Saturday, December 22, 2012

I'm a Slacker...


 

                Soooo, yea… I start pretty much every blog by saying that it’s been way too long since my last blog. This time it really, really has. I don’t even have a decent excuse; I’m no more busy than I was before, I just haven’t gotten around to writing and posting a new blog. That’s the key combo: writing AND posting. I’ve written a couple, or at least started to write them, but I never seem to get past the first few paragraphs and then I get distracted by something or someone and I never finish it. So, here’s hoping this one is better. If nothing else I’ll try and upload some pictures… at least that’s something… right?

         At this point there are so many things to write about that I don’t even really know where to start… let’s see… I got to go to the CDC labs in Kisumu (big city a little more than an hour south of me on Lake Victoria), meet the future ambassador to Kenya and tour their facilities. I was like a nerdy little geek in a store full of lab equipment. I’m pretty sure I drove the other Peace Corps Volunteers on the tour nuts, asking questions everywhere we went.
 
Me and the Other PCVs at the CDC labs in Kisumu

I went to the coast for Halloween, which was pretty awesome. Eleven bucks a night to stay at a backpackers place a 5 minute walk from a white sand beach that was pretty much empty except for the occasional Kenyan spear fisherman walking by with his daily catch, or a line of camels being led to the nearby beach bar - so basically the best of all worlds. Plus, I was surrounded by some of my very favorite volunteers, which doesn’t hurt.
 
Me and (most of) my fellow beach-going PCVs

We spent the days lounging around the pool at Backpackers and at Forty Thieves, this awesome beach bar – literally rated in the top bars in the world – eating greasy, yummy and long forgotten American style food. At night we went out and for Halloween me and the girls dressed up as “the zoo.”

"Zoo" - Andrea (Zebra) - Hannah (giraffe) - Me (leopard) - Breezie (lion)


All in all not a bad way to spend my Halloween – though, I would have loved to dress up as Katniss from The Hunger Games but the reference would have been lost here. Maybe next year. I don’t think I’ll ever be too old to dress up for Halloween.
 
 
 
Thanksgiving was both fun and constructive. I went a couple hours north to Bungoma to help out at my fellow PCV Joy with her jiggers outreach. A bunch of us came up and had other health type booths to keep people busy while the jiggers were treated. Then we made Thanksgiving dinner (I honestly can’t remember what we made…) and had a headlamp party at Breezie’s house (she has no electricity) where we danced on couches and sang incredibly off key while consuming copious ammounts of liquor. So pretty much a standard PCV gathering.
Breezie at our reproductive health booth. What do I do when I'm bored at site, pull out the colored pencils and make some STD info sheets. Yep, my life is awesome and so are my bubble-letter making skills.
Joy washing some feet before the chemical treatment
We also had crayons and paper for the
kids to draw - they LOVED it.
 
Waiting to be treated


We put petroleum jelly on the feet after the chemical treatment to keeps oxygen from getting to the jiggers and helps kill them.


More doodling..
 
Then this last week I went up to Joy’s again for some hiking and to celebrate her birthday. I had a fantastic time wandering around the foot hills of Mt. Elgon and, not surprising to anyone that has seen me out randomly exploring and bushwhacking, found myself muddy, soaking wet, covered in all kinds of prickly vegetation, exhausted, sore and utterly and completely happy – probably the happiest I’ve been in the last few months. Yet more proof that I do not belong strapped to a desk and am so not ready for babies. Some days I feel really old, but wandering around the woods, climbing cliffs and root systems 4 stories high, following a little barefoot Kenyan boy up and over boulders the size of houses, I felt like a little kid again.  And God is that one of the greatest feeling ever.
Being rained on by the waterfall

 
That little pink dot is me climbing back up from my exploration of the bottom of the falls. I'm soaked and so, so happy.
Post waterfall climb

Why yes, I carried this piece of plant life back up the waterfall attached to the back of my pants on purpose... just for you...



The cave behind the "small" waterfall
Me Breezie and Joy

Even though this is an epic-ly cool panoramic, it still can't really do justice to the view.
This might be a coffee plant... really I have no idea. I just thought it would make a cool picture and we all know how I love to be rght!
          All of this is making it sound like I’m not doing anything at site… really I swear I am. The jewelry business is still going well. Thank you to everyone for their holiday orders, it was a great opportunity for the girls to get a little extra income for the Christmas season, which is a pretty big deal here. It’s also shedding light on some of the issues I’m going to have handing the business over to them when I leave. As of right now I am sorry to report that I don’t think they’re going to be able to handle it. The reasons why are way too long to be explained in this blog, but I think it’s enough to say it’s a combination of culture, work ethic and lack of the necessary technological skills. I’m trying to figure out how to fix those things but it’s certainly amounting to a stressful struggle.
The resource center is also coming along nicely. I have more of the painting done and the map wall is totally finished. I have also secured some book donations (fingers crossed) and a National Geographic Magazine subscription from the wonderful folks at Nat Geo. Seriously, I cannot say enough about how great they have been over there. If I liked Nat Geo before, I now love it and will be a subscriber for as long as I have money and a permanent address. I painted a chalkboard on one wall and have already put it to use having a mini business lesson for the girls on how to figure out pricing for the jewelry. I’m hoping to have the rest of the second wall done by the time I go to pick my parents up from the airport on Jan 6th and that just leaves the nutrition wall to finish and the book shelves to paint and the stools to build and the tables to finish… so yea, okay, I still have a bit to go. The point is, I’m making progress… slow but steady and sure progress.

What else… well, med school applications aren’t going so great. I’ve gotten a lot of rejection emails and, let me tell ya, that is NOT a fun thing. I should feel lucky that I haven’t had to deal with that much rejection in my life; anything I’ve ever failed at has been though my own decision making, my choice and somehow that makes it easier. Being told “no” over and over again to something you know, without a doubt, you would be great at… well, that’s pretty hard. Not to mention the fact that I spent almost 3 grand between taking my MCATs and applying to 11 different schools… yea… the word “disappointing” doesn’t really cover it. Alas, the fat lady has yet to actually sing, I still have a few schools to hear from, but with my top (and also most probable) choice gone, she is definitely warming up her vocal cords and preparing to belt a very depressing note.

On top of that my ipod and Kindle and headlamp broke within 2 weeks of each other, so technology is also boycotting me it seems. Luckily (and knocking frantically on wood as I type this) my computer and phone are hanging in there. Oddly those are the two things I bought in Kenya. Nice job American technology… Kenya has you beat, a country that pretty much just got computer and phones in the last half decade. Though realistically, it was probably all made in China, so maybe China just ships the shitty stuff to America as a ‘thank you’ for us shipping thousands of tons of our trash (literally, trash) to them. That may or may not have been laced with a heavy, HEAVY ribbon of cynicism.

Moving on and to the end of this entry because, frankly, I’m sick of typing and I know that if I don’t post this right now it might be June before I get around to actually sitting down and writing again. Until next time, Happy Holidays to everyone, hope you have a great New Years and please, please drink an extra glass of champagne for me J Also, congratulations on surviving the Mayan predicted end of the world. Chuckle, chuckle – those silly Mayans.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Worth the Wait.... I Hope...

         Hi! I know, I know, this blog is loooong overdue. I had one all typed up a week ago and then my computer ate it and I got really busy and well, this is the first chance I've had to get a new one posted. But, as is usually the case with me, no news is good news. I'm really busy and really happy.

        First of all, the women's group/jewelry project is up and going and items are now available for sale online! Whooooo hoooo!! You can find the groups blog here. There are pictures and stuff there so I won't add too many here.

 You can find jewelry for sale at our Etsy page:  HERE!

Or, go to www.etsy.com and search for "mulembe" our seller/page name is Mulembe Craft Company.
     A big thanks also goes out to Karen who has sold almost $300 worth of jewelry at home for me. Awesome job Karen, me, the girls and their families all thank you! If anyone else is interested in selling for me, let me know. Otherwise, please forward the Etsy page to anyone you think might be interested. I'm hoping the snowball effect takes over and you guys are the first part of that!

    
      The upside of me not posting in awhile is I have a bunch of pictures to share...

 Here are some from Hannah's community health day in June. I forgot I had them but better late than never I guess!

Me and the girls of Hannah's family (L to R: Hannah, me, Mom, Helen)


"Teaching" good oral health. Even though I made the disclaimer that I was NOT a dentist, people still came up pointing to teeth that were rotting out of their head and asked me what to do... I of course told them to see a dentist, which is pretty unrealistic in the village. Nonetheless, there isn't much else I can do than teach them the correct way to brush and good oral hygiene habits.
My awesome dentists in the States (Woodbury Dental Care) sent a bunch of toothbrushes and toothpaste back to Kenya with me when I was home in May.

Planting a tree. There's this tradition of the VIPs planting a tree during an opening or a special celebration.. so, Hannah's family and I planted trees!


          The cats are doing well. Jordan is finally eating on his own (I don't have to bottle feed him any more!) but doesn't really want to venture into the great outdoors yet. I've tried getting hi to explore in the front yard but he just sits there and looks terrified and crawls onto my foot and looks up at me with this face that says "mooooom, take me back inside!"
        So, we're making baby steps toward his release into the front yard. I mostly worry that he's going to get stepped on by a cow, eaten by a goat or pecked by a chicken. Here's hoping he gets bigger...
Facing off. Jordan prefers to climb things so he can look down on Boo and at least feel a little bigger than she is. Plus, its tougher for Boo to tackle him when he's barricaded by stuff.
Trying so hard not to get attached to the little ginger
"Whaaaaat?"

      Let's see.... what else.... The garden is better than it was, but still no where near its former glory. I accidentally sprouted some indigenous legumes so I threw them in the garden and they grew. I've been told I can eat the leaves so we'll see. My pumpkins are coming along nicely, evidenced by the fact that there are no fewer than 10 stored under my table in my living room right now. I'm in no danger of vitamin A or C deficiency any time soon. I've also planted sweet potatoes, carrots, beans, onions, lettuce and cucumber, so if everything takes I'll have some good variety.


      the resource center has been slow going because I've been so busy trying to get the jewelry website up and going, plus training the new members of our group, Juliet and Gentrix. We got the girls and their families together last week to take some pictures for the website. Here are some that didn't make the company website:




Celestine's son Dallas (L) and her brother Ambrose (R)


video
    Hopefully this video works... It's Celestine's daughter Darleen doing her A B C's.  She's only four years old and isn't even in school yet, which minus the fact that she consistently skips over the middle fourth of the alphabet, is pretty impressive. Also keep in mind English is her third language...


Baby Linds - love this baby & not just because she has my name :-)


         Celestine and I have taken some "walk abouts" lately. We played soccer with a bunch of kids one day (they totally kicked my ass) and visited her sister at her boarding school another weekend. On our way to the school we passed the  the gold mine (literally, they mine gold) that her uncle Timothy works at (and where Juliet's husband died last year). Here's a few pictures from there:

               





I consider myself pretty adventurous but I don't think anything short of a gun to my head could make me climb down there...

      I finally finished my first round of medical school applications this last month. I wrote at least half a dozen drafts of my personal statement before I finally got the thumbs up from my Aunt and Uncle, who are both physicians and were giving me tips along the way (Thanks again Dy and Char!!!). I turned it in almost 2 weeks ago now and It's been really strange not having any looming projects or studying hanging over my head. This is the first time in over a year that I can watch a movie or read a book and not feel like I'm supposed to be working on something else. That may be why I started the series Prison Break 2 Sundays ago and finished it Tuesday night. 4 Seasons in 10 days. Awesome.
    I managed to narrow down my school choices to 11 different places. There's a smattering all over the country, Chicago, MN, Philly, Atlanta, Portland, NY, Virginia, Nebraska... so I could pretty much end up anywhere. However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping that I get into MN, not only because its a top ten school, but also because I want to be close to my family and friends when I get back.
    So I should have a few more weeks of reprieve from the application process before the schools all send me their secondary applications and I'll probably have to write a dozen more essays. Lucky for me I have the craft company to keep me busy until then!

      Ebola. Did you hear about the outbreak in Uganda? Probably not, only 16 people died, which isn't earth-shattering news in Africa. However, to me, this was pretty epic. Ebola happens to be my favorite tropical disease. I read "The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston when I was in Jr. High and fell in love with the prospect of a tiny little virus which could make you bleed from every orifice in your body and that had up to a 90% kill rate (Zaire strain I believe..). I never imagined that 15 odd years later I would be within a hundred miles of an outbreak. So cool. I saw a crazy space age WHO vehicle on the side of the road. I like to imagine it has some space age lab inside or a portable isolation unit with big bubble-headed suits... of course it could also be a really big copy machine... but that's not nearly as fun to think about.


      Finally, here are some more random pictures just because I actually went into town to use the internet at the cyber cafe and its about 10x faster than at my house...








Wednesday, July 4, 2012

No Pithy Title Immediately Comes To Mind

     So, not a whole lot is new since the last time I blogged, thus my lack of an exciting title. Between hacking down the forest of weeds that awaited me after my trip home and waiting for the next planting season, time spent in my garden has hit a bit of a lull. I look forward to re-planting some things and trying out other new crops in the next few months. Until then I’m waiting on my dozens (literally) of pumpkins to be ready to eat… at which point I might turn orange from an over load of beta-carotene. On a completely random side note, I had a friend in Jr. high who decided she was going to try and turn her skin orange by eating nothing but cheetoes. Needless to say, it didn’t work. 
 
Moving on…

       I'm still working arduously on my resource center. The World Map wall is almost done....
     
        I'm actually really happy with the way that it's turning out. I tried to paint my bedroom walls with a mural once when I was a teenager. I made it about a foot before I realized I would be 30 by the time I was done and my picture sucked anyway. Needless to say, this project has turned out a lot better.
       The next step is getting the carpenter to come and build me tables and chairs. Hopefully that will be done by the next time I blog and I can share some more exciting progress photos with you!

       My house mother (the Mama where I live) had her mother pass away while I was in America, so last week I went with her to her parent's house about an hour away from ours. I met her father, who barely spoke any English. My mama left us alone in the living room for about a half hour while she prepared tea, which meant he and I had to try and communicate completely in Swahili. Now, my Swahili isn't half bad but trying to fill a half hour with a guy who speaks NO English and who peppers his Swahili with the tribal language(which I know very, very little of) and is talking with a mouth only a half way filled with teeth... Well, let's just say it was a bit interesting. All in all I had a good day though. I met some of the kids, my mama's grand-babies and her niece and nephew.

Me with my mama's family



Mama's Father and Uncle in front of the house she grew up in, where her father still lives.

              Spring time in my African front yard has all the makings of a cute baby animal documentary. First there’s Violet, my baby jersey cow. Admittedly she was born a few months ago, but she’s still a baby by cow standards and a cute one at that. Pretty much all of the animals here are scared of humans, which makes sense considering they are usually getting smacked with sticks, chased by children or, if you’re a dog or cat, hit by rocks or cars. However, I have been petting Violet since she was a few days old, so she’s my pal and lets me approach and pet her whenever I want.
        There’s a new goat on the farm too, one I’ve come to call “ninja goat” after watching him do a side-flip-ninja-spin off a pile of concrete bricks that would have impressed Jackie Chan. He then scaled the bricks and looked down at his mom. I swear I could see the mom roll her eyes and ninja goat stick out his tongue. Ninja goat is proving to be a wily little fella, making petting him difficult. We’re working on it though and I see him and I being good friends soon.
         I spotted an un-named puppy and its mom wandering through the yard the other day. It was a depressing sight for a few reasons. One of them being that I’m pretty sure I saw the same family right before I left for the States and there were four puppies, not one, leading me to believe that three have already passed on to that great big dog park in the sky. If that weren’t bad enough, the remaining puppy is looking pretty thin as is her mom. I watched them look for scraps of food around the yard for a while and thought about feeding them but ultimately decided not to. They’re not our dogs and the last thing I want is to essentially steal them by enticing them to come around looking for food. Dogs here don’t have owners and homes so much as they have people who throw them scraps and places where they’re not beaten as badly.
           Finally in baby news, I adopted a pair of orphaned kittens. The house cat here (I named him Tiger before I figured out he was actually a she) had kittens at the end of June and refused to feed or take care of them, only reestablishing my opinion that I hate that cat. My house mama and baba told me that they would die if Tiger didn’t start feeding them. So, after listening to the poor things cry for almost 2 days and watching Tiger lounge around and completely ignore them, I decided to see if I could keep them alive. I named the female calico Lexi after one of my favorite characters on Grey’s Anatomy that they killed off in the season finale (sorry if you’re behind on episodes and I just ruined the ending for you). 

Lexi at 6 days
        Unfortunately, Lexi died a couple days after this picture was taken. It was particularly depressing because she had seemed like she was doing so well the day before. It should come as no surprise that I sat on the floor and cried for a solid ten minutes before digging a grave in the backyard and burying her, when I of course, broke into tears again. I keep telling myself that I need to stop adopting these sad little tragedies waiting to happen (recall Imara, my puppy that died) but c'mon, look at that face! How could I possibly resist at least trying to save her!?!


         The male, an orange tabby, I named Jordan, as in Air Jordan because he survived falling onto the concrete floor after making a suicide leap from my shoulder within the first five minutes of me deciding I was going to take care of them. Yes, I’m the mother that drops the newborn on the floor. Luckily two day old kittens are surprisingly bouncy; the little guy kinda squirmed on the floor for a minute in silence before going back to meowing in exactly the same fashion as his pre-fall squaks. I guess only time will tell if Air Jordan has sustained permanent brain damage.

Jordan at almost 2 weeks
     I am happy to report that, as of this morning when I left my house to come to town, Jordan is growing and doing well (I think). He finally opened his eyes yesterday and I gotta say, they're a little creepy. They change pigment as they get older but right now there squinty little black marbles... basically he's a lot cuter when he's sleeping, not squealing at me or staring into my soul with those creepy little eyeballs of his.
Lexi and Jordan at 6 days old
          I bought an infant bottle for them at the store and I'm still using it to feed Jordan 4 - 5 times a day. I heat up the bottle and have a water bottle I fill with warm water (and cover with an athletic sock) to keep him from getting cold. Since Lexi died I felt like Jordan would be lonely so I put Simba, a little stuffed lion in his basket with him. He curls up between the water bottle and Simba every night :-) 

       
Finally, I’m still making jewelry and I’ve started to teach my friend Celestine (baby Linds’ mom and Peter’s daughter) how to do some of the beading. I sent home a package of pieces to Mom earlier this month and I’m working hard to get a separate blog up and running for the jewelry so people can custom order things. I've included a few new pictures if things I've made and are in the package that is (knock on wood) in transit to Mom.


    Stay tuned for more information on the jewelry project and my women's group. I'm hoping to have the blog up and going by next month, but if anyone is super interested in buying before then, e-mail (LinsdayInKenya@gmail.com) or Facebook message me and we can probably arrange something.
          Until next time, siku njema! (good day)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Nothing Too Exciting

Well, nothing very exciting to report. I'm back at site after a LONG trip from The States. My last flight got detoured and I ended up spending 13.5 hours in a tiny airport in Mombasa, Kenya only to fly 38 minutes to Nairobi and then, since I arrived at almost midnight and had nowhere to go until morning, I spent the next 5 hours sleeping on the floor of the airport. I woke up at 5 in the morning to find a bunch of other white people camped out on the floor next to me.  Then from there I still had an 8 hour trip to get to Hannah's house. My next planned trip home is over a year from now and I'm already dreading it. Note to self (and other international travelers): don't be such a cheap ass when buying airline tickets... pay the extra hundred bucks to not have to take 5 different flights and spend over 2 straight days in either an airport or on an airplane.

I had a really nice trip home and got to see pretty much everyone I wanted to who actually lived in the state... unfortunately that meant I didn't get to see some of my very favorite people who reside in Miami, New York, North Carolina, Colorado and Wyoming... believe me, if I'd had the time and money I would have visited every one of them. That said, I was extremely happy to get to meet Trenton, my best friend Kelly's new baby. Okay, he's not really that new, he's 7 months, but since this is the first time I met him, he's new to me!  I also got to my friend Kayla's cute pregnant belly and look forward to meeting her son the next time I'm home... when he'll be almost a year old :-(

All in all it was wonderful to see everyone but I'm happy to be back here and ready to get going with all my projects. Thank you to everyone that made time to see me while I was home and check back next month for a more exciting (hopefully) blog entry!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

All Kinds of Things are Flying...

I know, I know; it’s been far too long. My apologies if this is the third or fourth time you’ve checked my blog recently and only now found it updated. If it makes you feel any better it’s 4:49am in my neck of the jungle and I’m just starting to write this month’s blog... which will actually be published next month by the time I'm through writing it ...  for the third time.
                The first draft was written almost 4 weeks ago and, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t have a whole lot to write about. Life was pretty “same-old, same-old” and so I’d started compiling a random and unabashedly self-deprecating account of some of my funnier moments in Kenya so far. I promise, at some point I will post those stories, likely having added a dozen more by that time.
                Having read over my second draft, I found it uninspired. Whatever day I was writing it I apparently wasn’t in the mood to be doing so. My prose is dry and factual, like a newspaper article about politics. Really, it was boring to read and the last thing I want to do after a long hiatus is bore you.
                So, having been up for almost 2 hours already with a wonderful (and unfortunately all too typical) case of insomnia, I am starting this blog for the third and hopefully final, time. Here’s to it being worth the wait…
Since Boo is more cat and less kitten (and let's face it, therefore less cute) here's a completely random picture ofan adorable Ugandan baby that was sitting on front of me on the matatu back to Kenya (don't worry, the story about Uganda is coming later in the blog!)
                Time is an interesting thing to think about. The older I get the more it seems that time slips by without my noticing and yet, in the very same instant, the clock seems to be ticking louder with each passing day. Never has this been so apparent as it is now, as I count down the days until I fly home to take my MCAT. I simultaneously wish for the days to magically pass faster, as though instead of waking up tomorrow (which would be a lot easier if I could actually sleep in the first place…) I could wake up to discover a week had elapsed, and at the same time desire for the days to stop their forward march towards May 24th; the day of my test.
                On one hand I am so excited to see everyone. I haven’t hugged my mother in almost a year, haven’t smiled to myself at how tiny she feels, like I am now the parent and she the child. I can’t wait to see how many new grey hairs my dad has and if Smidge the Chihuahua, his third (and favorite) daughter, has followed suit and replaced the black hairs around her mouth with white ones. I’m excited to see my sister’s new haircut, talk about her new job and have an all-night Glee marathon. I could go on and on talking about all the people I can’t wait to see, to hug and catch up with, to be reminded of all the reasons I love them so much in the first place.  Partly because that list would get boring and more so because I shudder at the thought of leaving anyone out, I will cease and desist on my laundry list of all the things I’m looking forward to doing on my upcoming visit home. To summarize; I’m like a 7-year-old counting down the days on the calendar in the kitchen to the box that has “Disney World” written in bright red sharpie.
                Then we have the other hand, the one that is shaking with nervousness. Yea, I’m nervous about the MCAT. People keep telling me not to be, that I’m smart and I’ll do fine. Of course everyone who says these things has never actually taken the MCAT… and the few people I know who have, have told me to study my ass off, as though that thought hadn’t already (and with growing frequency and intensity) occurred to me. I am studying and I am smart but the MCAT is a big deal. It is an especially big deal for someone like me who doesn’t have the squeaky clean, polished, prepped and 10 years in the making, application that so many medical school applicants have. I like to think that my sub-average (and let’s be honest, sub-par) GPA, lack of research experience and my dropping out of college makes my application more colorful… certainly it stands out against a slew of applications highlighting 3.9 GPAs, years spent hunched over a microscope, weekends volunteering at the local hospital, positions as secretaries, treasurers and presidents of various clubs, organizations and committees. But does it stand out in a good way… well, I guess that depends at how you look at what qualities might make for a good doctor.
                I could continue on a long, drawn-out diatribe about the entire process of becoming a doctor in the United States but the goal of this blog was to not bore you. So, I will simply say this; my MCAT score needs to be impressive. It needs to be high enough that an admissions board (hell, a computer algorithm if were talking about the early stages of consideration) takes the time to look past the numerous short comings on my application to see the little things that I think actually make me a stronger applicant than all the cookie-cutter-pre-meds out there. Like the fact that I am in Peace Corps or that I double majored in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature in college, two things that I think make me a bit more worldly and well-rounded than someone who spent all their time playing with petri dishes. And maybe I didn’t volunteer for years in a hospital. Instead I grew up working in the service industry where I learned how to deal with a kind of stress only my fellow waitresses, bartenders and baristas can truly appreciate.
                Anyway, getting back to the point; I am nervous about my MCAT. I need a solid score and my narcissistic pride concerning my intellect makes me want an absurdly high score. So, while I want the days to fly by in a blur that leaves me home, wrapped in the familiar sights, sounds and comforts of everything that “home” “family” and “friends” has come to mean to my lonely and love starved brain, I also want time to pause so I can cram an impossibly large amount of information into that brain.
                Nonetheless, as it tends to do, time marches right on along. And the thing is, as long as were on the subject of passing time, I’ve realized that the older I get the faster time seems to go, a paradigm that seems unfair to say the least. After all, I am only 25 years old, if time already feels as though its rushing by how will I feel ten years from now, twenty, thirty? I remember as a child thinking that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas break felt like an eternity and if I didn’t get something I’d wanted for my birthday the thought of having to wait a whole year to ask for it again felt like I might as well chalk it up to a lost cause. When I was 12 I thought 13, being a teenager, was a lofty milestone. Then it was 16 when I could drive a car, followed by 18 when I could legally see an R-rated movie, buy a pack of cigarettes or exert my political will by voting for whichever candidate seemed like the least asshole-ish of the bunch. Then of course I was just holding my breath for 21 when I could walk into a bar or a liquor store and spend my hard earned money to legally abuse the detoxifying abilities of my liver and make an ass out of myself at the same time. That was 4 years ago. Now, at 25 I feel a little bit let down when I look back on those milestones. Was I really so excited to be a teenager, to have my first legal sip of alcohol or to drive a car? It seems to me that with each milestone I passed life only got more confusing, offered me more chances to screw everything up for myself.
                My teen years were hell for my parents. I was not a nice person during that time, something I will forever feel as though I need to make up to my parents (though I do figure someday I’ll have kids and if there is any validity to the notion of karma I’m in for some epic fights with my future offspring). Being able to drive was awesome; I was finally free! Turns out what I was free to do was purchase a POS car whose only reliable feature was its ability to break down on a frequent and costly basis. Then came 18 and the fact that I was now legally an adult. What a ridiculous notion if there ever were one. Though I felt tough, mature and grown-up at 18 I now realize what a child I truly was. Hell, most days I still feel like a child, like I’m learning as I go, stumbling my way through the world half blind, teetering here and there, constantly in danger of losing my balance and finding myself flat on my ass.
                As I sit here in Africa, hunched over my laptop screen listening to the deafening sound of the rain on the tin roof of my house, I think about where the pre-teen version of myself imagined I would be at 25. I can tell you one thing; never in a million years would I have guessed I’d be in Kenya right now. Nope, at twelve I’m pretty sure I imagined that the 25-year-old version of me would be married to a 6’3” blonde haired, blue eyed man who was the perfect mix of smart, witty and athletic. We’d have had a summer wedding on the beach when I was 23 and he was 24 or 25 and shortly after we’d move into our first house, complete with manicured lawn and a wrap-around porch with a wooden swing near the front door where I could curl up with a blanket, a book and a cup of coffee. Of course I’d be a successful veterinarian by then (I didn’t move on to wanting to practice medicine on people until I was 14 or 15) and me and my perfect husband would be well on our way to moving out west and opening a horse ranch that catered to riding lessons and horse camps for the mentally disabled (if you’ve seen “Dear John” or read the book, I had the idea long before that book was ever a gleam in Nicholas Sparks’ eye). Somewhere in those plans was the idea of children too, I always saw myself becoming a mother at the age of 27 though, who knows, I still have a year and a half to make that prediction happen!
                Oddly enough, I know a guy now that pretty much fits that description (he’s 6’4” instead of 6’3”, go figure) but knowing him is about the only thing I can say for the predictions of my 12-year-old self. Instead, I’m painfully single, living in a tiny two room house that looks more like a concrete nuclear war bunker than a home. I make just over 200 bucks a month, most of my day-to-day conversation is with a bi-polar cat and I’m crossing my fingers and all ten toes hoping I get into medical school. Yet, I’m a lot happier in my current life than I think I would have been in my imaginary one. The great part is I still feel like I have most of those things to look forward to; the guy, the wedding on the beach, the kids and especially the porch with the wooden swing. J
                I’m not exactly sure where I was going with that train of thought. I picked the writing up again having finally fallen back asleep around 6am and now, I can’t quite remember where my insomniac brain was taking that little gem of a story. Sooooo, let me move on to fill you in on some of the things that have been going on here.
                I went to Uganda earlier this month with a bunch of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers. It was a trip I didn’t decide I wanted to go on until about 2 weeks before when I got the full list of people attending and the phrases “white-water rafting”, “bungee jumping” and “Nile River” made their way into the conversation. As you can probably surmise, I was sold. Plus, there was bound to be drama (because I knew I was incapable of being around the included group without some shenanigans going down) and alcohol which, when (as aforementioned) the majority of your conversation takes place with a cat, all adds up to sound like my idea of a pretty solid vacation plan.
                So, here are some stories and pictures from my Uganda adventure!
A baboon we saw on the side of the road on our drive in from
the Kenya/Uganda border






Me in front of the Adrift sign (the place we stayed at).
View of the Nile River from the patio of Adrift.

    We spent Friday night drinking and I got my fair share of drama, tears and alcohol induced foolishness... exactly the kind that made me miss Boo, my trusty feline side-kick who never makes me cry and doesn't judge me when I go on overly emotional tirades about how the guy I was kinda-sorta-dating is now dating someone else.  Saturday we rafted all day, me with a pretty terrible hangover the entire morning that felt a little bit like that whole karma bit kicking in from my antics the night before. Luckily I ended up in a raft with 6 other awesome girls and our guide, a New Zealander named Cam with exactly the tan and body you would expect of a guy who’d been guiding white water rafting trips all over the world for the last ten years. There’s nothing like listening to a cute guy with a sexy accent talk about all the stupid shit he’s seen tourists (and his co-workers) do over the years to mellow out the kind of hangover that can only come from drinking copious amounts of the cheapest booze one can get their hands on.






The group before we left for rafting.

My boat going over the first rapids... yea, its a waterfall.
I'm the one on the left in the front row.






Aaand one more rafting pic...
My boat (I'm front row, the person closer to the camera) again


By lunch time, which marked the halfway point in our rafting day, I was feeling a lot better and by the end of the day I was even ready to get back on the horse and had a celebratory beer with the rest of the group.

Celebratory beer after our day rafting on the Nile
Sunday we had the day to do whatever we wanted. Available activities included 4-wheeling, bungee jumping, massages, mani-pedis, lounging by the pool complete with a swim-up bar and an evening boat ride to the source of the Nile (Lake Victoria). Since I grew up on 4-wheelers I didn’t think it was worth the 50-something bucks an hour they wanted. After hemming and hawing over the 70 bucks it cost to bungee jump I finally gave in (I swear I could hear my bank card weeping as I pulled it out of my wallet) and signed up. It was something I always wanted to do but I can still hear my father telling me how it’s a let-down if you’ve been skydiving, which, given my father’s profession, you can bet your ass I have been. Anyway, I decided that I was probably never going to have the chance to bungee jump in Africa over the Nile River again and that I should ignore the dwindling digits in my checking account and, as Nike says “just do it”.
The view of the bungee platform from the patio of the Adrift bar.

The bungee jumping group... mostly...

There were 10 or so of the group of 20 that wanted to bungee and after taking care of the necessary steps (paying, signing away our lives and much to my chagrin, being publicly weighed) we all hiked up the tower and got in line to jump. The coveted (or dreaded, depending on your personality) “first” spot had been taken a long time ago so, since I’m not one to do something without some remarkable position and since no one else wanted to do it, I volunteered to go last. In retrospect its probably the best decision I made on that trip. We all stood and cheered (both from the walkway to the platform where the rest of the jumpers were lined up and the bar patio which overlooked the Nile) as Joy took the first leap off the bungee platform. With each successive leap the cheering grew quieter and quieter as people eventually got bored. Even watching people fling themselves off a 140-foot tower gets old the fifth or sixth time you’ve seen it.
Everyone was admittedly at least a little nervous, especially when they got their toes right up to the edge of the platform and it was time to actually put your money where your mouth was, so to speak. However, the majority of us got up there, heard the countdown from the bungee-instructor guy behind them and jumped… a few people did more of a bungee fall rather than a jump. One girl bent her knees as if to take a great big leap but then kind of waivered at the last moment and ended up sort of tipping over the edge still in a squat. The two guys that went, Henry and John, both showed impressive form. Henry’s swan dive was flawless and surprisingly graceful for a guy. John’s backward, James Bond inspired swan dive made me downright jealous. I’d told him to make it look good and he didn’t let me down.
Slowly but surely the line dwindled down to the last 3 of us: Sam, Robin and me. Sam had been expressing nerves for awhile and Robin and I kept telling her she’d be fine. The entire time Robin, one of those annoying women who always seems to be eating and yet still fits into size 2 jeans, couldn’t stop talking about how hungry she was, how as soon as she jumped she was going to go order a cheeseburger from the bar. And me, I kept talking about how un-nervous I was, which was the truth. By that point I was getting bored; we’d been standing there for about an hour waiting for everyone in front of us to jump. Plus, growing up around the extreme sports industry you get a knack for thinking about things in terms of statistical odds of injury or death. So, the entire time I’m telling people that the motorcycle rides we took to get to Adrift were significantly more dangerous than the bungee jump. In fact, for me, someone who feels like climbing (helmetless) onto the back of a motorcycle with a driver you’ve never met and whose skill level could be that of a 16-year-old with their first crotch-rocket is a little bit like playing Russian roulette, the motorcycle ride in was a hell of a lot more scary than the bungee jump. Even so, I’d gotten a little adrenaline rush from nerves when we’d first climbed up the bungee tower and looked over the railing to see the drop we’d be taking, but it had worn off approximately 3 minutes after watching Joy jump.
                So, with the three of us left Sam nervously sat in the bungee throne-chair and got strapped in, all the while throwing nervous glances our way. Robin and I are standing on the walkway talking about food and how this was a lot more exciting an hour ago. Sam bunny hops her way to the edge of the platform with a look of sheer terror on her face. The instructor does the count-down… Sam bends her knees… and proceeds to fall on her ass muttering “I can’t, I can’t, I’m sorry” as she falls. Robin and I, who were previously distracted by our conversation about boredom and food, are now trying to console Sam from afar and cheer her on at the same time. She gets up, tries and fails again. At this point I’m intrigued for a number of reasons. For one thing, watching someone do something they’re terrified of is a whole lot more entertaining than watching someone who’s fearless. The fearless people, they just go for it, no drama, no look of absolute terror, no shaking knees or sweating palms or falling flat on your ass instead of jumping. Fearless people are boring. Watching someone overcome fear, that’s much cooler. Another reason I’m interested; for the last 45 minutes I’ve been wondering what the bungee guys would do if someone didn’t want to jump. How many people get up there and don’t go? - a question I’d been wondering since boredom set in a half dozen jumpers ago.
                After a minute or two of soothing, cajoling and general words of support, Sam gets up and shuffles her way to the edge of the platform for the third time. At this point she near hyperventilating, visibly shaking; basically looking terrified in pretty much every way possible. However, she also has this look on her face, one of sheer determination a look that can only come from years of stubbornness. Having worn this very expression for years, I know it well and, at this point I am pretty sure Sam’s stubborn streak is going to win out over her fear. She edges her toes up to the ledge again. This time the instructor tells her to just close her eyes and they are going to “lean her forward”.
                “And then you’re going to let me go…?” Sam asks, her voice trembling. The instructor tells her yes, if its okay. She slowly nods and they start the countdown again. I’m thinking this “let go” is going to look a lot more like a shove to the back… but hey, the result is the same... right? So he counts down and as he’s doing it we can tell he’s kind of using the palm of his hand between her shoulder blades to push her further and further forward and Sam’s countering this by sticking her ass out, doing what I like to call “the duck butt” when people do it while preforming push-ups or planks. Then, just when she’s about to get to the point of no return and I’m expecting all kinds of arm flailing and ear-shattering screaming, Sam tells them to stop and they pull her back again.
                She keeps apologizing and the instructor is telling her its ok, to take a step by and she can just sit and catch her breath for a few minutes. They start to bunny-hop her away from the edge when all of a sudden that stubborn look is back on her face with a renewed ferocity. “No,” she says and begins to hop back to the edge, “I’m doing this.” She puts her toes over the edge, the instructor says, “three, two one… bungee” and she does, she jumps all on her own, no push, no hesitation this time. She screams bloody murder the whole way down and ends up with two black eyes from hitting the water face first (rather than having her hands out above her head) but is nonetheless, happy she did it.
                Robin goes next, still talking right up until the moment she leaps from the platform about how she can’t wait to get a burger at the bar when she’s done. And then it’s my turn.  I sit in the chair and make small chat as they start to strap up my legs. I comment on how simple the system is: literally a towel wrapped around your ankles with a nylon tow-strap wrapped around that and connected to a giant rubber band. I ask them how long they’ve been doing this for and tell them how my parents met skydiving, that I have jumps as a fetus and I think they should revoke the policy that says pregnant women can’t bungee since it seems like I turned out okay. All the while I’m telling them how I’m not nervous and not to tell me not to look down like they told everyone before me because looking down is the best part.
                It’s time. I stand up from the chair and hop my way over to the platform feeling ridiclious with my feet tied together. I creep up to the edge and put my hands on the bar over my head and look down past my pretty blue toenails to the Nile River, over 140 feet below...
Look at that dopey looking smile on my face!



                The instructor comes up behind me and tells me to bring my hands down from the bar. I do. He tells me to wave to my friends at the bar across the way. I do. He does not tell me to wave at my “mates” back on the bungee tower walkway like he told everyone before me… I’m the last one; I have no mates to look over at and wave to. He asks me how I’m feeling and I tell him I’m more nervous than I was about 8 seconds ago when I was running my mouth off about how un-scared I was. It’s true. I was all cavalier talking about statistics and previous in utero extreme sports experience as I was sitting a safe distance from a 140 foot fall… now that I’m staring it in the face my heart is doing little flips in my chest. It feels really awkward to stand there with my feet tied together; I want to plant them shoulder width apart to keep my balance, to feel less like I’m going to fall off the platform rather than jump. But, pride’s on the line. After all my chatter I can’t very well stand there and hem-and-haw about an awkward center of gravity and whether or not I’m going to jump. Plus, I gotta make the parents proud. I was literally born to do this kind of thing.

The instructor is counting down behind me now. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, think about trying to do a pretty swan dive and, as the instructor is saying “bungee”, I bend my knees and throw myself off the ledge...

Look Ma, I can fly!

Then I’m flying… or not, I’m falling… and because I didn’t give myself the time to freak out before I jumped, as I’m falling, faster and faster, I have a brief and sudden explosion of adrenaline and fear. I’m getting closer and closer to the water, which looks a lot like solid ground from this vantage point. Seventy feet to go, fifty, forty… I should feel like I’m slowing down but I don’t; the water is still coming at me faster than my adrenaline soaked brain can comprehend.  Thirty feet, twenty, I close my eyes. The fear has vanished just as fast as it came. I feel an overwhelming sense of calm of serenity, acceptance, complete peace… and then I hit the water. This causes me, against all rationality, to open my eyes.
Now this would pretty much suck no matter who you were, opening your eyes while being plunged head-first into a river is never really a good or comfortable thing… but I wear contact lenses. Of course I’m only underwater for a fraction of a second before the bungee contracts and yanks me skyward but by that point the only thing I can think about is that I’ve just lost both my contact lenses. I proceed to follow my beautiful swan-dive with a “flopping fish” routine as I bounce around with my hands over my face trying to figure out if, by some miracle, either one of my contacts has survived my Nile-River-eye-flush worthy of any chemistry lab emergency eye wash station.
So, I spent the rest of my bungee, not reveling in the scenery as I bounced over the Nile River but furiously blinking and rubbing my palms into my eye sockets. Finally, my vision cleared and I realized I had not one but both contacts! Halleluiah… now only if I could go back in time and not open my eyes underwater the rest of the bungee would have been so much more enjoyable. When I got back down my friend Hannah told me I got the prize for the quietest bungee and the least hesitant jump from the platform. Apparently, I hopped right up to the edge and almost immediately jumped off, not making a single sound the entire time.  I hope, if not making mom and dad proud of my slightly off-kilter free fall form, they can at least know that I didn’t scream like a girl on the way down.
Thus, concludes the bungee experience. I’m glad I did it and I’d probably do it again… maybe some time down the line when I’m all grown up and not quite so strapped for cash.
After the bungee jump I got a massage at the super fancy resort next-door. It was my first ever massage and it’s probably something I won’t do again. On the upside, it was like 7 bucks for 40 minutes, which is pretty hard to beat.  
Later that evening a few of the other girls and I went on a boat tour to the source of the Nile, which is Lake Victoria in case you weren’t paying attention during African geography. It was cheap (15 bucks) and was a good opportunity to do some less extreme sightseeing than rafting had offered. So, here are some pictures from our boat tour:
Me on the "Source of the Nile" boat ride.
 I bought those giant aviator sunglasses here for about 2 bucks. Score!
Some sort of African bird... sorry I wasn't paying enough attention to remember what it's called

Love birds :-)

At the source of the Nile sign. Jinja is the city were in.
Behold the source of the longest river in the world!!!

It looks like a Super-Sized Blue-Jay... pretty sure that's not the taxonomic name...
Lake Victoria
Sunset over the river.

That’s pretty much the highlights of my trip to Uganda. Even with the drama on Friday night I had a great time. Nonetheless, I was happy to get back to my site and Boo, who had been home alone for almost 4 days, was ecstatic to see me.
Since I got back home I’ve been doing a lot of the same stuff I was doing before I left (gardening, painting, beading, working at the clinic and studying) only in slightly different proportions. In the last few weeks my impending date with the MCAT has me studying at all hours of the day and night. When I walk into town I carry my notecards with me and quiz myself as I walk. I’ve yet to trip but I’m just waiting for it to happen.
My garden is slowly growing, both in the literal sense that the crops themselves are growing and also in popularity and square footage. Every time I’m out there working I get a couple dozen people coming up to me and asking me what different things are and what benefits those foods have. In some ways I love this; I feel like I’m sort of doing “passive diffusion-education” – I’m teaching without really having to do much teaching. The people who are interested stop and ask questions, the people that don’t care keep walking. What’s even better is I over hear the Kenyans who I’ve talked to about the different crops correcting the other Kenyans when they misidentify a plant or as questions amongst themselves. On the other hand, after I’ve had the same conversation 18 times in the last 3 hours (and sometimes for the past 3 days in a row), it’s all I can do not to scream at people or ignore them all together. It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t literally the same few conversations over and over and over. One of them goes something like this:
Kenyan: Your skuma is soooo smart! (translation: your kale plants look very good)
Me: It isn’t skuma, it’s called broccoli. Do you know it?
Kenyan: (looking shocked) It’s not skuma?
Me: No, it is a different vegetable called broccoli, it looks kind of like cauliflower (which they have usually seen before) but green.
Kenyan: Why can’t you prune it? (translation: it has a lot of really big leaves that look like kale, why aren’t you eating them?)
Me: The leaves are not the part of the plant that you eat (though I’ve read they are edible). If you pull too many of the leaves the plant won’t make the vegetable, which is the part you want.
Kenyan: Help me with one of them. (translation: give me one of the plants)
Me: They aren’t ready to eat yet and I only have 5. You can buy the seeds in town if you want to grow your own.

Then the Kenyan either moves on to the next typical conversation I’ve had a million times or walks away looking slightly dissatisfied and still eyeing the giant leaves on my broccoli plants. I’ve been told dozens of times that I should find a man to do the digging for me. People ask me for crops almost every day. And my most favorite thing of all; they stand there and stare at me. Sometimes it’s women, but usually its men and children that will stand ten feet from me and just stare. They don’t ask questions, they don’t try to make conversation, they just stand there, sometimes for an hour or more, and watch me dig/weed/plant/harvest/water. I think even if I lived in Kenya the rest of my life I would never, never get used to the staring.


However, being stared at isn't my biggest gardening woe. For that, I turn to the mice that have moved in and are systematically destroying my crops. At first it was just my cucumbers which were disappearing. I honestly thought it was a person taking them and let me tell ya, I was pissed. Three months I watered those stupid things almost every day and was so excited to finally be able to eat them only to have someone steal them! Then, a couple days later (after I had talked to the night guards and the clinic staff about the cucumber thief) I found this in the garden…
            Ah, rats! Literally – Ah. Rats. Turns out it isn’t humans stealing my cucumbers but rats. Which actually seemed like more of a problem than if it was a person; how the hell do you get rid of rats in the great outdoors? I hadn’t seen rat traps for sale anywhere but surely there must be some way to deal with the little bastards… After talking to Peter (the same Peter from my previous blogs who, by the way, is doing extremely well these days) he told me to go purchase some rat poison in town and he would help me set it out the next day. I drummed my fingers together like a cartoon villain and said “watakufa” (they will die) to Peter as I walked away.  He may have missed the irony in my sheer delight at the thought of killing animals.
I walked to town the next morning and found said rat poison for about 40 cents. I bought 2, just to be on the safe side; I wanted them DEAD, not just sickly. I read the directions before joining Peter in my garden and was delighted to read the following statement: “bodies often mummify therefore no odour” and also discovered that the poison worked as an anticoagulant… basically I would killing these animals in the same way as Ebola would, by making them bleed to death from the inside out. *Insert malevolent laughter here* I figured it served them right for eating my cucumbers. You mess with the garden, you get Ebola; seemed like a fair trade. And best of all, there was the possibility that I’d be finding mummified rat corpses around my crops in the near future – how would that not brighten your day?
                Fast forward two weeks… I still have no cucumbers because the little rat bastards have continued to eat them all. Where are they coming from you ask? Well, let me show you. Here is the housing that has been erected for them (thanks to a building that was knocked down months ago and people who keep telling me they are going to come remove the bricks but have yet to show up…):
 So, now feeling as though I’m at war with them, I decided to erect a fortress for the cucumbers. Twenty bucks of chicken wire, three days, one sunburn and two scratched up arms later I ended up with this…

You would think the saga ended there, wouldn’t you? Well, you’re wrong but don’t worry, I thought that would be the end of it too. Clearly we underestimated the capability of the mice to adapt their preferred diet. Their next target: my string beans. In under a week my beans went from a beautiful flowing viney forest, climbing up the trestle that I spent an entire day constructing to a row of vine stumps. The mice ate the beans, the flowers, the leaves and the vines. So, since my cucumber plants were shriveling up and dying despite their being fenced (I have no idea why, maybe the heavy rains are too much water for them?), I decided to re-plant my beans in the cucumber fortress.
 
That was on Monday. Thursday I went into the garden and found this that the rats had actually started to dig my carrots out of the ground and eat them. They are also eating the sugar snap peas now... not the pods mind you, just the peas. The tiny little ass-holes are actually shelling the damn peas!
So, the saga continues. At this point I’m exasperated. I’ve asked a dozen times for the people who want the bricks to come get them and they’ve yet to do it. Again Thursday they told me they were coming in the afternoon… but if I’m honest I fully expect to go into worknext week and see that giant pile of bricks in the same place I left them last week. I’ll probably buy more poison in town this week, but until their luxury resort gets moved, I think it’s just going to be a frustrating, uphill battle.

So, that’s the happenings with the garden. It’s getting there but I still have a lot left that I’d like to do. At some point I would love to make signs for each vegetable. That way when I’m not in the garden people can educate themselves. If the number of people that stop to talk when I am there is any indication, the signs would get read a lot. Believe it or not I also still have some land left to dig and some crops (melon) left to plant. I built a miniature compost pit in the corner and I’d like to keep expanding that as necessary. Ultimately, the garden is just one big extended experiment. I’m learning what works as I go and tackling problems as they come along (and eat everything in sight).

The community resource center is still mostly just a big empty room with one really colorful wall. Here's what the progress looks like so far:

 It’s taking an obnoxious amount of time, which is pretty typical of “Lindsay Projects” which usually end months after I think they will, if ever.  Considering that wall is going to be painted like that for probably the next decade, I figure it’s better to take my time, do a good job and make it look nice for the people that will be staring at it long after I leave. Besides, I don’t have any resources to put in the resource center yet (still trying to figure out funding) so doing a hurry-up job on the walls to open a room with nothing in it would be pretty silly. That said, my lovely mother is working on getting some kids books together for me to bring back from America with me in June, so I’ll at least have something in the foreseeable future.

Besides gardening, painting and studying I’m still working on new jewelry pieces. I’ll be bringing a bunch home and I’m hoping some of you wonderful and generous people will help me out and buy some. The proceeds will go to starting my women’s group (who I want to start training in July) and to buying books for the resource center.

Alright well, there is, as always, lots of other stuff I could tell you about and about a dozen more pictures I wanted to upload. However, my internet/computer/electricity have all been extremely aggravating lately (even as I type this I’m knocking fervently on my wooden coffee table) which puts the total time spent trying to get this blog written and posted at somewhere around 20 hours of work. Yea, seriously. Considering there’s probably about 10 people who actually take the time to read this thing on a regular basis, I probably could have hand-written all of you individual letters and been done a lot faster.

The good news; two weeks from now I’ll be home and I will (hopefully) be able to see all of your lovely smiling faces and share my stories and pictures with you in person. Looking forward to it more than any of you can possibly know!
PS: sorry if the formatting on this one got a little weird - I was just trying to get the damn thing posted before everything crapped out on me again!