Biking the Blues 

 “If you are feeling blue, try painting yourself a different color”

-Hannah Cheatem

The holidays are usually my favorite time of year, but lately I’ve been experiencing a bit of the blues. Chris and I are really missing our American home. We miss people, tradition, the contagious “holiday spirit,” Christmas songs, parties, good cheer, colorful Christmas lights, the feeling in the malls while Christmas shopping, Jolly Old Saint Nick, egg-nog, snow and sharing Christmas Eve and Day with loved ones. Being in a bit of a work lull hasn’t helped either (school wrapping up the term, teachers went on strike for a few weeks, waiting on grant money, wrapped up grassroot soccer, etc). Never in our lives have we had so much open time👀. Many Peace Corps volunteers experience this at some point during their service. A lot of people take to hanging out in groups with nearby volunteers to help them through the ruts. Chris and I got placed in the most remote part of the country in terms of volunteer numbers. We know this was deliberate since there are two of us and they knew we can handle it (we can do it💪). But sometimes we feel a bit isolated and removed. There are three new agriculture volunteers that are about to be placed within two hours of us, so that will help a lot!

To clarify our situation a bit more- like I have said we live in a very rural community. The people who complete high school and university have mostly moved out to the cities. It’s a subsistence farming community. For entertainment people play cards, go to drinking spots, prepare funeral celebrations, and chat under mango trees. We really wouldn’t trade it for anything. It full of good people who work hard at what they do. Just sometimes we feel a bit claustrophobic (lack of usual social outlets- parties, travel, new scenery, coffee with friends, etc) and it’s sometimes hard to connect on deeper levels with locals because of the language barrier. On the other hand we are all human and living here for almost a year has confirmed to us how much we all are really the same. We love our community. We feel like we are getting the traditional Peace Corps experience where you are dropped in the bush and told  “Do what you can- Enjoy, toodles!” With technology we have a bit more support, but not much. The resources just aren’t there. We do love the ruggedness of it and the freedom. With technology and westernization advancing I’m not sure there will even be such traditional culturally rich, isolated communities like ours anymore. This makes me sad, and yet very grateful that we are some of the last to get to witness this.

Anyway, to get to the title when I was feeling down Chris and I thought it’d be good to take a long bike ride to a nearby community where we could get some watermelon and cell phone service. We did that twice this week and boy did it clear my head. I felt so much better and just got perspective on this whole thing. Even though we feel like things are moving quite slow right now, we have already almost completed our first year. By the time we round up the 27 months it’s going to feel like a blink and I know how happy and accomplished we will feel. I want to focus on soaking it up- the ambiguity, the heat, the food, the people, the hours sitting under trees, the language (still trying to plow through), the projects, the attempts, the discomforts, the successful moments, the failures, the lulls, the hilarious moments, the awkward encounters, the adorable children, the relationships built, the aha moments, the insecurities that are raised, and the transportation that catapults me in an existential crisis every time I have to travel. Well maybe not that last one.

Since writing the paragraphs above Chris and I have taken some measures to help us get into the ole Christmas spirit! We went Christmas gift shopping and also bought lights for the house and Santa hats to wear as often as possible.   We have watched the old Miracle on 34th Street (really good!) and Home Alone 1-2 with popcorn (made on the stove) and hot cocoa. We don’t have any Christmas music available (next year we will be better prepared!), so Frank Sinatra has been doing the trick. I wrote this post early Dec. then we got busy with it-trying to make this year feel as Christmassy as possible. The cooler temps help some and we have just been pretending all of the dust is snow:p All and all spirits are lifted!

This post was written a few weeks ago and I’m just getting around to posting it now. Things have changed, but for awhile we felt the slump. It was timely, as many people experience the blues around this time of year for various reasons. It’s completely understandable and often overlooked. Recognizing that it’s ok while focusing on the good really helps me. There is always so much good! I also like to work towards improving what I don’t like and what I do have control over. 2016 is looking bright. Peace and love to all.

Dem Bin Dwoordi (Happy New Year)

-Kallie

 

The majestic african baobob

 

Visiting with our assembly woman and her husband. Having a woman leader in the gov. is rare. Its wonderful what an example she is setting for the young girls in our community

 

Christmas gift shopping is a bit different than what we are used to . It involves outdoor markets with lots of haggling , drama, and heat. Still its really fun to get gifts for really wonderful people. Thank you family for donating money to help us give gifts to our African family 😘

 

Working in Santa’s workshop

 

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