2012 in review. Year of Caryn complete.

Happy New Year, readers! Hope your year is off to a good start. How has another year passed already? Can someone please tell me because I am in disbelief that it has been a year (as of Jan 2) since I made that life changing decision that completely changed my life. It is true, time never stops and looking back, it really does help heal the wounds. It was a very difficult year emotionally but I refused to let misery encompass my life. So instead of wasting my days moping, I decided to learn about myself and made 2012 into the year that I began to find Caryn. I wanted to discover whom I was, what made me happy. I wanted to pursue dreams that I had let fall away and I wanted to become the most authentic version of myself. I did a lot of reflection and soul-searching and I took a deep look at who I had become and who I wanted to be and finally stopped dreaming and started doing. I had deemed 2012 The Year of Caryn and that it was. I find it bittersweet that it is over because I learned, grew and accomplished so much. I am kind of sad to let “my” year go. I know every year can be The Year of Caryn but it isn’t the same. And plus that’s just The Life of Caryn then.

Looking back, I am proud of 2012. It started off to be heart-wrenchingly painful where I was at rock bottom but I turned it around. It could have been just another miserable year but I made it into a year about self-exploration, independence, actualizing dreams, amazing adventures in Africa, volunteering, four (!) visits to DC, finding happiness and myself, winning things, and growth, learning, giving to others and being grateful.

January

Emotional. Tears. Swollen eyes. Heart-wrenching pain. Breakups. Saying goodbye. Losing a best friend. Mom’s 60th. Seeing an Intuitive. Receiving justification. Light-bulb moments. Dark days. iPhone acquired. Celebrated birthday. Realizing the fake vs. true friends. Depression. Crying in a public bar. Visits from supportive & amazing friends (from across the country.) Family support. Soul-searching. BiSC registration. Costa cruise crash & sinking.

February

Set personal goals. Self-reflection. Registered for volunteering in Tanzania. Girl sleepovers. Apartment hunting. RM work test. Date with Dad to see American Idiot. Emotional battles. Misery. Optimistic. Ugly tears. No appetite. Girls night out. Out of town friend visits. Signed a new lease. MIA Valentines Day. First Kitchen Aid! Scary Warm weather in 40’s! Whitney Houston’s death. Deadly tornado in Illinois.

March

30 Day Shred. Deadly tornado in Alabama. MRI results show new lesion on liver. Launch of ChiTownTweetup. Countdown to BiSC & Africa. Travel shots.

April

Acting like a teen again by gabbing on a call for 3 hours. New work team. Spontaneous trip to DC on a one day notice. Surprising friends for goodbye parties. 30 day shred. First official CTTU event at Blue Line Lounge. Planning. Creating. Dreaming. Tears. Dinners with friends. Botched haircut. Botched haircut fixed. Consulting call. New friends. Blog post causes tension. First blog post payment earned. Announced Africa to world. Shopping for Mad Men. Brunch with BiSC Chicago friends. Countdowns. Conflicting emotions. Dick Clark died.

May

Planning. Surprise visit a graduation. DC visit #2. Second CTTU event at Kirkwood. Book Africa flight. No more dreams, now reality. BiSC. Reunite with good friends. Freedom. Guard down. Wedding in Houston. Internal struggles about returning. ALL the emotions. Exiled from hotel room. Sister’s engagement party. Vegas. Abraham Lincoln hoax. Stolen stripper vodka. Soul-searching. Attempts at self-discovery. Spreading positivity and happiness. Lessons learned. Dancing on tabletops. In public. In bars. Letting go. Hit goal weight. Blueberry Stoli’s. Phone dates. Skype dates. Winning the Amazon Kindle Fire. Strip Clubs. Mad Men Party. Zumanity. Get ripped in 30.

June

Month of lots of skype dates and phone dates with friends. Applied for Visa. Attend invite-only Twitter party. Stacy’s Bridal shower. Brunch. Train to visit Mandi. Social media day. Assist in friend’s proposal. 4-way air-hockey. Planning. Stress. ANXIETY. Mom’s graduation. CTTU Sunday Funday at Brunch. Won free BiSC trip while skyping. Positive attitude. Personal Growth. Realizing more dreams and desires. Weight gain begins for no apparent reason.

July

Told my blog gave perspective to woman whose son moved away. Bought Tweetup for Change domain. Creativity. Founder. Entrepreneur. Risks. Charity. Philanthropy. Fireworks. Phone Dates. Skype Dates (Stacey). Almost record-breaking hot weather 100’s. Crazy humidity. Sox game for Dad’s Birthday. Fireworks at The Cell. Bridesmaid for the first time. Conflicting emotions. ANXIETY. Pepperoni chin breakouts. See Ex for the first time. In a wedding together. Extreme awkwardness. All the emotions: tears, pain, happiness. Fever and zits from anxiety. Rivers of tears. Missing him. Longing. Opened wounds. Talking causes crying. Saying goodbye all over again. Heartache and heart-break. Visits to Botanical Gardens to find calmness. Wedding dress decision time. In Aurora, Colorado movie theatre massacre. Bridesmaid chooses to be ex’s friend over me. Lose a friend. Uncomfortable. Lies. DC visit #3. Roadtrips with Maxie to Richmond. Cake Pops. Chocolate food fights. Laughter. Drool-worthy brunch. Bacon Bloody Mary’s. Sister’s Bridal shower. Dad’s 61st. Last minute visitors. Pre-work breakfast bonding. Olympics in London. Wacky opening ceremony. Biased USA reporting. Michael Phelps makes history. USA women’s gymnastics wins gold. Realizations that I’m not ready for friendship, despite wanting to be. Begin couch to 5K. SMC Social events. More shots. Africa preparations.

AUGUST

Concerts for Mothers Day. Seeing J.LO & Enrique. Great entertainers. Photo class. Accomplishing goals. Laid off. Blessings (not) in disguise. TUFC’s Dip Your Beak for Change at Drinkingbird. Won amazing headphones. Found out he’s dating. Elephant chest steps. Motivation to be ready to date. Shopping and preparing for Africa. Bachelorette planning. Neil Armstrong died.Sears Tower Skydeck glass city views. Deep dish pizza and cookie pies. Cupcakes from ATMs. Belly-ache laughs. Being local tourists and playing tour guide. All the walking.

SEPTEMBER

Horrible skin. Stress trumps a positive attitude. Flu. Sickness. Aches. Stacy’s Bachelorette. Last day of work. Job hunting. Loneliness. Lady-friend cycle late. Excited for Africa. Final shots. Filed for unemployment. Pressure to limit trip length. Standing ground. London Layover. Kensington Palace. Long flights. Disconnected from technology. Independence. Appreciation. Learning Swahili. Safari. 20 year-old dreams come true. Teaching kids. Lots of hugs & smiles. Kids shouting Teacha! Teacha! Pictcha! Pictcha! Personal exploration.

OCTOBER

Zanzibar. Palm trees. Poverty. White sand. Aqua water. Snorkeling. Relax. Actual vacation. Pools. Slave trade tours. Flights. Rewards. Love. Friendliness. Gratitude. Lesson plans. Photos. Kids singing to me. Teaching. Hugs. Waterfalls. Day trips. Coffee plantation. 1st Peanut butter sandwiches. Art projects. New cultures. Goodbyes. Tears. Climb Kilimanjaro. Tents. Boulders and rocks. Climbing legitimate rock walls. Personal goals accomplished. Survival. Hiking 7 hours a day. 13 hours to Summit. Accomplishment. Proud.  Mental power. Stunning sunrises. Who needs to breathe? Camping. Tents. Behind-the-Rock Potties. Layers of clothes. I CAN DO THIS. Wet wipe showers. Sleeping bags. Hot Tea. Guide crush on me. Climb mountain same day as my wedding. Tornadoes on wedding day at home. All the emotions of that day. Realization that I like traveling internationally alone. 22+ hour flights. Peace. Content. Calmness. In my element. Tranquil. Return home to enormous stress. Anxiety. Daydreams of returning to Moshi. Coughing. Cat-scans. Lance Armstrong stripped from awards. Parents proud of all my accomplishments. Give up eating meat that is GMO. Superstorm Sandy. Man jumps from space 

NOVEMBER

Culture shock. Anxiety. Depression. Weight gain. Workouts. Sister’s beautiful wedding. Mixed emotions. Tears. Love. Baking. Sign up for online dating. Finally ready. Thanksgiving. Share gratefulness. Gratitude. President Obama re-elected. Best re-election speech. Relieved. Grateful to be able to vote. Grateful lady bits are safe. Revisit orthodontist. Retainer. Again. Job hunting. Moving on. Missing past. Dates. Stress. Baking. Just Dance party. Begin running.

DECEMBER

Birthday. Visit DC & Richmond #4. Apartment hunting in DC. Road trip with Maxie. Donated my birthday to charity:Water. THE WORLD IS ENDING! Anti-climatic-false-Apocolypse. Her lack of perspective. Pain. Helpless. Frustration. Stress. Begin Eating Clean lifestyle. New Years with good friends.  Cards for Humanity. Sabers. Champagne.

Other things that were big this year:

Obama‘s endorsement of gay marriage! Honey Boo Boo. THIS NEEDS TO STOP NOW.Gangam Style. One Direction. Some Nights & We are Young by Fun. Death of Trayvon Martin. “Legitimized rape”. Chick-Fil-A controversy over gay marriage. The Hunger Games. 50 Shades of Grey. Facebook IPO bombs. Clint Eastwood argued with a chair. Hostess files for Bankruptcy – end of (fresh) Twinkies. NFL replacement refs.

Any other big things from 2012 that I forgot?

Here’s to 2013 & another year of growth and new adventures!

Happy 2013

 

* EDITED to include forgotten events.

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No drinks for me this year, I’m pledging my birthday to Charity: Water.

Christmas Eve is in exactly six days. Which means my birthday is also in six days. People tend to forget about birthdays this time of year as they get lost in the shuffle and excitement of THE HOLIDAYS! Instead of wishing people to remember my birthday, my wish this year is that we can give back by remembering those who are not as privileged as us.

Growing up, I’ve been very lucky to have a very loving and supportive family. I’ve never really asked for much. Yet, I’ve still been given bountiful opportunities and received birthday gifts. Usually my birthday consists of birthday dinners and celebrations with friends and family.

But something shifted for me this year and I’ve come to realize just how much of my life I want to spend helping others. I’ve had amazing opportunities; I’m privileged to have the experiences that I have had. I went to overnight summer camp every summer as a child, I went to a Big 10 university and got a degree. I graduated without any debt and I studied in Florence, Italy for a semester. I’ve been to 24 countries already, I backpacked for four weeks through Europe and recently went to Tanzania just to pursue a volunteering dream. This list goes on but in the end it comes down to the fact that I am very lucky to have had all the opportunities I’ve had.

I know that while I have had all these experiences, there are many out there who only know a life of war and poverty, of struggle and hardship. When I was in Africa, I saw people drinking from the same stream that they bathed in. I saw rusted flimsy roof tops and people walking miles upon miles just for water and to provide for their family.

I often donate to friend’s causes like honoring loved ones or running a marathon.When disaster strikes, whether it was the Tsunami in Japan or Hurricane Sandy, I give money to the Red Cross. I hadn’t actually shown up on the doorstep ready to make a difference myself until I went to Tanzania. I had a life long dream of volunteering and having an impact on someone else’s life so I went to Africa, to actually DO something, not just pay for change, but to DO it. I started Social Impact Project for this reason, too. And I am proud to know that I accomplished that. But I don’t want it to stop there.

So this year, I am doing something different. I am continuing my efforts to make a difference, to make it part of my lifestyle rather than just  something I did once.

And that is why for my 28th birthday I want to start it off by giving back and helping others. I am pledging my birthday for a cause that gives 100% of what it raises and uses it to bring clean drinking water to those in need. I am pledging my birthday to help Charity: Water.

We take so much for granted and clean water is just one of many things. If you’re interested in reading about all the ways clean water can change the world, you can find them at Charity: Water.
So great Caryn, you are pledging your birthday. What does this mean?
This year, I am committed to raising $1,000 dollars for this cause. I realize I am not giving $1,000 of my own money; I’m asking my friends to help me.
This year, I will not let people buy me dinner to celebrate me. I want to celebrate life.

This year, no one is allowed to buy me drinks. Sure, I’ll have my friends get together, instead of buying me drinks on my birthday, I’m asking friends to take that money and put it towards something that actually matters.

I used to hate having my birthday at the end of the year, around the holidays. But I’ve come to realize, it is symbolic with starting the whole year over, starting fresh not only as the date changes but as another birthday passes. This year, as I head into another year, my 28th year, I want to start it off by giving back.
I have no idea if I’ll reach my goal. But it isn’t so much about the number as it is about helping somebody who deserves it, somebody who actually needs that “drink” for survival.

That is the best birthday gift I could ask for.

Thank you!

Here is a link to my birthday Charity: Water page.

Safari Adventures: It’s like the Lion King or Discovery Channel -only real and unedited.

Best photo bomb ever with the giraffes; a sand tornado, our safari jeep & all 25 volunteers on safari
Can you spot the BEST PHOTO BOMB ever? (with the giraffes); a sand tornado, our safari jeep & all 25 volunteers on safari

In Swahili “safari” means trip or vacation. Not crazy-cool-awesome-African-animal-wildlife-adventure as we know it to mean. How much more rad would it be if every time you got away, even on a weekend trip to say Wisconsin, you said you were going on safari? I mean, even in Europe they call it “holiday.” Both sound so much more like a mystical fantasy getaway than “trip” does.

Immediately after arriving in-country, a group of 25 of us volunteers booked a weekend safari with Pristine Trails. Pristine was simply wonderful and I highly recommend them! Adam our coordinator was fantastic (and adorable) and made everything so easy for us! On our way to the safari parks, we stopped to visit the Maasai Tribe. They are the only tribe (of over 140 tribes) that still completely lives by and follows tradition. They believe they get all the nutrients they need from the cow so they only eat cow meat and drink cow blood. I actually felt scammed and pressured to buy jewelry. Tourists come to see them all the time, so they profit off of us. But seeing their tribal dances and their homes were really neat. I guess the cow method works for them – they live long lives, are all over 6 feet tall, and when they jump vertically, man do they get air!

maasai
The Maasai

To see animals in the zoo is fun for a little while but then you are reminded they are trapped in captivity and you feel bad for them. To see the animals in their natural habitat, roaming completely free and wild in nature is unlike any other experience I’ve ever had. The animals and terrain – it is literally a live version of The Lion King. It felt very much like an out-of-body experience for me, as if I was watching Nat Geo or Discovery Channel only real and without a TV screen to protect me from the wild animals. This was up close and personal with nature at its best.

We got to visit two National Parks: Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Park. Between the two, we saw four out of five of The Big 5 (cape buffalo, leopard, lion, elephant and rhino). I was bummed that the only one we didn’t see was a leopard. There are only about 4,000 black rhinos left in the world and we saw 3 of them! We also saw a family of about 30 elephants bathing (one of the highlights!), tons of giraffes and wildebeests, water buffalo, a hyena, a jackal eating a gazelle, a baby gazelle just minutes after it was born and struggling learning to walk, zebras, so many gorgeous and vibrantly colorful birds, hippos, ostriches, baboons and monkeys that even stole our chocolate and cookies from our lunches. The zebras seemed to always be posing for photos. They are very photogenic! One of my favorite, most symbolic photos is of a water buffalo standing besides a skull of another water buffalo.

My group for the safari was so much fun. We took dirty photos of the animals and scenery and kept playing songs from The Lion King; even our driver sang along to Hakuna Matata! Whenever I saw the warthogs, all I could think about was Pumba singing, “I clear the savanna after every meal.” 

One of the highlights: seeing the elephants bathe

 My driver spotted two figures out in the distance about a mile away that appeared to be approaching us. It turned out to be two brother lions that walked right up to our jeeps (and peed on the jeep behind me), and then kept walking. As they passed us, I saw two warthogs notice the lions strolling towards them and they took off in the other direction faster than their little legs could carry them. It was adorable and amusing but a reminder that this wasn’t a movie, it was real life, and I was witnessing the power of the food chain. Lions are cool in a zoo, but in the wild, they are absolutely stunningly beautiful and extremely majestic. I was mesmerized by their beauty. These brothers were slowly strutting towards us with such an arrogance kind of like they were saying, Yeah, look at us you silly tourists, we’re The Kings of this savanna, so we’re going to pee on your jeep just to prove it to you.

The progression of them coming closer and closer.
Beautiful brothers. (All photos here are mine except the one where I am clearly not taking it)                                                            Maybe Bert’s? If it is yours and you want photo credit, please let me know and I’ll gladly update it.

The monkeys were everywhere, on the street and in the trees. It was really neat to see the female cleaning the male, just as I’d seen in videos but this was IRL! During lunch, Chris was enjoying his cookie, when suddenly a monkey came from the trees and snatched it straight from his hand. Another one came towards me, I grabbed my lunch and ran. He grabbed the chocolate I accidentally left behind. He was fascinating to watch and he knew to unwrap it just like humans do. Another group went back to their jeep after lunch only to find a monkey sitting in the backseat eating their food. #cuterascals

Baboons
Bottom middle: the monkey eating Chris’s cookie. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have gotten that close.
Baby Gazelle, Jackyl & Gazelle, warthog, Water buffalo alive & dead, hyenas, hippos & zebras
Baby Gazelle, jackal & gazelle, warthog, water buffalo alive & dead, hyenas, hippos & zebras

This is already photo heavy as it is – so if you want to see more pictures click here.

I wish we could have stayed in tents in the national parks but we didn’t. I think it would be have been so neat to sleep in their territory, listening to them howl before you go to sleep. But we slept at a much safer campsite. I smile every time I look at these photos and still am in disbelief that I did it and am able to cross it off my Life List. There will be a next time because I know I will do another safari at some point. The joys of witnessing nature, no one trip will ever be the same.

Teaching in Tanzania – The Impacts: Part 2

I really can’t believe how fast 3 weeks flew by. Looking back, it feels like just a figment of my memory now. It was truly so humbling to witness them learning and growing and to know I made an impact. Although the purpose of me being there was to teach the children, not only did I wind up teaching the teachers too, but they all taught me as well.

 My impact on the students:

  • I helped contribute to a more efficient learning environment for the kids by separating them by age into two classrooms.
  • The kids were memorizing machines but struggled with reading and identifying the letters out of chronological order. So to help them learn rather than just memorize, I did fun exercises to show the difference in c & e, t & f, m & n, w & v. Did you ever notice how similar the lower case letters are? I didn’t.
  • I inspired a boy to come out of his shell, to feel comfortable at school and I earned his trust. Pesquali was extremely timid, didn’t smile and obviously fearful of the other children (and me). It wasn’t long before he was smiling and playing with the other kids and smiling around me! This was one of my most proud achievements from teaching.
  • I introduced them to the wheel barrow out at break (recess).
  • I made learning to read and identify letters fun. I brought in flash cards with 3-5 letter words on them and if they correctly identified the letters or words, they were given another card. They were motivated to read because they were so excited to get another card. It was like I was giving out candy.
  • I gave them their first peanut butter sandwich. Ever. On my second to last day, as a Thank You to them, I made PB sandwiches for all 40+ kids. I wanted to give apples, but even I couldn’t afford them. It tore at my heart to know that while these kids are so verbally grateful for a half of a PB sandwich, the kids back home are asking for unnecessary junk like iphones and video games.
  • I gave individual attention to each child. I walked around the room to check their work and to give individual attention to each student. Depending on their level, I would give them harder problems to keep them challenged. One day, Violet was clearly struggling doing math. She copied down the problems backwards and left the answers blank. I asked her to stay in for break and we went over the problems together. When she got up to leave, she grinned as she thanked me in Kiswahili. She was clearly grateful that I took the time to help her and was proud of herself for successfully completing the problems.
  • I taught colors, shapes, animals, emotions, family roles, and body parts.
  • I wrote the lyrics to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the board and while it took a lot of repetition and daily practice, they learned the song. It is one of my most prized videos.
  • I encouraged creativity. The kids are taught to memorize but sadly they are not encouraged to be creative. So, for an art project, I took photos of all the kids, printed them in town, glued them to a paper plate and hung yarn from the top. The kids started off by just copying my sample but I encouraged them to use the crayons, pom poms and googlie eyes to decorate however they wanted. My teacher loved it so much, she made one too and after class she had the Pastor come and drill holes in the wall to hang them around the room!
  • I taught them conversational social greetings and manners. When I gave them porridge and helped them apply glue for the plate project, I realized they were using their manners I had taught them. I did a silent jump for joy in my head.

My impact on the teachers:

  • Thanks to a friend, I had two Learning Swahili translation books with me, so I gave my teacher my second copy. She was so grateful, she teared up, hugged me and then instantly sat down and started flipping through the pages and looking up phrases. She carried that book with her everywhere she went.
  • I had the unique pleasure of teaching both students and teachers! Twice I stayed after class to teach my teachers more complex English than I was teaching the kids. They requested homework so I wrote out (no copy machine) multiple pages of worksheets full of verbs, adjectives, pronouns etc. for them to fill out. Once they did, we reviewed it together and I explained any corrections. They were clearly appreciative for the time I spent helping them.
  • Sister Mary adopted some of my teaching methods. She complimented my teaching and said, “congratulations on being a good teacher.” At the end, she said to me, “God bless you, you have been a wonderful teacher, taught much, and we will miss you. Asante sana.”

Hardest parts:

  • Not speaking the native language fluently. I felt helpless when I saw a child cry because I wasn’t able to understand what happened. I could console and hug them but I couldn’t do much more than that. It was also difficult to explain the lessons and directions so that they understood.
  • Disciplining: It was challenging to keep my cool when they were acting out. When the teacher was in the room, they’d be still but when she left, they would usually rebel. It is common for the teachers to hit the children as a means of discipline, however that was one cultural custom I was not about to embrace. It was difficult to not be able to fully communicate and still establish respect and authority.
  • New group of volunteers every 4 weeks. Each time a new volunteer starts, they tend to start from the beginning with ABC’S and Addition & Subtraction. This reset from the beginning does not help the kids learn and advance. I took time to figure out what they already knew so I could teach them new lessons, but likely, the volunteer after me with just start from the beginning, despite me leaving notes behind. The negative emotional and educational impact on the children from the turnover is enormous and very difficult for me to swallow.
  • The other volunteer at my placement with me. She caused me more stress than the lack of communication frustrations. She was not a native English speaker and I don’t think she should have been placed in a school setting. Despite my efforts to make sure she only taught math or geography, she still insisted on teaching vocabulary and English. She asked them, “How do you spell Butterfly?” but she spelled it “bAtterfly” on the board. Also, in Italy, they write “n” like we write “m” so she was teaching them that “m” was an “n.” Talk about confusing! This blew my lid. I wanted to be a stable mentor and stay with my class but she insisted on teaching both classes so she could play with everyone. I wasn’t there to play, I was there to help educate them and provide a stable mentor in an unstable situation. On top of the high turnover they already had with volunteers coming and going, if we switched, not only would we add to that, but we also would not know what the other taught and only cause more confusion and unrest. I felt I could be a better and more effective teacher if we each taught our own class. She broke the rules constantly and even told me not to care because I can’t change the world. BOO.
  • Missing them everyday. Their smiles, their gratitude, their zest to learn, their little hands holding mine and the way they would say Teacha! Teacha! or Mwalimu! (teacher) to get my attention.
  • My last day my teacher presented me with gifts and the kids sang me songs that made me tear up. The video below is highlight clips of the songs. They sang, “I love you so so much, Teacha Caryn…” (repeat) and The Well Done Song* Having the kids sing me these songs absolutely warmed my heart and filled me with joy and fulfillment. Mama Dennis also made me cry when she presented me with thank you gifts. The teachers gave me “A Get Well” card, a traditional Katanga wrap skirt and a beaded bracelet that said “Asante” (Thank you). The other volunteer was only given a card on her last day. (Mama confused Get well and Good luck. She tried! How adorable is that?!)
  • Saying goodbye: Saying goodbye to those munchkins was terribly difficult. Although I hope to return, to know I will likely never see them again is devastating. I wish I could keep in touch with them or take them home with me. I miss their love and affection and smiles.

It was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Not only did I have an impact on their lives, they had an impact on mine.

Their impact on me:

  • I walked away with a new understanding of what it means to be wealthy and truly happy, a new appreciation for life and increased sense of gratitude.
  • The kids had no sense of personal space and were always climbing, hugging or sitting on me. But this only made me feel more welcomed and part of the (very friendly) community.
  • Every time I took my camera out, the kids swarmed me and would shout, “Pitcha Pitcha!” and grab at my camera. They loved having their photos taken and seeing themselves in the digital screen. For the first two weeks, I didn’t let them touch the camera so only I took pictures. But then, I realized it was a good exercise for them to learn to share and not to fight or grab. And besides, what could really happen?  Turns out some of my favorite pictures are the ones that came out blurry from the kids who didn’t know how to center a subject or from Nardini who could have a future in photography. This taught me to let go, not be uptight and to trust.
  • They didn’t have complex toys or playgrounds. They were entertained by the simplest things, like my digital watch and bubbles. They’d pull on my arm and push the buttons constantly. They were content with having virtually nothing and wore the same ragged and holey clothes every.single.day. They entertained themselves with a straw basket and hand-me-down stuffed animals. This among with many other things, made me stop and appreciate the little things that we take for granted every day and don’t even notice anymore.
  • How to communicate without words or to find new ways of explaining things. You can’t keep repeating “book” if they don’t know what that word means.
  • What you plan, might not work out as planned.  A lesson you planned to take the whole day might only take 5 minutes and your backup plan might take even less. You have to be flexible and think on the fly. This is a lesson that is clearly applicable to many things in life.
  • I learned I am actually a great teacher with creative ideas and the ability to assess the kids’ needs and teach creative lessons on the spot. I also realized that teaching in America is completely different than teaching abroad and while I have more respect for teachers now, at this point in my life, teaching in America is not for me.
  • The true meaning of community. While the kids would be kids and argue occasionally, they looked out for each other. I would see the older ones kiss the younger ones (on the head), pick them up and even hold their hands. As a community, they were the most friendly and warm culture.
  • Being appreciative for the American school system. We have structure, defined grade levels and bountiful resources.
  • My teacher told me she made 50,000 Schillings a year which comes out to be $150 USD a year. Seeing how the teachers and kids get by with next to nothing really made me reevaluate the necessities in my life.
 I am sure I could go on but I’ll stop here. If you are still reading, I thank you. Please try to consider some of the lessons that I learned and see how you can apply them to your life. If I can take my experience and touch or influence at least one reader, I will be extremely grateful and humbled. This experience was one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences I have ever had and I hope that I am able to continue to make a difference in peoples lives.
I was told, You are just one person and only here for 3 weeks. You can’t change the world. Maybe I didn’t change the world but I know they had an impact on me and I know I had an impact on my teachers and at least one, maybe several of the kids and THAT means the world to me.  One person really can make a difference.

*The Well Done Song- they shook their hips to the music and sang this every time a child did a good job on something. Watching the girls shake their little hips with attitude was probably the most adorable thing ever. It went, “Well done, Well done, Teacher Caryni.. you are the besty!” (they add the Y sound to the end of some words)

**Karibu Tena translates to You are welcome back again.

***I’m not sure what happened that caused the video to be blurry. Blurry or not, they are still adorable.

**** I promise the next post won’t be this long

my moshi movie from Caryn Levy on Vimeo.

The Year Of Caryn: 2012 – Progress Check

If you remember, I didn’t do my New Years Resolutions on time this year because of it didn’t quite start how I had expected. If I did, this list would be completely different. Instead, in February after some dust settled, I deemed 2012 – The Year Of Caryn and this list was born. And oh, The Year of Caryn it has been! Here is my progress check on accomplishing my goals thus far.

Goals For The Year Of Caryn:

  1. Focus on me. Discover who Caryn is as an individual. Do some soul-searching – figure out what makes me happy and what makes me tick. – CHECK (but still in progress & evolving)
  2. Put my needs first. Don’t do something just to please others. If it is something that I don’t want to do or that doesn’t make me happy, DON’T do it.  (This is liberating!) Also note: It’s okay to be selfish sometimes. CHECK – Despite family trying to get me to come back early from Tanzania, I am actually standing my ground and not giving up on my dreams. I am not trying to please them, I am putting myself first for once. Also, saying no to plans because it isn’t something I want to do – SO FREEING.
  3. Make time to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do but made excuses for, never thought I would have time to do or never thought the time was right. CHECK – volunteer in Tanzania in 19 days!
  4. Follow my dreams. CHECK I started Tweetup For Change, volunteering in Tanzania AND I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro, baby!
  5. Get in shape  – this includes running more, attending yoga and core fusion more often and completing a month of Jillian’s 30 day shred. CHECK, completed several Jillian DVD’s, got a personal trainer and started Couch to 5K
  6. Find space between digital world and real world.  Disconnect from constantly being connected. Turn off  the cell phone and computer once in a while. Still need to do this, but will have limited access while in Tanzania
  7. Take a photography class & learn to use a DSLR camera. CHECK Took a 90 min free photography class, but want to learn more
  8. Buy that DSLR camera  Can’t afford this right now. STILL TO DO
  9. Be more proactive about reaching out to those I love.  So many wonderful people have come into my life recently, don’t take them for granted. Continuous & in progress but not sure worthy of a check.
  10. Surround myself with those who make me happy. If someone doesn’t make me feel happy/smart/cool/pretty/nice/thin/safe to be my true self/smart enough – then take a step back and re-evaluate the friendship. I want to surround myself with people who make me feel happy and alive and appreciate me. CHECK but still evolving. Amazing how much better you feel when you’re around positive energy. Realized even if bad things happen, you can choose to be happy.

Blog Goals:

  1. Stay on top of my ideas for blog content and post in a timely fashion. I have 63 drafts just waiting to be finished and published. I’ve got to work on this. I have more drafts now and haven’t been posting as often as I would like. I’ve been too busy off making shit happen!
  2. Personal posts are okay but add more inspiring content too. The intent of the blog is not to be a diary. CHECK. Also started Saturn Return segment
  3. Don’t feel pressured to post if it has been a while.  It is my blog and I should only post when I have content I want to share. Guess this contradicts #1 but CHECK
  4. Create a new blog name. Please feel free to submit suggestions. Seriously. CHECK. new blog TBA later.
  5. Buy my own domain with said new blog name. STILL TO DO
  6. Hold more contests, interviews, giveaways etc. Be a more active blogger but still adhere to Goal 3. STILL TO DO – but I do have a guest post series coming up and have been selected for UbiChamps…
  7. Embrace all that blogging has brought into my world and continue to grow with it. CHECK! BiSC #2, winning a free trip for BiSC 2013 and Kindle Fire, Tweetups, new friends, social media events, etc.
  8. Learn CSS and improve technical skills STILL TO DO

I still have a bit to do in the Year of Caryn, but I am really proud of all that I have accomplished.  I feel like a totally different person than I was and so much has changed and evolved in these 9 months. It seems like forever ago when I first set these goals. I have made improvements in my life and focused on the big, personal, soul-searching things, the things to make me happy and allow me to grow. I have realized a lot about myself and about life in general and while I know this process is far from over, I know I am finally discovering who I really am at my hearts center and what I want to get out of this life. It really is the material things that I have left to check off this list. And it is only September!

What were your goals for 2012? How are you doing on accomplishing the goals you set out to do this year?