At this time last year I was starting my first week of classes in the second semester at Antioch High School. Tomorrow I will return back to work to help kick off a new school year at Kilimahewa Educational Center in Tanzania. Same Same but very different. I cannot believe how much has happened within this last year. Doing a quick audit of my life this year here are some of the things that stand out, I.....
Sold my house and most of my things
Moved home to my parents house to live in the “compound” (as my family calls it)
Started a high school Rotary Group
Won a National Teaching Award
Finished my Educational Administration Degree
Raised enough money to put up a water project at Kilimahewa
Participated in leadership teams in my school and lead different teacher trainings
Traveled to 9 different countries on three different continents
Started a afterschool leadership group at Kilimahewa
Experienced my first earthquake
Learned how to surf
Attended my first Muslim wedding
Helped organize professional development for teachers at Kilimahewa
Studied a new language
Climbed Table Mountain
Had my first Christmas experience away from home in hot weather
All in all a great year. But as the year wrapped up I was a bit homesick and missing the comforts of my family and life in America. December is one of my favorite months at home and it was hard to not be there for all the excitement. Christmas and New Years in Africa is just not the same as it was at home. Although we had visitors from America, a construction paper Christmas tree, saxaphone playing santas in town, an amazing fruit salad breakfast, and a secret santa exchange it felt a little sad and depressing. I missed my family, dad’s breakfast, the cold weather, the 24 hour Christmas music channel, the Christmas lights and decorations, the smell of holiday candles, the crazy shopping, baileys and hot chocolate, and my family raviolis. For us Christmas eve was spent dancing at our favorite local bar until late into the night and then waking up to breakfast and movie watching. Not a bad day, just not the same. We did spend the afternoon of Christmas day swimming at a local pool and relaxing but I missed my family. Skype just doesn’t completely quench the thirst of not being together for Christmas. So for New Years Jillian and I embarked on an adventure with some of our friends that were visiting and went on a trip to the Island of Zanzibar. Zanzibar is an island of the coast of Tanzania. It is part of the country but has a bit of a different culture. Most of the people are Muslim and live a very island lifestyle. It also was a stop on the trade routes from India and as a result is full of spice fields that are grown and exported to mainland Tanzania and around the globe. The largest crop that is exported is the clove plant but they have vanilla, cinnamon, exotic fruits, lemongrass, cardamon, and many more. We spent 4 amazing days soaking up sun on the beautiful blue beaches, exploring the spice fields, practicing our swahili, eating some amazing seafood and learning about the history of Zanzibar in Stone Town. It was a great way to kick off 2012 and being with Mike and Mirielle (good friends of ours from Chicago) made it a great trip.
Before we left for Zanzibar I was reading my favorite blog, “The Art of Nonconformity” by Chris Guillebeau and he posed a question to readers, “What is your personal theme for the 2011?” This made me think intensely about the year I have had and the crazy changes and adventures I have been able to experience. Through my travels often my students will send me emails and ask me what I am doing or where I am going next. They will tell me that I am inspiring them or changing the world. I am definitely not changing the big bad world that much and I although I am happy I inspire people I am here because I truely think that helping others allows you to help yourself. So My answer Chris is this: One should always find ways to help others while at the same time trying to make life a daring adventure. Through your humanity and the experiences that push you in ways you did not know possible you will find true happiness and new appreciation for life. There is my ounce of wisdom for you all as 2011 wraps to a close for me. Not quite the one word answer but after this crazy year that is what I have learned. I am sorry this is a short post and that I haven't written in a while but I will be back to writing weekly posts this month and entertaining you with my crazy experiences.So you might be asking what’s happening in 2012….
You will have to stay tuned to find out. (: (If I told you what was coming next you wouldn't keep coming back for more)
Anyway here is a few of my favorite pictures from 2011......