Coming home for Christmas

I’ve always loved airports. Many of the standard airport procedures that make people nervous give me a sense of calm and purpose– the purpose of moving. In an airport, you are leaving somewhere and starting in another place. Airports are Limbo. They are the place where you can think about where you came from and also where you are going. They represent a fresh start to somewhere. They are a portal to where I want to be, whether that is in a new place and new friends or old haunts among dearly loved people who I am returning back to. I have felt some of my happiest and most peaceful moments within the walls of the airport among the rushing businesspeople, screaming children, and panicked travelers grabbing their heads in despair as the security officers confiscate their favorite lotion and throw it nonchalantly into the trash. It’s three fluid ounces, people.

My trip home for Christmas, from Berlin to Nebraska, was everything opposite of what I have just described in the first paragraph. It was the kind of trip that makes even the most comfortable traveler think for a second about giving up travel forever. Without getting into it, because that is not what this blog is about, I am two days late to get home, I was detained at UK immigration, I had to evacuate the terminal because the fire alarm went off right before boarding, and when we finally did get back in and onto the plane we were delayed by another 2 hours just sitting on the runway, and lastly, but certainly not least, my German sausages I had brought home to share with my family were confiscated and thrown, like the lotion, nonchalantly into the trash.


I am home. And even while swearing to myself never to travel during the Christmas season, as I got into the car and left the Rocky Mountains behind me on the Western horizon, I knew that I would do it again, because there is nothing like the feeling of returning home. As I whizzed by the familiar signs, Julesburg (halfway home), NEBRASKA, “The Good Life” (Hell yes it is!), and finally turning off at North Platte and driving the last stretch, the best stretch, I felt the rest of the anger and frustration and problems the travel snafus had caused leave me somewhere before Highway 92. From there on, I felt free.

The sun shined down on the rubble of the cornfields, golden snapped stalks and ruffage sticking up through patches of snow. Black angus steers, furry now with their winter coats, nosed through the leftovers and huddled together for warmth. The bright green hills I had left in July had faded to yellow and a dusting of snow coated them and accentuated the canyons running down to lower land. I was the only car on the road for miles.

Finally turning into my driveway, I sighed with relief. I had made it. I parked the car and walked into my house. The familiar Christmas decorations were up: huge red pointsettas bursting out of brightly wrapped pots, several interpretations of the manger scattered throughout the living room, and of course, the most perfect cedar tree twinkling with lights and covered in years of carefully collected ornaments. Alone for a few moments, I walked in and sat looking at the tree. I would do it all again, I said to myself. Yes, I would do it all again.

Now as I write this from my childhood bed, I wish you all the peace and comfort of being in your homes among the people you love for the holidays. A very merry Christmas to all of you!

Best of Peace Corps Senegal

I’ve had so much fun re-reading some of my old blog posts, which I have now compiled for you into the Best of Peace Corps Senegal blog. My nearly three years in this beautiful country is without a doubt one of the most transformative periods of my life. It provided me with invaluable insight, lessons that have set the foundation of my life, and taught me more than anything else, that the world is a very big place full of people so different, and yet so alike if we take the time to realize it.

It is very clear to see that I left the Peace Corps a more reflective, less naive, and more globally aware person. It would seem it really is true— life is a learning process and we will all probably look back at the younger versions of ourselves and laugh (and maybe sometimes grimace). I hope to continue laughing at the younger version of myself throughout every stage of life.

I’ve picked out 12 of my favorite blogs for you to peruse from my time in Senegal (2011-2014) to show you a little glimpse of one of my most wandered countries, a country forever in my heart, and one which will always feel a little bit like home.

A Wild Woman’s African Dream Come True, Nov. 23, 2011: The first impression in my new village.

The Bike Ride from Hell, Dec. 13, 2011: Hilarious now, terrifying then.

Chicken Victory, July. 18, 2012: A story of overcoming challenges and grabbing your life’s chicken.

A Closer Look at Life, July 31, 2012: Living in a Muslim country during Ramadan (first part of blog) and one of the hardest days I had while living in my village (second half of blog).

Rats, this is War! March 5, 2013. The title explains itself.

A Particularly Hot and Bothered Peace Corps Volunteer, April 10, 2013: An open letter to Banana Boat sunscreen, which reveals some of hot season’s greatest challenges.

The Road Home in Rainy Season, June 24, 2013: A peaceful post that takes me back down memory lane.

You are in my Heart, Sept. 15, 2013: Reflections on the two years in southern Senegal and saying goodbye to my village for the last time.

They Call Me Family, Oct. 9, 2013: Why I will always be so grateful I was placed with the Pulaars.

Wanna Feug Jaay? Mar. 24, 2014: One of the most unexpected reasons you HAVE to visit Senegal.

This is not a New Year’s Resolution…

Writing this blog is not a New Year’s resolution because I started it before the new year. It is not a New Year’s resolution because I refuse to have this blog tumble into the dark and crowded abyss of other discarded and forgotten resolutions. This is not a New Year’s resolution– this is my fiercest attempt in years to write again.

Since my Peace Corps blog and a short stint writing for my dad’s Senate campaign, I haven’t done a very good job of doing what I love. That was three years ago. This will be my third time I have started a blog since then.The first attempt never even got the dignity of one single, poorly-written post. The second one got further than the first, with an About page and a couple of other blog posts recycled from old writing. I have been embarrassed to speak about those failed blogs until this post, and as I write now, I am still embarrassed. A failed blog means a lazy writer, or worse, an uninspired one, or dare I say it and worst of all, a person who would like to be a writer, but just never really had it in her.

I’m here writing this post, starting this blog, not as a new year’s resolution, but to tell myself and anyone else who happens to read this, that I refuse to let myself off that easily. I am going to write. I am going to write whether or not anyone reads it. I am going to write because I don’t want to wake up next week, next year, or in 80 years, and say, “Well damn, that could have been a good story. I wish I would have written it down.”

My friends used to say that I live for the story. I put myself in situations that are uncomfortable, terrifying, hilarious, and sometimes even dangerous (don’t worry Ingo, not anymore) so that I have an authentic story to tell. It’s still true today, it’s just that somewhere along the way, I stopped writing them down.

I’m probably still going to worry about the theme and flow of my blog, if people think I am self-important for writing a blog, whether I am technically savvy enough to create a good enough blog, if people will criticize my writing, and all the other things that have crossed my mind every time I give up, but I’ve decided to worry about them a lot less.

Some of the stories will emerge from the depths of my desktop folder to make their first online debut, but most will be brand new writing, whether from my current wanderings or a place I have wandered in the last three years. I have finally decided to give myself only one rule for this blog and that is to write.

To round out my first post on this site and the first blog post that has made it into the world in three years (HURRAY!), I hope that if you also feel like you have a story to tell (we all do) and you’ve been waiting for something to push you to write it, you might just start one too! Get that free wordpress site fired up and let’s do this. Start it now– because you know, then it’s not a new year’s resolution.

And finally to my friends who have read this far, I wouldn’t mind a little push towards accountability. If you feel so inclined, follow this blog and write me a cheeky little message if I don’t write every week. Either way, I hope to be here, writing all the stories.