US national anthems. After the ceremony, we enjoyed traditional Tanzanian food together before saying our final goodbyes to the families who had hosted us for the entirety of our training.

The evening after the ceremony was filled with mixed emotions: excitement to begin our service, pride for making it through training, fear of the unknown, sadness to say goodbye to one another (and all things heightened a bit thanks to Konyagi). Then, bright and early on April 18th, we loaded buses by our respective regions and took off into the vast unknown.

During the first few weeks, there has been a lot of fumbling around. For the first few days, I had no idea where to find my village ‘center,’ how to set up meetings, or when it was appropriate to ‘hodi’ on peoples’ doors. I’ve gone through the process of deep-cleaning my little duplex of a home, bombing the bathrooms with extra-strength bug spray, and doing my best to ‘unpack’ (though I am very much still living out of suitcases). I am still blundering my way through Kiswahili – though my level of understanding has definitely improved – and beginning to detect when someone in my community is speaking the local language of Kipare.

Everything is so new and so completely overwhelming, but I could not be more grateful for the individuals I’ve already connected with in my village – my host mama being number one. She is so patient, helps me work through language intricacies, asks me meaningful questions about life in America, lets me shadow her to different village get-togethers, feeds me three meals a day (for the time being), and introduces me to everyone as her ‘daughter.’

My average day, so far, consists of a 6 AM wake up followed by my morning yoga and meditation. When Mama Hilda gets back from church, we enjoy ‘chai’ together before I leave for my morning walk/hike around my village. I return for lunch in the early afternoon before attending a meeting of some sort. The meetings are inexplicably long and I am unable to understand a vast portion of what is being discussed. That being said, I take notes and try to jot down words and phrases I don’t understand. The late afternoon consists of a workout and time studying Kiswahili before dinner. After dinner, I watch the news with Mama Hilda and her grandson, Brian, and then give myself some time to journal and read before heading to bed. By the end of the day, I am completely exhausted and have happily discovered ‘ville sleep’ – a deep deep sleep that is truly indescribable.

Now, here I am, a month in. The month has flown by at lightening speed while making me exceedingly aware of time… Cell service in my village is very hard to come by. At my home, I have a ‘service stump’ where I can sit and, depending on the time of day and as long as the power isn’t out, am able to get just enough signal to communicate via WhatsApp. Because of this, I have so much more time…time to think, to read, to write, to journal, to study. Before coming to Tanzania, I was aware of how much I used my phone – but I failed to comprehend how much my phone was restricting my time. Now, I am forced to sit with my thoughts. Because communication is difficult, I have to find new ways of working through things. I have taken to journaling, rediscovered my yoga practice, and take the time to meditate everyday. So much time to think can be daunting, but I am slowly learning to give myself the space to sit and ponder – something I’ve never seemed to have the time to do before.

This country has definitely won over my heart. It is messy and things move at a much slower pace. The people are so warm and welcoming and bus times will be delayed because a grandpa onboard strikes up a conversation with a person outside his window. The weather is unpredictable and the air smells differently everyday. Everything is overwhelming, but in this moment, I wouldn’t change a darn thing.