More than a haircut

Coming up – A story of hair. A story of self love. A story that ends in me stepping deeper into myself.

So yeah, this happened! I capital C cut my hair and capital L love it.

The story –

I’ve always wanted to… ever since I was a little girl and played Tiny Tim, had a “boy hair cut” (as if yall have a monopoly on short hair pshhhhh 🙄😉 ).

About three weeks ago, my obsession with cutting my hair flared up again. I googled too many pics, wrote close friends to ask opinions, and admired ever single fierce women in my life or that walked past me for their bold hair do. “Go ahead” I would whisper under my breath. I wanted to join the short hair club.

My obsession subsided again and I settled into what felt like a dead head of hair that I never did anything with. I wanted the boldness to cut it short but I couldn’t get over the fact that maybe people would not like it. That I would somehow be less lovable without a full head of “girl hair”. (spoiler alert, NOTHING makes us less lovable).

Fast forward a few weeks and I receive a message from a fellow couch-surfer (*definition below*) who stumbled upon my “I’m coming to Amsterdam” post on the website. Amongst a full and sweet introduction, he wrote “I’d looove to create an awesome new haircut for you and have you model it for my instagram.” Ummmm what? How had he known? What was this sign and who did it come from? I was intrigued, we exchanged info and I trusted that my instincts would tell me if this was something to avoid (spoiler alert – my instincts told me that it was wholesome and they were right per usual).

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We messaged back and forth for a few days, exchanged many hair pictures, and talked about my reservations and fears. “I feel worried that society’s beauty standards will make me feel bad.” “Beauty is so much more than that!” “What if my scalp is unhealthy and looks bad?” “Moisturize, honey!” “And if I simply don’t like it?” “Hair grows

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back, girl.” My new friend and soon to be favorite hairdresser Sushanth (he is truly a pro, check out his insta here) and some trustworthy friends worked me through it. By the time Tuesday (our meeting day) came I had made up my mind. I was returning to Greece a little different.

Suzz pushed me in the best way to cut my hair. Cutting my hair symbolized me pursuing me more strongly. Mywholeself. Letting go of some stuff that was no longer serving me.  I was doing this for me and me only. I loved that. It ended up being kinda a big deal for me, a spiritual experience through a physical transformation. He put the dead skin cells in a pony tail, I counted to three, and he cut it off. My eyes filled with happy, excited tears and I meditated on all the things that I was choosing to let go. I thought I would miss that hair… I don’t.

I’ve spent these past few days excited about my hair and in a way, a little more excited about me. Not because “I am my hair.” India.Arie taught me better… But because one step in the direction of me embracing my whole self, is a step toward complete self love and I feel brave and strong and fierce and bold in my pursuit of loving myself through this act. Thank you Suzz for the cut! Thank you friends and family who remind me that I’m rocking it. Thanks to me for pursuing me.

Can’t stop, won’t stop (taking selfies)

This cut was the spiritual renewing experience that I had hoped for but DANG what I didn’t expect was to look as good as I do in it. I feel like my hair is now a frame for my shining face. Confidence looks good as hell on me as it does on each of us. KILL IT ME! AND KILL IT YALL! Do you. Rock it and know you’re rocking it. Much love and self love and confidence and us doing us for us to each of us.

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Thank you all for the birthday wishes. I’m walking into my 27th year on this earth pursuing self love and acceptance. Stay tuned for the hair love 27 may bring. With this freedom, don’t be surprised if you see designs on the sides, sharp line ups, and… different colors?? I’M FREE!

What’s a story of you doing you for you and you only? A time when you just knew you were killing it? When you didn’t even need outside affirmations to know that?

* – couchsurfing.com – a network of travelers and hosts who wanna exchange culture and stories

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Some sweet summer highlights

Had me a sweet, sweet summer healing wounds I didn’t know needed some extra love, reconnecting to people who have always had me and meeting new people teaching me new things. I’m grateful for the warmth, the memories and the love. Here are a few highlights (warning, TOO many pics… then again, is that a thing?)

June: Boston.
Your girl is employed! Or at least for a moment. After returning from my “three month sabatical” (LOL!) in Egypt, I started the summer off with some training for a 3 month gig in Greece. I will be an International Coordinator for The N.U.in Program at Northeastern University in Boston. I describe it as an RA or a PCVL to 215 freshman college students in Greece.  I met so many young professionals with similar mindsets/ lifestyles in Boston for our training and loved it.

July 5-20ish: Mexico
First trip with one of my bestest friends in the world, Bobby. We developed a new type of love. A share a suitcase love. A “why do you buy so many magnets?” type of love. A “can we not talk about feminine hygiene” type of love. Grateful for him and to explore our gracious neighbors to the south (sidenote- what an interesting political climate to be visiting Mexico. Had to move past my white/ American/ RacismFromTheWhiteHouse guilt and learn to just be grateful for the hospitality I was so sure that I didn’t deserve becuase of the systems that I represent… maybe I’ll write more about that later.) But anyway, we visited old friends, made new ones and saw some of the sites. Mil gracias, Mexico por la hospilidad. Estoy bien agradecida por todo…

July 27-August 2ish: New Orleans
Met up with three of my BFFS in the world… The Peace Corps volunteers that I was with since day one. The Musondas (Thanks Batata for sharing your name 😉 ). A few of my close volunteer neighbors in Zambia. We giggled, remincised and walked bourbon street (WOW SENSORY OVERLOAD!) Thanks Maggie and Tom for having me and Luc. Nakutemwa ulupwa!

August 2-August 11ish: Georgia
My sweet family in Georgia. I’m so grateful for time sitting around and just living life with my Auntie Dorilee, Uncle Dan and two of the coolest people that I know, my sweet cousins, Liz and Selam. I’m so glad that I made the trip so they can honestly call me their favorite cousin now… wink wink. We laughed a lot, cried a bit and watched 2 seasons of This Is Us (So yeah, we cried a bit more). Love you all and thank you for everything.

August 15-August 24ish: Detroit
Stayed on Warren and Gratiot at the Detroit International House, a super cool organization ran by Karen (check out their Facebook page) dedicated to hosting and supporting international students and recent immigrants with their transition. I stayed with them through Workaway (trade a few hours of work a day for accommodation), I painted a few things, helped with some alley clean up, made some cool friends from all over the world, rode miles and miles on a bike, and reconnected with some of my old Detroit friends. What a great two weeks. Thanks for welcoming me back, Detroit! You always feel like a home to me and I’m grateful.

August 24-26: Toronto
Jaron and I visited our old college friend in Toronto. We sat around and talked for hours just like we used to on campus. This time we recorded it, our friend Redmond has a podcast. Oh, we also ate way too much sushi at an all you can eat sushi spot (it was a little overwhelming in the best way). This was a blast of a road trip, Jaron drove and I was in charge of snacks. We both did what we’re best at.

August 26-September 14 and some gaps between spots:  Michigan Suburbia
I was spoiled in lots of ways by my ma who is one of my greatest areas of comfort, thank you momma. We had long, vulnerable talks and I believe we are both better for it. I spent time with my pops and my Cath, siblings and others playing cards, talking and basically just waiting for people to get off work so I could bother them and talk their ear off. I reconnected with some amazing old friends. I drove a car for the first time in three years. I took my mom’s dogs on a walk almost everyday. I cleaned out both the family’s garages. I spent more time reconnecting and had lots of feelings of being grateful for a “homebase” spot where I can keep some things and grab stuff from the refrigerator as I please. Thank you for being a home to me… yall know who you are!

Today (September 13) – December 15ish: Thessaloniki, GREECE!
My gig is starting and I’m feeling pretty pumped about it. I’m happy to have something and something that I will likely love and feel challenged by in a good way. Thanks to everyone who made my summer so special. Again, yall know who you are. Much love and peace!

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When you’re missing a home

A few pointers from a fellow “soft heart owner” on how to cope/ embrace your feelings of missing a place you once called home. Spoiler alert – you can still call it home!

  • Call your people if you can
  • Message them
  • Write letters

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    A few of my favorite reminders

  • Send them, or don’t
  • Remember the good times
  • Remember the bad… and then let them go and keep it moving
  • Listen to music from there, music you loved while there
  • Let your body move the way that it did to that music in that place
  • Close your eyes and remember your dancing scenes, who are you with? What is the lighting like? How do you feel?
  • Wear things that remind you of the place: jewelry, clothes, nail polish
  • Wear the lotion or perfumes you used to wear there
  • Pictures, pictures, pictures. Take your time going through them. Where were you? Who took them? Who was heavy on your heart at the time?
  • Write down good memories
  • Write down bad memories if you have the energy, recognize the good in them, recognize why you needed to have them, keep it moving20180410_160947
  • Write down names of people who made your time special, send them light and love
  • Draw a picture of the place you used to sleep, cook, sit, visit
  • Remember the ages and school grades of the babies you love there
  • Speak the language out loud
  • Try to remember a conversation you forgot you had, replay each word
  • Say inside jokes out loud you had with your people in that place
  • Hear your friends voice in your head, remember how they laughed, their mannerisms, the way they danced, the words they used most commonly
  • Pictures again
  • Call again
  • Think of what your people are doing in this exact moment where they are, in their time zone
  • Tell yourself that it’s okay to miss them, to miss that place, allow your heart to feel the absence of that place
  • Know that it is still a home, inside of you
  • Remind yourself of the gratitude you have for being trusted with such an experience
  • Share it when you can
  • Send light and love to the place and its people, once again
  • Go hug the people in your current place, be reminded of why you are too happy to be where you are
  • Keep a soft heart to the place and the home it has in you always

Much love to my fellow soft heart people. Hope you find peace with where you are while still remembering the places you once were and what they will forever mean to you. Hope we all reach this… People that I miss – You know who you are ❤

Hannah lovin’ Hannah

Tough times call for tough self love. And as I practice choosing self love, I am learning the importance of it in being a better lover of others. I’m grateful that this is something that I can learn and practice with my words, actions and ultimately thoughts and feelings. To perfect my self lovin’ art and further my goal to be the best lover of Hannah I can be, I leave you with my own ideas of some good ole Hannah lovin’ Hannah self lovin’.

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It’s taking some time to admire myself
Date myself if you will
Write myself some love letters
Letters about
How strong
Smart
Savy
Beautiful
That I have become
But somehow always was
and always will be

It’s rubbing lotion all over my body
And Vaseline all over my face
After washing away the dirt and struggle of the day

It’s staying in bed until I please
And not answering the phone if I don’t feel like it
It’s taking my time to respond to messages if I’m not ready
And not feeling apologetic about it for once
It is saying no if I need to
And saying yes if I want to
It is stubbornly, without hesitation choosing love for myself everyday in every way

It’s locking the door maybe
And drinking a little extra water
It’s cutting a watermelon in half
And eating the whole half by myself with a spoon
While watching a movie if I want
Or reading a book
In my bed
Probably naked

It’s using only the sweetest words with myself
Words that make my ears water
and giving myself my own Hannah butterflies
Butterflies that I will spend time admiring too
as a beautiful part of the beautiful me

It’s taking pictures of myself
and saying “DANG I look good.”
As if its a surprise

It’s dancing
Dancing
Dancing
And loving my own dance
Loving the movement that my body can make
Loving it before anyone else’s dance or movement
Because it’s mine
It’s smiling at the fact that I am the only mine that I have
I am the only me
And that makes me worth all this self love

It’s telling me over and over again that I am worthy
Even if my heart is having a stubborn moment and can’t believe it
Telling me that I am holy by my own
(Thanks, Jamila Woods)

It’s twirling around
And singing love songs to myself
And admiring my voice
Cuz she’s a part of this beautiful me too

It’s lighting a candle
Or some insense
and reminding myself of the value
that seeps from my pores
whether I am at my best or worst
and especially at my worst
It’s literally saying it out loud
In the mirror if I have to

it’s running my fingertips over my stretch marks
“you are beautiful”
it’s touching my scars
“you are beautiful”
It’s spending extra time and energy telling the parts the world might not love of me
Pouring extra love into them through my beautiful fingertips
“you are so so beautiful”
my chipped tooth
my frizz
my fat
the whole of me
“you are beautiful”
“you are beautiful”
“you are so so beautiful”
“You are a beautiful part of this beautiful me”
It’s not stopping until I know this
with every ounce of my body
Until I am living it
with my words and actions towards others
Not stopping until I am
A walking, breathing, dancing example of a woman
unequivocally in love with herself

It’s reliving my stories
When I want to
And taking a break from them
When I need to
But it’s always choosing myself
Every story
As part of me
But not me
It’s knowing the difference

It’s choosing me
Choosing me
Choosing me
Because I am ultimately who I spend most of my time with
And if I can’t love myself
How the hell am I gonna love somebody else
(Thanks, Rupaul)

Good ole wholesome Hannah self love is Hannah choosing Hannah over and over again
Choosing love for me
because ultimately that’s the only way I will be able to choose love for others
And isn’t that my goal?

How do you self love? How do you practice this art?

A front row seat to Hannah’s “reverse culture shock show”

Surprise! (or not surprise). I’m coming back to the states for the holidays. I’m coming back to cuddle my little sister, drive on the right side of the road and visit meijer at 1 am. I’m coming to buy a new pair of nikes, drink slushies and make snow angels. I’ve got my little list of to dos and most of them are financially cheap and include touching the people I love.

I’m writing (for the first time in a long time I know, I know) to talk about what it feels like to come home. I’m grateful that I was able to come home about a year and a half ago to celebrate my baby bro and his super cool wife on their wedding day (I was the best woman, cool right?). During that visit, I experienced a phenomenon that I’ve heard other volunteers describe. The phenomenon that when we come home, sometimes it’s hard for people to know… what to… do with us I guess. How to ask us questions, what to ask, how to talk about issues, how to ask if the thousands of dollars of fireworks affect our hearts after our experiences in Zambia, how to interact with us, how to talk with us about Trump, how to bring up family events that happened while we are away, just what to do with us in general. Our presence might make some uncomfortable, understandably. We’re going through some big life changes and we make ourselves uncomfortable sometimes too. Perhaps a more evident and uncomfortable feeling many of us experience, is the feeling that we have when we want to share about our new lives but are nervous, don’t know how or don’t feel like the interest of hearing about it is there. So here are a few of my pointers on how to make my trip back home a little more comfortable for me (and hopefully for you!) and how to make me feel even more love during my trip home.

DO:

  • Tell me that you don’t know what to ask (and I will figure something out)
  • Ask me about the kids that I love

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    Oscar

  • Ask me about the differences between my life in the village and in the big city (where I now live)
  • Ask me about what it’s like to miss out big events like weddings, funerals and sports games
  • Hug me
  • Ask me about my Zambian friends, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, mentors, supervisors, grandma’s and grandpa’s and how they’ve facilitated my growth, comforted me and gave Zambia meaning to me.
  • Ask me about my volunteer family
  • Ask me about my new job as the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader
  • Ask me about Zambian hospitality
  • Ask me about my Zambian family
  • Ask me about my pupils
  • Touch my face
  • Ask me what it’s like living abroad with Trump as president
  • Ask me what it was like living abroad with Obama as president
  • Ask me to see some pictures
  • Ask me to watch some videos

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    Our crew

  • Ask me to teach you some Bemba (the local language I used and one of the 72 Zambian languages)
  • Ask me about any strange phrase I’m using (it might be a new habit. Would love to explain how English is often used differently
  • Ask me about my pets
  • Ask me about my house
  • Tell me you don’t understand something that I’m saying
  • Ask me about Oscar
  • Ask me how many Mangos I’ve eaten (but don’t expect a real answer)
  • Kiss my cheeks
  • Ask my about my crew(s)
  • Ask me about my daily lifeWhatsApp Image 2017-11-20 at 10.06.40
  • Ask me about the difference between my daily life in the village and my daily life in the city (things like cooking, bathing, using the bathroom, etc.)
  • Ask me how my body is adjusting to the Michigan cold (and I will answer how it is not)
  • Ask me about swimming in the lake with my babies
  • Ask me about my newly found love for African music and dancing to it
  • Ask me to dance for you (play a little music and I would love to)
  • Talk about your experiences in travel as your personal experiences separate and different than mine

Please try not to: 

  • Ask me “how is Africa?”
  • Ask me about seeing lions, tigers and elephants in my backyard
  • Ask me a question if you aren’t interested in hearing my answer
  • Ignore the fact that I’ve been away for the past two plus years
  • Compare my experience to your trip abroad (or to anything really, and I promise to try not to compare mine to yours either)

I’m going to be vulnerable and explain that my life here is well… my life here. That to me means that I hold my experiences here deep, deep inside my heart. They are difficult to explain and sharing opens up that space for either validation in them or disappointment if I’m sharing with someone who seemingly doesn’t care. That sharing my life here feels risky sometimes because of that. So I am asking for your patience and grace while I learn how to share my life here and yet still protect it deep inside my heart, which feels like the safest and most appropriate place for it sometimes. Because it is so difficult to explain the value that I’ve found in my experiences here. I think that all of this is okay and I hope my loved ones and I are open to the journey of growing together in sharing our experiences.

I hope that me sharing these feelings hasn’t intimidated you into interacting or not with me during my visit home. I hope you will still feel open to me and share your love with me as you know I want to share my love with you. Even with the dos and don’ts that I’ve shared, I can feel y’alls hearts and will always follow that instinct. The instinct that tells me that your love will be enough for me. I hope that we can all be brave enough to be vulnerable in sharing our lives no matter how deep they might be being held at the moment. Thank you for your patience and grace as I step into my new unknown that I still call a home. See y’all on December 8th. Enjoy the front row seat to my reverse culture shock show…

Much love always.

 

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.” ❤ 
 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. ❤

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!