Sunday, March 15, 2009

An Overdue Update

I haven't written anything in quite awhile, mostly because while blogging from Tanzania seemed like a wonderful communication tool, blogging about my daily life in the States seemed self-absorbed and uninteresting. At the request of loyal readers (who knew?!) I'm updating this anyway. While the title is no longer accurate in a literal sense, a part of my heart is still in Africa, and the updates via Facebook from friends there make me want to return. Hopefully in September I will have a chance to do just that.

My plan is to return to sub-Saharan Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer in September to teach science at a secondary school and implement community public health projects. Hopefully, I will have more details reasonably soon.

Already this year, I've been fortunate to have many opportunities to travel around Arizona as well as to Puerto Penasco, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. I loved being able to spend time with family and hope to make another trip to the Pacific Northwest this summer.

I am once again living in Tucson and am enjoying the opportunity to work from home. I have a two month, part-time joint contract from the General Board of Global Missions and the General Board of Church and Society. Both of these are entities within the United Methodist Church, based in NYC and DC, respectively. I'm thrilled to be able to work on projects related to AIDS and family planning with progressive spiritual people who have a true grasp of health care needs around the world.

I'm also involved in several volunteer projects, both familiar and new. I'm serving on a regional AIDS Task Force through the United Methodist Church, the Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network's Education Committee and the planning committee for an annual AIDS Candlelight Memorial Service in Tucson. On Monday evenings, I volunteer at a free medical clinic in South Tucson, and on Thursdays I volunteer at a free clinic in Agua Prieta, Sonora. My Spanish skills and medical knowledge are improving, though not quickly enough! I recently connected with the Tucson chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program and am excited to work with them on a grassroots campaign for a single-payer health care system.

I have also agreed to coordinate social justice and community service projects for young adults in the AZ/NV region of the United Methodist Church and am currently working on two such projects which will take place in June, related to immigration and homelessness.

My awareness of Native American struggles for justice has been greatly heightened in the past eight months or so, and I am becoming more and more involved, particularly with regard to Leonard Peltier's struggle for freedom.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend an Arizona List luncheon where Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D, NY) was speaking. Her recently published book Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated, highlights past and current struggles for women's equality.

Beyond that, I'm picking up house-sitting and babysitting jobs to make ends meet, networking whenever and wherever possible, and enjoying the comforts of life in the U.S. I'm embracing the contradictions within my life: social justice work with and for the impoverished... followed by a Starbucks run; marching to protest the civil rights violations of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to be a voice for the voiceless... followed by a swim and dinner at the Hilton. What can I say?

I'm very fortunate to have so many opportunities to be involved in work that I'm passionate about and to have so much control over my schedule. Life is good!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays, everyone! Thanks for joining me on this amazing adventure. I wanted to let you know that I'll be doing a few presentations in Arizona about what I learned in Tanzania. Please join me if you're able!

Dec. 28 - First United Methodist Church of Tucson, 10:00am
915 E 4th St, Tucson, AZ 85719

Feb. 15 - Living Hope Community Church of Tucson, 9:00am
currently meeting at Ironwood Elementary School
3300 W. Freer Dr. Tucson, AZ 85742

I hope to schedule more presentations soon in Tucson and the Phoenix Valley.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Loving London!

The last few weeks in Africa were amazing and filled with events including several HIV testing days and community teachings in various villages. Our volunteer program dinner was wonderful and we were all sad to say goodbye. While the volunteers were great, I will especially miss our Tanzanian staff of field officers and community health workers; they're the heart and soul of our organization! I'm hoping to be back in Tanzania sometime in the near future... stay tuned for more details...

Suz and I are determined to see all of London in 72 hours... we're making good progress so far! She did most of the touristy sight-seeing when she arrived in September, but is being a great sport about playing tour guide will I take everything in for the first time. On Monday we saw Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, visited Westminster Abbey, rode the London Eye, toured the Globe Theatre (which as far as I'm concerned is reason enough to come to London all by itself!!!), and viewed the art in the National Gallery (travel tip -- free admission here and enough amazing artwork to occupy several hours of your day). Suz wanted me to experience Harrod's, despite neither of us being able to afford anything there. She was very patient with me as I ranted about the excessive waste of $900 handbags and how many African children could be fed with that kind of money ... I'd been doing so well all day, but reverse culture shock was bound to set in at some point, and a city block devoted to a store boasting about multiple rooms of luxury was just too much to handle. I'm sure my family in TX will be grateful that I'm going through this now rather than in their presence later this week. Anyway, we ended the night with London's best attempt at Mexican food, which is better than Tanzania's best attempt but still not up to AZ standards and then some time at the Globe pub near Suz's residence hall (when in Rome...).

Today we toured the Tower of London, where we happened to run into our friend Doug who had spent the semester studying in Norwich. We had no idea he was spending the week in London, and we were all shocked to see each other in the same tour group! We then visited King's Cross station, home of Platform 9 3/4, the entry way to Hogwarts. (If this makes no sense to you, pick up a Harry Potter book...) Tonight Suz and I are going to Spamalot with some of her friends. Our plan for tomorrow includes St. Paul's Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, and the British Museum.

I miss you all! I currently want to somehow be in Tanzania, London, and the U.S. simultaneously but know I'll be thrilled to be home as soon as I arrive. The feeling of cold weather, the sight of Christmas trees, the sound of Christmas carols, and the taste of candy canes have put me in a wonderful mood. Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Greetings from London!

It's been a long 2 days of travel, but wanted to quickly let everyone know that I made it safely to London and am enjoying some time with my friend Suz. I'm looking forward to spending a few days here and will post updates about the last few weeks after some much-needed rest. It feels like winter here, which is quite a change!

I miss you all and can't wait to catch up with you. I'll be back in the States on Thursday with a working cell phone :)

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Moving Out

Hi everyone,

We moved out of the villages this morning, which was bittersweet. I'll spend tonight in Arusha before heading to Dar es Salaam tomorrow and then onto London the next day. I'm sad to leave but looking forward to seeing family and friends and enjoying the comforts of home.

I'll try to update this again from London.

Thank you all so much for your love and support that made this adventure possible. Thanks for sharing this experience with me. I can't wait to catch up with all of you when I return.

Love and Peace,

Monday, December 1, 2008

last weekend in Arusha

It's World AIDS Day!! There was a march this morning and many speakers today. The events will end with a soccer match between a team of HIV+ individuals and a team of journalists. We're very sad that we'll miss it by a couple hours since we're returning to the village later today, but are thrilled by the idea of it.

A few of us went to Moshi earlier this weekend which is a smaller city nearby and the home of one of our teaching partners. We enjoyed meeting his friends and visiting his favorite hang-outs. Moshi is also the location of the teaching hospital and international school founded by the parents of Greg Mortenson, the subject of the bestseller Three Cups of Tea - which should be required reading for everyone.

We'll be in the village for 2 weeks and then will move out. I can't believe how quickly the time has flown by!!!

On Thanksgiving, we were invited to a second wedding party in the village. November is the new June in the States as well as here! The party was incredibly nice, although we were a bit taken back by the main course of the dinner: two goats, skinned and roasted whole, presented with leaves in their mouths and sticks to prop them in a kneeling position, were paraded around before being carved into. It was something like a cross between a Hawaiian luau and a BodyWorld exhibit! And yes, I have photos if you're interested... We were also shocked to see that a drag queen had been hired, given the tragic results of being openly gay in Tanzania, but were told that this was a result of the popularity of a new political comedy TV show that uses drag queens to mock government officials. We're not sure that this is a step forward in the fight for equality...

We're trying to get in the holiday spirit despite the summer weather. My roommate has decided we need to teach our family English Christmas carols. Anyone who's heard me sing will appreciate why I've left this task to her!

We're finished teaching at the primary school and will start meeting with our little peer educator group this week. The kids are very enthusiastic! We've also set up community teachings and HIV testing days.

Chuck and Judi returned to the village two more times and even got to sit in on one of our classes! They said it was SLIGHTLY different than the classrooms they taught in ...

I miss you all but will be sad to leave in a couple weeks.
Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving!!! (sort of)

A few days early, granted, but we're having our feast tonight. Lacking an oven in the SIC office, turkey is out of the question, but we ordered chicken to compensate. We're having mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and many other delicious dishes! Not quite the American holiday we're used to, but very festive anyway!

Miss all of you!
Happy Holidays!!!