Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Where to put the flowers?

The subtitle for this post is, grief is weird.

Today was not the best day for several reasons. Unrest in Lesotho has me worried for the safety of people I know there. There's a giant hurricane aiming at a lot of desperately poor people on Caribbean islands, and let's be honest- I'm worried about everyone in it's path regardless of socioeconomic status, because that thing is a monster. [Side note: This is probably why it's a good thing I work full time in international development and not in full time disaster relief; my empathy would curl me into a ball and I wouldn't be very useful.] There's political storms in my own country that I wish I had the energy and spoons to do more about, although I'll always feel like I'm not doing enough, even as I do some.

But the real reason today has sucked is that it's been 14 years since I got to talk to my dad, and for some reason that's been on my mind a lot lately.

If there's one thing I've learned about grief, it's that everyone does it differently. There's no right or wrong way to grieve, which is weirdly comforting, I guess. For several years after my dad died, I wasn't a fan of fall, because it was hard. Fall was when he died, and his birthday, and major holidays just aren't the same with an empty seat at the table. Eventually though, I got to liking fall again- it was dad's favorite season, and I enjoy doing a lot of things that he enjoyed in the fall. For a while that stung, but it began to sting less. And I was all like, hey, I guess time has healed things like songs like to say. When you feel like you are back in elementary school because your favorite season keeps changing, grief is weird.

Sometimes songs are actually honest though. and say that time doesn't heal everything. It does usually make things easier. Grief does usually become more of a sting than a knife in your heart, and that's helpful for living everyday life. You can learn things that trigger you, and work on processing them (like, maaaybe not listening to country radio in the office right away, because holy sad songs batman).

But there's always the random things that blindside you. I remember being very anxious on the first anniversary of dad's death, and being relatively surprised that I made it through intact. Not without tears and remembering, but intact. Then I went to a Japanese steakhouse later that month and almost ran out of the restaurant as we were sitting down. I had completely forgotten it was where we spent my dad's last birthday, and the memory coming back and the music just set me off with no warning. Grief is weird when guys throwing flaming meat around makes you overwhelmingly sad. [Sidenote: This doesn't make me sad anymore. It was that particular steakhouse that particular time. I still like Japanese food a lot.]

Grief is weird when almost 14 years later, you go through boxes that have been in your storage unit for who knows how long, and start to make a keepsake box for things that belonged to your dad. Then you pause and stare at the box and get really angry that other people have dads and you have a box. And then you stop sorting boxes for the day and try to regroup. Grief is weird.


I feel like when you lose someone, you grieve the lost of the person, and also the role they filled in your life. You can grieve the loss of a certain friend, and also the fact that you don't have a friend that knows you really well that you can call at 2am.

This is the first time in a while I'm really grieving just... not having a dad. And I'm not exactly sure why. Nothing earth shattering is happening in my life currently that requires paternal input. And for the record, when lots of stuff like that did happen in the last 14 years, my uncles and other adults stepped beautifully into my life and helped me a lot. This is not me feeling fatherless because of a lack of family and friends as an amazing support system.

No, this is just me missing my actual, real dad. Wanting to be a family of 3 again instead of a family of 2. Wanting to discuss things- anything, everything, with a wise, kind, and funny dad. Wanting to plan a camping trip and learn how to make a Thanksgiving dinner over the fire. Wanting a good dad hug, that I've lacked for more than a decade.

And sometimes, I'm okay with the grief, even though it sucks a lot, because it reminds me of what an amazing dad I had, and that he's not replaceable. And sometimes I'm not okay with the grief and would really like to ask God a few pointed questions.

Currently I'm somewhere in the middle of that, debating whether to move the flowers off my dining room table, because they are from church 2 days ago, in dad's memory, and they are kind of making me sad. They are really pretty flowers though, including a lily, which was a sign to my mom shortly after dad's death that he was okay. And my whole apartment smells like flowers at this point anyway. When you're debating where to put the flowers, grief is weird.

And that's all I've got. God is good, I'm okay (I promise), and grief is weird.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lesotho, Part 2

Yesterday I had the day off, so I visited Thaba Bosiu (Tah-bah Boh-see-ou), which means mountain of the night. The first King of Lesotho, Moshoeshoe I, settled his people on the mountain because it only had a few paths up and was easy to defend. People tried to attack them at night and failed, which led to the myth that the mountain got bigger at night and smaller in the day.

It was a nice climb, about 700 feet in elevation, but whoa. Starting the climb already a mile above sea level made me huff and puff a lot. So while I rested I took photos :)

 When I made it to the top, my guide took a photo of me :)

To enter the burial grounds and ruins of the chief's village, you put a stone on the cairn signifying you come in peace.

 This is where Chief Moshoeshoe I gave speeches to his people. My guide demonstrated.

 From Thaba Bosiu you can see this mountain, which is the inspiration for the Basotho hat

 I got to stand in the first stone house built in Lesotho, Chief Moshoeshoe I's house.

King Moshoeshoe I's grave. His warriors were buried with him.
This is the grave of the father of the current king.

The path up and down the mountain was a bit steep!

At the bottom of the mountain is a cultural village, set up by the Lesotho government for tourism. Part of the village is a recreation of King Moshoeshoe I's village on Thaba Bosiu, and the other part shows the different building styles and totems of the different clans of the Basotho people 200 years ago.

 A statue of the first king.

 Recreating Thaba Bosiu

Inside a compounds there are several shelters. 

 Most clans used thatched roofs, but this one has homes made completely out of stone.

This clan has chosen the wild cat as it's totem. Other totems include lions, buffalo, clouds, pumpkin, and the house cat. 

Next post: Into the Mountains

Lesotho, Part 1

I arrived in Lesotho on Sunday afternoon, exhausted from 2 back to back night flights. I skyped our consultant whose trip overlaps with mine, since we were at the same hotel. ‘Made it, but going to take a nap’. Um, I went to sleep at 4pm and woke up the next morning. When I met him for breakfast the next morning and apologized, he just laughed at me and said he knew when I skyped him that it wasn’t going to be a nap. 

The lowlands (which still have plateaus)

 Lesotho is beautiful. The capital, Maseru, is in what they call the lowlands, and on Thursday we went farther south into the lowlands so I could see some of the laboratories that my work project supports. I won’t bore you with tons of laboratory pictures, but it’s really neat to see how things work, and meet really dedicated, committed lab workers. 

 One of the labs we visited.

We went all the way south to Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek. The trip there and back, with several stops at labs and one for lunch, took a full business day. [Sidenote: There is a really good pizza place in the middle of nowhere Lesotho!] So last week was mostly spent in the Maseru office except for Thursday, catching up on administrative stuff and working with the technical team on data stuff. I also checked out the mall next to my hotel and felt very at home- all of the chain stores are the same as Botswana. 

I found my favorite biscuits (cookies) :D

Once you are outside Maseru, it’s mostly rural. There are shops and scattered restaurants, but few banks or job opportunities (that I could see) outside of agriculture and small roadside businesses. There are several large Chinese garment factories in Maseru, but still not a huge business district that I saw. 

 A garment factory outside of Leribe. 85%+ of the employees are female.

Houses are traditionally round and made of stone. Now there are more square/rectangle cement structures, but all seem pretty substantial and able to weather the elements. Which is important, because it snows in the mountains and apparently hailed in Maseru last week (!). 

A village about 30 minutes from the capital.

The language, Sesotho (pronounced ‘Seh-sue-too’) is very similar to Setswana, the language I learned in Botswana. Similar enough that most of the greetings are the same and if I speak Setswana, people understand me. And then tell me how to say that phrase in Sesotho :)

Next post: I climbed a mountain and did some cool stuff on my free day.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Frankfurt, Germany

What do you do with a 10-hour layover? Book a ticket on a hop-on/hop-off bus and tour the city of course! Now, this only works if you are in a place during the daytime and you don't need a separate visa for said frolicking. Luckily for me, it worked out well this layover.

My flight from DC landed at about noon local time, so by 1:15 I found the correct train to the city center. 
So now that I've been on a German train, I understand even more how much metro sucks. These were really nice, modern trains. Of course, the map was in German and looked like this:

Image result for frankfurt train map 
So like, holy hell, I had no idea what train to get on. Luckily people here speak a fair amount of English and nice people pointed me to the correct train both times.

 This was the view leaving the central train station in the middle of Frankfurt. Such a beautiful city.

 Last week I bought a ticket to a hop-on/hop-off bus to tour the downtown part of the city. It was a gorgeous day, so I rode on the top.

 The Main River (that is the name of the river) flows right through Frankfurt and then converges later with the Rhine. There are lots of walkways and bike paths along the banks.

There was a lovely dog on one of my buses. I tried to ask the owner if I could pet him, and she looked at me wearily and said no. Then a few seconds later she said, Oh! The dog! And said yes with a smile. I have no idea what she thought I was asking at first, but I did get to pet the dog- mission accomplished.

 One of the stops on the bus route was a science museum, so I decided to check it out.

This place is like the Smithsonian of Germany. So so many displays of animals. This was just the bird room.  They had a room like this of mammals, tons of dinosaur skeletons and other fossils, a big room on plants, several rooms on geology and earth science, and neat displays on evolution. It was a bummer I couldn't read anything since 99.8% was in German, but I loved seeing the displays.

They had a cool and weird room of animals and parts of animals preserved in jars. 

 Which leads to this picture, and made me feel like I was in the Department of Mysteries in Harry Potter. Brains! Ahh!

I love how bike-friendly the whole city was. 

After touring and museum-ing I grabbed a Bockwurst in the train station. As I was about to order, I stepped up to the counter and accidentally cornered a large pigeon, which freaked out and flew about 2 inches from my face. So I jumped back and said Ahh! Everyone around me laughed and one guy apologized (for the pigeon?) as I was leaving. Highly amusing for them- I would have liked to be able to explain that I'm not actually afraid of pigeons, just things flying at my face. Oh well.

I made my way back to the airport by about 6:30pm local time. I had bought my ticket at the airport train station, but didn't see anywhere to scan it. I wondered if I was illegally riding the train. Then on the way back the conductor came around asking to see tickets- I guess I just missed him the first time. Don't worry, I had tickets for both rides!

Germany, what tiny bit I saw today, is really beautiful. The climate and flora of Frankfurt is very similar to the east coast of the US. Hopefully I can see more of Germany on another trip sometime.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

7 Quick Takes, pre-trip edition

I'm going to try and blog regularly again, starting with my work-trip to Lesotho and Malawi. Here's a life update before I (hopefully) flood the interwebs with pictures.

1. Job is still going really well, and I get to travel to visit my field teams in Lesotho and Malawi! I'm also getting to do more technical stuff using my public health background as well, so life is good.

2. Did I mention I fly out on Friday? My life is currently a giant to-do list of things that need to be done before I leave the country for 3 weeks.

3. The typhoid vaccine is no joke. It makes me feel cruddy every time I have to have it, which is unfortunately every 2-5 years. However, typhoid is also no joke, so I much rather 2 days of vaccine side effects that you know, actual typhoid.

4. I'm still finding it difficult to keep myself updated with world and especially US politics, and maintain my sanity.

5. I visited 11 embassies last weekend during the Passport DC embassy open house. Karen and Elizabeth and I combined managed to go to Nicaragua, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Iraq, South Africa, Tunisia, and Brazil. I am now the proud owner of a huge brightly colored straw hat from Nicaragua and very tired feet.

6. I've discovered a website where I can play Dominion online. Cue geeky comments.

7. I've been slowly decluttering my apartment. It helped that my apartment complex wanted to see the floor of my closets a few weeks ago- nothing like dragging everything you own into your living room to motivate you to get rid of some stuff.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

7 Quick Takes, aka a life update

1. My job is going really well. It's about a 45 minute commute, my co-workers are super nice, and the stuff I'm learning about international health projects is interesting. Win-win-win.

2. I'm not coughing anymore. Holy moly, did I catch a cold in the Grand Canyon. So I slept the weekend I returned, and was at about 75% energy for my first week of work, and slept a lot outside of work. But even when I felt fine again... I. was. still. coughing.
Oy. So almost a month later, I seem to have fully recovered. Coughing is the worst.

3. I went kayaking last week and I remembered how much I love being on the water. Bird pictures in the future, since I got some good ones of a green heron.

4. It finally feels like July. Don't get me wrong, I haven't been pining for 95 degrees and 100% humidity, but it was bound to come sometime. Thank goodness for AC.

5. I just finished an interesting historical fiction novel set in the early 60s in the rural midwest. It was sort of coming of age-ish, and then took a dark turn concerning race relations. "A Fireproof home for the bride." by Amy Scheibe. I recommend for those that like historical fiction. Trigger warning for sexual abuse and racial violence.

6. Speaking of racial violence. This week has been awful, between the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the 5 police officers in Dallas. The result seems to be a lot of incensed people on social media. I'm hoping to find ways to be more involved in working for justice than just facebook conversations. #blacklivesmatter

7. I got to hang out with one of my childhood friends on Tuesday, who I haven't seen since before I left for Peace Corps. She and her husband are really fun, neat people, and their 6-year old is adorable and sweet. Old friends are the best. When they marry cool people, it's like bonus points. And being able to hang out with their kids is another level of amazing friendship.

Monday, July 4, 2016

I'm back!

Wow, I didn't mean to not blog for almost 2 years. So, same blog, but new adventures.

In a nutshell...

I completed Peace Corps and went to Mozambique for a week!

Then I came home, saw lots of family, and enjoyed the holidays in the states.

Babs and I went to Williamsburg right before New Years.

Then I became interim youth director at my church, and got to hang out with lots of fun teens for most of 2015.

After I finished that job, I took a roadtrip down to Tennessee and Atlanta, to see friends and family.

I also went with friends to Frank Beamer's last football game at UVA.

We got a LOT of snow in January of this year. 

I also started being more of a bird nerd and photographing birds.

Karen and I and a few hundred thousand of our closest friends went to see the cherry blossoms on the national mall.

I went to the National Zoo a few times this spring, and PANDAS!

My church went on a mission trip to Charleston, SC and I got to help lay some floors.

I visited Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion (pictured) National Park with friends.

I also went white water rafting down the grand canyon again. 

And now I have a job! I'm a project coordinator for a public health project in Malawi with a cool public health/international development company in Maryland.

So, more adventures coming, and I'll back-blog on some of these and other things from the past 2 years as well.