On Losing – A Glimpse

My last post was a preview of three poems On Loving – the second section of this collection I’m drafting. The final section will be On Losing. Some of these poems are odes to various people from my life, others are basic commentary on death, and still others focus on the impact that losing can have on a person – the things it may lead us to do in its wake.

Below is a glimpse into the section On Losing…

The People with Haunted Eyes

The haunted eyes are out tonight,
in hopelessness, they sit contrite
on trains, on benches,
lost in their plight.

Those who woke with walls around them,
or those with nothing to surround them,
nothing there to help to ground them,
they stare with haunted eyes tonight.

They sit there seeking, but do not see –
not this Earth, this time,
not you, nor me,
but in their gaze: reality.

There is purpose as they seek,
direction, though it may be bleak,
they do have life –
in the losing, so to speak.

And now I join them in their seeking,
into reality bespeaking
desperation: sneaking, shrieking,
because no answers reach our minds.

All we do is again ask “why?”
we do not see this Earth, this time,
we do not think in the sublime –
for that would make us live a lie.

So with haunted eyes I cry,
and from the truth, I cannot hide:
We don’t always get to say “goodbye”
and all that is: what’s left to die.


Flying and Falling

Slow the motion of the butterfly’s wings:
he falls between each beat.
Sometimes you must tell yourself
you are on the side of angels,
must ignore why people do what they do,
why you do what you do.
Because if you become your obsession,
you become your undoing.

But then,
how to weep with shame:
a directionless storm?
How to see the treasure of the sun
in those too few moments
when the world makes a rainbow?
Your storm will come,
no matter the ice you use to freeze,
to insulate, to turn reality to dream.

Sometimes we fall between
each beat of our fluttering hearts.
Sometimes regret becomes a prison
of our own making.
Sometimes our freedom must
be of our own making as well.

Forget the halos supposedly on your side.
Angels can be the evil that sets fire
to your pouring rain,
turning sense to steam.
Sometimes we must storm inside.
Sometimes we must allow the world
to strip us of selflessness.
Sometimes we must become our obsession
to prevent our undoing.
You must ask why.

For the sun is a treasure,
there for you in the moments
of the rainbow,
of the eclipse,
of the storm.
There to reveal –
when you choose to understand –
the essential balance
between falling and flying.


Because the Stars Can Hold Hands

We have hit the universe.
The Big Bang came again,
but this time in reverse.
We took off in an incomplete
rocket ship, protected,
but headed in directions unknown
– so fucking vulnerable.
We took off heading up up and away,
but now we plummet,
downwards, sideways, end
over end, spotless minds
left behind.

And while we can slowly
turn our backs to the sun,
as apparently certain as the most
solid planet, the sunshine
is eternal, and there is no escape
from the blinding reminder
in the light.

We have hit the universe.
What once was dust now lingers,
swirling in our heads, figures
of the forgotten resurrected.
Because there is always
more than one giant rock
in a belt of asteroids.
Because the thing about belts
is they tighten, around waist,
around throat,
around helpless
Because we fly solo,
and our peripheral can only
take so much.

There’s a reason we stand at night
gazing at the dark swath, the scattered
stars, with jaws slightly dropped:
It’s terrifying.
We’re just one more speck, lost
in that black wasteland,
one more dot floating, circling,

But at the same time, we’re not lost.

Because the stars can hold hands.
Because the turning of the planets
is just a slow dance among friends.
Because the sunshine is eternal,
but doesn’t always blind us.
Without that light,
there would be no moon, no reflection
of ourselves, just as alone,
to gaze down at us when we need
a breath of fresh air.

We can find some gravity
on our directionless journey.
We have hit the universe,
but the sunshine is eternal,
so the moon can always return
up above, waiting for us
with a smile
if it’s not too full.

On Loving – A Glimpse

I’ve decided to start collecting some poems to publish – eventually. The collection as I currently envision it will have three parts: On Living, On Loving, On Losing. Living, Loving, Losing, each is a window into experience – mine, your’s, other’s – the impact different for each of us. For me, the goal of art, the goal of poetry is for people to peer through the glass and feel their hearts connect in some way. We all experience life, love, and loss in different ways. But unified in our differences, as we take day by day, we are each and every one of us shaped into a composition both singular and beautiful. That you are you and I am me and I see you and you see me is what brings us all together.

Below is a glimpse into the On Loving section…

A Look in the Mirror

You are a tulip at dusk.
Dark form in solitude
slender curves
details hidden
by approaching darkness
details awaiting discovery
by those who dare.
You’ll stand proud
in an hour
exposed to naked moonlight
because that light is cold
and must be embraced.
But to be embraceable:

not you.

You stand in solitude
and we search
and we stare
well aware
that your secrets are what make you
but come morning
scars will be hidden
by the lingering light of the stars
and your petals will stretch
in the warmth of the sun
and you will smile
and laugh
and forget the past
taking day by day
as a beautiful flower.


Becoming Velvet

Flowers are not meant
to be made of stone.
Petals must bend
to the touch, respond:
smooth but not polished, soft
like tissue, soft
like skin,
Fragility masked
by strength, hard, cold
façade of stone
can be softened
by the answer to a question
I did not yet know how to ask,
by velvet
petals bending to the touch,
responding, soft
like tissue, soft
like skin, soft
like your lips
on my naked neck, soft
like your finger pressing
the palm of my hand.
In the moonlight
flowers may look like stone
black and white
and a whole world of gray,
but together we are soft,
like tissue, soft
like skin, soft
like velvet petals on velvet petals
on velvet petals on petals on petals
on petals.



You look out the window
morning light flooding through
the chasm
by your pulling back
of the curtains

Your body
is fearless

I wonder
if you make it a habit
of pulling back curtains
of creating
of letting the light in

We are deep
we may get lost
into every corner
the light reaches
and you are there
showing me
that the sum of all
my flaws
sunrise on skin
is skin freed
from clothing’s confines
is your fearless body
by the light of day
is mine

Words and Rhythm

“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly,
is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

I came across this quote today in one of my emails and it made me nod emphatically. I’ve been giving more time and attention to the right hemisphere of my brain recently, and feel more whole because of it. Words, rhythm, and melody – and not just my own. (Sometimes I forget that one’s own art cannot exist without the art of others, because one’s own existence is not possible without the existence of others.)


I’ve been writing more, playing more music; I’ve been listening to others read their writing, have been playing with other musicians… It gets me goin, it’s a drug. And yet, still, I don’t always have creative clarity. Being artistic can be like walking through fog – difficult to navigate. But fog can hold such possibility and magic, and once I start to see the fog not as an inhibitor of my sight, but as the focus of my vision, something clicks. And then I close my eyes and allow the peaceful etching of my soul…

Resurrected this prose today – seems fitting:

On Finding Creative Clarity

Falling through fog, not quite weightless vapor, shadows lunging at you and away, the sun materializes as an eye looking beyond, watching a far-off place, watching a world that only consists of the sound of water washing up on shore. But all you hear is the shriek of cicadas, and you fear the fall simply because it must end eventually, and when it comes time to test your feet on solid ground they may just pass right through the surface.

A girl, made of mist, you are the air, the air is you, and the air is everything, everyone who ever lived, a record of every word ever spoken. It is heavy with history, and so you are heavy, and so you fall, and the materialized sun fades into itself, winks out, leaving a lack of focus, senses succumbing to the shrillness of existence.

Close your eyes, all your yesterdays and tomorrows are ghosts, intensions are meaningless in free fall, instead: just imagine, hang your mind on the hook of a crescent moon, let the shadows race, embrace the cobwebs that stretch then break across your face, let dusty moth’s wings wrap you in their night.

Be far away, a dewdrop, condensed on a blade of grass in a field of sleeping sunflowers. The sky is now clear, the indescribable dull blue of dawn, and words are on the wind, every word ever spoken, seen and felt, and you understand that there are millions of metaphors, but they will all fall short, and that’s okay, because yesterday you were a rain drop fallen into a raging river, and tomorrow you will be the tip of an icicle that hangs frozen from a star, and every word is right, while every word is wrong, and we are all our own unique balance of good and evil, and in that is the deepest form of purity, and proving yourself is pointless, because there is an end, and it is coming, and you’ll either stop when you hit the ground, or you’ll pass through the surface of the earth.

But no matter what, at least that moment when your acceptance held hands with the inevitable inadequacy of every word ever found on the wind will be etched into your soul forever.

4 September 2019: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

Week after week for months now I’ve had the intention of sitting down at my computer – in the evening with a calming mug of tea, or a weekend morning with a cup o’ coffee – and just writing, just at long last getting a blog post going. But it’s been difficult to put into words all of the waves that have moved me since coming to DC. It’s been half a year, but it feels like so much longer. It’s been half a year, but it feels like just yesterday I was in Rochester getting ready to start a new chapter in my life. I think back through the weeks and months and can’t even begin to remember all of the little ups and downs; the victories and upsets; the holistic feeling that I am in the exact right place at the exact right time, and the restlessness of feeling like nothing is quite right in the world.


They say that one changes immensely during service in the Peace Corps (or during any extended experience abroad), but the biggest changes are realized upon return, as one navigates a world they once knew and tries to fit themselves back into it. I certainly felt it when I returned, when I went back to Rochester and realized there was no room for me in the mold of myself that I had left back in 2015. But I’ve felt it in a different way here in DC. I do feel more of a freedom to be the person I became during Peace Corps, but it’s still so difficult to be okay with everything around me and how I fit into it all. Those moments when it seems that I’m in the exact right place at the exact right time exist but are short-lived as I question what my place should really be in this great mess of a world.

One thing that has been a comfort is city life. I know it’s basically a contradiction to my personality, as one who loves the natural world and needs the peace of green places and wide-open spaces, but I love living in the city. I’ve realized that I need to be able to step through my door every day into the grounding reality that there are so many people in this world and each and every one of them has their own story – their own dark places, their own triumphs, their own unique relationships, and their own way of continuing day after day to navigate through life. I feel a sense of comradery with the masses, with the strangers I walk past. We come from so many different places, but we are all simply taking each day as it comes: waking when we wake, sleeping when we sleep, and in our own ways embracing the cycle – and both the unexpected and the inevitability that comes with it.

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” – Desmond Tutu

“We must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.” – Elie Wiesel

Seeing the combination of this diversity and this unity, and being a part of it, gives me solace. Especially while processing the death of a friend recently, seeing the resiliency of humanity, and knowing that everyone else faces the darkness too, helps immensely. We may cry, feel rage and hate, dive deep with hopelessness, but we can choose to see the light in each day, even if it’s just in the littlest things.

Sometimes, though, I’ve realized that it’s the light in the littlest things that can also get me – seeing pure and simple kindness or love or beauty: an elderly couple, dressed to the nine (or their version of it), slowly walking down the street hand in hand, makin’ their way… the look in a mother’s eyes as she kisses the top of her baby’s head… the way a pair of mourning doves sit side by side on a branch, cooing to each other, or maybe just to themselves… the taxi driver who pulls to the side of the road to help a homeless man collect his belongings that blew away in a gust of wind…

That happy moments can make me sad, this contradiction, is something I’ve questioned for a long while. But I recently found a quote that helps me to understand:

“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed… and everything collapses.” – Colette

I think what gets me is recognizing the inevitably of pain, or the history of it, because it’s a part of everyone’s life: their futures, their pasts. I see these beautiful moments knowing there has been pain or there will be pain or there is pain, and I can-but-also-can’t-quite fathom how we keep on going, how we still see the beauty and still day after day embrace the cycle in which we exist… We just do it, keep moving, keep pedaling our bicycles. Because it is a balance. That’s just life. We sit in darkness with our candles, and those candles are our life, and sometimes in the blink of an eye and with a quick gust of wind, a flame is extinguished. But our sight adjusts, and we don’t forget, and even when another and another is extinguished, we still have other flames to guide us. And even when we look away from those flames, the stars are there, and they remind us…

Stars can’t shine without darkness.

And now some photos from life since I moved to DC.


Spring, cherry blossoms near my work building

RPCV TZ friendis

Exploration along the C&O Canal

Fun at the Kennedy Center and Nats Stadium with work pals

On the job – field trip to get me some farm life and tart cherries

Visits to Roc, my kitties still remember me

Shenandoah with my rock fanatic friends – we found a salamander too

Bridal shower for Jess

And the big beautiful day


Frisbee tournaments with a lovely bunch

Conquering mountains and waterfalls with my roomies

More PCTZ love

The little lady back in May

And more recently, end of August – almost 1 YO here


20 January 2019 – No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place

dsc04166I’ve been doing my best to remember that simple Zen proverb, really since I finished Peace Corps service last May, but especially as control over my plan to start the next stage of my life in DC has been wrested from me. I am supposed to start work with the Foreign Agricultural Service as an International Program Specialist in the Post-Conflict and Disaster Relief Division – yes, it’s a mouthful. But now that start down is controlled by the shutdown.

I interviewed at the beginning of November for the position. They promptly asked for references and gave me an offer, start date TBD. When I agreed, in the middle of December, to a January start date, I immediately began following up on housing ads. Somehow, I quickly found a great place, centrally located downtown, in my budget, with some super chill housemates. The plan was to begin moving in and paying rent January 1st, then I’d have a few weeks before starting work – PERFECT.

But now I’m back in limbo. The FAS (Foreign Agricultural Service) is a part of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), so all FAS employees are furloughed, and I am stuck as long as this lasts with no backpay accumulating, wait, wait, waiting with all the other 800,000 estimated to be impacted.

And the impact is really quite scary. Since officially moving in last week, I’ve joined Facebook LinkedIn groups for furloughed govt workers. Upon creation, the numbers grew from hundreds to thousands overnight. People are expressing frustrations, encouraging one another to stay positive and hopeful, and sharing resources and information – that’s anything from lists of banks offering special loans or car companies and cell companies offering delayed payments, to locations that have pop up food banks or restaurants giving free meals; from people sharing mental health resources and free exercise classes to work out their stress, to suggestions about filing unemployment or names of temp agencies and other companies that may be hiring for temporary positions.

One full month of a shutdown: that’s generally the amount of time between payments for pretty much all things – rent/mortgage, cell services, loans, cars, credit cards… And some didn’t even get their pay from December – that’s a month and a half to two full months without income. As this continues, I’m lucky because I’m just one person. Those who have families to support/kids to feed are reeeeeally feeling that lack of a paycheck.

But seeing the support that these social media groups provide is pretty outstanding, and knowing how much is going on to support those impacted by the shutdown, especially the number of pop up food banks, returns to me some of my faith in humanity.

I try to remember, especially as I see all the posts in these groups, that staying positive and optimistic is a choice.

“Today, you can decide to walk in freedom. You can choose to walk differently. You can walk as a free person, enjoying every step.”- Thich Nhat Hanh

And while I feel a lack of control as the number of days of the shutdown keeps increasing with no real end in sight, in the end I am in control of my mood, of whether or not I help myself, and of how I use this time, of how productive I am. Acceptance is key, without it you can’t really grow from any situation, or move on to help yourself.

“The resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering.”- Ram Dass


In the vein of staying positive, let me now reflect upon all the good experiences I’ve had since I last posted in August – it’s been 5 months. Here are the highlights:

1) Worked for the YMCA assisting at an afterschool program for grades K-5.

I loved this job, and it was perfect for my transition following the Peace Corps. It got me out of the house each day, kept me occupied and interacting with other people, and the kids helped me appreciate the day to day, minute to minute, which was so necessary and endlessly refreshing.

After returning to American culture, I felt pressed to run at the pace deemed acceptable here in the States – an exhausting change. But working with the kids allowed me to take a step back, to truly see and appreciate solely the simple things right in front of me, and to tune out the clock, to forget time. Work became a form of meditation, an exercise in mindfulness, without my fully realizing it at first. And I am so grateful to have learned again, this time with children as my role models, how to focus, how to live in the moment, and how to appreciate the little things as they reveal themselves every minute of every day.

“This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” – Alan Watts

2) Took a 2-week road trip to visit friends and fun places – and I also have this trip to thank for my position with the FAS.

I started out driving down to DC to stay with one of my Peace Corps besties as I attended a career conference and fair for Returned Volunteers. It was a great week of workshops and of seeing old friends that culminated in a successful career fair. This is where I applied to the position that I will start with the Foreign Agricultural Service once the shutdown ends.


Next up was Asheville, NC to stay with a close friend who I worked with in Alaska, and to meet up with two childhood friends. We explored town a bit, experienced the good food, drink, and music, camped in the back yard, and went for a fabulous hike in the rain.

Then I drove to Shenandoah for some solo hiking and camping. It was a great retreat with really lovely weather.

Next, I continued on to Bethlehem and then Philly, PA, to visit first a Peace Corps friend, and then a couple of college friends. More good food and drinks and peaceful walks, and also some fantastic time with quirky pets.

My final stop was Lake Massawepie in the Adirondacks – where I spent a semester in 2010. I enjoyed a camping spot right on the water that I know so well, and had a lovely bon fire into the night. The following day, I hiked up Ampersand, reaching the peak and taking in the spectacular views just before the rains came. Then I enjoyed the final leg of my drive back to Rochester.

It was an excellent time of reflection. Solo road trips with friends along the way – something I will repeat in the future. Looking back, I am so so glad that I made time for this trip. It helped me to remember who I am in the American context – something Returned Peace Corps Volunteers can forget as we try to readapt to a very different way of life that encompasses very different expectations and norms.

3) Entered into the Rochester ultimate frisbee and rock climbing communities.

Knowing that I like to be physically active, I joined two fall draft leagues, one for ultimate frisbee with a game every Sunday morning, and the other for rock climbing with a visit to the gym every Tuesday night. Not only did I meet some fun people, I also joined two new communities in Rochester. Following the leagues, I continued to play pick-up ultimate every Sunday, even in the snow, and returned to the rock climbing gym each week with more and more friends. I’m super excited to find these communities here in DC too, and already have a climbing adventure with two Peace Corps friends lined up for this week.


4) Visited my baby niece, brother, and sister-in-law out in Portland, OR.

My niece, Cadence, is absolutely adorable, and it was such a treat to take a long weekend to visit her and my brother and sister-in-law. Here are lots of pictures…


5) Experienced the holiday season back in Rochester with family.

Cadence, David, and Sammy also came back to Rochester for the holidays, so there was more time spent with the little one as a family.

Other highlights, in no specific order: fall foliage and crisp hikes, kittens kittens kittens, and Barney, bon fires, pumpkins and apples, my birthday at home, playing in the snow, riding a bike on paved surfaces, driving a car (also on paved surfaces), reliably good red wine, central AC and heating, live music and coffee shops, tattoos, remembering how to dress as an American (kind of), movie/game nights, ice skating, only falling once, etc. etc. etc.…

“I have lived with several Zen masters — all of them cats.”- Eckhart Tolle


And now here I am in DC. I already know quite a few people who live here – especially fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Plus, I have some great housemates who love game nights and exploring the city. I’ve been doing a bit of that myself as well – down by the USDA building.

There is plenty to be angry about at the moment. There’s a sense of betrayal, injustice, and of being wronged. And there’s that feeling of having the ground disappear from beneath you. But that’s nothing entirely new… Every day there is injustice in the world and things to be angry about. Just as it has always been: Obstacles don’t block the path. They are the path. (Zen Proverb) That is something to be accepted so that we can grow from the challenges of those obstacles and continue on with our lives. What happens too often, however: Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it’s dark. (Another Zen Proverb)

It’s a choice.

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” – Lao Tzu

No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place. Some may feel snowed-in, but I’m gonna strap on my snowshoes and see how beautiful all the trees look in their new dressings of white. (That’s purely metaphorical by the way – DC got none of the amazing snow piling up in Rochester…)

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”- Rumi

Fresh poetry, inspired by travel and transitions

Some Fresh Poetry! – Let me take you on a bit of a roller coaster

This is a compilation of poetry written during my final few months in the Peace Corps, and during travels following my close of service (recently edited and compiled). These poems were products of personal reflection as I started and continued the transition away from my life in Tanzania, and were inspired by my travels through/to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Paris. It has been a journey.


All About Perspective
(January 31, 2018)

“Blessed are the cracked
for they shall let in the light.”
And shine we shall
through our reversed chasms
into the world of raised eyebrows
and pretenders.
Nothing quite like a lone tree
that can still stand tall
in the midst of monotony.
We know it.
We’re all just symbolically crazy,
like Mr. Rochester’s wife
locked in her attic upstairs.
So no reason to raise the alarm
because I say I saw the clouds eat the moon
-they would’ve kissed it
but then the wind blew.

Yet still
you put up the chained link and barbed wire to boot.
But know that whatever way you cage us,
we can always imagine ourselves out,
watching you through the windows
of our own attics.
And be warned
that a flicker becomes flame
and flame becomes fire
and fire: conflagration.
Then maybe one day
you, too, will see the moon
nearly kissed by the clouds,
and the moonlight will be your own,
shining out through reversed chasms.


Awaiting Perfection
(February 27, 2018)

Perfection is the fitting
of a delicate seashell’s gentle curve
into the palm of one’s hand.

Why am I here
staring at the sea
warming the charming chill
of calcium carbonate?
The exoskeleton of some mollusk
-what’s left of its body
washed ashore
I chose this one
to cradle
to stay with me
to bring comfort.

But why am I here
staring at the sea
letting the wind tangle my hair
the salt tingle,
burn inside my nostrils?
The crashing waves whitewash all fences of sound
letting the sight of unbroken horizon
then take my heart.

I’m okay with it gone.
I am here to let it wash away
when the waters pass through me.
I am here to let go.

It’ll find its way back to some shore:
a seashell
-what’s left of my body
awaiting a warmed palm,
a curved cradle;
awaiting the gentle touch
of the one who chooses me;
patiently awaiting perfection.


The Fate of the Innocent / In the Name of Hatred
(Inspired by the Children’s Room at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre)
(June 26, 2018)

Futures destroyed,
H_____ loved to swim
he was killed at 9 years old
hacked into pieces
by machete.
A_____ loved hide and seek
she was killed at 7 years old
tortured to death with a hot iron
while her Mother watched.
T_____ wanted to be a doctor
he was killed at 10 years old
burned alive
inside a church.
R_____ was Daddy’s girl
she was killed at 5 years old
stabbed through the eyes and head
with sharpened sticks.
E_____ liked to smile
and had deep dimples
he was killed at 4 months
drowned in boiling water.
D_____ cried a lot
she was killed at 11 months
smashed repeatedly
against a wall.
Their final moments
filled with an indescribable fear,
spent watching their Fathers
in pain
Then their own
futures destroyed,
The fate of the Innocent,
of thousands:
to be left in a ditch
or thrown into the river,
a pile of skin and bones
and blood.


(Inspired by the mass graves and the introductory video at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre)
(June 26, 2018)

You stand alone
in solitude
in strength
as the rain falls
on your shoulders
your bent head.
Tears fall with the rain.
Dressed in black
you stand alone
over the thick slab of concrete
that is the definitive roof
of the house of your Mother
your Father
your Sisters
Tears fall with the rain.
You stand crying
over the thick slab of concrete
that is the roof
of the house of thousands more,
the house of the dead.
Cracked bones,
bullet hole-broken skulls,
the crushed humanity
of the innocent
resides beneath.
Tears fall with the rain.

You stand alone
in solitude
in strength
as the rain falls
on your upturned face.
The skies cry with you,
tears soak your skin
flow over your face
saturate your black dress,
puddle at your feet.
Tears drip from the trees
run in rivulets all around you
your grief joined by that of the sky
the earth
the country,
grief mixed together
to saturate the spirit,
mixed up above
like the broken bones below,
connecting a nation
bringing together a people
one people
in death
in life
in hatred
in forgiveness.
Tears fall with the rain.
But those tears are understood
by thousands
an understanding like no other.
You stand alone
in solitude
in strength
but you are not alone
others stand with you
-those lost but never forgotten
-those who have lost
but will never forget.
Tears fall with the rain
but you live
you love
with strength
you forgive.


Coral Caves
(May 14, 2018)

I feel the chill in the breeze
watching tides come and go
come and go, day after day after
day after –
the sand sinks with each step
and the wind is constant.
The sun
comes and goes
comes and goes, day
after –
like the white caps, rising
only to be swallowed
by uncertain waters.

Somewhere there are some steps
inside some cave
cut into the coral
leading up, up, up
and out.
People go there to pray.
It is quiet
safe from wind and sun
and rain
and if one dares to stumble
up up up
blindly into darkness
there may be
some kind of escape.


(May 18, 2018)

Longing for the nameless
can’t quite pin down WHAT
not a certain smell on the air
not a certain slant of light
not even the sky beyond the stars
More so the nameless feeling

because truth is beautiful
but so are lies
and some people willingly wear
willingly stand
in the path of a tornado
willingly bury
beneath the leaves of last year

because guilt can convince us
of all our evils
suffering exists
and all the religions
even the occult
point the blame back on us
so we sin and we sin and we
and we’re all just a jumbled collage
of memory and dream
fear and desire
and pain
playing the game
of sunlight and shadow
wondering what we did
for God to make life so sad

so let us sin
and sin and sin
searching for that feeling
searching for that longing
for the nameless


Kicking, then Still
(May 26, 2018)

A fly on its back
turning in circles
aiming at resurrection
but only one wing buzzes
against the wooden table
painted a dull teal
the light reflects bent legs
then still
then still.

A deep, grinding voice
imperialistic accent
overwhelms the eardrums
old white man
arm around
young black woman
he laughs at his own jokes
as she sips her wine
the third glass
and tries not to draw
away as he draws

then still
in circles
then still
in glossy dull teal paint
death bed

A warm body
nudges against stiff leg
warm brown eyes
of a warm brown dog
looking lovingly
into frozen face.

then still
imperialistic voice
at the periphery

warm brown eyes
caring not that we eat
on a dull teal deathbed
caring not that man
may always dominate
Only caring that two eyes
meet two eyes
and in that connection
all else can fade away.


Music Man
(July 1, 2018)

My black shoes are covered in white dust,
but they still carry me along
the pocked pavement
down the cement stairs
blackened gum rubbed smooth
no longer sticky
drawing my eyes
like a connect-the-dots game
that creates some strange form
of abstract art.
In a world lit by the artificial,
I descend,
crazed, confused,
in need of some sense.

Whoosh of the train
my hair blown against its part
then with a squeal of brakes
doors slam open
people file off
people file on
doors close
momentum suddenly building
my toes press the floor
trying to grip it through my shoes.

The air smells like stale grass and plastic.

I stare at my reflection
in the black window.

Then a tap –
A beat
a voice
the strum of a guitar.

A black man with white hair
in ripped, ruined pants
and a blue pinstriped suit coat
stomps the floor with shoeless feet
and sings
barely pronouncing the words
with all his soul.
Tapping out a beat in between chords
on the wood
of his small, worn guitar,
eyes squeezed shut,
he doesn’t see all the other eyes
riveted on him:
a soul laid bare
a soul sharing all its joy
its sadness
its ripe emotion.
Veins pop from his temples,
the tendons of his neck:
He feels it.
And so do we.

A woman comes to stand beside me
to be closer to the wonder.
We share a smile
even sing along,
closing our eyes as well.

Then with a lurch and a squeal
the doors slam open:
my stop.
Before I can think
I step over the threshold
on autopilot
and the doors slam closed –
the music cut –
only the city-sort-of-silence remains.

My mind far away
dust-covered feet take me
step by step to the sortie
up up up, and out
into the night alight with the artificial
stepping from dot of gum
to dot of gum

The breeze blows,
splitting my hair with the perfect part,
drawing it back from my face,
off my neck,
a chill down my spine
gives me breath.
I awake in the night.


Kesho, Tomorrow
(February 22, 2018)

search for balance
but scales tip
by day
by night
until you float in darkness
on still lake waters
in a world between the stars –
revolving reflections
of all those days
all those nights.

Yet still gravity remains
to ground you
in the sky
of yesterday
of today
of tomorrow
-when the scales will tip
and the Yin
the Yang
will embrace one another
for the sake of some balance.


Dinner in Paris
(July 3, 2018)

The accordion pumps out its notes
and a man effortlessly lets
melodies flow from his loose lips,
striped shirt and red neck tie
giving the look of a boy
to a man
who simply sings
of a life not yet lived,
of a longing long ago realized,
long ago accepted
as life-long.

Red wine flows
as a clarinet joins the mix
now more upbeat
and the driving force of a bass
plucking the deep melody
of a pulse felt in the chest
to the core.

And so goes the rhythm
of the night.
We tap our feet,
nod our heads,
close our eyes
and imagine the music
taking form
rising and falling
flowing as water
in color,
in black and white,
red as the wine
driving us on
driving us away
driving us home.


To Remember, To Forget
(May 25, 2018)

A slender, silver boat,
rudderless, without sail or paddle,
without a captain
floats downstream
on the slow but devoted current
of a gray, forested river –
to find and to lose,
to remember and to forget.

Beauty lies in memory,
memory that cannot be trusted
as it mingles with dreams
many long years of dreams
of the half-remembered, seeming-facts
of your life
of lives not your own
present yet remote:
leaves falling on the wind
golden, for a moment only,
but singular.

Beauty lies in both finding
and forgetting:
the wake of the silver boat,
strong lines
manipulating reflections
on the water,
then melding into them
becoming them,

Beauty lies in the losing:
we hold on, we cling,
but everything is a drop of dew
fallen from boat’s bow
into a world of water,
ripples lost
ripples forgotten
ripples found
ripples remembered.

A slender, silver boat,
rudderless, without sail or paddle,
without a captain
floats downstream
on the slow but devoted current:
a ghost
the ghost of tomorrow, found;
the ghost of today, remembered;
the ghost of yesterday, lost;
the beauty of the forgotten
that may rise again
as a mingled dream
of a life not your own
that you once lived.


A Wonder
(June 8, 2018)

is what it is
when your narrow torso
carved from obsidian
studded with rough-cut diamonds
fills my vision
and I see you shine from within,
the lack of polish: your beauty,
hidden mysteries coating your being.

A Wonder
is what it is
when I write prayers,
-words woven from dewy grass-
that I might one day
run my fingers upon your hills
within your valleys,
but I turn from your look
afraid to listen
to the waterfalls
that originate from the sun.

A Wonder
is what it is
when you breathe the sweet air
held by yellow flowers,
and I do too,
but it’s just a meaningless coincidence
as I neglect to open my arms
when the time comes to warm us both.
You walk away
and I stand
trying to see the beauty
in the rising moon
in the haunting calls of the loons.

A Wonder
will be what it will be
when finally the sun rises
with no mist or fog or clouds
and fills a blue sky,
when the sun lets loose
its waterfalls
taking us into the next morning
and a blue sky again
will fill with our exhaled breath.

Sweetness in the air,
a Wonder
will be what it will be.


A Look in the Mirror
(February 18, 2018)

You are a tulip at dusk.
Dark form in solitude
slender curves
details hidden
by approaching darkness
details awaiting discovery
by those who dare.
You’ll stand proud
in an hour
exposed to naked moonlight
because that light is cold
and must be embraced.
But to be embraceable:

not you.

You stand in solitude
and we search
and we stare
well aware
that your secrets are what make you
but come morning
scars will be hidden with the stars
and your petals will stretch
in the warmth of the sun
and you will smile
and laugh
and forget the past
taking day by day
as a beautiful flower.


(July 2, 2018)

Veins across the window:
flowing rain
spreading in the wind.
Clouds stretch up
patches of blue sky in between
providing the possibility
for rainbows
and we drive on,
roads rolling away beneath us,
but no one’s counting,
dipping in to
and out of storms,
fields alight
then in shadow,
alight again.

31 August 2018: “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”

“Many speak of opportunities- ‘When one door closes, another one opens.’ But rarely about the hallway. The transition. The in between where you are and where you are headed. The hallway doesn’t have to be a scary, dark, endless confusion- it can be a space of massive transformation, great memories, and peace.” -Unknown


In May, over three months ago now, I closed my Peace Corps service, ringing the bell (as is tradition for Peace Corps Tanzania) for a solid half-minute – it felt too damn good to stop. That seems like years ago now. I then undertook a solo trip through Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, ending the journey with an 8 day stop in Paris. In my opinion, travel, especially solo travel, is the best thing to do after completing the Peace Corps. One needs time for reflection, for it to sink in, to realize the inherent accomplishment of Peace Corps service, to feel pride, to be thankful for the experiences both good and bad.

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Travel is also a way of distancing oneself from one life to help prepare for the next. Life in the Peace Corps is, quite literally, life on the other side of the world. And the world is a huge place. Traveling – transition in and of itself – allowed me to get my head in the game as I knew I’d be returning to a place once familiar, now somewhat foreign: the ultimate and most confusing of transitions.

What I’ve found I miss most in this transition is my Peace Corps family.

When we serve in the Peace Corps, our fellow Volunteers become kin. As Americans in a foreign world, we rely on one another to make it through service: to understand the ups and downs we feel; comprehend the cultural nuances; remember what it’s like to be ourselves. We are each other’s lives. Unfortunately, I’ve found, as have many friends from service, that this familial camaraderie does not always travel with us back to America. When we need it most – during readjustment – it can become elusive as we are each swept up in the feeling of our culture found as foreign, in expectations that simply seem too grand for us.


I’ve come to understand that community is not the same in America, and while we sometimes make the time to visit our people from service here Stateside, time is forever running from us, and we realize relationships must change. When we arrive in new places here in America, it is not the same experience as when we moved to our country of service, to our regions, to our towns or villages. There aren’t collections of smiling faces to welcome us, show us around, tell us what to expect or to look forward to, to take us in as new comrades on the island of misfit toys.

No, Americans are independent, proudly so. We don’t need each other, we don’t need our extended family, we make our own name, our own lives. And yes, even Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) get caught up in the American system that only really encourages selfishness and hate. It’s a tragedy of circumstance, and a tragedy of the societal and social expectations and habits of our generation in America.

Sorry to sound so bleak. But that is my perception of the United States after my 3.5 years in East Africa. As we all know, however, it is human nature to surround ourselves with like-minded people. While that may keep us in bubbles of our own creation, it also allows us to find comfort in one another – if we so choose to find it. I certainly do, and have been hopping around visiting my people since arriving home in mid-July.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” -Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)


Over the past month plus I’ve been able to reconnect with well over 30 friends from various places and parts of my life, sometimes in groups, sometimes one-on-one. While visiting with my people I’ve also been able to meet their people, a great many new friends. Seeing the diverse perspectives and approaches to life back in the States has been both overwhelming and beautiful. The differences in expectations – those people have for themselves and for the world around them – is astounding. Daily life can be so different: the pace, the priorities, the needs, the desires…

Breakfast foods
AC vs. open windows
Alcohol consumption
TV vs. reading
Need to be going and doing vs. staying in
Perceptions of what’s possible
Tea vs. coffee
Bed times
Bicycle vs. walking vs. trains vs. car
Spending money
People who see rain vs. people who see the potential for rainbows…

People have different ways of doing and coping with things, they’ve led their lives down different paths centered around different priorities for many different and all valid reasons. But there is one powerful commonality: everyone has to take life one day at a time.

“One day at a time – this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering.” -Unknown


Now perhaps a bit about my travels since May: a run through of my East African explorations, and then my experiences since returning to the States.

East Africa…



I took a bus from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania (my home since March 2017) across the border into Kenya. First stop: Diani Beach. After exploring the sandy stretches along the ocean, visiting a sacred forest, touring the Colobus Conservation Center, and riding a camel named Obama, I went further North to Mombasa, a classically noisy, busy, chaotic, dirty East African city. There were tuk-tuks (motorized mini taxis) everywhere, masses of people, trash all over, honking, yelling – quite the scene! I was outside of downtown to the North, but did enjoy a walking tour throughout the downtown area and to Fort Jesus in the Old Town section. While some compare Old Town Mombasa to Old Town Zanzibar for the similarities between their labyrinthine narrow streets, in my opinion Zanzibar is much more impressive (although also more attune to the tourists). But I liked Mombasa too.

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Taking the new fast rail from the Star Trek-esque train station in Mombasa, I then proceeded to Nairobi. I stayed in the Westlands area, which is quite hipster, with two RPCVs from Tanzania who were Volunteer Leaders when I first began my service. We went to an amazing glass workshop/arts village, visited the elephant orphanage where my friends have an adopted elephant, hiked in Karura Forest Reserve, and simply enjoyed some television and lots of good food.

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After Nairobi, I continued on by Peugeot (shared 9/10-person taxis) to Lake Naivasha. Here I spent 5 full days. I explored the nearby crater lake, bicycled and hiked through Hell’s Gate National Park, rode a horse through a game sanctuary, and visited Elsamere Lodge where Joy Adams (author of Born Free) lived, now a museum. Then I took a shared taxi, a bus, and a motorcycle to cross the border and arrive at my next destination: Jinja.

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Following an easy border crossing at Busia, my first stop in Uganda was Jinja, the location that some claim as the source of the Nile. I toured around on a motorcycle my first day, seeing the source, exploring downtown, and enjoying a good meal. Then I went back to my backpackers and spent the evening paddling on the river with new friends as the sun set.

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On day two I planned to go horseback riding and on day three to go white water rafting – the main reason most people visit Jinja. I did go horseback riding, but did not get to go rafting (which is okay because it looked terrifying). Instead I got to visit the Jinja International Hospital after being bucked off and flipped over my horse. No one could tell why I got pitched off, but I had a powerful landing on my head/shoulder/upper back, ouch, which resulted in some scrapes, a few bruises, and a concussion – no broken bones though!


After a day of trying to relax, with some great views (above), I continued on by shared taxi to Kampala. Luckily, I had no strenuous activities planned here and enjoyed my time sleeping and relaxing at the backpackers, touring around the city to see the sights via motorcycle, visiting the national museum, and even seeing a movie in the mall movie theater around the corner (so many malls!). Kampala was also a bit hipster but did not feel as massive as Nairobi.

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Next up was a trip to Murchison Falls through another backpackers out of Kampala. This three day trip brought me together with some fun and interesting traveling companions, all from various parts of Europe. We visited the falls by foot and by boat, and had a few excellent game drives. The days concluded with food and drink and stories and debate around the campfire, then a night of sleep interrupted by grazing hippos just outside.

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I then returned to Kampala for the night and took a bus the following morning to reach Kabale and Lake Bunyonyi down South. I tested my hiking abilities (back and head still not fully recovered), and tried to canoe a bit with a friend from the island there, but otherwise relaxed in my beautiful lodging, a “geodome” that opened up to the lake.

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I started a private organized tour at this point in my journey, to visit Bwindi Impenetrable for gorilla tracking, MgaHinga National Park for golden monkey tracking, and then to continue on to Rwanda to visit Volcanoes National Park for two days of hiking.

First, the gorillas of Bwindi. Unlike other experiences I’ve heard, my group did not have to trek for 5 hours to find our gorilla family (probably a good thing for me as I wasn’t fully healed). We found them fast after only a short hike through the dense forest. And they were magnificent. My favorite moments were watching the youngsters playing, rolling about as balls of fur, showing their teeth in playful smiles, one even beat his little chest. And I cannot explain the majesty of the silverback. His eyes saw everything, he was so calm and powerful, his stature and presence inspired respect and absolute awe. The most majestic and noble creature I think I’ve ever encountered.

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MgaHinga National Park was also a beautiful place to visit. On the drive down from Kabale, I stopped to visit a local organic coffee cooperative and learn about growing and roasting coffee beans. It was a fun activity and fantastic to see this local initiative for sustainable agribusiness.

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While visiting MgaHinga, I had the pleasure of spending the majority of my time there with the head researcher of golden monkeys, Sandra Gray. She has been there studying the ecosystem as a whole, tracking the golden monkey groups for her research, and working with communities to spread the necessary education to help protect the unique primates since 2009. And she was abuzz with excitement to learn the evening that I arrived that BBC will be coming to film with her in MgaHinga this September. An enthusiastic and wonderfully eccentric women, it was a pleasure to track the golden monkeys with her, and to have many engaging conversations.

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The following day, I continued on with my driver to cross into Rwanda and reach Volcanoes National Park, a part of the Virunga range.


Rwanda Travels

While my back and head were still on the mend, I was able to go on a few excellent hikes in Volcanoes National Park – one to climb Mt. Bisoke and see the crater lake at its peak, and the other to reach the old research site of Dian Fossey, called Karisoke for its location between Mt. Bisoke and Mt. Karisimbi, both volcanoes. Dian Fossey lived at the Karisoke Research Center from 1967 through her death/murder in 1985, and she is buried there next to her favorite gorilla, Digit, along with many other gorillas. Her story is a fascinating one, and I highly recommend learning more about her, or even reading Gorillas in the Mist, her book published in 1983. If she had not started the research and conservation efforts in the Virungas, the mountain gorillas would quite simply no longer exist.

The hike up Mt. Bisoke was challenging and beautiful, a perfect climb through changing vegetation with that dynamic crater lake at the top. Unfortunately, the summit was covered by clouds, so I couldn’t see into the Congo, but had some nice views of Rwanda’s side of the Virungas on the way down.

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The following day I set off with the hiking crew to reach Karisoke. I split to go ahead with a few rangers and armed guards (everyone hikes with both rangers and armed military because there are not only gorillas, but also larger animals that can be even more dangerous, like forest elephants). This allowed me to have a nice quiet time at Dian Fossey’s gravesite. It was moving to be there, to see the remains of the research center and to know the impact that that fierce, stubborn, and passionate women had in those forests and beyond.

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On the hike down, our group had the most amazing luck, and I think it was meant to be. By far the most memorable and heart-racing moment of my trip, our path crossed with that of a group of gorillas. We only saw males, a group of blackbacks (not yet silverbacks). There were eating and tussling, and crossed the trail just above us. We only had a minute with them (we had only paid for a hike, not the $1,500 USD for a gorilla trek), but that minute felt like an hour.

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Then when we turned to head down the trail, to leave the blackbacks behind and continue on our way, there was the silverback. On the trail just below us, he watched us, patiently, calmly – not fully trusting us, but also not feeling the need to show aggression. Our hearts racing, we moved to one side of the trail. After a moment of study, the silverback seemed to understand and walked up the trail, passing right beside us to rejoin his younger family members. In disbelief, we continued on our way, they continued on theirs, and I was left with a memory that will never fade.

The following day my driver dropped me off in Gisenyi, a town on the North tip of Lake Kivu, just across the border from Goma (DRC). I spent a few lovely days enjoying the water, then began my mountain bike trip down the Congo Nile Trail to Kibuye. This three-day ride was challenging for me, but my head seemed to relish the hard physical exertion, while my back didn’t hurt too much. We rode through villages, along the lake, up and down the hills. I travelled with two other women from the UK and our guide, and we had a great time chatting, playing games, and telling stories by the bonfires in the evenings.


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I felt tired but accomplished by the end, and enjoyed my short respite in Kibuye following the trip. I visited the nearby islands, seeing both monkeys and an insane number of flying foxes (large fruit bats), paddled around a bit myself on the windy water, and enjoyed some nice walks through the villages. Soon enough, I was on a small bus to reach my next and final stop in East Africa: Kigali.

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Kigali was such a refreshing city. It was green, quiet, so very clean, there were parks, a fantastic arts scene, great food and coffee shops, and a collective spirit – that I somehow simply felt in the air – of a nation united. Rwanda of course has a very intense recent history. While in Kigali, I visited the memorials and museums and was able to learn a great deal about the genocide, and to understand that the lives of the vast majority of Rwanda’s citizens were touched – if not destroyed – by those months in 1994.

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But even if lives were destroyed, life still existed, grew, blossomed, overpowered the pain and suffering in the years following. That is what is so beautiful about Rwanda and its people – they chose life following 1994. They chose forgiveness, they chose love, they chose community, they chose art and music and celebration. That is what I felt in the air in Kigali, that is why I loved the city, and the country, so much.

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“Don’t let your fear of the past affect the presence of your future. Live for what tomorrow has to bring, not what yesterday has taken away.”


During my trip planning, I’d decided I’d need a little stopover in Europe following my East African explorations – to people-watch, to ride around on trains, to walk city streets, to stay in a place with comfy beds and pillows, reliable electricity, hot water, and no need for mosquito nets. Paris was a random choice, but turned out to be a great one!

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I’d been to Paris once before on a school trip, but it had only been for a couple of days. This time I truly got to explore. I spent all day every day out on the streets, in museums, joining walking tours, exploring old cemeteries, and then taking breaks for meals or coffee while enjoying a pair of my favorite pastimes: people-watching, and writing. I also did two day-trips out into the countryside – one to Mont St Michel, the other to visit the castles of the Loire Valley.

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I found Parisians to be quite welcoming and friendly. There is certainly a stereotype that you shouldn’t expect hospitality or friendliness from the stuck-up French, but I found it not to be true. If you try to learn some basic greetings, and how to ask, “do you speak English?” how to say thank you and please, that is a great start. Then, if you are polite and respectful and willing to take the time to greet shopkeepers, etc., and if you have the ability to laugh at yourself, who could be rude in response? Unless someone is having a horrible day, Parisians will be polite and respectful back to you. And they’ll be more than willing to laugh with you too 😉


Rather than flying into Rochester (which is much more expensive), I flew into Toronto and met my parents there. We spent a few nights, went to the aquarium, went to see a play, had some yummy food, and then drove back home. We of course had to stop at IKEA on the way, and to prevent myself from getting too overwhelmed, I simply thought of it as a museum – lots of interesting things to look at.

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When we arrived at the house, it was hard to believe I was home – back in America, back in Rochester, back in our house, back with family, and the cat.

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Since returning to the States…


A few weeks after I got back from my travels, I got on a plane to Chicago 1) to visit one of my best friends from childhood, and 2) to attend a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer career conference. The morning of my arrival my friend and his girlfriend took me out for breakfast. I ordered what I thought was an egg scramble, but after ordering the waitress asked how I would like my eggs… I was confused. Umm… cooked… how else? I stared at the waitress, stared at my friends, and asked what the options were – oh yes, over-easy, sunny-side up, etc. Umm… just scrambled please. Whew. Good. Decision made. “Do you want cheese on it?” Cheese?! Good god… sure, yes! “What kind of cheese?” Are you effin kidding me?! We’re in America. American cheese please. I had started to sweat, too many decisions! I realized then that reverse-culture shock can reveal itself at surprising times.

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I took things slow and easy, figured out the train system in Chicago, enjoyed some quality time with my friends, then attended the two-day conference. After some great sessions led by the Peace Corps team, there was a career fair. It was great practice chatting with the different organizations and schools present, and I did get a few job offers – unfortunately I don’t really want to work as an FBI agent at this moment in my life. Maybe down the road, but not now.


After my visit to Chicago, I continued on to Boston with another easy flight. I stayed with one of my best friends from the Peace Corps, and visited some other Peace Corps friends and college friends who also live in the area. I was there for about four days and had a jam-packed schedule: cycling to the arboretum, coffee shop hopping, tossing a frisbee during an evening of fine folk music, hanging out at a bar, attending a dinner party, losing at darts, brunch and lunch, going to see Beyoncé and Jay-Z, reading books, making music, and having excellent conversations.

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A few days after returning from Boston, I hopped in the car and drove to the Adirondacks to meet up with college friends for the weekend. I stayed in my friend’s cabin on Upper Saranac Lake, enjoyed some paddling, beautiful sunsets, swimming, bon fire burgers and s’mores, and an attempted hike to the mosquito-infested Moose Pond. Just the adventures I was needing in one of my favorite places in the world.

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Canandaigua Lake:

I was on the move again a few days after returning from the Adirondacks, lake-hopping in the Finger Lakes. First stop: Canandaigua Lake to visit my good friend from the farm. We worked together at the Rochester Folk Art Guild years ago and have been friends ever since. It was quite a gathering as well, and I was able to see many other farm friends and meet their friends and significant others. We had a fantastic night cooking dinner together, playing charades, and of course doing a late-night skinny dip. The following day, I helped them with flower preparations for a wedding – the reason so many were in town. Such a fun reunion.

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Taughannock Falls:

Next up was Cayuga Lake and camping at Taughannock Falls State Park with childhood friends. We hiked, we bon fired, we cooked, we ate, we drank, we played music, we hiked some more, we river-walked, and then it was time to go home again.

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A few days after that, I took a little trip with my Mom up to Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada. This has become our tradition, and this time we extended our usual stay so that we could do some things we’ve always talked about doing but haven’t had the time for. In addition to seeing two plays at the Shaw Festival, we took a jet boat ride down some class 5 rapids on the Niagara River – fun and wet; we went to the Butterfly Conservatory to surround ourselves with fluttering beauty; we did some wine tasting and visited the local chocolate factory; and finally, we spent a morning exploring the Niagara Parkway Recreation Trail on bicycles, riding along the gorge and river.

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Shawnee, Pennsylvania:

The morning following our return from Niagara-on-the-Lake, I was off again traveling with some Returned Peace Corps Volunteers down to Shawnee, Pennsylvania for the Peace Corps Connect conference. Peace Corps Connect appeals to those Returned Volunteers who know, miss, and want to feel again the comfort of their Peace Corps family. It doesn’t matter in which country people served or in what decade, those who attend the conference care about Peace Corps and the amazing impacts it makes. Some RPCVs finish service and are finished with the Peace Corps. Others finish service and want to keep the missions of the Peace Corps in their lives forever. “Life is calling, how far will you go?” They keep going, around the world and back again, again and again.

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On the day of arrival at Peace Corps Connect, I went canoeing with a group of RPCVs. We were driven up river and dropped at a boat launch. The moment we stepped foot in our canoes and pushed onto the river, the sky opened up in a deluge upon us. But we just shrugged our shoulders, laughed and paddled, told stories, enjoyed the view. After a few minutes, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and we all had to pause to appreciate the beauty, to reflect on the reflections of trees, clouds, blue sky, and ourselves in our canoes leaving subtle trails on the surface of the water behind us.

Over the course of the weekend, time seemed to slow down; I felt as though I walked on a ground level with those who surrounded me; a certain understanding pervaded the rooms; the warmth of coming home was blowing on the breeze.


Once the conference ended, I was also able to visit the nearby Bushkill Falls to go hiking with some fellow RPCVs. It was great to get out, hike around, and visit 8 different waterfalls… And now I’ve just returned from Shawnee a few days ago! September is pretty much here, autumn, then winter. I haven’t had a winter or fall for three years now, so I am very excited.

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Other happenings…

Baby shower:
The week after returning from my travels in East Africa and France, my brother and sister-in-law came to town for the baby shower. The baby is due September 6th – so any time really – and they are waiting to see for themselves if it is a boy or girl, which I love.

Another tragedy:
That same week of celebrating new life, the same day of the baby shower, I received news that a friend from the Peace Corps had committed suicide. He returned the year before I finished, and so was here in the States, not in Tanzania. I was once again reminded that you never know what tomorrow may bring, so it’s wisest to love every moment of today. And that people are fragile, that that’s okay, and that we need to more frequently say and mean the words I love you.

“I don’t think people have demons, I think they have themselves and things they aren’t ready to be honest about yet. It is not easy to come to grips with the fact that we’re capable of hurting people with the same instrument we love them with. The heart is a hungry wolf and it is made of glass.” -King Longton

Also the week after returning from my travels, and the day after getting that sad news, I was adopted by two kittens, sisters, who I’ve named Harriet (Harri for short because she has hairy ears and toes and tail) and Adele. I was chatting on the phone outside, sitting beneath a tree when they walked right over to me from the bushes. They started climbing all over me, purring like fiends, and fell asleep in my lap.

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I thought it was meant to be. Throughout service I resisted taking in a cat, even though one would have been a great comfort, great solace, at many different points during my three years. I was tired of resisting. I needed some furry friends in that moment – both following the news about my friend, and as I continued to absorb the overwhelming cultural shifts. Luckily I convinced my parents to take them in, and they’ve been with us since, growing into the sweetest little ladies.

Part-time work:
I’ve arranged a part time job for myself at the YMCA’s after school program, so I’ll be working with elementary and middle school kids for a few hours each day starting next week! I’m looking forward to a both fun and creatively challenging job that will give my life a bit of structure as I think about my next steps.

Upcoming trip to DC:
Besides work, I’ll also be taking a trip down to DC and beyond for another Returned Peace Corps Volunteer career conference, informational interviews with various organizations, and to visit some friends in the area while I’m at it.

Overall, I think I’m transitioning well. I was ready to complete my service and my time in Tanzania, was ready to leave East Africa by the end of my travels, and have been keeping myself very busy visiting good friends, meeting good people, seeing beautiful places, and spending quality time with my parents – and all the cats. I also feel productive in that I am working towards discovering whatever my next step may be, and will soon have some structure (and money flow) with my part time job.

Plus, I have support. I have my people, my community, my family, because I know how important it can be… Friends still in Tanzania, friends spread across the States, friends here at home: they are all my family, and I don’t know what or where I’d be without them.

“Family isn’t always blood, it’s the people in your life who want you in theirs: the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.”