Challenges & Celebrations

The "challenge" on my birthday in Hawaii

This morning was a struggle. I woke up angry, went for a run to clear my mind, and didn’t feel much better. I had a meeting to go to this morning to resolve issues that are the root of my frustration, and I arrived a few minutes early. I sat down in the field by the dam, and though it was windy, I had a moment to myself to enjoy it. I have some type of meeting here on a daily basis, but I have yet to just go there for my own down time. Reality is, I really haven’t had much down time. I made a conscious note that I had to come back just to lay in the grass and read a book some day soon. I flipped open my journal with five minutes to spare before my students arrived for the meeting. I dated the page as I always do. 10 July 2011. The eve of my birthday.

A year ago today I was standing on the side of the road in Botswana, trying to make it 700 kilometers in time to skydive on my birthday on the Namibian coast. Being the lone white girl in a sea of locals, I managed to hitchhike from Ghanzi to an intersection in the middle of nowhere, only to be lucky enough to find a mandatory traffic stop. I stood by the road another hour and finally found a truck driver named Otto to agree to take me across the border. A bit of sweet-talking later and pulling the birthday pity card, he took me all the way to Windhoek and even parked his rig at a gas station to ensure I made it on the last shared taxi to the coast that evening. I arrived in the sleepy coastal town to find that the place I wanted to camp was full and no sweet-talking would get me in. As if I didn’t feel lucky enough already, I stood on the road at 11:00 at night as the shared taxi was about to pull away, when suddenly the driver got back out of the car, picked up my bags, and put me back in the car. He wasn’t going to take the rest of the people home until he felt sure that an ill-prepared backpacker had a safe place to rest her head.

I’m sure I kept my parents up with worry many nights on my around the world trip, but I don’t regret hitchhiking. It fed my adventurous spirit and reminds me that life is full of risk- and with risk comes reward. I went skydiving the next day, the same day as the World Cup final match, and felt blissfully happy.

Though today doesn’t exactly match the excitement I had last year of taking my first ride in an 18-wheeler in Africa with a complete stranger, I hope I will find a reward of equal value in the end. I encourage my students that when the days get tough, they need to remind themselves that they’re in a village in South Africa- an opportunity few will ever have. It’s time to take my own advice. I live with one of the most amazing families in the village, and I can assure you that I’m not going to let the challenges of the job keep me from enjoying the wonderful people here and the beautiful place that I call home for now.

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