Well, I've been back from Europe for almost a month now. In that time, I spent three weeks in Kalamazoo experiencing motherhood...which may be my greatest lesson thus far.
I stayed with my sister Stephanie and her husband Brian, who had August James Lemmer on September 23rd. I (suffering from a horrible case of jet lag) arrived 10 days later to be thrown into the center of life with a newborn, young marriage, new house, and two dogs. Want to talk about long hours and stress. To all the mothers in the world, you deserve a huge hug and a day at the spa; I think you might have the hardest job out there. But, I wouldn't trade the last three weeks of my life for anything.
I definitely learned to stop thinking about myself so much. The baby doesn't care that you have to pee, sleep, eat, or even shower. And just as you have the baby happy, the dogs need to go out. But wait, the baby is now hungry and we're out of clean bottles. So with a baby in one arm, trying to fool him with a pacifier, you sterilize bottles. Needless to say, I gained a wealth of new knowledge. (Please see the P.S. at the end of this post)
More than anything, I learned unconditional love. I reconnected with family, friends I've had since kindergarten, my first boyfriend, my high school sweetheart, friends from college, colleagues from over the years, and mentors. I am surrounded by a phenomenal group of people. I have had the amazing opportunity to step back from my life and take a good look at where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going. I have realized that I am truly a fortunate person.
Unfortunately, one of my oldest friend's mother passed away while I was in Europe. I was able to make it back in time for the memorial service and another dear friend's wedding. It was an awesome experience. My core group of friends, who now live all over the country, came back together for an entire week. It was so good to catch up and reconnect. We've all grown up so much, and as mature adults, we still have a great time together. We're still there for each other through good times and bad. We were able to pick right back up where we left off...even if we hadn't seen each other in a year, or even five. I think we all realized how lucky we are.
I caught up with the people I've worked with over the years. I am finally able to acknowledge my own growth and accomplishments. In college I landed a part-time office job with an awesome company. Since it took me six years to get through school (Super Seniors unite!), I have many wonderful memories with the company :-) I have also kept in touch with the people from the firm I just left. And as dysfunctional as we may be (think Home for the Holidays), we are family. I had some great conversations with my mentors. I still don't know what the heck I want to do with my life, but I am getting closer.
So now, I am packing for my next adventure. I leave for Ghana, Africa on Friday at 2:15pm. In all honesty, I just now checked the time of my flight and it is sinking in that I don't have that much time! I will be over there for five weeks, in the town of Hohoe. I will be living in a home with other volunteers; I believe there are 20 of us, ranging in age from 18 - 61. I am really excited about my assignment. I will be teaching children English and basic arithmetic as well as organizing fun activities for them! I will teach 3 hours, Monday through Friday. Then in the afternoons we have cultural activities and excursions.
For all of you worried about my safety, I appreciate the concern. I have done a lot of research before making this decision. I am confident in the program I selected with Cross Cultural Solutions. Follow this link to learn more about the program and Ghana http://www.crossculturalsolutions.org/where_you_can_go/ghana/default.asp. This is a reputable organization and I have found them to be extremely organized and professional. Ghana itself is a very safe country and I have registered with the US Embassy over there. My group has been invited to submerse ourselves in Ghanaian culture while giving back to the world. The community embraces the program and welcomes us.
I have so many mixed emotions right now. I am so excited, but also anxious. I have moments where I think, I can't believe I am actually doing this. But I had those thoughts right before I quit my job, then again right before Europe. I not only made it through both of those milestones just fine, but also became a stronger, wiser, and more mature person. For those around me right now, thanks for dealing with me and any of my odd behavior. It's hard to disconnect from one culture to prepare for the next.
I will continue to blog while in Africa, but internet service will be limited. Just assume no news is good news. Also, I can't figure out how to upload the freakin' pictures, so I have included links below. Thanks for your patience!
Click on the links below to see the pictures from Europe:
Kalamazoo (actually just pictures of the new baby!)
I will miss you all! Giddy Up!
P.S. I really want to start a program where high school freshmen have to stay in a household with a newborn baby for one week. I'm totally serious too, I would love to hear feedback.