Thursday, November 27, 2008

done and done.

That's right, folks, with an ENTIRE 2 hours and 19 minutes left before I leave...


Word count: 24, 344 (we had a minimum of 15,000 and a max of 25,000 - so I was starting to sweat a little there at the end, but it also helped wrap things the music at the Oscars).

Time - 3:14 am

Pages - 85 (at 1.5 space)

Relief - ENORMOUS.

Did I actually say anything important about AIDS? Who knows. But I surely learned a lot, and I surely took years off my life doing so. No matter, its done now. And I am very, very relieved (I might cry a little..)

Beach - here I come.

Signing off with love from Grahamstown,


Eben, if you are reading this, you are my knight and shining armor.

(Eben is not only waking up before 5:30 tomorrow to drive me to the airport, but he is binding and handing in my oh-so-painfully-written thesis for me. Words will never describe the love and gratitude in my heart for this boy.)

My last day in Grahamstown..

Just officially ended. It is half past midnight. I am leaving for the airport in just 5 hours.

I am possibly more tired than I have ever been - this is my 5th consecutive night where I will get less than 4 hours of sleep....

but my thesis will be done before 5:30. Yes, it will.

As for my last day in Grahamstown, it is a fog of sleepless delerium and an endless number of errands to tie up all of the loose ends I have aquired in a year of living here. And footnotes. Lots and lots of footnotes. (Note to self - always do these as you go along, or they will make you more miserable than any size 10 font should EVER be able to make ANYONE.)

Despite my less than ideal levels of sleep and stress over this never ending thesis (why do we do these things to ourselves?!), my stomach is full of pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, gravy, all thanks to dear Grahamstown friends Cortney and Matt, who spent the evening cooking a Thanksgiving feast the likes of which has never been seen outside of the borders of the United States. :) I will post pictures someday.

I am too sleepy to write anything coherant or clever (hopefully any amount of cogent thoughts are going into the last touches of my thesis)...

But I do want to say that in spite of the chaos and exhaustion of this ever-so-non-traditional of Thanksgiving days, I am filled with love and thanks.

Monday, November 24, 2008

At the end of the tunnel........

The thesis marathon continues.
I have been living on sparkling water and bread that my mom sent me for my birthday for days now - and a very large pizza that I strategically purchased on Friday.
Today I even gave in .... and drank a cup of coffee (never again, my hands are shaking so hard I can barely type).
I still have about 36 hours to go....
But the very, very bright light at the end of the tunnel is this---- where I will be on Saturday morning.....

[Image location]

With these lovely ladies.....

Hopefully drinking something that looks like this....
or that's what I tell myself, anyway....
African beaches are actually usually a bit less... relaxing than all of that, but at least I won't look like this anymore:

Jacaranda Trees

One day I woke up and all of Grahamstown had exploded into this color-------->

It is ridiculously beatuiful - the trees are lined with Jacaranda trees that all look like this, there are jasmine plants in full bloom everywhere that make the air smell perfumed, and bougenvilia accent the sidewalks around the quad in bright pinks and purples.

Ahhh - - summer is finally here. Of course, just when it has arrived I am leaving it for the callous of Idaho winter......

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Next Steps

Here is my itinerary for the next few weeks:

  • Nov. 23 - Nov. 27: Grahamstown, SOUTH AFRICA - Finish thesis, start PhD applications, say goodbye to my home of a year.
  • Nov. 28 - Dec. 7: Lamu and Mombasa, KENYA - bask on the beach and swim in the Indian ocean, drink things out of coconuts and pineapples with the lovely Elisa!! and Jeannie!!
  • Dec. 7 - Dec. 14th: Arusha, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam TANZANIA - look at Mt. Kilimanjaro (no climbing), meet up with crazy Denver people who DO climb, bask on the Spice Islands.
  • Dec. 14th - Dec. 15th: Pretoria, SOUTH AFRICA - stay with the wonderful family of Estelle, eat my last South African meal, say goodbye to this amazing country.
  • Dec. 15 - Dec. 17th: International skies - sleep, watch movies, journal, eat airport food.
  • Dec. 17th - Dec. 30th: BURLEY, Idaho - love on my family, my childhood friends, and my home town, sleep, have ridiculous amounts of Christmas cheer, finish PhD applications.
  • Dec. 30th - Drive to Denver
  • Dec. 31- Jan 5th: HOUSTON! Love on my amazing Houston family (best people in the world), snuggle with Victor and his family, celebrate new years, give my welcome back presentation to my sponsor Rotary club.
  • Jan 6th - Jan. 11th: DENVER - bother/love Catherine and Peter and John and Meredith, avoid their dogs, look for somewhere to live, go to lots of meetings.
  • Jan. 11th - March 23rd - JERUSALEM: attend Hebrew University, work with Human Rights NGO (tba).
Phew, that kind of makes me tired to look at, but that's my amazingly ridiculous reality for the next couple of months. If you are in any of those places, block me out a meal or a cup of tea, I am so anxious to reconnect with my loved ones.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

And then there was one...

I am not good at living alone. I mean, I REALLY hate it. I have no desire to do so - ever. I love LOVE having roommates, and fortunately, throughout my entire life, I have had PHENOMENAL relationships with my roomies -you know who you are and I love you. However, this week, I am roommate-less. I have been dreading the day that everyone left, and sure enough, it came. So when I walked back in the house.... well, I'll let you read below.

Following, there is an email I sent to my newly ex-roommates about 25 minutes after they pulled out of the driveway.....

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

now that i am officially a house of 'one,' i thought i would update you on what's been going on at 5 Gilbert in the last - oh, 25 minutes or so that i have lived alone.

ok, so as soon as you left i walked back to my room and cried - you know - like a little baby.
then i turned on bob marley don't worry 'bout a thing... every little thing gonna be alright.
that made me feel better.

then I saw that princess had left her shoes by her chair (way to go big foot), and that cheered me up a little too thinking about how big her feet are.

and then i realized the there was one very important upside of being the only one left ---

Everything left in the kitchen....

is MINE!

(not that people being here ever really stopped any of us before from eating anything, but now ... now there was freedom)

so of course i waddled to the kitchen to check out the scene. i first scoped out the cubbords (how in the world do you spell that?) - saw all that was left of rosa's peanutbutter and stale granola - rummaged through the rest of the cubbords (cubbards?) - saw... 70 things of tea, a stale rusk or two --- seriously? THROW ME A BONE PEOPLE. Pitiful, I tell you - pitiful. But then I remembered there was one more little place.

The fridge!

I opened the fridge to see what treasures would now all be mine.

The bounty: a bag of lettuce so old and rotten that it had expanded and bloated to its limit. I mean seriously, this bag was a full on BALLOON of rotten lettuce.

I picked it up gingerly and threw it in the garbage can along with a whole load of other semi-rotten 'veg' (as you say here).

Thanks, girls. Thank you for the rotten veg. Much appreciated.

Since that was a flop, I made the round to the bathrooms to see what products I could lavish myself with the next week.

There aren't many products left... but there were surely a LOT of... razors. Twelve to be exact. TWELVE! That means that even at our full capacity we were averaging 2 razors per person. Who knew we had such serious hair issues. Oh wait, I just found another one on my desk. 13. Thirteen razors.

Plotting my next shaving escapades, I returned to my room and Bob Marley. I settled in to feel especially sorry for myself (and maybe even eat some of the chocolate Cilnette gave me). I turned off Bob to wallow in the utter silence of loneliness.

and then..... BANG!!

I swear that the whole house shook.

And my heart stopped.

I mean seriously, it sounded like a gunshot in the kitchen.

I half walked/half crawled in there to see who had broken into our house and fired a shotgun.

But instead, I found a room covered - I mean COVERED..

in rotten lettuce.

Yes, that's right - the lettuce bag had exploded over the entire kitchen.

So enjoy your nice kitchens at home girls! Don't worry, I have it under control.

In your absence I will surely keep myself busy wiping rotten veg off of every surface in the kitchen and when I get done, maybe I'll shave.

;) I love you.


I have... officially... handed in the last draft my adviser will see.
Is it done? Not so much.
Is there still a LOT to do on it? Very much so.
Is there a LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL? Thank you Lord, yes.

Next Friday morning, I get on a plane to Kenya (yaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!). Between now and then, a thesis will be finished, God willing. Very God willing.

For good vibes, I leave you another picture of my thesis adviser, just because it makes me happy..

Goodbye roomies!

There was a another set of tearful goodbyes a couple of days ago when the last two of my amazing roommates left for home. So amazing in fact, that they took my bags with them so that I wouldn't have to haul them all over Kenya and Tanzania in the next couple of weeks. (Notice them straining above - I didn't exactly pack light this year). My roommates have been my link to - EVERYTHING here - they have taught me about everything that comes with living in South Africa - the good, the bad and of course the ugly. We have been through so much together this year - from long talks about politics and religion, boys and families, ridiculousness and sorrow - and everything in between. Without them my year would have been so much less rich. Honestly, I can't imagine my year without them. My heart beats a little harder when I think of them, and I know that they too will be my friends for life. Here are some pictures from our last night together in the 5 Gilbert House. I miss these girls SO much! However, I am also looking forward to the day that I can host them in the USA - they have given me big shoes to fill (especially Estelle - haha). Love you love you love you.


I am now - officially a quarter of a century old. And I have loved every second - I wouldn't give a minute of it back. I have been pretty inundated with my thesis lately, so I expected to have a very low-key birthday this year... but I was in for quite the surprise. Victor drove in from Cape Town, COMPLETELY catching me off guard (I had NO idea) and surprised me!!!! In addition, my parents tracked down the owner of a pizza restaurant in town (we stayed at a guesthouse owned by the same people when they were here in June), and arranged for pizza-dinner party with my friends. This has been a tradition since I was in middle school - my birthday always used to fall on a basketball game, so my parents would always bring pizza for my team, and put up banners and such in the stands (love them). When I left for college, the kept the tradition going by tracking me down WHEREVER I am and having pizza delivered to me and my friends....So far, this has meant that they have delivered pizza to:
  • 2002 - A random hotel in California where I was recruiting for Rice's swim team (yes, this is my other life I lived somewhere back there)
  • 2003 - A history class in a university in Sevilla, Spain (this one was a MIRACLE considering they don't speak Spanish and until that point I had never seen a pizza restaurant in our town)
  • 2004 - hmmm - I must have been at Rice in Houston.
  • 2005 - YES Prep Public School in Houston, TX - The whole staff ate pizza with me (apparently they tried to deliver it to my house but no pizza place would deliver to my house in the ghetto!! haha)
  • 2006 - Again at YES Prep in Houston, but this time I ate with my students as well.
  • 2007 - My house in Denver where I was in the middle of my first graduate-school finals.
  • 2008 - Grahamstown, South Africa! - this year's pizza was a chicken and avocado dream, of course with hot sauce (thanks Brenda!).
They are amazing AND diligent. And it always makes my birthday so special knowing they have put in all of that effort to keep the tradition alive (I bet they weren't counting on all of the international trips when they started it!!)

It was also WONDERFUL to read all of the messages from friends and family - it is such a reminder of how loved I am. !!!! So blessed.

PS - please notice the blatantly phallic dessert they served me after dinner (pictured below).

Last Rotary Presentation

As part of the terms of the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, we are required to give 10-15 presentations at different Rotary clubs and/or schools/organizations during our year abroad. Last Thursday, I gave my farewell presentation at my host club, the Grahamstown Rotary Club.

Our presentations are a way for us to share our experience with our audience - and my farewell presentation was essentially a 'report' of what my year has meant to me, as well as a thank you to my host club.
Pictured below is me exchanging club banners with Harry Rama, this year's club President. The club banner exchange is a tradition in Rotary, and I will bring my sponsor club (in Houston) this banner as a sign of friendship from the Grahamstown club.
The picture below is of Sandy, a wonderful and supportive Rotarian who I am so thankful I got the chance to meet this year. The picture is of her thanking me for my speech on behalf of the club.
And this picture is of Rotarian Robin - who graciously invited all of the scholars into his home earlier this year for dinner. While we were there I noticed he had a love of American sports tee-shirts, so I kept this one from Houston to give to him at the end of the year. :)
Thank you Grahamstown Rotary - this year literally was the gift of a lifetime.

My Host Counselors

The lovely Vivian and Billy de Klerk.

A (very) tearful goodbye.

There have been SO many times over the last year that I have stopped dead in my tracks in awe of how utterly and completely blessed I am.

Let's just stop there for a minute.


One of the most incredible blessings this year has been the fact that I was placed in this little town in the middle of nowhere South Africa with 3 of the most fantastic other people in the world.

The other Ambassadorial scholars have literally become my family in this country. We all came to South Africa with absolutely no intention of meeting other Americans, but... we all just fell hopelessly in love with each other, and it would be hard not to - these people would be amazing ANYWHERE in the world, in ANY context. Which, I assume, is why they were all chosen in the first place.

All of that aside, I. love. them.

Now - on to the tears.

Last week, Rosa went home. It was one of the most heartbreaking days of my time here. Rosa has been my constant companion this year, and from the very first time that we met when she took the bus to Cape Town (while I was still there taking Xhosa lessons) I knew she would be a friend for life. Together, we shared WAY more than our fair share of adventures, including a phenomenal backpacking trip (all planned on the plane ride there) through Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC. We also helped each other survive this year - we analyzed our little lives to death, talked of loves and trials, and endless hilarious and embarrassing stories. In short - we lived this amazing year together, and her departure was my first dose of reality that it is almost all over.

Our goodbye was probably hysterical (or painful) to watch - we sobbed like little babies for what seemed like hours - so hard, in fact, that my face was puffy for three straight days.

I miss her endlessly, but I also know that we will be friends until we are old and feeble, and will always have a spectacular wealth of memories together. Love you Rosa.

Here are some pictures from the last day or so that Rosa was here:

One last visit to Cape Town

Grahamstown Traditions: Steak night

One of the many food-related traditions that the other Amb. Scholars and I have established/participated in Grahamstown has been that of Steak Night. The last Wednesday of every month, the local grocery store, Pick and Pay, sponsors a steak night at the golf club, where they sell meat (they cut it right off the cow... more or less) and grill it up for you. This makes for a very yummy and a very CHEAP steak dinner. And I mean SERIOUSLY yummy (they put a lemon marinade on it, but I think it is all of the MSG they add that really gives it a kick - ha!) and SERIOUSLY cheap - we are talking 15 Rand for the lovely hunk of cow you see in the picture there - at the current exchange rate, that is $1.50. Yes, that's right - a dollar and a half for a steak dinner. Thanks Pick and Pay, and thank you Grahamstown.

PS - this has to be one of the best fundraising ideas I've ever heard - get a grocery store to sponsor (or sell at a discount) a whole bunch of raw meat, and then sell plates of food to everyone at a little more upped price. It is a RAGING success in Grahamstown. They sell the sides (see pics below) for about 20 rand (2 dollars) and dessert is a little extra too. Keep it in the files for future fundraising needs....

Reading Camp

A few weeks ago, one of my teacher friends here allowed me to get back into the 'classroom' for a few hours. On a Saturday morning, I got the chance to work with about 14 kids on some basic reading skills. It was so much fun but was an aching reminder of how much I miss working with kids on a day to day basis. It also gave me the chance to read a story aloud about a very sleepy sheep about 14 times, a wonderful activity for any Saturday morning. :) Thanks Matt for letting me participate!!!

In the presence of fame...

Eben has certainly become a local celebrity in Grahamstown. Whenever people hear that I'm an Amb. Scholar from America, one of their first questions (after whether I voted for Obama) is whether I know Eben Cathey. And then they ask if we are related (all curly-haired Americans look alike). I like to think its a compliment to him - but then again, he is the famous one. :)

Just doing my ambassadorial duties...

That's right - I taught my roommate, Cilnette, how to change her own car tire. Some may say it would have been kinder for me to change it for her... but like they say... you give a man a fish .... you know the rest. :) YAY Cilnette!!!

PS - I actually just stood there and dictated. I am not sure if that counts exactly as 'teaching' - or if it just allowed me to do what I do best and be bossy - but at least I was moral support. ;)