Sunday, December 30, 2012

Starting the year with silence!!!.... what??! :)

Hmmm, is it strange to say that I’ve been a super happy sad person for the last month? My life, my friends, my surroundings, my situation, my luck-- all these things collaborate in the most amazing fashion in order to provide me with an extremely happy soul. I really do have amazzzing friends, family and everyday just grand experiences.  Not to mention this is my favorite time of year.  I love a season of thanks and fall colors and lights and cinnamon and holiday cheer and christmas music! Life is good... but I have to admit, I was in a funk. 

Reverse culture shock? Too many couches? Not enough consistency? A love affair lost?  Big bills and uncooperative contacts? Lack of a clear purpose?  Not enough balance? No clue what’s next? Orrr... a combo of all of these? ahhh yes, it’s been an unanswered questions overload.  It’s reasonable to say this hasn’t been my best month ever, but only because there’s been this bummer cloud following me. By all other standards it’s still been wonderful: Lobsters, birthdays, 12/12/12, art projects, movie nights, paddleboarding, heart-to-heart talks, amazing friends/hosts, chiaaps, my family, old friends, the fantastic beauty of Washington state, and Christmas for goodness sake!! The biggest bummer was just knowing I wasn’t my normal happy-go-lucky self, and it's obviousness made my friends sad that I was sad!!  I’m a ‘wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve’ type gal :). It’s not that I dislike a minor glum spell. I’ve had 11 months of ridiculous fantastic-ness in 2012....I’m pretty okay with a month of slight bumming :) It’s what I like to call a ‘necessary lull’. If it was always roses and rainbows and obvious yellow brick roads to follow, I think gratitude and appreciation would have a chance to wither.  Sometimes then, you need to go thru periods of tears and dead ends, knowing it will all work out eventually :).  Life is good like that. 

My return to USA brought some things to light. First off, I’ve mentioned many a times this pull I feel towards the inward, being solitary, quiet. I even wrote this whole blog about the fabulousness of ‘Aloneness’, yet over and over I find myself being Miss Socialite.  Since I first discovered meditation last December I’ve known it was something I needed to incorporate into my daily life...but it’s been a battle!!!  I’ve been blessed with the ability to be both an extrovert and an introvert, but with the curse of not having yet found a balance between the two.  Espppppecially once I got back to the US!  

When in a social setting, I can play that role to a T. I’ve always made my entrance, sought out being the center of attention, taken on a leader role no problem. It makes sense in that I love more than anything to share. Share joy, ideas, inspirations, fun.... so what’s up with this alone business?? I’ll never be some calm zen master.  I suppose I could attend an exciting event, hear good news, or see something beautiful and just quietly reflect on it, but I’d much rather shout and jump and be enthusiastic about it :). It brings too much joy to my life, to let the elixir out.  It courses thru my veins, waiting somewhat impatiently for an excuse to burst out! 

With that being said... I’m confused! I like wild and social, I also like quiet and alone. hmm.   For right now, Im exhausted!!!! The wise proverb ‘quality over quantity’ has infiltrated my physche and will not be ignored. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or maybe it’s only temporarily, but the fact is, my body is talking. Recognized wisdom says ‘listen to your heart’... in this case I can’t ignore it, it’s screaming at me, becoming a reaaaalll pain. It says BE STILL!  Sloooooow down.  Think, write, read, make, sit, watch, listen, love, nuture.  Is this the internal clock you hear that women have? Is it an actual physical feeling?  Or maybe it’s just me morphing into this thing called ‘adulthood’ :). Whatever it is, it’s pissed off at me for partying my ass off and not giving it even a bit of a routine! I traveled for ten months and barely had a whisper of a sound about stopping. I’ve been in the US for 3 months and I’m pooped!!! 

anddd.....My 23 year old boyfriend broke up with me. Ha. I say that to be funny, but I must give credit; he was much older than his years, in all ways except the experience of those extra years. It was a doomed relationship from the start, one I NEVER saw coming. What was supposed to be some hottie mc-tottie fun before I left... turned into a merging of two twin souls. I spent the last 15 months in love with him, knowing it had little chance of survival but unable to resist our bond. “It’s impossible to be wise and in love at the same time.” says Bob Dylan. I do believe he’s right :).   Even when you know something to be ill-fated, when your heart gets involved it’s easy to hold on to the feel-goods rather than the facts.  I feel lucky it happened in the way it did. I got to be in love with a wonderfully dynamic person over the course of my whole trip, and being in love is one of the most amazing and wonderful things you can be.  I wasn’t thinking or hoping to meet anyone, nor did I care about makeup or fashion or my appearance in general (okay, that’s quite typical!).  I wasn't worried about going where people would be, happily spent much time alone, and didn’t get distracted by the advances... I got to just focus on myself :). The ending has certainly been sad, but I wouldn’t take it back. We got a lot from each other and I think I ended up on the better end of the deal. You learn something from every experience and I undoubtedly learned a lot from this one (a novel in itself!). My tireless belief that everything happens as it should keeps me from staying too bummed. I know what it’s like to feel a need to do your own thing in life, so I can’t even be upset. In faaaaaact... I feel some real empathy for him. Give or take 5 year he’ll want to kick his own ass for letting me go ;) haaaaa!

"I'm a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them in mutual weirdness and call it love".  

In the end, I had to step back and look at the situation from an objective perspective. Stop with the ‘what-if’s’ and the ‘maybe’s’ and ask, What do I want? What is my purpose, my goal, my ambition? I realized I had been waiting/hoping to see what ‘we‘ were going to do next, all the while sidestepping the important question:  What do I really want? Wow. Having a direction is quite important to me, that’s my left-brained side talking. It’s been really pestering me, this question of what I want to do next.  I know, but I don't know or I'm not ready yet (says my right-brained side!). The solution is in not worrying about what I don't know, but singling out what I do know.... 

I want peace and quiet and nature :).  SOOOO, I’m going to a meditation and yoga center for three months in the mountains!! Yaaaaay! It’s not the final answer, but it’s a step!  This opportunity happened by odd chance.  When Ryan and I applied for the Amazing Race, I really thought we had a chance of making the show!  I had been pondering going to South America, but didn’t know if I’d be in the middle of the amazon jungle when they called and it’d be a mission to get back, so I did a search in California. This place popped up, I started correspondence with them, and it just seemed waaaaay perfect. We’ve since learned we didn’t make the Amazing Race (although they did actually call us! asked us for a second video and the guy even wrote that is was great and he pushed for us, but the main casting director x’d us. At least we made it that far!!) But, now I feel like WOW, maybe all this was just life getting me to this place called Pleasant Valley Sanctuary. Who knows?!  I’m always optimistic! :)

Last year when I stayed at the Samaya Ashram in Australia, I had the most wonderful experience. I had no idea what I was getting into, but ended up loooooving that place and really felt a shift in me. I don’t know if this new place will do the same, or something better, or nada, but if nothing else it will give me a place to rest, to settle a bit, hang my coat, unpack my bag, be in the mountains and have lots of time to let the pull of my soul guide me. 

So I was in a funk, maybe even a little still, but it’s not really a funk. It’s more like just a less blissful state that I’m usually in :).  It’s a state of less answers, but not less gratitude. I still feel blessed and lucky, and aware that I need these times as much as I need the off-the-charts amazing times. This way I can be excited to get out of the funk... back to the funky :)  

2012, you’ve been amazing. For sure the most amazing year of my life!!!  We had a little lull here at the end, but I’ve had enough of that. Gloomy cloud, you’re booted to the curb!!!  Just in time for the amazingness that will be 2013!!!!!  Yippee!!

With all the love that my soul always holds, I wish you nothing but what is needed in your life this year :). I hope that’s lots of happiness, joy, kindness, gratitude. Love for yourself. Compassion for others. Lots of laughter. Courage to try new things, and when (if!) you happen to have some 'necessary lulls' of your own, I wish you the wisdom to see the beauty and benefit of it. AND, that your path (and mine) will be just as obvious so as not to lose it, but not so straight to be boring! 

Happy New Year!! 
ps... it's snowing right now!!! yaaayyy! 

Friday, November 23, 2012

I am eternally, consistently, overwhelmingly Grateful:

for arriving back to America (on Sept 27), greeted by about 10 signs of a most pure welcome home. Having one of my best friends, Jill-do-ram-ulus, tell me I smelled terrible after 38 hours of travel, and still getting a hug, albeit short ;).

This makes me smile every time I see it.
Please note the picture of us holding hands at the bottom :) 

for having an expired license (since April!) and being turned away from the rental car agency... oops! Thus having to spend the next few days riding a bike around Arlington, VA, an unexpectedly amazing gift! This place is a little heaven on earth of colors and trees and crisp air and cute houses and hills and friendly people :) 

for getting the opportunity to be a wedding servant over the next few days (making up for my absence in the planning!), making flower arrangements, name cards, frames, balloons, ribbons, and especially rounding up and harassing the whole family to sign the guest book! I absolutely loved feeling helpful, useful, having a duty and a purpose for such a wonderful event and friend. Oh.. and there was a bachelorette party in there too... yaaaa buddy :).

Ohhhh baby.. that was a bachelorette party ;) 

for discovering Long Island (and Virginia) and having my fear of returning to America severely diminished. I was floored by the courtesy, kindness and beauty of a people I had unfairly stereotyped as all superficial. Sure, it exists, but it exists everywhere, and I was pleased beyond pleased for a return to see that goodness abounds, and an honor system fruit stand on the side of the road can still be found :). 

for getting to see and be a part of a beautiful merging of two people in love, two people I love. One of which I’ve loved for 11 years, and have shared many a fabulous memory, and the other, being the relationship critic that I am, whom I wholly honestly love and feel blessed my friend found such a partner.  They busted out in Gangham Style in their first dance!!!  How awesome is that?? and... for getting to invent “limo surfing” that night at the afterparty!!  Tip: don’t do it with a strapless dress on, oopsy! ;). 

Congratulations Jill and Andy! 
Just after limo surfing and accidentally traumatizing her lil bro... love you Jilly-hoo! 

for getting to experience Central Park in the fall. One run and I fell in love with it. NYC I see your power. Fall is like kryptonite to me. Give me green/red/yellow/orange and smells of chestnuts and cinnamon and pumpkin and I’m won over :) 

for friends like Danny, who know exactly how my brain works, and surprises (and treats) me (despite my whining about distance and price) to a ridiculous 'NYC World Famous Foam Party'! Yes, like bubbles foam craziness party. Ha, that happened :) 

I love this guy! College flashback ;) 
for coming back to Miami, only to be greeted by some of my absolutely favorite people in the world, and it turning into one of the best reunion/trivia/karaoke/dance/I-feel-so-loved events I’ve ever had!  Kudos to my pals who stayed out till 3am only to have to go to work the next day. That’s love :) 

Bienvenidos a Miami! 

My first night back, Sharkey and I, working the karaoke ;)  I LOVE him!! 

for getting back on the dragon boat, and loving being on the water, but more for the incredible welcome back, of feeling so missed by the veterans, and famous by the newbies!!   

for starting to plan, then realizing I didn’t want to have, a party, ditching the idea instead to go to a Journey concert, learn about geocaching, and gorge on fatty food with the Trotters for the weekend.

Whoa... did we just eat ALL of that? haha

for finally seeing Ryan (if you don’t know who he is, watch this video) after a year of suppressed anticipation, and feeling the butterflies and giddiness and brain-less-ness that comes w/ young love. for spending 4 days barefoot in the woods and the water and meeting his friends and following him like a puppy thru Orlando,Tampa and Gainesville ;). 

Ichetucknee Springs, Gainesville!
We tried to hitchhike back from Gainesville...can't believe no one picked us up! 

for having a friend like Kevin, who welcomed me into his home as family (for 5 weeks!), who is one of the most intrinsically intelligent, intuitive, and lovely people I know.  A fabulous host, a dear friend, a down-for-anything-real-gem-of-a-human. Thank you :)

Typical Kevin and I :) 

for getting to be a statue model at a GLBC Halloween event called Hellrotika w/ Ryan, as Apollo and Aphrodite. I never thought I’d say it after some of the nights I had in college, but that was the craziest night of my life! Put me in a costume and I can become anything, do anything. Whoa. Details withheld :).  

One of our statue poses... whoa baby. The party was called Hellrotika ;) 
for going on the absolutely most amazing camping/canoeing trip I’ve ever had. Set aside that it’s the most beautiful of South Florida’s scenery, the rope swings, the random canoe fun-stops, the group bath, the cow run, the midnight gator canoe.... it was the entire group of fun, easy going, down for anything, friendly, eco and nature conscious beautiful people that had my heart singing the whole time ;) Christopher Scott Boykin, everyone in the world should have the pleasure to meet you. No would argue gay marriage after spending some time with your amazingness :)

Seriously love this place

Seriously love these people :)

For spending a ridiculously awesome day w/ Tom (of The Weber Studio, my old office), on our one year anniversary of my last day of work, and remembering/appreciated/ loving this person who has inspired me to no end. There is NO one as generous, and I am forever indebted that our work has allowed me to be where I am today!!! One day when I am loaded, I am hooking you up wuss ;).

Tom and I! We wore those wigs all day :) HAAA!  Impossible not to love this guy!
for catching up with old friends over lunch, over coffee, over dinner, over a drink, over a puzzle, over a walk on the beach. For downtown concerts, for girls night, for halloween ridiculousness, for a home cooked dinner invite complete with 4 dogs in sweaters :). For a surprise, she’s 8 mo. pregnant coffee date, for an I’m-so-honored invitation to help Ms Kim wiggle into, then dazzle and shine in/at her wedding dress fitting :) For a painting class, where I got to satisfy my creativity craving, despite being the only person of 12 people to not follow the rules and paint the painting the teacher taught ;). 

It makes me happy to know this happy family!!! 
A feather duster and LMFAO! 
Can you find the odd one out? hahah
I need more of this... painting and the woods :) 
For a date night with Edith, my soul twin, whom I love more than seems possible. Around who I can do/say/be/change/act in any way, and we’ll support each other, and probably clap and jump and cheer and bear hug about it too ;) 

She even brought me a rose :)  So cute! 

For a ridiculously crazy simple trip to the beach turned party turned all day and night yeeeehaww with my future commune neighbors, further establishing I love this idea of Barefoot Village :)

Future communers!!! YES!
For starting Ryan’s birthday with an immensely powerful peaceful morning yoga session (we all need some of this), followed by a big ol’ celebration of an amazing life. For seeing how his family came together with nothing but love and being so pleased to witness such a bond.

Friends and family of ALL ages lining up for the Birthday Spanking Machine.  
Everyone should experience this at least once :) 

Ryan's bday... just before the epic Hammock Crash of 2012 ;) 
for day parties and then slumber parties at the Trotter house, where they, Kate and Sam, set out pajamas, cooked delicious meals, gave me a shoulder and a big head ;), and secured their spot in my soul as the most amazing couple I’ve ever met. I have a goal to be next door neighbors with these two, and I aspire to have a love like they have after 11 years together ;) 

Slumber parties w/ the Trotters. We are all wearing their pj's :)  LOVE!
for my last dragon boat race, with a group of people, Team Puff, that almost suppress the idea that I can’t live in Miami ;). The camaraderie, the encouragement, the teamwork, the fun of the celebrations...  I would not be dragon boating if it weren’t for my awesome teammates.

Team Puff. Join them, they rock. Beginner practices every weekend! 
Typical day w/ the Puffers :) 
for recognizing that I’m missing a balance I know I need. Seeing that my severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out) contrasted with my need for solo/create time is a partial reason why I’m dipping from Miami. Realizing that is a cop out, and that I more so need to learn how to say no from time to time :) 

for Ryan, with whom I again fell almost instantly in love, with his inspiration, his motivation, his zest for life and ability to encourage and praise others unabashedly. for our shared love of the mountains and doing all things differently and with positive energy. all of these which I can (and did) drawn on in his presence, but more importantly in his absence, as we will part ways again for the second time. 

Worthy to make any woman a cougar, even without the awesome Tarzan hair ;) 

for my own ability to recognize truth and honesty, listen to my intuition, and believe to my core that everything happens as it should.  As I prepare for my next adventure (still completely unknown at the moment ;0) I can continue to love and reap all the goodness from all these people who I will leave, again, despite distance and sadness... it's so bittersweet!  It is such a good testament to who the most important people are in your life. Who lifts you, encourages you, makes you smile with just a thought of them? Who are you thankful to have the privilege to know? I love to love, I love to be grateful, and I’ll tell you some good advice: I think my life is fabulous because of these two things, even when things don’t turn out as you wanted. 

for the million other moments and people and feelings and talks that happened in the 56 days since I’ve been back in the good ol’ US of A, filling me up to the brim with so much love and fun and happiness and gratitude, that all that can happen is that it will spill over and be passed on back and around and all over!!

for coming to the only place I can really call home, to my mom’s. Currently in Alabama, but really I think, wherever she is where I call ‘home’. Where every single ounce of air is saturated with love.... and for being home so I have a few weeks to detox after the craziness that was 41 days in Miami ;). 

for seeing my sister, who IS the cutest girl in the world (cute as a Jule button!), and especially getting to meet her boyfriend, Josh, whom I love instantly because I see that he loves her so very much, and she is sooo soo very happy :). and because I love the honesty she has with me... ‘Go Away Beej’ she says when I’m pestering her :) Haa!

A pig, a frog, a koala and an angry bird go geocaching on Thanksgiving!!
What's not to be grateful for? ;) 

for my family all over the world, new and old, blood or not, who fill my life w/ joy. Happy Thanksgiving :).

for my inexplicably extraordinary life.  I realize I am blessed beyond blessed and will never take that for granted. I am so grateful for this past year of the most incredible adventures and experiences.  We all have different paths. Mine is eccentric, to some awesome, others crazy, to lots unappealing... to me it’s perfect.  If tomorrow everything halts, if I lose the ability (physically, emotionally, financially) to keep it up,  there is still the air we breath, and the power inside to decide on happiness. It is a choice, an attitude. Be grateful for whatever it is you have! I am a living testament, that being thankful and happy brings more happiness and things to be thankful for :).  My soul is brimming over... can you feel it? On this day of Thanks, my favorite holiday of them all, I pray each of you can take time to make a list of all the things you are thankful for.  I start with you :) ... (and then the leftovers I'm about to go devour)!!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rent my house...extend my travels!!

Hey everybody!

I've been back in the states for 33 days already-- wow, it's been a whirlwind of amazingness... which i DO plan to write about eventually :).  In the meanwhile, I've definitly decided I'm not ready to settle down yet, which means if I want to continue being a nomad, I need to rerent my house!

That's how this whole last year of travel was possible... the income off my rental. I had the BEST renters ever, a fellow architect and his family, and it was a dream to not have to worry about rent payments or issues. What a blessing. What an absolutely amazing blessing.  Can I be so blessed again??  Hope so!  Best chance of that is finding someone I know again...  

How about you?? :)

Here's the link for the listing, for serious inquiries or just for those who've been asking to see pictures for 2.5 years :)
Let me know if you or someone you know is interested, or if you have questions!

THANK YOU!!! xoxoxo

...and Happy Halloween!!! I'm going as a feather duster!! HA :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

God Bless you GodBlessy :)

It seems as if, in most cases, I have a remarkably easy time getting straight into the hearts of youngsters. I would assume this has something to do with the fact that I’m a big kid myself :).  The problem is, they seem to have an even easier path into mine. During this past year, I had the amazing bond with the kids in the Kolkata slum, the extremely loving and endearing connection w/ the neighbor kids in Nepal, a handful of delightful days w/ other children along the way, but this last experience, 24 hrs a day for 17 days living at an orphanage with 28 kids, this was a trip. A chaotic, entertaining, tender, bittersweet, magical trip. 

A great way "in". Photobooth. Works every time :) 
Parents, aunties, babysitters, anyone that has spend a good bit of time with a child, will relate to knowing how easy your heart can melt with all the sweet little moments that happen. (Also the crazy moments!).  One little cutie named Godbless (yes that’s his real name) was attached to me a good bit of every day. He takes my hand and says, “Becky, lez go” over and over. We do magic tricks, we karate chop, we make friction heat w/ our hands like Mr. Miyagi. I sing him “Godbless the USA” and ask him to sneeze so I can say, “God Bless you Godblessy” :). He loves butterfly kisses and to have me read the captions to him when watching the awful Korean soap opera.  My first day he was sharpening a pencil w/ a 7” knife. Holy geezuz. He’s extremely clever, super strong, and quite thoughtful for a 7 yr. old. Then there is Nasra. I thought she was a boy the first two days (she wore neutral clothes and has a shaven head- most girls/women do)..oops!!  Soon to discover she was the CUTEST little thing ever. At 7, she was so small, the 2 year old was the just inches shorter (granted the toddler is HUGE!). She loved to touch my face and we had this funny inside joke going where she’d ask for my camera about 10 times a day. I’d tell her to just hold it but not to take pictures (the batteries had to get recharged everyday. Within minutes she would be taking them, and then give me the, ‘I’m so cute I know I can get away with it grin’.  Ahhh I will miss her :). 

Godbless. The kids call him "King Kong" because of his cute lil' nose :) 

Nasra, "Becky, give me your camera please."  Okkaayy fine
The hardest thing I found w/ so many orphans is it’s a nonstop attention, approval and affection seeking environment. It’s heartbreaking actually.  There are always shy ones who you have to work to give more attention, and the rowdy ones intercepting you and snatching up your time, especially the young ones. And at +/-28 kids (it varied) It just wasn’t possible to connect w/ all of them. I see why parents say they could use more time, hands, eyes and energy :).  Even one is def a full time job (I still want twins;).

The logistics of how we lived was also difficult to stomach. There are six kids from age 16-20, the rest are all from 7-13 yrs old (and one 2 yr old), yet they are totally self sufficient. It’s quite a well tuned machine actually.  I’m a fam of giving kids responsibilities, but I battled feelings of WTF (where is there childhood?) and the fact that, well, an education, shelter, 3 meals a day and each other to love is much better than the street. There is generally 1 or 2 adults there, but often not a one. More than once the 7 yr olds were all left to care after the toddler. They seem happy, albeit pining for acceptance. When I ask them if they like it there they each say yes. Every morning they clean not only the house but the surrounding yard. The sweep the dirt, pick up the leaves, mop the floors. Organize all the shoes. The boys climb the trees and cut branches each day for the goats. With around 30 people (a few come and go), every day is a cooking and dish washing festival. Beans and Ugali (super traditional, a thick cornmeal dish), we have that for both lunch and dinner.  Also made each evening, is mandazi, a bread dough, that is fried in a vat of oil and saved for morning breakfast along w/ tea (no milk/no sugar). Everything is made over the open fire outside. The dishes are done throughout the whole of the afternoon and evening, in buckets outside. 30+ people x 2.5 meals (we don’t use a plate in the morning) equals a lot of dishes. A few times we had rice but that’s more expensive so it is considered a treat. Once a week there were cooked veggies and a dish called macande, beans and maize. Yum, that was my fav :).  It’s not the most balanced of diets, but it does the job for sure.  

Vumi making dinner

Vumi and Mwajuma serving up lunch, beans and ugali ;) 

Then there’s the clothes. It’s hand washed of course, everyone does their own. I love doing mine because I always have little helpers. You’d think if you ‘let’ a 7 yr old help you, you might need to redo their part. Heck no, they do it more thoroughly than I was doing for sure!  

Almost all of them sleep two to a bunk, and there are even 3 little boys that all share one twin. Even the 16/18/20 year olds. No one complains. No one has to be told what to do. Everyone helps one another. I’m actually quite impressed, considering the attitude of most kids I know that age. 

If you’ve every thrown away a shirt, and old bag, a pair of shoes because they had a tear, a stain, or you thought it was out of fashion and no one would want it, please, please, please, think again.   Every single one of them has something from the USA (and not just here, all over, everywhere you go, adults and kids alike). No one cares what their shirt says, nothing matches, and nothing is wasted.  I spent a good 3-4 hours one day stitching up holes just in their school uniforms. Had it been their casual clothes too, I’d still be stitching. I felt tears welling at a little shop that was selling dirty, torn, old stuffed animals. Seriously... please, donate everything. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. 

And the shoes. Let's talk about the shoes for a moment. First off, having a shoe on or not really makes no difference. Or if the shoes are matching for that matter. We don’t wear the shoes inside, so with 50 some shoes outside the door, finding a matching pair isn’t always a priority :)  Neither is have a gender approved color. I love this. Since when does a dude in women’s purple crocs mean he’s not a dude?  The thing about the shoes that kills me most... three of them wear cleats to school. Cleats as in soccer cleats, with spikes.  They are black (required at school) and they fit, so, cleats it is. My last day I started writing down some of their birthday dates. Somewhere a rumor started that I was going to send them each birthday presents and a few of them said they would want new shoes. Ohhh, so sad. I’m terrible at presents (please no one expect a souvenir from me, sorry!), so having 28 new ones to remember was just beyond realistic. My last day I printed pictures of each of them, wrote personal notes to each on the back, and attached each to 10,000 Shillings. That’s less than $7 dollars each, but enough for each of them to buy their own shoes if that’s what they chose. They were ecstatic. Pamela (one founder) told me they’d never had so much money. THAT was the best $170 I ever spent.

Shania, Tamia and Jamila.  Tamia's wearing cleats and Jamila's are falling apart :( 

Then there’s bath time. A dark room with no lock, an old shower head during water hours, a bucket when it’s not. It’s freezing= I shower only when I need to ;). The younger boys just bathe outside, everyday around 6, and I’m astounded that they don’t have to get pushed or prodded... especially when it’s dumping a bucket of coooold water on themselves!   We’ve got a couple streakers!! Gasper and Odemar are perfectly (and appropriately) comfortable with running around in the nude... and especially Gasper loves to come dance around me while I giggle and cover my eyes to him ;) haha. 

Everyday the water goes off for 5-6 hours (buckets are filled every morning for use during those hours), but a few nights the electricity did too. One such night I had all the 7 to 11 year olds w/ me and we went to tell ‘ghost stories’ with the flashlight held to our faces. This was hilarious. I made up some terrible one... then we started taking turns. Odemar’s was my favorite: 2 cows and a goat go walking in the night and they eat. hhahahah. Sooooo stinking cute!!! Then a grand idea came to me: to arm wrestle. Fast forward over an hour, every single person has come, competed, and now it’s down to the grand finale: Godfrey, the 18 yr old boy, and Collins, the founder of the place. They are lit up by flashlight and everyone is around cheering.  They tied. It was awesome.

Our days are filled with fun. There’s the reading and writing and math and ever-present english practice. But there’s also dance competitions (with judging scorecards in degrees of hotness- omg bumping and grinding here starts young), hide and seek, soccer (I lasted about 20 mins, they play for 150- ouch!) We play cards (well, I hold the cards and they play for me). We race, make zombie impressions, jump on beds, make funny faces, play dead, get hysterical over Mac photobooth. We went to church (gospel soul is the way to go for sure) and I attended a 7th grade class party. I take them to play on the swings or to get lollipops and sodas. I spot them doing back flips (scary, but I’m not one to slow a daring soul;). Some nights we’re out by the ‘kitchen’ fire, which so reminds me of camping,  sitting around and joking and being silly. Some nights we watch these horrrrrrible television shoes (on the tv that short circuits at least once each viewing), and all 30 of us (kids and the few adults) are squished into the one little bedroom where the TV is. All over the bunk beds, sprawled on the chairs, and the floor covered. Everybody leaning on everybody, most often on me :). If I take a nap I have partners. If I need anything I have a fetcher. If I go anywhere I have an escort (or 10). Everyday I have a new drawing or tattoo somewhere on my body. Peresi gave me cornrows (which became more like fuzzrows after a few days;) and I think they suited me quite nicely :). One night a bunch of us were playing something like “steal me/save me” across the bunk beds. Two of the 7 year olds started yelling “save me mommy”... omg it was heart wrenching. Every baby should have a mommy :(. I’ve always been an affectionate/ touchy person, but nowhere has it ever been so well received and subsequently sought after. Pretty much I was holding hands with, had an arm around, carrying, holding or being laid on by at least one, usually more, of them.  I’d say the most common phrase I heard was, “Becky, and me”, meaning, if I did something for one kid, I needed to be prepared to do it/show it/give it to all. Piggy back rides, swings, eskimo kisses. Even the most silly things. Like drinking my filtered water. Everyone had to have filtered water then. And trying on my goggles (“watch me Becky” as they take turns dunking their heads in a water bucket;). My nail polish. My lipstick. One night everyone wanted some on, as it started a kiss mark frenzy. Odemar cries to me that Ally stole the lipstick before he got some. I had to remind Ally to share. Odemar is a boy. It was hard to keep a straight face :)

Movie night. ET was on! 

Fists make funny face art :) 

Leg art. Who needs paper when my leg is available? ;)


Love these kids :)  

My nap partners after I woke and snuck out ;) Mwidini and Haruna

Godbless' super smart hide and seek spot. The laundry bin!

Math time. I love this pic because the question was 14-5... and Godbless is using his toes to figure it out ;) 

The five 7 year olds: Shania, Nasra, Odemar, Godbless and Gasper :) 

Gymnastics practice

Photobooth awesomeness! 

Kissy face. How many different pecks will fit? :) 
There was never a moment my watch, phone and camera weren’t being used. I (they) filled TWO 16gb memory sticks while I was there with mostly photos of rooms, books, and self portraits so close up they are just nostrils ;). From the older kids there were hundreds of different poses in my sunglasses or with peace signs or sexy faces.  And a zillions videos: singing, dancing, rapping, jumping, dirt. haha. Can’t wait to go thru all of those. 

I have 11 million of these shots ;) 

Every once in a while they'd get something I actually like! This one sums up my stay there :) 
They kept me in good shape there. My first day I wanted to go running, so the 16 yr old boy, Ezeboy, went along, and each day the # got bigger, with requests to go often. Only Ezeboy has tennis shoes, the rest run in sandals.  We do laps around these trails in an open field that is their “airport” near the house. I usually run 3 miles, and a surprising # keep up! How many 7 year olds do you know that can run 3 miles in sandals on their first try ever?  My favorite running day was the last one, just me and 6 of the really young ones. After a few laps, some 6 more gawking neighbor kids join in. It’s adorable actually. “Beckyyyy, help me!!” Screw good running form, it’s more fun holding hands on both sides, and seeing ear to ear grins when I shout ‘Good job!” :).  When we get back it’s exercises time. We do dips, squats, lunges, jumps, all sorts of goodies. They love fancy feet and planks are a big hit. Have you ever seen little kid pushups? Hilarious :) 

Tatu (one 12 year old girl) and I love to sing together. Our favorite is Rihanna, ‘You gotta make me feel, like I’m the only girl in the world’. It started a fever over the weeks, where everyone was in on it. One night we actually made a music video of everyone in the whole place singing it...priceless. Stay tuned for that if I ever figure out how to load my movies :). 

Tatu!!! Our singing career started right here, doing the dishes :) 

Most wonderfully is they all love to learn. Not once did I ask someone if they wanted to study and get anything but a yes.  A number of them (who go to private school) have pretty great english, but most are lacking, and a few very behind. I’ve got a major soft spot for one little girl named Mwajuma. She’s 12 and incredibly shy. She can read decently, but has no idea what ANY of the words mean. So I showed her. We walked around and pointed or I acted out. I love when she says, “oohhhh yesss!”. She really started opening up and it was sooooo cute. She wanted to read allll the time. She wanted me to give her homework. She wanted to hug and hold my hand and sit next to me at the meals. I would help her w/ all her chores, and ask all sorts of simple questions, like “what is that?”  ‘my foot’ and “what are you doing?”  ‘I am washing my cup’ she replies with such excitement!!! Soon after she was asking me what words were and running to Tatu (one of the better english speakers) for translation when we are stuck. Pamela told me she’d never connected w/ a volunteer before because she’s shy and couldn’t communicate. Towards the end I was hardly without her and the other kids were calling her my daughter. I wasn’t sure if that was appropriate but seeing the smile she gave every time it happened, I just went w/ it. One day we were reading before bed and I could see she was hoping to stay. I made a motion we could slumber and the next day everyone was chatting about it. I think she was proud :). A bunch of the kids made me cards when I left. She made me 5 :).

Making Mandazi w/ Mwajuma! 

Another young man named Rogart has my full attention. He’s 13, super sweet, and realllllly good at math. Math was my favorite subject way back, and I was the one pestering him to do more w/ me so I could relearn :). I’m proud to report I can find the square root of 1764 without just blindly guessing and checking! He has major potential to do something w/ his future. He’s a bit fragile, and although I don’t understand what is being said, at times I think they pick on him even though he is quite tall.  We was at school really late one day, and upon his return I told him I‘d missed him, squeezed his face and gave him a forehead kiss. He looked in my eyes and said the most sincere thank you :). Ohhhh it was just too....sweet/sad/happy/honest. 

I was there 11 days, then did my Mt. Kili climb, had a wonderfully warm welcome back, then had 6 more days to soak up as much as I could, and dole out as much knowledge and friendship as I could. On my last day I went to town for about 4 hours to sort, download and print pictures for all of them. When I got back, it was a mad hugging and “Becky, Becky” frenzy. We ate cake (which was a nice looking cake, but when I asked the store clerk to write on it, the lady pulls out a marker and in wretched handwriting, misspells and writes over the edge. Hhaha, I decided to ask for the pen and just wrote all over it to make amends ;) I passed out the cards and their ‘birthday gifts’. Then I started giving out all the things I didn’t need to take home. Lots of things. It became a rollicking mosh pit. “Becky, can I have this?” Yes. “Thanks, what is it?” hhaha. I love kiddies :) 

In the end, I think it was quite advantageous that this was my first live-in orphanage/last experience before heading home. In fact, I don’t think it’s wise for me to go to any others for such time periods... until I make a fortune that is.  You can’t get to know underprivileged children, see the innocence and untouched spirit in their eyes and not feel the need to do something. Fast forward 6-7 years and I wouldn’t be coming home alone. There’s a craving for attention, approval, love. It’s exhausting w/ so many of them, all competing for your time, but it’s incredibly fulfilling to know you have the ability to change the course of someone’s entire life.  I took Mwajuma and Rogarti off to the side just before I left and told them I’m going to sponsor them to go to the private school from now one.  Their reactions were just priceless, I can find the $ somewhere. Expect a fundraiser;).  That’s a huge advantage these kids have... they all know education is their key.  Thank goodness many others already have sponsored or I’d be in way over my head. I made them promise they would send me letters so I can see how their english is coming. They did. They made me pinky swear I’ll come back again. I did :). 

Rogart and Mwajuma! Amazing kids 

The whole SWIWSCO Family
Faheem:2, Nasra:7, Odemar:7, Gasper;7, Shania:7, Godbless:7, Rabia: 8, Haruna:8, Jamila:9, Nurdin:9, Ally:10, Mwidini:10, Severa:10, Hassan:10, Elizabeth:11, Tamia:11, Abdul: 11, Eliasi: 12, Tatu:12, Mwajuma:12, Rogart:13, Vumi:13, Peres:16, Ezeboy:16, Nakundaeli:16, Godfrey:18, Zulfa:18, Sigfred:20, Pamela:34, Collins:32, Becky:30

I went to a christian service at an Assemblies of God church on Sunday, my last morning at the orphanage. The entire thing was in Swahili and I didn’t understand one word (except once the pastor yelled, “he is coming for you” haha).

It was perfect. I sat there feeling the immense energy and love coursing through the room, it was thick like molasses in the air. All the while I didn’t have to worry about agreeing or not agreeing with the pastor.  Whew.. It was a wonderful 3+ hours actually.  Gospel & soul & a grand feeling...and completely incomprehensible chatter. A perfect combo for some heart to heart w/ my God :). 

I was thinking of it as an analogy to going back to the states. Why was I wasting energy feeling nervous?  Fearful of my reaction to the excesses? Are there not problems everywhere?  Dwelling on them only exacerbates them.  Insteadddddddd... my goal is to be like the church congregation!! I want to let my happiness consume me. Radiate off me, so much so that people don’t know what’s going on, but they can feel something so palpable around them they have to stop and look around. I’m dumping all my fears and skepticism and concentrating on what I know to be true.  Life is wonderful. Love is all around. Happiness is a choice. Everything is what you make of it... and I feel like making brownies and cosmopolitans :).  I’m totally and utterly excited to come back to the states!!!  One of my besties, Jill-do-ram-ulus, is gettting married. Marrieddddd!  To a truly great guy no less. Woohooo!!!! What a great transition back, to be part of their love shin-dig :)  I am soooo requesting the electric slide at the reception :)

I can’t wait to have a hot shower. Better yet, I can’t wait to take a bubble bath!!! I can’t wait to stay up all night and drink wine and get all nostalgic w/ Jill!!! I can’t wait to talk about men and walk around in skimpy pj’s and go to a bathroom with toilet paper and a towel to dry my hands on in it!!!  And a sheet on a bed!  I can’t wait to make her seating chart cards and show her the sssswwweeeeeettt outfits I got for her bach party! I can’t wait to have a pumpkin coffee and a pumpkin muffin and a pumpkin anything!!!!!  YYAYAAAAA budddyyyy, I’m in the US of A!!!! 

I've got plenty to go around.. call me if you need one :) 

ps... if you would like to help me with the cost of the sponsorship, here's a link to my charity page with the logistical info.... and that would be AWESOME!! xoxoxo