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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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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Never a tourist in your own city?

So the saying goes, “You’re never a tourist in your own city,” but those who say it have clearly never had anyone visit them. My boyfriend arrived in Minneapolis December 21st, and after Christmas and family events had died down (in places like Brainerd/Little Falls/Randall/Elk River), we found ourselves back in Minneapolis – civilization.

We spent the first few days looking at jobs, apartments, and other big kid things before realizing: it’s MINNEAPOLIS! And I hadn’t shown Chandler anything (nor given him any reason to want to stay a while longer unless you count freezing weather, no snow, and enough sunless days in a row to make anyone depressed).

So we started our tour of Minneapolis on New Year’s Eve – at 612Brew. Chandler loves breweries and sampling local beers – I’ve always been more of a wine or gin drinker myself, but even I found something I liked here! The space was small, but between the cozy atmosphere, board games on every table, and food truck outside, the place felt like home. And their Payback Oatmeal Porter didn’t hurt either : )

My sister accompanied us as our DD (and constant entertainer) and we found ourselves weaving through downtown showing Chandler our favourite buildings, restaurants, and libraries. After a quick stop at Mesa Pizza (because yes, at the age of 24, I still crave mac ‘n’ cheese pizza), we made it back to my sister’s for a small house party to ring in the New Year.

Because things had been so calm the night before, we were able to start the next day (fairly) fresh and early. Our first stop was for brunch at Colossal Cafe. Shortly put, it was delicious. And you should eat their egg and cheese sandwich on a homemade biscuit immediately.

Then it was off to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, one of my favourite places in the city, and TripAdvisor’s top attraction in Minneapolis. After nearly four hours, we realized we had only seen 2/3 of the exhibits! Some of the art reminded us of our recent trip abroad (and made us want to go back!). Other bits reminded us you can never escape where you’ve been haha (Ethiopia):

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An Orthodox Easter to remember

Ethiopian holidays are all about getting the ferengi tipsy by noon and drunk before dinner. Not that I’m complaining, it just always leads to pretty memorable days. This Easter, filled with tej, tella, and arake, was no exception.

The morning was actually pretty normal; I got to sleep in for the first time in over a week because the roosters were cooking instead of crowing. Then I got to work on making the guacamole and tortillas to share with my compound family. I love them and wanted to help out with the meal…but I also had an alternative motive. I hate injera, so I figured if I made the tortillas, I could use those instead : ) Didn’t quite work out.

I brought the food over and everyone dug into their meal. Most of the women seemed pretty hesitant about trying the guac, which my landlord was fine with, because he loved it and ate most of it himself. But the tortillas were passed around and eaten plain, so once again I had a meal full of injera. I guess I can’t complain, it only happens on holidays, and they’re always so sweet to make me a meat-free meal. Easter’s was eggs, cooked carrots and green beans, and misir wot.

We got to hang out and talk for a couple of hours and I spent a lot of the time playing with their baby granddaughter who was enamored with my skin colour. Then it came time to put her down for a nap and it was universally agreed upon that everyone was going to take advantage of nap time.

I went home and continued working on the teaching materials I had started the day before (for the English Open Week at the Teacher’s College). Suddenly, it started to pour. And we’re not talking simply a heavy rain, it was like a monsoon. I looked up and noticed a heavy stream of water entering my room in one corner and a few minutes later, half my room was flooded.

Thanks to some buckets and towels, the situation was subdued, and after finding three more leaks, my landlord called a guy to look at the roof the following day. What was the agreed upon solution to the problem? Clean the gutters haha but the good news is, my house hasn’t leaked since, so I guess I’ll take it.

And then things got crazy with the English Open Week, followed by the Hawassa race that weekend – imagine 100 Peace Corps Volunteers, plus tons of NGO workers flooding an Ethiopian town for 48 hours. Crazy. But it was a ton of fun and I’ll try to find time to blog about it in the next few days : ) Until then, stay classy. And congrats Minnesota, for becoming the 12th state to legalize gay marriage. I’m proud of you!

Wild: from lost to found

You know that feeling you get when you read exactly the right book at exactly the right time? I got that feeling this week while reading Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. She’s a Minnesotan writer and I’d wanted to read this book for months, but I was just too busy in the months leading up to my move to Ethiopia.

And then I got here and had an urge to read every dystopian novel I had brought with, telling myself that Wild would be the perfect first book to read once I was on my own at my permanent site. I was right. I felt such a kinship with the author even though we went on incredibly different journeys over 15 years apart. It was still comforting knowing that we probably shopped at the same REI store in Minneapolis and that neither one of us could ever have guessed how profoundly we would be changed by our adventures.

There were so many passages that stayed with me long after I turned the page, but the ones I listed below are phrases that have actually passed through my own mind at some point in these last three months in Ethiopia. So if you want a glimpse into my head, here are my thoughts, put together much better than I could have ever done:

“It was a world I’d never been to and yet had known was there all along, one I’d staggered to in sorrow and confusion and fear and hope. A world I thought would both make me into the woman I knew I could become and turn me back into the girl I’d once been. A world that measured two feet wide and 2,663 miles long. A world called the Pacific Crest Trail.”

I found this especially fitting because I just survived PCT – Peace Corps Training. And though our PCTs took roughly the same amount of time, they were vastly different experiences. But it wasn’t until I read these words that it really sunk in why Peace Corps had become so important to me: I thought it could help turn back the clock to a time when life was simpler. A time when I could trust easily, love easily, a carefree time when I didn’t have so many questions. I joined Peace Corps because I wanted to help others, but also because I felt like I had lost myself over the last few years and thought that I could find myself again if I was given a fresh start.

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“At which point, at long last, there was the actual doing it, quickly followed by the grim realization of what it meant to do it, followed by the decision to quit doing it because doing it was absurd and pointless and ridiculously difficult and far more than I expected doing it would be and I was profoundly unprepared to do it. And then there was the real live truly doing it. The staying and doing it, in spite of everything.”

This is essentially what passed through my mind on repeat my first two weeks in Ethiopia: this is ridiculously difficult and I’m unprepared. I had romanticized what it would be like to be in Peace Corps and I was confronted with more hardships than I initially thought I could handle. Luckily, I met some incredible people along the way who helped me see that I was strong enough to stay and see this through.

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