Friday, September 30, 2011

Vacation (All I ever wanted)

What would you do if you had three months of vacation? I will tell you what I would do:

  • Visit the village of Gbeko, Benin for one month, for the first time since completing my Peace Corps service in 2002
  • Hang out for two weeks in Kaolack, Senegal with my favorite student from the adult education classes I taught in Brooklyn (she left New York and moved back to Senegal a few years ago)
  • Spend the weekend in Thilogne, Senegal with the families of many of my friends in New York
  • Travel home to Minneapolis, Minnesota and spend three weeks with my family. Most days were spent with my mom touring the cities many lakes and parks on matching Schwinn Cruisers
  • Attend the wedding in Chicago, IL of one of my best friends and favorite people on the planet, Anne Sweeney. I also got to see old friends and spend some quality time with my newest friend, Eva Simone Newman, a very fun and silly 19-month-old charmer!
  • Take a trip out West to visit Seattle, Olympia, and Portland to catch up with many old friends. I love the Pacific NW- the clean air, green everywhere, gorgeous views of mountain peaks, amazing bookstores and genuinely kind, generous people
  • Organize a “girls weekend” in Deep Creek, Maryland. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to spend four days with four of my best friends who came to MD from NY, WI, MA, and VA! We cooked delicious meals, went hiking and visited some local tourist attractions
  • Celebrate Brooklyn! Two weeks in Brooklyn could never be enough but it allowed me to see many of my best friends and enjoy the music, culture, museums, and restaurants of the greatest city on earth…

I hope that I have another two month vacation next year. I already have many plans and many more people to visit. Until then, I will be singing along with the Go Go's! Take it from here, girls!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


One of the highlights for me this summer is to return to Olympia and see my friends from the Masters in Teaching program at the Evergreen State College. One of my former colleagues is a Makah Indian and grew up on a reservation near Neah Bay. He still has a lot of family there and visits often. This summer he invited another colleague to visit the Res for a few days to hang out and go surfing. They had a total blast!

The two excitedly told stories from their trip. They told me about their evenings in front of the campfire and stories about bigfoot sightings. Surprised, I asked if they both believed in sasquatch. They excitedly told me that they did. Alex proceeded to tell me many first-hand encounters with bigfoot by his brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts, and cousins. For them, there is no doubt about the existence of the "tall ones." 

They carefully explained to me that the forest cover is too tall for authorities to search for them and the sasquatches are too smart to fall for any traps. Bigfoot families avoid the smell of humans and prevent getting seen, except on chance occasions. 

They told me about one time when family on the Res took a walk on the beach near their houses and they saw piles of seagulls with their hearts and innards ripped out. Bodies were everywhere. They were shocked to see such carnage, especially since seagulls are difficult to catch. They kept walking and saw another seagull massacre further up the beach. Then their eyes drew them to the edge of the beach, to the forest, and they saw enormous branches taken down with bodies of seagulls impaled upon them. They saw gigantic trees uprooted and destroyed. They began to feel very scared... 

Then they heard loud screams. It was not the sound of bears, which they were very familiar with. It was a high-pitched scream. They ran as fast as they could but they couldn't return to their house with the same path they arrived on. They had to leap across a five-foot gap between rocks. They were terrified. 

As they told their stories I had goosebumps on my arms. Both of my former classmates completely believed in the credibility of the story. It is interesting to hear about real-life American legends, after spending time in Africa and meeting people everyday who believe in genies, spirits, and mermaids. Maybe I need to open my mind more and start believing in their existence too. 

Well I went to school in Olympia...

I am currently in Olympia, WA. I went to grad school here at the Evergreen State College to become a teacher. Last night I had dinner with my two professors, who have had such an important impact on my life. For two full years, Terry Ford and Sherry Walton worked around the clock to help me to develop the skills I need to be the kind of teacher I came here to become. I use these skills every day and feel grateful to have had mentors who are incredibly gifted, wise, and talented. 

The previous night I met up with some of my former classmates from my program. It was great to hear all about their teaching paths and career choices. Most of my colleagues are starting their tenth school years this year. They have gotten married, had kids, and bought homes.

In contrast, I have really become a nomad since graduation, making homes for myself in Benin, Chicago, New York, Ethiopia and Mauritania. I still don't know where I will be living next year. All I do know is that I will return to Mauritania in two weeks and try to finish what I have been working on over the past two years. 

The good thing about living overseas is that I can always come home and catch up on all the news. I always imagined that all my friends from grad school hang out and have large dinners but for the most part it seems like they only see each randomly other around town at the farmer's market and coffee shops. I would like to try to visit more often and make more of an effort to stay in touch. This is my first visit since graduation in 2002. 

It has been incredible to return to Olympia and see many of my friends again. I never could have survived graduate school without such an incredible group of friends and I never would be the teacher I am today without the leadership of my amazing professors. Although I do love it here, there is no way that I could have ever stayed....