Honesty Box - potty pride

31 July 2014

See, now we have a problem with these fully automated bathrooms.

I don't have to push anything to flush.
Don't have to pull anything for the water.
Don't have to press anything for the soap.
Don't have to tug anything for the towel.
And then I get to the door.


Upward and onward,

About nothing. And giraffes.

My mental energy is highly consumed right now.  I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.  Stop, don't make me sing.  It's just, okay, fine, I'll tell you.  Every morning, I wake up and I go to these big buildings.  I do some stuff, and spin in all the office chairs, and reply to emails with obscene answers that are irrelevant to everything they asked.  And then I get these monies put in my bank account, so I can buy more sandwiches for myself.  I'm not sure how the world works for other people, but that sums it up perfectly for me. 

Anyway, right now - actually the last 7 months if you want the intimate details - I've been busting my butt on these ginormous projects, and there's all these important people I have to talk to, so I have to like, put on clothes and stuff.  AND IT'S JUST SO HARD.  Except I really actually like it. 

Well. this afternoon I realized I was going mildly insane from all of it.  And I panicked and didn't know what to do, because the psych ward is tired of picking up the phone at 2 pm every day and hearing a blood curdling scream, until I start choking on my lack of air, and hang up.  So I came to this blog.  And I'm essentially going to do the exact same thing.

Also, I dreamed for a very long time last night about Pesto spread.  Wow, Dream Gods, do you have any more exciting dream reels??  GEEZ.

Anyway, plug your ears.....  This post is about nothing. 

Planning our Roomie Bachelorette Party tonight:

I watched the Giraffe Cam fervently, and when Mama and Baby came on screen, I nudged my buddy way too hard, and then interrupted the entire meeting by cheering and panning my laptop to make every person in the room look at them.


Also, working as a young single lady with a bunch of older men, I get set-up invitations constantly with sons, grandsons, nephews, and stray vagabonds.  But today at the copy machine, I received an invitation to straight up come to my co-worker's church where he is the bishop for a single's ward.  Complete with map directions AND an offer for dinner with his family afterwards.  That's a new one.  I have to marry ALLLLL the boys!!!

Off to a meeting with Boss Man.  I'm hanging up now.  Must go back to work mode.

Upward and onward,

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I dreamed a dream and time went by

30 July 2014

It was 5:30 pm, and I had big plans for the evening.  And, well, one minute I was sprawled out on my bed having this really spiritual, conclusive study about the difference between humility and doormatness, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up with drool all over my dead arm, and three hours of the universe had disappeared, and I was filled with extreme paranoia that people were in my room watching me, because my dreams told me so.  Luckily my room was empty.  As well as all my motivation for the evening.  So I drug myself out of bed to keep myself awake for the next couple hours, and here I am in the basement giving full attempt at finally finishing the movie Les Mis, which has been a 31 month endeavor and counting.  Because I do love anything that connects to the vulnerability and beauty of humanity, which is the first half of this movie.  But the second half... a jaw-bone male sees doughy-eyed girl, WHAT EVER IS GOING TO HAPPEN??  And oh, THE SINGING!  I get that is the essence of the movie, but it's not a tune, it's just songed words, and all I can think about is the time I played iPod idol on the way to Mexico last summer in a packed 17 passenger van, and this girl belted all the main Les Mis songs absolutely horribly, and it was so hilarious that even now I can't stop laughing when clearly I shouldn't be.  So someone please tell me, DOES THIS MOVIE EVER END??

Eh, I've made a good enough attempt for tonight.  We'll see if I can finish this movie in the next 3 years because I am determined to force it as the most meaningful thing in my entire life. 

Off to bed again.  I'll attempt a proper life update someday.   Don't torch my house for not joining this song-yawning crusade.

When the beating of your heart echos the beating of the drums... then join in the fight that will give you the right to be FRREEEEEE.

Upward and onward,

Also, I'm sure people grow up and hope to be the muse for many powerful things.  But I'm okay with my place as the inspiration for 90% of all horror films.

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Africa tales | an evening I'll remember forever

19 July 2014


Discussion Group 2 (see my prior post of the daily evening debriefings we had in Africa):

We ate dinner, and gathered for another discussion group.  Josh led this one, and he asked us to write our most haunting question on a piece of paper.  We all had to go around the room and share a huge trial we had gone through; it was humbling and bonding to hear everyone open up.  Then Josh told us to go around the room with each other, share our questions, and write down everyone's input.

Kelli and I, sitting with our arms around each others shoulders, first conversed on our most pressing questions.  After realizing ours were extremely similar, we decided to stay together as one.

First we talked with Lucas.  I shared my question on how to not let other people's opinions have so much influence in my life.  Lucas is a tall walk of wisdom.  He told me that "every person's judgments are their own rationalizations of thinking they know more about your life than you do.  But of course YOU know more.  So you just have to keep that awareness."  Boom.  Question answered.

Then he asked me about staying in Missouri to open the door for a relationship with a girl he loves or move to NYC to pursue his education.  We talked about that for awhile.

Then we continued on with talking to other people.  Makele and Ryn are chatting on the floor.  kelli and i slide over to them to join their group.  Then Audrey and Angelica slide into the group.  Some of the girls began sharing their vulnerabilities.  How to forgive people who have really urt you.  Angelica tears up and shares the infidelity of her father.  Makele shares the infidelity of her mother.  Kelli and i share the disloyalty of past boyfriends.  We all discuss how we've overcome pain.  Angelica shares that it helps to wake up and "set intentions" while looking at yourself in the mirror.  "I intend to connect with someone today."  "I intend to feel joy and happiness around me."  We all shed tears as we realize the power and comfort in sharing with each other.  Just six women crying on the floor together.  Totally awesome.

After discussion group is over, everyone simultaneously runs into the kitchen to hoard on sugar.  We're all hungry from days of hard work.  Or we're all emotionally compensating.  Either way, most of the group packs up all the items to go make smores in the bonfire.  They all leave and who is left standing in the kitchen?? Dan, Lucas, Heather, Kelli, and I.  We look around at each other and burst out into laughter!  "How is it ALWAYS us five that end up together?"  We laugh and laugh, each munching on our own snack choice.  Lucas is standing by the fridge eating peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon.

After awhile, Dan and Lucas to outside to shower.  Kelli and I are sitting on the far counter in front of the toaster, and Heather is cleaning up the kitchen.  "Heather," I say, "I'm curious about your life.  I imagine it can't be easy in our culture to be older and single.  Do you feel like you have a strong support group?  Do you find the fulfillment and joy that you need?"

Heather dives right into her life and tells me all about what it's like.  She tells me about her family, her pains, her questions, her hopes, her comfort in God, chocking up a little bit.  Then she turns to me.  "What about you?  After what you shared tonight, I'm guessing you were married once?"  "Yes," and because I'm in Africa, in a house far far away, where I feel so safe and loved, and with Kelli right by my side, I open up.  Not just the brief story.  But The Story.  The full story that I've only shared with a handful of people, sparing no detail.  Heather comes closer, and closer, as I talk.  Her eyes tear-stained, and her voice shaky everytime she asks a clarifying question.     Her shock and disgust and sadness is evident.

I had been talking for a long time.  Then Josh comes through the kitchen door, and we stop talking.  "Sorry ladies," he says, "I feel like I'm interrupting something."  "It's okay," we say.  I tell Heather that I'll finish another time, as more people are trailing in.  She tells me that she's just in shock - my story rings so closely to the fears and reactions and natural attempts of every woman.  And so much of my story aligns so closely to experiences she has with men, only mine is amplified, and yet here I stand!  She tells me that from the start, she knew I had a different type of energy than everyone else, and she could feel it. I'm full of peace, full of light.  And now knowing this, "it's astounding," she says.

I don't even know what to say.

Kelli nods.  And I feel so overwhelmed and humbled.

Heather goes to take a shower, then later tells me that she couldn't stop thinking about my story the entire time and had dreams about it that night.  It really affected her.

Kelli and I stay up late again, so I can process all the vulnerability and realign back to my present life.  It's so hard for me to go back into the past and come back out feeling like I have to make sense of things all over again.  Kelli helps bring me back into my current state of peace and happiness, reminding me over and over again that I am safe.

That night in the kitchen of Swasiland, pouring out my soul with Kelli and Heather, will go down in my memory forever.  It was really special to me to feel so safe, so known, and so loved.

I appreciate these two women forever and ever.

Upward and onward,

Africa tales | wishing for more self-assurance

18 July 2014

Every evening in Africa, we would have a big discussion group with all our fellow travelers.  Distant to everything connecting us to our past life, our fears, our reservations.  So needless to say, in that cabin on a nature reserve in Swasiland, Africa, there was a lot of opening up and supporting one another in our individual stories.  It was powerful and unforgettable.

Here is the night after one discussion group:

Anyway after many, many hugs, Kelli and I retreat back to our bedroom.  We stay up particularly late talking deeply about the state of our lives back home.  She shares all the anxiety she's been having, and she didn't realize how unhappy she was until she came to Africa.  We discuss her confusion over her current relationship and not knowing if she wants to take it with her into the future.

Then we can hear Lucas talking so distinctly as if he is in our room.  "LUCAS??"  Kelli shouts.  She jumps up and checks the closet.  "WHAT??"  he replies.  "WHERE ARE YOU??"  "I'M UPSTAIRS ON CHRIS'S BED."  "OOOOH, OK AS LONG AS YOU'RE NOT IN HERE.  K GOODNIGHT!"  We hush our voices and continue talking.  Later, we tell Lucas that we could hear him so clearly and thought he was in our bedroom.  He tells us that the moment after we stopped talking to him, Chris turned to him and said, "I can hear every word they say every night."  Kelli and I look at each other in fright, knowing our conversations aren't for the ears of a 15 year-old boy.  Then we all break out into laughter, Lucas having a good idea of what we talk about.

Anyway, after Kelli and I discuss the current stresses in her life, I tell her a bit about mine.  Mostly that I try so hard to not offend anyone, ever.  I feel submerged a lot of the time.

She tells me that I sit on a unique advantage point that I need to be aware of - that I hold a lot of power as a spokesperson - and when I'm comfortable in that awareness, I could really cause a lot of change with my boldness.  Basically telling me I don't have any need to "play it safe" like I feel that I do.  I look at her confused and intrigued.  She says that people react very differently to people blessed with several factors, shallow as they may be  - education, talent, wit, attractiveness.  People place their respect in those, whether they realize it or not, so I need to realize that I have a vantage point and then use it.

I'm stunned.  What incredible words and thoughts.  We stay up much later discussing and sharing and understanding.  But then sadly decide we must get some rest before work tomorrow.  

As my eyes close, I churn over what she said about me.  How do I want to navigate my safe zone with the power of spokesmanship that I hold?  How far out on the branch of what I believe am I willing to walk?

Too tired for such questions.  I'll think about them later.  And I drift off to sleep.

Upward and onward,

The tidy spell grabs tight

17 July 2014

Tuesday I woke up in a spell.  


So, you're not going to believe this, but I DIDN'T EVEN GO OUTSIDE TO PLAY THAT DAY!!!!!!!!  Which means for one fuuull day, I was not covered in a layer of sweat, which is the most absurd thing that no longer makes sense to me now that the spell is over.  But try to imagine me inside for one day.  All clean. and stuff.

So, I was caught in a cleaning craze that morning, and next thing I knew it was 11 pm at night, and everything in my life was in such order that the galaxy itself shifted orbit, and all the hoarders in America suddenly felt queasy and started puking everywhere, and then Obama called to say, "The White House doesn't even look white anymore!  And now our country smells like vomit.  WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??" and I replied, "that is your doing.  What have YOU done?"  and then hung up real fast, and now I'm on national high-alert being stalked by NSA, so I have to spend EVEN MORE time running around in the mountains with a leaves and dirt disguise.

So it all worked out to my benefit, AND MY ROOM IS CLEAN!!!

Here are the forgotten indoor views of my life.

My Provo Office:

My superstar co-worker Lizzie.  The death rate on our pod chairs is currently 57.

My Salt Lake Office. 

And my bedroom space:

My spectacular mountain view.  With snuggle buddies Hippo and Raffo.

The dresser that houses all my clothes so I can play outside ALWAYS!

 And the mad woman herself.  
Surrounded by collected tokens of friendship- 
Flower drawing from Nora.
Missionary brother Trevor.
Daily meditation quote: "Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord."
Picture of Christ from Victoria.
Picture of my hometown girls when we went to lagoon for the 4th of July when we were like, 11.
Philippines shell from Mace.
Giraffe statue from SWASILAND!!  The one souvenir I kept for myself.
The mad woman is a tad sentimental.  

Upward and onward,

Nothing that I wouldn't tri

12 July 2014

Aaaaand, one time this morning, I did a triathlon.

I just finished a text to my dad - my body is STILL shaking.  But tell Brennan (my kid brother) all about it anyway?  I'd like him to "tri" one somedayhar har.  MOSTLY I JUST NEED EVERYONE TO KNOW AND BE ALL PROUD OF ME AND STUFF.

But in all seriousness, I LOVED it!  Truly one of the best races I've ever done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My finger was too fatigued to lift off the exclamation button.

Anyway, I begin my tale.

There was talk of this triathlon before I left for Africa.  Because it's a young single's stake event that happens every year, and people love it, and probably hold hands through it all, and yada yada.  So I committed in my head.  Because, new experience right?  And also running.

So I leave the country, thinking nothing of it.  Come back to the country and casually register, secure a bike, and then drive out to pick it up after work.  Which getting a bike into a car seems like a small task.  But it's NOT.  Let me tell you.  Between folding the seats down, maneuvering this awkward two-wheeled thing into the trunk, and suddenly having to peeeee - because of course every time I'm doing something that requires full completion before anything else can happen, like fumbling to unlock the front door while balancing 1,400 grocery bags on my arm, my bladder suddenly decides,  must urinate NOOOOWW - but because I had been working on this bike for an embarrassing amount of time, my door of opportunity closed to go back to my friends house without airing my incompetency, so I consider dropping my pants in a neighbors yard, which wasn't all super weird to me at the time, because people's yards are full of trees and bushes, which is what animals have a biological instinct to secrete on, so it's like, natural, except houses with windows aren't, so I don't, and then FINALLY, the bike is secure! And of course as soon as the urgent task is closed, I no longer have any need to go, so I drive away covered in sweat and grease, questioning my ability to do much of anything in this world.  Let alone a triathlon that I haven't trained for.  I mean, I sat on a bike last summer. And I was in a pool once. So okay. 


So my friends and I arrive at the race start early this morning.  And of course, I discover my front tire is completely flat.  And also I can't get on the bike because the seat is too high.  I may have rolled a little too far with the no preparation thing.  BUT NO MATTER!  Because life always pans itself out, usually creating a wild adventure along the way.  I'm all about just going with the flow.

And also, picking good friends.

So Cici comes to the rescue with my bike pump.  And Ty takes care of the seat with his Alan Wrench.  (I used to think my dad named his tools, and I made fun of him all the time like, "you need Joe Hammer too?").  

And then I realize I have to peeeeee again.  But there are no bathrooms, and there is nothing I dislike more than racing with a full bladder.  So I run to the other side of the elementary school and get all intimate with a bush.  Oh, hi cars! And someone's front window - "HEY CHILDRENS, how's those morning cartoons?"  But I feel no guilt.  Except I will pretend to if they have security cameras.

I run back to the starting point, answering Cici's call about her bringing the wrong bike pump and heading back home for the other one.  Because race bikes are special.  And also they make no sense, as this is my first experience with one.  I tell her, "If you can't find my pump, that's okay.  Really really really appreciate you trying though!  Running now, loveyoubye!" 

And we take off.

I sprint to the front of the pack like an over-arrogant person would.  Because the running portion is only a 5k, and I'll figure out what to do with the 12 mile bike portion - with no bike - when I get to it.  Also, Mace told me to pretend it was a zombie apocalypse, so obviously I have to be faster than the person behind me AT ALL TIMES.

But then my body doesn't understand what's happening, not comprehending the word "triathlon."  But that's just how I do things.  I just DO them.  I don't really think about them.  Life really gets happenin for me that way.  Except my body doesn't feel the same and revolts in every possible way, trying to puke and convulse and die.  But, I was just that annoying person that blew passed everyone, so obviously I can't slow my pace.  I choke down all my pain as a lesson for my pride.

I come sprinting back into the bike lot, after slowing down to a more reasonable pace.  Well, that was nice.  Except I don't really think that because I have .00002 seconds to start the next course.  I quickly check the tire of my bike, expecting that I'll have to just going keep running.  Its completely full!!!  Oh Cici.  That woman.  Most reliable I knowI'm grinning ear-to-ear, feeling such relief.  Hop on and take off. 

Wobble baby, wobble baby.  Okay, steady now.   Next, what are these foot strap things?  Are my feet expected to start flying all over the place?  Because in my biking experience, I've never had crazy flailing legs, but okay.  How does it even make any sense to clip in your feet and then get on the bike?  But it makes even less sense to strap your feet in while riding?  So I flip the pedals upside and ride without them.  Next, pacing.  I know how running feels to gage myself, but all I know about biking is that I'm probably going to wound my crotch. I suppose I'll put a sock down my pants if I think I'm going to be infertile. And shifting.. can't even find the gears, pushing on screws and stuff. 

However, I quickly realize that my runners thighs feel absolutely nothing.  Those thick things are proving worthy!  So I kick it all the way up, pedaling faster and faster, cruising by people.  Even leaning low like a true cyclist.  And on the uphill, I don't even break pace.  My legs are turbo!  I'm passing all these people, full concentrating on the muscles in my legs - "Right. Left.  Right.  Le....  Rig...  Le...  ow....   ow....   owowow."   Reach the top.  A few big heaving breaths.  And I take off again.  After a small course, I come back down the hill, and I'm flying!!  Rushing wind.  I can't believe how fantastic and freeing this is!  All worth it just for this!

I reach the exchange, sad that the biking portion is over.  Quickly dismount and let my bike fall into the grass.  One step, and I nearly fall.  Legs are jello.  But the crowd of cheering people is thick, and everything is happening so fast, so I rush between all the people with my bow-legged waddle and into the building for the swim. 

The bleachers are full of people yelling, and the pool is even more full of body limbs crashing everywhere. But again no time to think or process.  A girl tells me to jump in lane 6 and weave down to lane 1.  I strip off some clothes in front of everyone, even that being extremely liberating.

I'm standing at the edge of the pool and panic for a second on how I'm supposed to enter.  Like a dainty jump and then kick off the wall?  Or a dive?  Yes, a beautiful swan dive! 

So I belly flop.

I flip on my back and start kicking.  Body limbs are flying everywhere.  And it's really, really loud.  I continue backstroking as fast as I can, reaching the edge of the lane and having to duck under the divider to the next.  Except I can't catch enough breath, so I come up choking and clinging to the wall.  I immediately kick off and swim even harder.  Bodies.  Splashing.  Noise.  Legs are burning.  Panting.  Exhausted.  I try Chicken-Eagle-Soldier to mix it up.  Which I realize is incredibly rude because then I'm fanning out the entire width of the lane, but THIS IS LIFE OR DEATH!  So I do one solid stroke and just as I'm eagling, a man's hand swipes fully down my crotch.  Wow.  LEGS CLOSED.  And I go back to kicking as hard as I can.  Bodies are everywhere, and I'm not even sure what's my own anymore.  The loud roaring noise is really making me panic.  This is exactly what it felt like to crash with the Titanic and 1,200 other turbulent humans.

Faster, faster, faster.  Just make it end!

I reach the end of the fifth lane, this time flopping over the divider because I can't handle another second without air by going under the water and under the divider.  I kick off and soar into the end.  I pull myself entirely out of the pool with my panicked adrenaline arms.  Legs are shaking and useless.

I nearly collapse when I stand.  My head goes light, and I lose vision for a few moments as I stumble forward.  Going to pass out.  I have faint memory of a girl putting a rubber band around my wrist.  But vision is so blurred, so maybe a small man?

I rush passed the bleachers, which is now just a blur of open mouths and faint echoes.  I rush down the ramp, veering side-to-side as if I'm drunk.  Not sure where I'm headed, but I follow the crowd as they all cheer me on.  A friend gives me a high-five on my way down, and I grab his hand a bit too hard for support.  Everything is so rushed and cloudy.

I reach a table where a woman cuts off my wristband.  Does this mean I'm done??  This table is the finish line?  I mean anti-climatic, but I don't care anymore.  AM I DONE???  Lady, I can't think, you need to tell me. 

"you're done."



Slowly at first, until suddenly I'm entirely flooded with happy endorphins!  The post-race high that I am addicted to.  I start jumping up and down, "FUN FUN FUN!!"  I keep screaming about how I want to do this again and again and AGAIN!!  Because I still don't have my hearing all the way back so I think I must yell.  And also, I still can't see clearly.

Since all my senses are malfunctioning, and I have no ability to hide my insanenss, I decide to go home before I embarrass myself more.  I take some pictures with friends, and then I gather my belongings from all the stations where I stripped different pieces, and pack up my car - this time loading the bike in 20 seconds.  But as I'm driving home, my entire body starts trembling.  My arms can barely keep control of the wheel.  I feel....


I realize my body is in shock.  Poor little thing really thought the Titanic was going down.  All fun and games until your body thinks its actually drowning.

I arrive home, still shaking, and decide to do what comforts my body best.  Drop by bags, head back outside, and

go for another run.

And there ends the time I "tri"ed.  I love keeping my todays as the last time I tried something for the first time. I love to live with my arms wide open to every bit of the world.  Except not my legs.  Those are staying closed.

Until my next triathlon, Jack.  I'll never let go.

Upward and onward,

I LOVED my legs after the race because they had all evidence of a triathlon.  Made me proud.  Race number on one.  Bike grease on another.

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Tasting home and adventure all at once

11 July 2014


Another break from the African tales.

Well, as it turns out, answering 300 work emails is not near as fulfilling as teaching 100 students in Africa the grand importance of education and hard work and then watching their eyes light up with inspiration.  (story coming soon)

But, who is or isn't to say that this week I didn't write in white text at the bottom of some emails - "your meaningless question is murdering all of my dreams because I haven't seen an exotic animal in five days because I'm stuck behind this computer helping YOU.  IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!"

Well, an unsatisfied brooding attitude lasted me until Tuesday.  Paired with several choked up vox messages to Kelli and Jo.  And then I decided to try and re-figure this whole "fulfillment" thing, because truth be told, I'm feeling so empty just going to work everyday.  Which I finally explained perfectly in a conversation with Mace.

It's like love.  Once you experience love, a hormone is released in your brain that causes you to forever and always long for that again.  All the while, your brain is aware of a degree of loneliness and unfufillment that wasn't there before.  Ended love leaves a hole.

Well, same with travel/humanitarian.  I come home and feel like I lost all the important pieces of myself, as these trips tap into the very core of my desires for discovery and compassion.  And now I feel like I'm back to clicking buttons on a screen that lead to nothing of matter and reconciling feelings of guilt for not doing more.  Ended purpose also leaves a hole.

The paradox of having higher experiences, right?  But, by choosing to find joy in other places, the holes are filled.

So this week I worked hard on recalibrating with things that make me happy.  Which look like -

feeling my smarts and drive ignited again with projects at work,
finding an empty dance studio to go hard in after work,
reading a book Josh bought me - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years,
reconnecting with many friends,
and dinner at Mace's last night where we talked out all of life for 7.5 hours.

And now, I'm feeling a lot better.  I appreciate the meaning of what was, but I'm also aware of the happiness in what is.  And I very much like ALL of it. 

However, if you add dinnertime + 7.5 hours, it equals an ungodly hour far into the morning.  Throw on a full day of meetings in Salt Lake today.  And a triathlon tomorrow morning - which I signed up for four days ago and have done exactly ZERO amount of training and don't have a clue what I'm doing - so, off to carb load at Olive Garden with my new African-travel friends, and then, as Mace so accurately portrays:

Upward and onward,

Jobs fill your pocket. Adventures fill your soul.
—  Jaime Lyn Beatty

Dancing away my travel nostalgia.  Walked away an hour later in the most satisfied sweat.

One day an artist, the next day a teacher

08 July 2014

Yesterday an artist, today a teacher.  Every day a new adventure.

Today, Wednesday, we drive to a new elementary school, where we are greeted by every child in the whole school standing in perfect formation, waiting for us. We file into a crooked line in front of them, blocking our eyes from the morning sun, and introduce ourselves.  Nothing like shouting your name at the top of your lungs to a sea of school children.

Then Heather asks them to sing us an African song.  After they sing a sweet little tune, we look at each other for a song to return, settling on The Star Spangled BannerMy gosh, I realized how booooring that song is.  I mean, that song is all meaningful or something, but to African schoolchildren, I'm sure it ain't no baseball game.  Yankee Doodle or Party in the USA would have been more interesting.  Plus today, I woke up sick.  A sore throat that will grow increasingly stronger until my voice just goes raspy man for the rest of the trip.  So for the high notes on the Star Song, I just raise my eyebrows and look really operaish.

Afterwards, the students are instructed to file back to their classrooms, and each member of our team grabs a bag of oranges from our car and walks with a teacher to her room.  I select one of the 7th grade teachers in hopes that I will see my girls from frisbee a couple days before.  Grace finds me and runs toward me shouting, "CHANTEL!"  Feels good to feel popular at a school.  For once.   Ha.  Ha.

I pass out the oranges to all the classrooms around me and talk with all the kids. Confidence just flows in settings where you're completely unknown.  Once all the students and teachers have been treated to an orange, I realize my team is long gone, already set-up in the library with paint and rollers.  Heather comes trailing in as late as myself, where we whisper to each other that we'd prefer to stay with the kids.  Then we look at Josh with big, droopy eyes.  He laughs and says that we have more than enough hands for painting so why not.  Heather and I head back to the classrooms to find one without a teacher.

Heather is a math teacher back in America, so she marches right in and begins a math lesson on long division.  I watch for awhile until a student approaches me from outside, saying his teacher is also missing, so could I come teach his class?  I wave goodbye to Heather and follow the young man to his building.

I enter the classroom to a full room of big eyes.  I recognize a couple of the children from Afternoon Club days before.  "HELLO!"  And I introduce myself as the teacher for the day  They all clap.  I learn they are supposed to be studying Reading.  So I borrow a manual, turn to the page they say, and jump headfirst into teaching my first 6th grade class.

Our lesson is on a Swasi-born musician named Th*keim(sis)  or something ridiculously hard that the American mouth is completely incapable of saying.  I open the discussion by talking about music.  "Who is your favorite music artist?"  They all say names, and I nod very affirmatively as if I totally know them.  I don't.  Then I ask if they want to hear some of my music.  "YES!"  So I play some Jason Derulo and have my own little dance party at the front of the room.  Why can I not control my inhibitions when a good beat comes on?  A couple of the kids bounce along, while most of them just stare at me, while I wave my arms around.

Okay, moving on. 

We proceed to take turns reading the chapter in the workbook, selecting a new student for each paragraph.  After learning all about this musician, I open up a discussion with the questions at the end of the chapter.  I ask the children what they want to be when they grow up.  A lawyer!  A hairdresser!  A chef!  A oiujipfs.  Sometimes I can't understand what they're saying.  I ask if any of their parents want them to be something different than what they dream?  Hands go up and heads nod.  "How do you feel about that?"  I don't like it.  Makes me angry.  "Good, yes." as my inner therapist comes out. "It's frustrating to not feel the support of your dreams from the one you love."

"Let's share more music with each other!"  And I ask if someone will sing a song for us.  Man, am I a brutal teacher or what?  The class is silent.  "No really.  Who wants to sing a song?"  A girl raises her hand and then comes to the front.  She stands beside me with quiet confidence and jumps right into the most beautiful, enchanting melody!  She sings the full song for us, and then sits back down as if it ain't no thing. 

What just happened?  I couldn't believe her talent! So I make the whole class applaud her for the next seven hours.

Well, no I didn't, but she deserved that.  Then I ask if everyone wants to sing a song with me!  And I make them all stand up.  See, I was envisioning this song that my grandpa used to sing with us - "Singing in the Rain," and we'd follow his actions, each verse having to do something strange with our body - "toes together, knees together, elbows in, tongue out."  And it gets so ridiculous that we laugh the whole way through.

But what I envisioned was not at all what happens.

Couldn't remember the tune of the song, so I just sang words to random notes.  And when we finally ended with our Partly because I can't remember the tune of the song at all so it sounds horrible, and partly because the kids don't understand why they have to follow me doing such strange actions, and partly because singing a song with your tongue out in a second language just really isn't a fun thing for anyone.  Ever.

So, moving on.

I learn that their next subject is science.  "Um.... okay nah, let's play a game."  So Heads Up Seven Up it is for the next hour.

But then I feel guilty for ruining a perfect day of education, so I let them play one last round, and then pull the class back to the science textbooks.  Except they can't remember what page they're on, so I flip through the book and find a chapter about the Respiratory System.  Sure, I can blow smoke about this for awhile. 

I begin by talking about outer space and how there is no air, and we'd all suffocate immediately because we need oxygen to breathe.  I explain that humans inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, explaining the anatomy of the body and the oxygen travels down our esophagus and into our lungs.  I make them put one hand on their chest and one hand on their stomach, explaining more about the movement of the diaphragm and how it expands and deflates the lungs.  Then I explain how the oxygen is then diffused into the cells of our bloodstream, which is carried through the rest of the body, giving our brain, kidney, heart, and other organs the ability to function.  For example, if we ever feel light-headed, that means our brain isn't getting enough oxygen.  Then I jump into sports, having all the soccer players raise their hands.  I talk to them about breathing with high intensity when we're running really hard, because our bodies need more oxygen to pump to the muscles in our body.  I ask if they've ever cramped up, pointing to my lungs.  I explain that this occurs when we don't release enough carbon dioxide, resulting from short inhales, and not full exhales.  So a secret to release a cramp is breathe out for as long as you can.  Breathe in briefly and then exhale again until the cramp goes away.  Then I tell them that plants have their own respiratory system.  "Plants breath in carbon dioxide. And that's what humans breathe out!!"  Acting as if it's the most exciting thing in the world.  Enthusiastic teachers are fun right?  "See how sustainable our environment is!  Plants breathe out oxygen for us to breathe in, and we breathe out carbon dioxide for them!" And then because I'm just freestyling this whole lesson and can't think of where to take it next, I tell them that smoking will turn their lungs black, and they'll shrivel up, and won't hold any more oxygen, and they'll die.

Then the bell rings.

Well, that was one way to end a lesson.  But not bad for off the cuff, I'd say.  Could have omitted the grim reaper death part, but oh well.  I think that was my subconscious being angry at Dan for smoking all the time.

I head to the teacher's lounge to find my group.  All the teachers and my team are taking a break with avocado sandwiches, oranges, and herbal tea.  We chat with each other, and everyone asks how my teaching is going, as their hair is all chunky with paint.  I tell them that I can't tell if I'm horrifying them or helping them.  Josh tells me that he walked by a couple times, and I'm doing really great.

After break, everyone resumes painting, and I sneak back to the classrooms.  The normal teacher has returned to my class, not sure where he was the whole morning, but okay.  So I walk to another building to find another class without a teacher.  Impromptu teaching!  Such a rush for me.

I find two classes without teachers, so I go to the first of 7th graders and tell them to come with me into the 4th grade class!  "Today is a special day!!"  As if I own the place.  They all look confused, but I reassure them it's okay.  Eh, or probably not.  Oh well.

The kids follow me to the second classroom, and I tell the other children to "Make way!  We are joining up!"  Which I severely underestimated the number of children and the noise it would make packing all of them into classroom.  One hundred kids shuffling around and hollering to each other is quite the ruckus.  So, I wasn't really surprised when the principal showed up....

But luckily by that point, I had already begun reading a book that a couple of the girls had given to me and asked me to read.  The overflowing classroom of children was still pretty loud, but my throat was hurting way to bad to do much about it.  Luckily, as soon as Miss Principal walked in, the class went silent.  

I continued reading the book, which I quickly discovered is a very intense story about a young girl who is touched all over her body by her uncle, and her uncle threatens to kill her mom if she tells anyone.

Well, okay.  Considering that 80% of women in this country are sexually abused at some point in their lives, I'd say this is a very real topic that I appreciate is so openly discussed.  Not sure if I'm qualified for the job, but I guess we'll find out. 

After I've read for quite awhile, as loudly as I can muster for my scratchy little voice and this HUGE room of children, Miss P taps my shoulder.   "I'll read for awhile.  Your voice sounds like it needs a break."  Oh God bless.

She takes the book from me and begins.  She instantly uses hilarious voices for the dialogue, lightening everything up with a bit of humor.  The kids roar with laughter.  As the little girl confesses to her friend about being touched in the private parts, the principal stands up and begins rubbing her own private area!  Not sure what's going on, but we're still going with this.

She keeps reading, making the read funny when it can be but serious when it should be.  She passes the book back to me to finish.  Once I've closed the story, and the little girl has resolved the situation by telling a friend, I'm not really sure how to open the discussion.  Miss P notes my hesitancy and saves me, sparing no fear of being too personal.  "Okay class, what are you private parts?"  PENIS! (pronounced peh-nis)  VAGNIA!  BREASTS!  Alright then.   "Do you let people touch you in the privates?"  NNOO!  "Good, what do you do if someone does?"  TELL SOMEONE!  "Good!"  "Gentlemen, have you ever touched a women inappropriately?"  NO!

Then Miss P speaks bluntly about the horridness of sexual abuse, and that the men need to be upstanding examples, and the women need to be strong enough to say no.  It was actually a really incredible discussion.  Then she goes off on how education is power, and with an education you will have the most opportunity, explaining that she expects all of her students to work hard in school and continue on to a university, sharing a story of a former students she sponsored all the way through college.  She continues about the importance of choosing dreams and following them. 

Then she looks at me.

Gulp..  How do I follow that??

"Umm, I agree.  Education really IS the key to success.  And the best way to education is hard work.  It's important for all of us to choose dreams and never lose sight of them.  Um... I'll tell you my story."

Then I tell them all about how I started in an elementary school just like them.  And my full story of education all the way to high school, then onward to college, working really hard to get into the program I wanted, finishing my degree, then landing a position in the number one masters program of my area of study, more hard work and dedication, getting my degree, then going on to study intensely on my own for several years to get a professional license.  "And now, because of ALLLL of that hard work, I have a really great job that gives me the opportunity to travel and really follow my dreams.  Which is the exact reason I am in Swasiland today, teaching all of YOU!"

Then the entire class breaks out into outrageous clapping and cheering.  Not expecting their enthusiam at all, I'm completely taken aback. Miss P leans over to me - "Your story is incredible.  Thank you for sharing."

She turns back to the class, "Isn't that amazing?  All that hard work!  Imagine all the dreams you can accomplish if you never lose sight of them and work just as hard.  Let's tell Chantel THANK YOU!!!" They everyone abrupts in yelling, and I am too stunned to even move.  Is this a movie?  This is unreal!

I thank them.  Then announce that I must take the older class back to their room to resume studies.  Miss P thanks me again and gives me a copy of the book to keep as a souvenir.  I thank her and take the book, grateful that I will always have memory of this moment celebrating dream chasing with all these children.  But also, this isn't the lightest bedtime reading. 

I take the older kids back to their room and ask for their next lesson.  But truly I'm too tired, and my throat is hurting too bad for any more teaching.  So, Heads Up, Seven Up it is until the bell rings.

Once school is out, the children help me clean up paint brushes for the rest of my team.  Then I attempt to teach them Red Rover while my team packs up the car.  It's mostly unsuccessful, but I leave them with many hugs and goodbyes, as I squirm out from all of their grasps to run to the car.

I jump in next to Dan.  He puts his arm around me, while I tell everyone about my inadvertent Sex Ed class, finding it so easy to share and laugh about.  Then I sink back into my seat in complete exhaustion, staring out the window with a degree of trepidation.

What I don't share is the hundred of bright eyes I can still picture in my mind, all staring at me with fiery dreams and passions and eagerness to learn.  And the intense bond formed between teacher to student, so quickly caring about the future and the path of all these students, truly wanting their success in education and goals, feeling like maybe, just maybe I have edified them a tiny bit.  But I also see the poor classrooms, the tattered school supplies, the lack of teachers, the children's fear of society's aggression, the meager circumstances, and the societal cavities that will never allow these children even close to as much of a chance as I had.  How is it fair that opportunity can be so uneven with just the country you are born in?  How can I drive away with that rich experience of being a teacher for a day, but knowing I've been given every stepping stone while so many of them are given none? 

It's not about reconciling myself going home and standing in my pile of belongings while they stand barefoot.  It's about going home and standing in my pile of possibilities knowing they often have no more than one.  And how to open more doors for others with

Let the day I was a teacher in Africa stand as reminder of that.

Upward and onward,

The school children performing an African dance.

Heather teaching long division to the students.  She is my top favorite humans of the world.

Me teaching my own class!

Here's where I'm reading the story about sexual abuse to a FULL classroom.

The girls following along to my reading with their own books.