78 Hours in Minnesota: The Cons

340 days ago, the American people did something I would have never thought possible: They elected Donald Trump as president. And I can “not my president” all I want, but honestly, it has been easier to ignore what’s happening back home while living abroad.

Every time a new embarrassing/depressing headline was announced…

Trump to Authorize Wall and Curtail Immigration
Trump Targets Muslim Areas in Refugee Ban
Trump Fires Justice Chief Who Defied Him
Facing Scrutiny Over Russia Call, Flynn Steps Down
Trump Rescinds Obama Directive on Bathroom Use
Health Groups Unite to Oppose Republican Bill
Trump Signs Rule to Block Efforts on Aiding Climate Change

And these were just some of the New York Times’ articles during the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. They don’t even include Trump’s war against my health rights as a woman, NRA (Nonsensical Rifle Addiction), our pull-out from UNESCO, etc. Honestly…it’s hard not to keep adding to this list.

But before, I could hide behind my overseas-ness. I could declare – I don’t know those kinds of Americans. But going home, I knew I’d have to face it.

And I can honestly say I wasn’t prepared for some of the conversations.

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78 Hours in Minnesota: The Pros

My whirlwind of a weekend home is over and I already miss it. I mean, I don’t miss the utter exhaustion, my inability to tell which day of the week it was, or the distance from my husband (not the largest ocean, but a pretty big one none-the-less)…but on a whole, it was a pretty magical trip.

I’ve never traveled so far (24 hours there, 21 hours back) to be somewhere for such a short amount of time. So I guess I should explain why…

The real why goes back to July 3, 2016. My wedding day. And there, standing next to me (on the opposite side of my soon-to-be husband) was Nora. A woman who wrote out my invitations, shared a room with my sister and other bridesmaid, Erica (both strangers to her), and has been a source of comfort and conversation since we met in the early days of university.

She was my witness on our marriage license.

And on October 1, 2017, it was her turn to get married. Now, living halfway around the world, I couldn’t write out her invitations (and let’s be honest – she has better handwriting anyway), I couldn’t dye or tie her lovely keychains to mark the seating chart, and I couldn’t be with her to try on various wedding dresses (which she had done with me).

All I could do was be there. So I did.

And despite the travel hours logged, I am so happy that I did. Fun fact: I did not cry at my own wedding – I was not going to waste that professionally applied make-up! But I sobbed like a baby at Nora’s, my heart bursting with joy.

I finally got to meet Sumit, her now husband – the ocean between us preventing that from previously happening. And I got to steal small moments with her when she wasn’t taking a million photographs, greeting everyone that came to her wedding, and spending time with the man she will now be spending the rest of her life with.

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If that was all I got from my weekend home, it would have been enough.

But I got more.

After a three-hour delay in Amsterdam, turning my nine-hour flight into twelve hours, I finally got to see my parents and sister. Excepting my sister, they don’t get out much and so I hadn’t seen them in over a year. We immediately got into the swing of things: My father shouting at traffic, my sister getting exasperated by my mother, and me trying to Skype a medical appointment from the backseat. So little time.

I got to have dinner with the three of them, plus my grandparents and my first meal back in the states was a burrito (Chandler has trained me well). It was delicious, even if it was from the freezer section of Trader Joes.

The next day I got to visit with even more family as my grandparents opened up their home to anyone who could claim relation to me : ) A feast was laid before us and we spent the next six hours eating and catching up. Our time together was way too short, but I got all the most important updates: deaths, divorces, and new dogs. My family is a country song.

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Shrill: Notes from a loud woman

If you have a vagina, you should read this book. Also, if you have a penis, you should read this book. If you have something in between or have added or subtracted to it, you should also read this book.

Because this is a book that everyone should read. Shrill: Notes from a loud woman by Lindy West.

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As an American, my country embarrasses me. I left the United States 13 months ago and while I should have seen this coming, I lived in my own privileged bubble. And now, it appalls me. And I hate to admit it, but I’m glad I’m gone. I know it was the easy way out. Which makes this book and the conversations Lindy West is having all the more important.

Instead of trying to review this book and tell you what I loved and why I loved it, I’m merely going to let Lindy’s words speak for themselves. And while I think these excerpts are powerful in and of themselves, putting them in the context of the book in its entirety makes them breathtaking.

On being fat:

“So what do you do when you’re too big, in a world where bigness is cast not only as aesthetically objectionable, but also as a moral failing? You fold yourself up like origami, you make yourself smaller in other ways, you take up less space with your personality, since you can’t with your body.”

“If you really want change to happen, if you really want to ‘help’ fat people, you need to understand that shaming an already-shamed population is, well, shameful.”

“As a woman, my body is scrutinized, policed, and treated as a public commodity. As a fat woman, my body is also lampooned, openly reviled, and associated with moral and intellectual failure. My body limits my job prospects, access to medical care and fair trails, and—the one thing Hollywood movies and Internet trolls most agree on—my ability to be loved.”

On being a woman:

“Women matter. Women are half of us. When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time—that moves the rudder of the world, it steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women’s safety and humanity are secondary to men’s pleasure and convenience.”

“The most significant source of my adolescent period anxiety was the fact that, in America in 2016 (and far more so in 1993), acknowledging the completely normal and mundane function of most uteruses is still taboo…The taboo is so strong that while we’ve all seen swimming pools of blood shed in horror movies and action movies and even on the news, when a woman ran the 2015 London Marathon without a tampon, photos of blood spotting her running gear made the social media rounds to near universal disgust. The blood is the same—the only difference is where it’s coming from. The disgust is at women’s natural bodies, not at blood itself.”

“My abortion was a normal medical procedure that got tangled up in my bad relationship, my internalized fatphobia, my fear of adulthood, my discomfort with talking about sex; and one that, because of our culture’s obsession with punishing female sexuality and shackling women to the nursery and the kitchen, I was socialized to approach with shame and describe only in whispers. But the procedure itself was the easiest part. Not being able to have one would have been the real trauma.”

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We got hitched!

Ok, so it’s probably a little weird that my first blog from Ghana is about an event that happened four weeks ago in the U.S. But between the wedding, our post wedding excursion (ok, mini-moon), saying goodbye to family & friends, and packing up our lives for the second time this summer…there just wasn’t time to look through photos and write a blog post!

And I have to admit, I’m a little surprised this is happening even now. We start school in three days and I meet all of the second graders new to the school tomorrow. But if you don’t make time now, then when?

So, this is mostly a picture blog. For anyone wanting to see how the pictures turned out or to relive the day (all right, I’m probably the only one who does that! Haha), or for those who couldn’t make it…you know who you are : )

First, we got ready at the house, which was a historic home in St. Paul, so of course we took some photos there…

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But then the ladies got bored and we figured it was time to include everyone…

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10 Travel Tips I Learned AFTER Peace Corps

You’d probably think living overseas in Ethiopia for 2 years would have taught me a lot about travel, but honestly, I moved there with two 50 lb suitcases and two very large carry-ons. I pretty much tossed in everything I thought I could possibly need and then relied on friends and family to send me care packages every 2-3 months.

It wasn’t until my partner (now husband! What? But that’s for another post) and I spent 3 months traveling around SE Asia with just a medium-sized North Face duffel on each of our backs that I really learned something about packing and traveling in general.

Tip #1: Bring a boatload of spare passport photos with you
I didn’t bring any extra to Ethiopia (because buying them in the United States is SO expensive!). It wasn’t a big deal, I had them printed in Ethiopia for super cheap, but I knew the language and had friends to refer me to a place. And while I got all the photos I needed for SE Asia (think visa forms, drivers permits, and lost passports), they all had this silly photo-touched glow to them that left me feeling embarrassed and hoping like hell they’d be accepted! This time around we printed them ourselves using a handy tool from the Department of State, a color printer, and some semi-gloss paper.

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Tip #2: Don’t buy adventure clothes
Things I bought from REI that I could not have lived without: My quick-dry towel, light-weight sleeping bag (only for my time staying with a host family – I never used it when traveling), Swiss Army Camper Knife, Nalgene water bottle (this time I’ve upgraded to a Hydro Flask), and headlamp (because you never know when the electricity’s going to go out). Things I could not wait to get rid of: expensive hiking shoes, linen pants, and rain jacket. If you don’t wear it at home, you won’t want to wear it while traveling! This time around I’m packing plenty of jeans, summer dresses, and an umbrella.

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I Hear The Drums Echoing Tonight

“I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had the courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils.” – Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Earlier this month, Chandler and I made the trek up to Waterloo, Iowa. Everyone we had spoken to about UNI’s Overseas Placement Service for Educators had told us to keep our options open and be prepared for a roller coaster of changes and emotions. They were right.

In my last blog, I listed our locations of interest as Monterrey, Mexico; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Athens, Greece; Kathmandu, Nepal; Muscat, Oman; and Asuncion, Paraguay. Well, after interviewing with Mexico, we decided that while they’re a great school, it just wasn’t a great fit for both sides. Slovenia ended up filling their positions ahead of time and didn’t make it to the fair. Bangladesh, Greece, Nepal, and Paraguay required more years of teaching experience from me. Oman was crossed off the list due more to lifestyle reasons than the school itself.

Which makes it sound like we sat around scratching our heads thinking what on earth do we do now? But in reality, we had been contacted by schools in three other countries just days prior to the fair. Countries that weren’t even on our radar: The Bahamas, Ghana, and Venezuela.

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Plan The Escape

I haven’t posted in nearly a year, because I figured that without significant travel in my life, I wouldn’t have anything interesting to say. Especially since this blog almost solely documents my life overseas and my travels.

But now that I’m once again planning a life abroad, I’ve found I have more to say. It might not be as interesting to those who used to read this blog; I haven’t gone snorkeling in Thailand recently, there’s been no spelunking in Vietnam, or haggling in Qatar. Instead, I’ve become an elementary school special education teacher and that takes up nearly all of my time.

Yesterday, however, Chandler and I did get fingerprinted, as requested by UNI’s Overseas Placement Service for Educators. The results came back quick – neither of us have a criminal record : ) Which I guess is doubly good news since I’ll be tying my life to his this July. Maybe every engaged couple should run joint background checks through the FBI together, just so each party knows what they’re getting into!

These background checks were the last in a long list of things we needed to get done before our trip to Waterloo, Iowa next month. Once there, we’ll meet with schools from around the world and hope that we strike up a mutual interest with one of them and choose a place to call home for the next two years.

Some of the potential contenders include Monterrey, Mexico; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Athens, Greece; Kathmandu, Nepal; Muscat, Oman; Asuncion, Paraguay; and so many more. So, as you can see, we’d like to narrow it down!

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