| February 21, 2018 |
[drum roll] Long-awaited “New Year” post. Ha… ha… haaaa… Kristen, it’s been 2018 for basically two months. I know, trust me. Can I say I’ve been busy? How about… tired? Can I make excuses? Nope. I won’t. Quite simply, I’ve been a lazy writer, and my creative self is very mad at procrastinating Kristen. [I forgive me.]
Honestly, I love writing these reflective posts. Not so much because you really want to hear all about my year, how much I changed, the good/bad/ugly… but because it’s so revealing to myself. I love looking back to see where I’ve been, even if some of the moments in the past were painful. It’s like looking in the rearview mirror while driving on the highway: you just kind of peer back every so often, just to be aware of what’s going on behind you. I try not to let this metaphor get too far though, because then I can justify making decisions in the present based on what’s in the “rearview.” I don’t let the past affect me. Instead, I just… let it be (thank you, Beatles). So, I guess I wouldn’t be driving on I-5 (WA!), the Southern State (NY!), or I-95 (FL!) in this instance… instead, I’d be on the Seward Highway (AK!), taking the scenic route, just kind of curious about what’s going on around me.
In all seriousness (why so serious?), life is oh-so-curious to me. I love how the unexpected often comes from within. It’s not always external circumstances that keep me guessing, but my own heart and intuition that make me go “woah!” at times.
One year ago, I returned to Washington state to work in Yakima for my second job as a Traveling Doctor of Physical Therapy. I planned to stay for three months. Then, I was off! I was going to Wyoming, Colorado, Alaska… anywhere! I was only going to be in Washington state for a short time (again).
Well, turns out, this was the second time I lied. I couldn’t leave Washington.
2017 was a big year for more self-discovery and learning opportunities in a variety of colors and flavors (oh my gosh now I’m thinking about ice cream… mmm, mint chocolate chip…).
Okay, I need to get on with this post before I take the metaphor game way too far…
| November 2, 2017 |
– From August 20, 2017 in Tanzania, Africa –
By August 20th, it felt like I had been in Africa for an eternity. It wasn’t because time was dragging, and it certainly wasn’t because it had been too long. Rather, it felt as though our group had accomplished so much! Although I didn’t feel ready to be done with service, I knew it was time for some well-deserved rest with our service group. We had put a great deal of energy into making our volunteer work at Step-By-Step Learning Centre and Shanga successful, so we were ready for the second part of our journey together in Tanzania.
Our first day of “rest” was a hike at the base of Mt. Meru. This dormant stratovolcano sits 70 kilometers west of Mount Kilimanjaro and 14,977 feet above sea level. Located in Arusha National Park, the mountain is visible from many parts of the city. In April 2016, I only saw Mt. Meru on the day I left Tanzania as the rainy season clouded its view (even on this same hike!). However, in the dry season, the prevalence of Meru was notable on most days. It looms over Arusha in a similar way Mount Rainier overlooks Seattle; some days its presence is hazy and barely visible, while others it’s features are clearly exposed.
Our Stony Brook Seawolves crew of Physical Therapists and students headed on a memorable and active day together, in the mountains and valleys of Tanzania that had completely shifted my gears in 2016…
| October 23, 2017 |
It’s been therapeutic to work through my journey in Tanzania in retrospect. I aimed to write a post each day in Africa, but access to WiFi and time to do this was more scarce than I imagined. Plus, now I get the joy of reliving the trip while trying to adjust to this crazy life back in the United States. It’s allowed me to prolong the valuable lessons I learned, and stay connected to my purpose and desire to serve.
There’s been so much upheaval about our current society. I feel it: We’re losing hope. Racial inequality, gender identity, and political discontentment are topics that flood the media. Natural disasters are plaguing our planet. Mass shootings are leaving people confused and seeking answers. We are all gripping for some silver lining, some glimmer of hope that we’re going to be okay.
When I think about embracing a life of love, rather than a life of fear, I think of simplifying life. I think of focusing on what we have, rather than what we do not have. Most of us have access to amenities that other nations are not blessed with. Clean, running water… shelter… food on the table… our basic human needs are being fulfilled. Though this is on an elementary level, I think there’s great value in being grateful for these simple gifts. I now think about my time in Africa, where I was surrounded by an indescribable spiritual energy. Even those who were living on $1/day were smiling–finding a reason to live a joyful life. Kids danced in the streets, people praised the Lord for the grace to survive, and everyone cared so deeply and truly for each other. The people of Tanzania were united, recognizing governmental corruption that we (Americans) could not fathom, yet still helping each other in any way they could.
I’m not saying our problems don’t mean anything. I just think we need a shift in perspective, and to instill ourselves with more hope and love. In this post, I’m going to share what each of the children at Step-by-Step Learning Centre taught me, and how we can use their stories to propel ourselves forward. I truly believe, in the end, we’re going to be okay…
| October 9, 2017 |
– From August 19, 2017 in Tanzania, Africa –
As this was our last day with the teachers of Step-by-Step Learning Centre, we had a lot to wrap up! We needed to review all the information we already taught, and plan for the future together. We spent the morning organizing donations, amending exercise programs, and answering as many questions as we could. Our afternoon consisted of bonding over Fanta soda, eating chicken biryani, and walking the streets of Arusha with the most inspiring group of people I’ve ever been close to.
Congratulations, Step-by-Step Learning Centre staff on your successful completion of the “Gross Motor Evaluation Workshop”!
| September 20, 2017 |
– From August 18, 2017 in Tanzania, Africa –
Well, it was an interesting start to the day to say the least. I blew a fuse at L’Oasis lodge, sending the entire place into a light-flickering buzz, with sparks flying from the nearby electrical post. I figured it was a good idea to heat Bryson’s braces at the lodge and cut them with the EMT shears I had in my possession (heating makes it easier), but the embossing gun I had apparently couldn’t handle the voltage in Tanzanian outlets. I plugged the embossing heat gun into my transformer with what I THOUGHT was the appropriate voltage, turned it on, and–within 8 seconds–it sounded like the heat gun was going to takeoff like a rocket when a spark when flying out of the gun and I heard a *POP* at the same time the lights went out.
I opened the door to see that ALL the lights in the huts surrounding mine were flickering, in addition to the breakfast area. The nearby electrical pole didn’t look so happy, either… and I shamefully found an employee to let them know I was to blame. Fortunately, it was quickly resolved… but I was left with a broken heat gun, and no cut braces. Whoopsie. I’d have to muscle through cutting with the EMT shears once we got to SSLC.
I promise the day got better after my little incident. Today was our last day with the students at SSLC because tomorrow we’ll be with the teachers all day.
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