One year Zam-iversary reflections

In honor of my one year Zam-iversary, I’ll bypass the “sorry for the lack of posts” and the “Hannah the oversensitive” typical statements and get right to the chase. My time in Zambia is difficult to describe. It is everything. It is my highest highs and my lowest lows, my biggest epiphanies and the ultimate mundane. In honor of my one year in this place and the reflection it threw me into, I leave you with this: a list of random thoughts I’ve written during different times in my service. Things I’ve written in my journal/ my lesson plan book/ scrap papers/ the walls/ whatsapp chats/ etc.

June 14, 2015 (four days after arrival to Zambia)
Ba Rave (our training coordinator) – “Remember this is an experience that no one can take from you. It is so rich. Remember that. Not one bit of money could ever buy this experience from you. It will be with you forever.”

June 26, 2015
This present moment is beautiful. . Never thought that the sound of my feet could be so memorizing, the stars could be so bright, that these new relationships could feel so real so quickly, Wow, the universe is so good to me. It always brings me such wonderful people. I’m very happy here.

August 3, 2015
Tough day. I don’t want to write. But here I go; here are some things for which I am thankful:

  1. My Zambian family, the Lungus

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    Ba Stefania (my head teacher) and Bayama (uncle)

  2. Past loves
  3. The ability to read and write
  4. Peace Corps Medical Office
  5. Zambian teachers who care
  6. That blanket on my bed
  7. An extra notebook
  8. Malarone (my malaria prophylaxis)
  9. Sunrises/ sunsets and their colors
  10. Wine


September 5, 2015 (2 days after arrival in village in which I will serve)

Today I thought I could carry 20 liters of water on my head and dropped it in front of about ten people who all looked terrified. It shattered and eventually we all laughed.
Also a chicken got in my house and I couldn’t get it out. Then it pooped on my floor.

September 16, 2015
Joys-

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Kristen, Mapalo and Eme 

  1. Reading notes from friends in the U.S.
  2. Throwing rocks at the mana apple tree wth the neighborhood kids. Cheering when one falls. Sharing all the winners.
  3. Reading Bemba books with Bayama Ba Francis (host uncle). He is so patient and a great teacher.
  4. Conversations on the phone with family back home. It’s funny how close I can feel with them when we are so far away.
  5. Chalk writing with the neighborhood kids.
  6. Writing by candle light on the porch while cooking.
  7. Rare natural moments of laughing, laughing, laughing with Ba mayo (mom), Bayama (uncle), Ba Charity and Ba John.

September 20, 2015
Can I every think about the world the same or will I always think differently now? I think this experience is changing everything.

October 5, 2015
Today I wasn’t capable
I couldn’t spell, speak or hear
I was stupid and ignorant
People pointed out my faults

October 17, 2015
I wake up every morning and thank God for turning on the lights.

November 15, 2015
This weekend I did NOTHING productive. But I honestly have never felt closer to my Zambian family.

November 25, 2015
Thing’s I’m thankful for-

  • Having power at school
  • Sneaking winks with the kid in the overalls at church
  • When some new cooking creation actually works
  • When Bayama saw that I was having a hard time starting the fire so he came over with dry wood to help me.
  • Watching kids read
  • Joseph (a great pupil) “Madam I am missing you” on Saturday. (the last time he saw me was Friday)
  • Little Oscar insisting on helping me with all my chores
  • Voice messages from friends

December 9, 2015
I’ve been on this Peace Corps journey for 6 months exactly today. Wow!

December 31, 2015
The last day of 2015. Wow.

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Goofy faces with Gay and Bwalya

Hannah Mathers- most likely to be the hypest chick at the club. Most likely to fall in love with every place she goes, most likely to ask for directions, to write in her journal that she needs to write more, to laugh at herself, to need to communicate. Most likely to practice ‘out of sight, out of mind’, to lose stuff. Most likely to seek affection.
Learning a lot about myself.

January 5, 2015
I am a walking billboard of privilege and opportunities that many of the people around me will likely never have access to.
“You’ll live just like the people” they said. It greatly affected my decision to leave “everything” behind and “serve” in another country. My understanding of this whole experience has grown exponentially. In a way, I’m sure we are living like the people we are “serving”. We are speaking their language, fetching water at the same hole and waking up to the same sunrise that gives us light. However, “living like the people” doesn’t adequately describe this experience for me. Living like the people would mean no malaria prophylaxis, little food options, no peace corps appointed bike helper, and absolutely no toll free phone lines in case of emergencies where a cruiser may just magically appear at your door for a sprained ankle. It means no weekend trips to the boma (the closest city) just to kick it with friends. And it sure as hell means no Malawi trips to binge on food and booze, it means living in a skin color that has been oppressed since the beginning of “civilization” (something some volunteers understand). The privilege I was born into is deep. It’s not something that can just be stripped with a tiny 2-year leave from the over-luxurious comforts of the U.S. We are merely experimenting. We will never know their struggle.

January 7, 2016IMG_3674
New day!
“No matter how much logic I cram into my brain, it can’t push out the feelings in my heart.”
I’m on the up! Riding this slump out, doing what I gotta do to feel better.

February 15, 2016
It scares me when I realize how much of my happiness is based on others. My good days are based on others while my bad days also are.

February 19, 2016
I spend more time than ever thanking God for things that have always existed in my life. The sunlight in the morning that allows me to see. The wind that starts my brazier (my fire), The rain that waters the crops and fills up my bathing basin. The moon and the light it brings or the light it doesn’t bring so we can see the beautiful stars. Wow, God’s creation is truly beautiful. What a special little experience I am having here during my small time here on Earth. Who am I to be able to experience such joy?

February 25, 2016 (during a meeting)
WHAT’S THE POINT OF THIS?

March 23, 2016

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My home

The saddest things in my life:

  • My memory
  • All the lives I will never live
  • All the lives I’ve lived but have forgotten

I can’t write these days. What’s up with me.

April 15, 2016 (on my walls)

“I am the one thing in life I can control.”
Always give grace. Cuz you sure as hell need it too, honey.

May 1, 2016
Sometimes I wonder if I am afraid to write because I’m afraid of what will be exposed in my own thoughts. I don’t feel very connected to my soul, to mother earth right now. I just feel a little disconnected lately. I haven’t had a moment where I am in awe of the universe’s beauty lately.

May 30, 2016
I don’t know how to tell you that I live in a small village in the Samfya district of the Luapula province in Zambia.
Yes, that’s in Africa
but I don’t know how to tell you that treating this continent like its just one, less fortunate, uniformed, hungry, dark skinned country is harmful and simply extremely false.

June 7, 2016 (in a letter to a family)
I’m so thankful for my peace corps volunteer community. We share stories, food, tears and laughter. I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a tighter friend group.

June 13, 2016
Had a couple really good days. Thankful for joy and grace and this present moment.

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My grade 8 pupils killin it

Twatotela, Chipembi 

Written from the heart on August 25.   
Chipembi is the name of the village where we spent the last three months training. (We are officially done with training!) It was packed with learning, challenges, stretching, growth, ahhh it was just intense. Which I am using as an excuse for why I have not written in a while (that and connection is hard to come by!) 
I’m writing as a special typical me closure to this place where I truly feel so much growth has happened. I learned many surface lessons, like how to ride my bike on Zambian roads, how to fix my bike, how to hand wash my clothes, how to carry water on my head, how to wear chitenge (a special cloth wrap that woman wear/ use for everything here), how to speak Bemba (yay! I love it!), how to cook on a brazier (open fire), HOW TO TEACH!, how to bargain for vegetables (ahhh so many lessons). Aside from these tangible things I’ve learned, I feel like much deeper lessons have been taking place. I’ve only just begun to benefit from the many lessons that I know Zambia has for me in the next two years. The stretching has forced me to do some heart/ intention checking. Questions like- why am I here? How do I view the people I serve? How do I view people who serve me? I hope to continue this reflective attitude through my service (this is me asking you to call me out if I’m not). 
I’m also trying new things. I’m acknowledging my insecurities and encouraging myself to not let them make my decisions. I’m focusing on choosing love over fear. I’m doing things that cause me pain but are best for me at this time (What starts off easy, ends up hard. What starts off hard, ends up easy). I’m stretching myself as much as I can! Some days I fail, but guess what? some days I have succeeded! And that’s pretty awesome. (I also give myself rest time don’t worry, momma) 
My three months in Chipembi have been exhausting but growth filled. I’m so thankful to everyone who took part in my learning (the trainees, the trainers, my family, strangers on the street). As you know from my many “see you later” posts, ending chapters hurt my heart. I feel deeply connected with people (I know after only three months) and  moving on hurts. Although yes (prepare for cliche) they will always be in my heart. But really, I believe in that stuff.
So my next step? Shortly, I will be sworn in as an official volunteer and will move to my permanent peace corps site (in Luapula, Zambia). Our first three months are called community entry where our only responsibility is to get integrated into the community by meeting as many people as we can, by speaking lots of Bemba, by eating lots of nshima (the staple Zambian dish), by observing classrooms, etc. Three months dedicated to shaking hands? Sounds like my kinda three months :) 
Again, I’m choosing to acknowledge my emotions which are so mixed right now. Ending a chapter hurts my heart and beginning a new one excites it. I’m on a ride of many emotions and I’ve only just begun. 
Thanks for showing me love. Much love back. 

When stuff got real

Written from the heart on July 25. Posted at first sign of available wifi.
I met my new house! We trainees visited current peace corps volunteers and our own soon to be homes to see what village life is really like. We spent time setting our own fires, observing Zambian classrooms, walking around, attending events (I even attended a wedding and kitchen party aka bridal shower! I shook my booty in front of a whole yard full of Zambians and we alllllll laughed super hard!) It was a fun week to say the least. 

  
Jim and Julie (those two beautiful souls in the picture) are the current RED (rural education development) volunteers in this home (my new home) and were great hosts during our site visit. In September after we trainees swear in as official peace corps volunteers, I will be moving into this beauty. 
My week was intense and full to the brim with lessons. You might be thinking, “oh man Hannah just realized she’s gonna be pooping In a hole for the next two years” or even “it just hit her that she has no microwave for quick meals.” You might even think, “she is just now understanding that fetching buckets of water for drinking, bathing and washing isn’t as peaceful as she initially thought.” And although yes most of these things have crossed my mind and maybe even caused some nervousness, no, they are still not on the top of my list of important lessons right now. 
This week reaaalllyyyyy had me thinking about the effect that my actions may have on my community and on my time here. I said several times “this is the life you chose.” Later my mom reminded me of the better way of saying that “you are right where you are supposed to be.” <3 
 Sticking out like a sore thumb, being called mozungu (foreigner), being asked for money and other difficult situations are all aspects that will be included in this life changing experience I will have. I’ve considered all of these things and even had peace about knowing they were coming before I moved to Zambia, but this week really made it all real. I didn’t consider how much thought I will need to make in the way I choose to spend my time, the people I choose to hang with, etc. Even decisions like whether to attend church or not where and with who can affect the way my community might look at me. This week, ish got real to put it simply. I started considering all of the decisions that I will be making in the next few years a pretty big deal. It’s difficult to articulate my feelings about this but it’s a lesson I surely needed to learn/ need to continue learning through my service. Of course, I have adapted so much to integrate into this culture, and I will surely need to continue doing so. I just pray that my heart stays soft and I don’t become jaded towards the process and the work I will put into integrating during my time here. 
Learning this is by no means a bad thing. I have been known as being overly positive and having a flowery view of everything so yes, these feelings were coming and are good for me I know it. Like I promised myself from the beginning, I will be honest with myself and every emotion as it comes and shoooooot these are the real feelings for now! 
Some details of my soon to be home: I am just a twenty minute walk from my school and my head teachers home (one of my new great friends/ Zambian family). After walking down a thin path to enter the official compound, you will pass by my insaka (gazebo) on your right. To your left, behind the mango tree (YES THERES A MANGO TREE IN MY FRONT YARD!), there is a big lake in view (about a five minute walk to the coast of it) and right in front of you is my new humble home. There’s a spacious porch where I have found much joy reading on while the sun sets in front of me and starting a fire for hot water for a cup of tea. To your right is the front door. When you enter, you’ll find all the necessities of a good kitchen (I’m gonna need to learn to cook:/ ). Keep going to your left and there is a beatiful sitting room with a desk and a nice cushion for sitting. We spent much time here under candle light talking about our lives and sharing stories during our stay this past week. There are two big windows and the walls are painted yellow so the room is very bright. To your left, you’ll enter the bedroom where there is another nice sized window and a beautiful bed (a bed to call all my own!) 
My chimbusu (toilet) and bathing shelter is in the back of the yard through someone else’s (hehe) sweet potato crops. It’s a beautiful home and I’m excited to be calling it mine very soon. 
I hope to make it my little haven of peace. I hope it will be a place where I grow, learn, laugh, feel safe enough to cry, recharge and continue loving my new community the best I can. 
Much love to each of you and thanks so much for your support and love! 
Update- I swear in on August 28! Coming up very quick. 

Meet the Lungus

Typical Hannah disclaimer- this post is subjective and has got a lot of Hannah emotions all up in it. Also, as is everyone, my host family, the Lungus, are complex humans so I could never paint a proper picture of their beauty yet I will try my best to share a piece with you what they have shared with me

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Moses Lungu aka bataata (dad in Bemba)
Ba Moses is a Bemba brick builder born and raised in Zambia. He loves laughing with me about my silly Bemba mistakes and takes welcoming me into his home seriously. He take a lot of time teaching me about Zambia’s peaceful history and helps around the house a lot. He works hard for his family and I can see his excitement about learning about new cultures. He loves the peace in his country.

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Roster Lungu: pronounced Row-stah, aka ba maayo (mom in Bemba)
Ba Maayo is a wonderful woman who farms and also literally does everything around the house. She is a BOSS (that is her actual title if I were to give her one). She daily carries 20 liters of water on her head, 2-5 liter containers in her hands AND a 3 month old baby on her back for about a mile. She cooks, cleans, teachers, feeds, Etc. Even through broken Bemba, I feel deeply connected to her. I can feel her love for her children through her humble service to them (and I’m thankful she regards me as one of hers). Often, we have conversations and when I fail to understand in Bemba, she breaks out perfect English with passion! She’s clever, fun, hardworking and a lover of laughing.

Barryson

Barryson

Barryson Lungu (pronounced Bar-son, aka bandume- brother in Bemba, age 13)
Barryson is the eldest brother which is a pretty serious position to have in Zambia. He does a lot around the house and could teach all of us about obedience with a happy heart (I wish he was my friend when I was a child complaining about chores). He is quiet, but smart and curious about new things (like taking apart and putting my head lamp back together). He wants to be a pilot when he grows up and I know he can do it

Clifford

Clifford

Clifford Lungu (brother, age 9)
Clifford is a little dancer. He is very sweet hearted and I love how he takes care of his little brother (Ezekiel). He laughs and dances and runs and rides the bike around and does silly faces and makes funny voices (I’m certain he would make for a great actor). He LOVES school and is quite good at it If I don’t say so myself. He wants to be an teacher when he grows up and also, I am certain he would be great at it

Ezekiel

Ezekiel

Ezekiel Lungu (brother, age 5)-  little Ezekiel. This boy (along with all of the family) brings a lot of joy into my life. He is so eager to live life. He plays in all the dirt he can find, he laughs loudly, smiles, runs, dances, plays some more, helps his momma with dishes, helps his momma cook, helps his brother Barryson gather the goats, helps with anything he possibly can, laughs more, cuddles with me, let’s me give him piggy back rides, teaches me Bemba and just loves love (we are similar in that way). He doesn’t know what he wants to be, but he’s gonna be good at it. I pray his heart always remains as filled with love as it is now.

Bizwea

Bizwea

Bizwao (Pronounced Biz-Waeo, brother, 3 months)- Bizwao eats and sleeps with his free time. He often breaks into a big laugh and then immediately back to a face of serious wonder. He’s growing fast!

Finishing up this post with tears in my eyes makes me realize once again how deep the connection is that I have with my new Zambian family. I’m so grateful that I’ve crossed paths with such beautiful souls. I will miss them dearly when I leave for my site (Samfya district in Luapula) in September and will hold each lesson they’ve taught me close to my heart. Thank you, Lungu family!

Much love.❤

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Haven of peace 

"My little haven of peace/hut"

“My little haven of peace/hut”

Whaaaaat upppppp! Long time no wifi (on my part at least). It’s been relaxing but I’ve been excited to update yall on my experience so far.

Disclaimer: all the information I’m about to share has been passed to me by word of mouth (which in my opinion is a pretty cool way to pass info but still…) It may be subjective and emotional based but hey, what do you expect from me anyway! I’m lead by my heart (d’awww).
Zambia is known to some as a haven of peace. It’s history demonstrates very uncommon, peaceful and nonviolent ways of dealing with conflict (Like large scale conflict like fighting for independence and revolutions like South Africa’s fight against their racist regime aka apartheid!) Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters were welcomed and kept safe in Zambia. Zambians are kind of living proof of this national priority of peace (based on my observations and many people’s opinions). I wish I had Google access so I could research more about Zambia’s rich history. (hint hint if you’re reading this you probably do have google access and should check my facts). For now, word of mouth will have to do for me.🙂
Zambia has already turned into my little haven of peace. Even through the ups and downs, my heart tells me, I’m right where I’m supposed to be. My host mom’s welcoming smile, the sky full of stars, my Zambian language teacher’s patience, the relaxed nature of peace corps Zambia volunteers … All these things have confirmed this for me so far.
Now that my emotional update is finished (hehe), here is my logistical update: on June 14,we began pre-service training. It’s been pretty intense!
My days usually begin with a looooong trek from my host family’s home to the training center which has been my  biggest challenge so far (I had bike problems and there is HILL! Like a big one and I’m also probably exaggerating hehe). We then spend about four hours in our language classes. The majority of us (including me) are learning a common language spoken In Zambia called Bemba (muli shani my friends!) Others are learning other local languages such as tonga, naynja (sp?) and mwamba (sp?). I’m happy with our Zambian Bemba teacher and our five person PCV language group. We’re all in it together!
We eat lunch either with our families or at the center which is a nice time to relax. In the afternoons, we have various sessions in topics such as, malaria awareness, medical training, teaching skills, teaching English as a foreign language, bikes, cross culture awareness, etc. It’s been tiring, rewarding and information packed.
I arrive home (at my typical Zambian village home stay situation, I.e. No electricity or running water, beautiful sunsets, chickens and goats roaming the yard/compound) as the sun is setting. I play with my brothers for some time, talk with my host mom and dad, take a bucket bath under the stars as they rise and have dinner with the family. I study Bemba and read by solar charged light and pass out early. I sleep in my own mud hut on my family’s compound under a mosquito net. It’s no wonder I feel like I’m beginning to understand Zambia’s name “haven of peace.” Life is simple and I’m finding so much beauty in places I never thought I would have had the opportunity to explore. My heart is full.
There are so many special things (like my brothers, my BOSS host mom, a teaching technical trainer I connect well with, my small biking goals that I’ve met, sunsets, STARS!, Bemba, ahhh soo much Bemba)I can’t wait to tell you guys more. Much love to you all. I still feel that each of you has played a special role in getting me here and for that I am forever grateful.
Do you all have questions/ suggestions of what I should talk about in my next post? I am excited to share my new life with yall. It’s so different than anything I’ve ever experienced and I’m learning so much. I hope to document everything while my eyes are so still so fascinated with the differences! Ask away to help me keep my mind fresh🙂
 
My brothers

Morning bike ride sunrise

Much Zambian love!

Love over fear

Warning- this post is extra sentimental.
Well I sucked every single drop of my people time and am officially on my journey to my next adventure. I’ve kissed and hugged and expressed love and ate and talked and did all beautiful things with my loved ones. The past month was intense filled with activity and a desire to show my love and appreciation for you all. This moment of solitude and reflection during a break in my orientation is bittersweet for me.
I am conflicted with this feeling that I need to grieve the ending of this chapter but also want to celebrate the beginning of this new one. As the Alchemist taught me (holla to my boy Paulo Coelho), we all must chase our personal legend. The inevitable pain that arises during our journey of chasing our dreams is nothing compared to the regret we will face if we allow fear to overcome and don’t pursue our dreams. In this very moment, my goodbye sadness is so real. I’m recognizing these feelings and will pray that my also real (and much stronger) internal joy will overcome them quickly.
Yes yall! I’m emotional! It’s real! Thanks for loving me anyways and as always much love back at ya.

Waterford native’s family encourages her to join Peace Corps

Much love!

Central Peace Corps Volunteers

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Hannah Mathers, 23, of Waterford, Mich., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Zambia June 8 to begin training as a secondary English education volunteer. Mathers will live and work at the community level to teach English as a second language and organize extracurricular activities.

“My family first motivated me to check out the Peace Corps. I think they felt that my adaptable personality and curiosity about other ways of living matched well with the program,” Mathers said. “As I later did my research, read blogs, watched videos and asked people about their experiences, I found myself excited about everything the experience would bring, even the challenges.”

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Typical emotional Han and her next chapter

It would be foolish of me to pretend that I am ALL excitement, happiness and pure joy for every new chapter that I start. Truth is, yeah! I get nervous. Goodbyes are hard no matter how many times I convince myself that it is just a “see you later” and the unknown can be intimidating. That being said, peace trumps all other emotions when I know I’m making the right decision and right now, my peaceful emotions are BA and are dominating all others. alhumdulilah thank God.

My next chapter? It’s a big one folks (to me that is). I might even have to call it a brand new novel. A sequel to the book series I call my life. The news is… I joined the Peace Corps! In less than 2 months (June 8) I will leave for two years to volunteer in Zambia with the RED program (Rural Education Development). I’ll be teaching English. Those are the knowns as of now. There are plenty (and I mean plenty) of unknowns. I have been doing as much as I can to prepare myself (online research *mostly youtube videos that is*, meeting with RPCVs (returned Peace Corps volunteers), dating my people A LOT, etc.)

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Here are some questions that people have asked:

Q) Why? 

  • A) Ecuador unleashed a wanderlust that I cannot contain. I am excited about the unknowns of any trip that I take. About the people that I will meet, what they will teach me about life, myself, the universe, culture, nature, etc. “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” I have found that to be so true. And there are people out there that know so much that I have no idea about. Topics I don’t even know exist. Holla to my peeps who understand that excitement! I’m thankful that Peace Corps is introducing me to my new community and can only imagine what I will learn from these new people. It’s like my next test in this journey called life. It feels so right.

Q) So you can’t find work in the United States? 

  • A) Maybe! But again with the peace that I felt in my heart after making this decision, I can’t help but follow it. Wouldn’t I be foolish to ignore that feeling? Or am I foolish for not following the traditional “get college degree, get married, buy house, settle down, have kids…. etc.” narrative that we are told? I guess we’ll find out after a few years *wink wink*
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Q) How are you gonna handle the conditions you’ll be living in? 

  • A) Another unknown of the whole thing.. I’m not sure what exactly the conditions will be in my village. But likely (95% likely), I will have no running water or electricity. And yes, this will be a huge test for me! Even bigger than that one stats exam back in the day. A life test. How adaptable have I become and can I become through this? How savvy (as my Dad says) have I grown to be? Stay tuned… Anyway, yes. Like I said. I am nervous. But I can feel how right this is because even these challenges that I know I will face, feel peaceful.

Q) What are your biggest fears?

  • I’m worried that a lack of presence will make it easy for people to forget about me. (I know sad but a real fear).  I fear that I will miss my people so much that it will hurt everyday. I’m nervous that I’m not as strong as I think that I am and that I will fail (isn’t it like that with all dream chasers though?) I’m afraid that I’ll get painfully sick (yeah, diarrhea is inevitable I know) and will miss the comfort of home. I’m worried that a student will ask me a question and I won’t have the answer. I’m afraid of loneliness, mosquito bites, insomnia, macaroni and cheese cravings, internet withdrawal, that people won’t accept me, that I’m not healthy/strong/smart/brave/communicative/adaptable enough,… Yeah, I have a lot of narcissistic fears. They’re a real part of this process and I’m choosing to recognize them (even in the public eye of my blog hehe)

What questions do y’all have for me? 

I’m thankful right now to my people for being extra sensitive with me. I’m emotional! (even more than normal… I know you didn’t think that was possible.) I feel like is a big step and I’m appreciative for everyone who has my back throughout it all. Much love❤

Check out this link for my timeline of Peace Corps journey. Oooo la la😉

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Dhanyvaad, India

IMG_0559_2I should change the name of this blog to, “takes-too-long-to-gather-her-thoughts Hannah”. I arrived home from India almost three weeks ago and haven’t done much that’s considered “productive” (unless you’re like me and consider quality time with loved ones productivity). I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time to give myself some closure to my India trip. It’s necessary to recognize the great lessons that the people of this country have taught me during my two months in their homes.IMG_0684

During my India trip, I became deeply aware of something beautiful. I realized that God has given me gifts and that lately, I have been using the gifts that he has given me to the fullest that I know how to right now (maybe that will change in the future). I realized how difficult it would be more me to travel if I was, for example, allergic to peanuts. Although there are obviously difficulties (like me respraining/ twisting my ankle almost monthly), I am so thankful for the realization that right now, God has given me the privilege to travel. He’s opened up doors, provided me with means to go, introduced me to amazing people who have supported me financially/ spiritually/ emotionally, given me relatively good health, given me courage to go and I am beyond grateful. Somehow, the universe has answered me. I told it what I wanted and it assisted me along the way.

IMG_0474 Jim Carrey said “What we really want seems impossibly out of reach so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it”Paolo Coelho says ““And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”” Somehow, things have worked out so far and I owe it all to some amazing people the universe brought my way. Thank you. *End overly emotional/ spiritual rant.*

Anyway, there were also aspects of India that were difficult to adapt to. Often times, my U.S. American mentality “just needed some dang privacy” and sometimes I really just wanted some toilet paper. However through these challenges, I feel that I developed a greater ability to adapt to my environment and contribute in some way to my community. I will take these lessons with me on the rest of my journey. I am also thankful to India for:

  • Funny stories (like the time the “rusty metal guy” “pierced” my nose in the dark)
  • Spirituality
  • Mera bhai <3 and my best friend too
  • Simplicity
  • Peace
  • Meditation
  • Patience with the language barrier
  • FRIENDS
  • Family
  • Hospitality
  • Fresh food

Thanks for reading my so very typical end of Hannah’s chapter thank you letter. India is a complex, beautiful, country full of interesting, helpful, hospitable people who taught me lots about the life that I want to lead. Gotta give them some love!

Thanks for somehow tolerating my emotional self. As always, much love!


Debo cambiar el nombre de este blog a “Hannah pasa tanto tiempo pensando y no escribiendo”. Llegue casi 3 semanas antes y no he hecho mucho de productividad (pero he hecho cosas mas importante como pasando mucho tiempo con mis amigos y familia). Quería escribir eso para agradecer India por muchas lecciones y cosas bonitas.

Aunque hay problemas siempre durante mis viajes, mas o menos me di cuenta que Dios me dio muchos regalos para que pueda hacer lo que hago. Estoy bien agradecida por lo que hace El para mi. El Universo ha hecho muchas cosas para mi durante mis transiciones y todo y me hace feliz. Paolo Coelho dice “cuando quieres algo, todo el universo conspira para que lo obtengas.” Eso si esta pasando conmigo y tengo que dar todo el gracia a la gente que el universo me dio durante todo.

Estoy bien agradecida por lo que aprendí en India. India me ensenó mucho de la vida y ya se que siempre lo voy a tener en mi corazón. Gracias India, Eres hermosa. Mucho amor❤

My most peaceful adventure yet

Successfully completed a difficult, emotional, spiritual, rewarding ten day meditation journey. My Vipassana meditation course was phoneless, substanceless, talkingless but an adventure nonetheless. I truly learned a lot. Putting words to it is difficult really but I will try my best to do it justice.

So you can picture my daily routine here was our schedule:
·      4:00 am – wake up bell

·      4:30 – 6:30 am – meditation (in hall or residence)

·      6:30-8:00 am – breakfast and hot water for showers

·      8:00 – 9:00 am – group meditation in dhamma hall 

·      9:00 – 11:00 am – meditation (and meetings with teachers)

·      11:00 am – 1:00 pm – lunch and break

·      1:00 – 2:30 pm – meditation (in hall or residence)

·      2:30 – 3:30 pm – group meditation in dhamma hall 

·      3:30 – 5:00 pm – meditation (and meetings with teachers)

·      5:00 – 6:00 pm – tea break

·      6:00 – 7:00 pm – group meditation in dhamma hall

·      7:00 – 8:30 pm – discourse (guru speech)

·      8:30 – 9:00 pm – meditation

·      9:00 pm – bed time

I followed this schedule (almost) completely. Sometimes not gonna lie but my desire for sleep took over and I took some extra naps. The important sessions though (the ones in bold) I always attended. During this time, we were asked to sit completely still for one full hour (I’m still working on this -_-).

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The first three days we focused only on our breath. There are many techniques of meditation but in this one, altering ones breath is a no no. We were asked to simply observe our breath. To Focus only on the area from our upper lip up to the nostrils (this is why I randomly know the word nostril in hindi hehe). Through this process, we make our minds sharper and more in tune with the sensations that are happening on our body all the time even if we aren’t paying attention. After this, we focus on the sensations on the rest of the body (from the top of the head to the tip of the toes). This is the actual practice of Vipassana and We did this for the remaining ten days. Through this process, if practiced properly (and a LOT:/ ) one will learn that sensations are always arising just to pass (this is dhamma/ nature). If one truly learns this, then he/ she will not develop craving or aversion toward sensations (no matter how pleasant or unpleasant) because he/she will always be aware that “this too will pass.” This is a very logical concept but the course goes beyond that. The ten day course taught us that only through experiencing this truth (by feeling the sensations and developing an ability to not react, aka Vipassana meditation) will we be able to remove all craving and aversion and therefore experience true happiness and radiate love. This is how I understand and explain the practice. Of course, every experience is different.

Soooo, the ten day course was peacefully extreme. There are things that I have politely chosen to not accept as my own. But there are many things that I learned and plan to apply to my life:

  • Have balance – this technique teaches that through the process, one should not develop any craving to any pleasant sensation experienced. That one should accept the sensation (for example delicious food, great company, etc.) as it is, understand that it too will pass and develop no craving or attachment to it. At least at this time in my life, I like emotions. I think partially life is about pleasure and passion and high highs and even low lows. Through this process however, I realized that my life could use a better balance in this area. I have a very passionate personality. Sometimes I go overboard yall and In the moment, I forget that many times my emotions are so temporary (whether high or low) so giving my self time to observe them is a good thing. Through my personal meditation journey, i hope to improve in this area.
  • Quiet my mind– my mind is so loud yall!. Especially those first two days, I spent so much time just realizing how crazy I am haha. I would be sitting there like “okay Hannah, focus on the breath” 2 minutes pass “yeah that was a good banana monkeys like bananas I like monkeys did Obama address the that issue yet Is my mom at work Who burped I can’t believe I’m in India My play set from kindergarten was BA Oh shoot I’m supposed to be meditating.” This was my reality-_- I didn’t realize how loud my mind is and how unfocused I can be. Through this, I realized that I could really use some more focus/ a quiet mind in my life.
  • Pay attention – focusing on my breath and other sensations on my body made me realize how much is happening around me that I’m not paying attention to. I’m not kidding – throughout the ten days I became aware of so many things. Particularly in the center. It was gorgeous. I watched butterflies and bees drinking from flowers, kids playin cricket in the mountains, stars become visible in the sky, chipmonks playing, a mouse eating, a lizard climbing (on the wall in my bathroom), birds chirping, a schoolgirl picking veggies from her family’s farm and so many more beautiful scenes imprinted in my heart. It was amazing. I think I could pay attention a little more to life and the little things. I don’t know what I’m missing out on.
  • Be aware – my meditation teacher (who I am forever grateful for) brought to my attention that during the daily speeches, I was moving a lot, shaking my leg, rocking back and forth, etc. just like my hyper self to do this junk. I realized that I do a lot of things that I’m not even aware of that I’m doing. I want to be aware of my actions as they do matter. Although shaking my leg may be harmless, what other actions do I do without being aware? This is another thing I plan to consider more.

My ten days in Igatpuri, India studying Vipassana meditation will never be forgotten. Leaving, I felt peaceful, happy and excited to spread love. Of course difficulties came (like leaving my passport at the meditation center -_-) and the real world hit me but my new lessons did shape my view of them.

I could write more and more about my experience butI won’t since I know this might be my least exciting post yet hehe. But really, I learned a lot, feel happy that I completed it and met some amazing people (once we were able to talk.) so I’m excited about it🙂 I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to discover what this can do for me personally. I would encourage everyone to explore how they too can benefit from such things but of course, we all need to discover things for ourselves something I also became more aware of during my time.

To lighten the mood, let me tell you a few Funny things that happened too like my lizard bathroom friend (who when I discovered yelled happily, “awww habibi welcome to my home!”, talking to myself, dancing to motivate myself to go to meditation, etc.if there was a movie crew following me, it would be entertaining as H. Forreal yall🙂

Thanks for listening. What do you guys think about it all? Kinda crazy no? Ever had an experience like this?

Much love and many thanks for the support.❤

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Ps- perdóname por no escribir en español está vez. Es bien difícil encontrar conexión. Voy a traducir todo cuando llegue en los Estados Unidos y tengo aceso a una computadora. Básicamente, me encanto meditación. Aprendí mucho sobre mi propia misma.

Los mando amor❤