Tanzania Two Years Later

Today I attended The Social Good Summit ‪#‎2030NOW‬ in NYC. The focus was on discussing ways we can impact global change on many issues like climate change, LGBT and women’s rights, poverty, and more with famous speakers. It was moving and inspiring and I hope to return next year to see the impact and progress we’ve made.

Today also marks my second anniversary of arriving in Moshi, Tanzania. The experience and people I met along my journey changed my perspective on the world and life, my view on other cultures, and inspired me to be a more grateful and positive person. It showed me that the true meaning of wealth comes from happiness and gratitude, not money or status. I saw first-hand what it is like to live in an impoverished country and live without clean water or proper resources.

I would do it all again in a second. I miss everyone I met and think about them all the time. It’s hard to imagine that my kids are two years older now. I still picture them exactly how they were when I left. I often wonder how and what they’re doing. 

The summit reminded me that there is a lot that needs to be done and I want to continue to be a voice for those who cannot speak. I know that volunteering and helping to provide an education for my kids was vital and made a difference in their lives.

Volunteering and working to impact global change not only makes a difference in their lives, but it changes the volunteer’s life, too. I know that these kids and teachers significantly impacted and changed my life in ways words really can not describe and I truly hope we continue to make a positive difference in this world.

Volunteering in Moshi, Tanzania
Volunteering in Moshi, Tanzania

One Year Ago Today…

One year ago today…

I arrived in Tanzania, Africa for what was the greatest adventure of my life – a month of volunteering & teaching in the community, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, going on Safaris, and visiting Zanzibar. All of it completely changed my life. I’m in disbelief that it has been a year already. I miss Moshi and my experience EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I don’t think a day goes by that I haven’t thought about it in some capacity.

I’m so grateful for that experience.

I can’t believe all that has happened, come and gone in the past year and all that I’ve learned and discovered both about myself and others along the way. Nzuri sana.  It’s funny, I always catch myself first, but my instinct is still to say “Asante Sana” instead of “Thank you.”

In that month, I learned so much about myself, what it means to be a community, how privileged americans are and how much we take for granted. I learned so much about gratitude and appreciating what we have; that being wealthy has everything to do with how grateful and happy you are and nothing to do with how much money you have.  I learned to follow my heart; to express love and gratitude and to live passionately. I learned there is so much more to life than just the items we own or the cars we drive or the life we live. I realized how important it is to experience other cultures and to leave your first world expectations at home when you travel to a third world country.

Time and how we perceive it is an odd thing. I reflect and think about all that has happened in the past year since I first arrived in my host city and I am silenced.

When put in perspective that I’ve already lived in DC for 7.5 months, one year ago feels simultaneously both light years away and just few months ago.  It’s a teeter-totter of emotions and memories. It seems like it never happened; it seems like 6 months; it seems like decades ago and it seems like a year.

So much has happened since I landed in Tanzania. I look back on the impact the children had on me, and vice versa; the fact that I no longer have to dream about someday fulfilling a lifelong dream of volunteering and going on African Safari’s is exhilarating and saddening.  It’s crazy that I actually held residence in Africa. Not at a hotel, but a place I called home for a month. It’s hard to fathom that I climbed the largest freestanding mountain in the world and lived to tell the tale. I think about that accomplishment and it still blows my mind that I DID THAT.  At this point it feels like it is a figment of my imagination, just a dream I conjured up in my head, and I have to look at photos for proof I didn’t make it up. I am still in awe and incredibly proud of myself that I actually did it let alone successfully made it to the summit no less. I accomplished 7 things on my life list.

In the past year since returning, I flew 22 hours alone, my sister got married, I was unemployed for a while, I moved across country on a gut feeling and then I got a new job soon thereafter; one that I love because I know I get to impact lives everyday. I made a new home in that new city and made new friends. I’ve accomplished  2 more things on my life list.  I ran my first 5K. I played league sports and started my own Ladies Only fantasy NFL leagues with friends. I have spent an ENTIRE year eating only meat that was GMO/anti-biotic free.

Man, a lot has happened – and that’s just the start of it all.

From the moment I boarded the plane wondering what this adventure was going to be like – until now – the adventures haven’t stopped. When I woke up a year ago today, I never would have predicted just where my life would be today – all because of that one decision to go to Africa.

I miss Moshi and my students every day. This adventure and experience has become a part of who I am and I am proud of the person I have become. I am strong and brave; I am bold and adventurous. I have learned to be true to myself, to follow my gut and to surround myself with people who make me a better person. I am more positive and grateful. I know that I can accomplish big things; I know I can push myself; I can climb mountains and continually challenge myself. I’ve learned to honor who I am and to do what makes me happy.  I’ve grown more into the person I want to be. Asante Sana.

You can’t predict what the future holds but you do have to have faith that you are going in the right direction. Time is a funny thing. It never stops. And as we get older, it only goes faster. It blurs together and weeks become months and months become years. I still can’t believe an entire year has gone by.

What started as the greatest adventure of my life has evolved into my life being a giant adventure now. I am grateful for my experience and thankful I had the courage to follow my dreams and make it happen. I look forward experiencing (what is now) the upcoming year and reflecting on all that I will have done. Maybe a year from now I’ll be in a different city? Engaged? Single? Maybe I’ll be an Aunt? At a new job? Whatever will be this time next year, I look forward to all the adventures that lie ahead.

Hakuna Matata.

faces

summit

That time I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and lived to tell the tale…

I was on top of the world!! (Or at least on The Roof of Africa!)

Despite some (major) breathing struggles due to the high altitude and extremely thin air, I’m really happy to report that I made it all the way to Uhuru Peak! I climbed 19,341 feet on the World’s Highest Freestanding Mountain to The Roof of Africa. From being cold and dirty for seven days and only using wet wipes to bathe, to camping out in sleeping bags in the great outdoors and going to the bathroom behind rocks along the trail, to facing my fears of climbing a real rock wall (with no harness) and hiking up to 7 hours in a day, to even climbing 13 hours in extreme cold and dangerously low temps on summit night, I can honestly say that even though in the moment it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically, I enjoyed every day and the adventure of it all.

My climbing group consisted of 3 other girls and I along with our 3 guides and 13 porters. We saw dads and sons, couples and groups of guys but we were the only group of all girls. Yup, we’re that badass.

We chose to do a 7 day hike on Machame, the route known as “The Whiskey Route” because it is more challenging and scenic than Marangu, the “Coca Cola Route.” The more days you spend climbing, the better your chances are of acclimatizing and successfully making it to the summit. I don’t know if I would have made it if we did a shorter trek. Climbing, much like in life, is a mental game. If you believe it is possible and tell yourself you can do it compared to if you are weak and give up, the choice is yours. You have to honey badger through that shit. The mental aspect of the climb was actually the easiest part for me. Apparently, when I want  something, I am a lot stronger mentally than I ever fully realized.

I used to wonder what it was like to touch a cloud. They look so fun and fluffy, right? Let me tell you right now – they aren’t. They are cold and damp and quite dreary! But even if you are standing in the clouds or above the clouds, when you’re on the mountain looking up at the snow-covered peak, you completely forget that you’re in Africa.

Every morning at 6am the porters woke us up with hot tea and a hot breakfast. We’d get dressed (we pretty much wore the same clothes everyday so this didn’t take too long), pack up our stuff and load our daypack with the stuff that we needed for the day. Having the right gear made the trek a thousand times easier. We had 3 hot meals a day and ate dinner around 6pm by candlelight. It got really cold at night and there wasn’t much to do in the dark except rely on our headlamps and candles to play cards, write in our journals or read so we’d stall best we could and then retire early for the night to rest up for the long day of hiking ahead.

Quick Kilimanjaro Facts:

  • The guides repeatedly tell you “pole pole” (pronounced polé) which means “slowly slowly”. The slower you go, the more likely you are to make it to the summit.
  • It’s the largest freestanding mountain in the world standing at 19,341 ft/ 5895 m.
  • Kilimanjaro supports 5 major eco-zones: rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and arctic tundra. Where else on Earth can you journey through 5 climates from the Equator/Amazon Rainforest to the North Pole in 45 miles? Truly incredible.
  • The biggest challenge and danger is the high altitude. Climbers die from improper acclimatization and altitude sickness rather than falls.
  • Approximately 25,000 people attempt to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro annually. Only about 2/3 are successful. (and I am one of them! Woo!)
  • The structure is composed of 3 volcanoes: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Kibo, where all the hikers are, is the highest and only peak that is dormant and could erupt again. The most recent activity was only 200 years ago! (Yea, so I climbed on a colossal volcano!)

So here is a day by day account of the life-changing climb:

October 14: DAY 1
Machame Gate to Machame Hut Camp
Elevation: 5,997 ft to 9,908 ft

Distance: 10.8 km
 (6.7 miles)
Time: 12N to 5:22PM
. 5 hours 22 minutes
Zone: Rainforest

It rained in the rainforest. Go figure. I saw some monkeys swinging in the trees, so that was entertaining. The air was already thinning and already becoming more difficult to breathe. I tried to focus on the climb rather than what could have been.  That night I stood mesmerized by the breathtaking beauty and astounding mass quantity of stars. Stars in Utah have nothing on this.

day 1 - kilimanjaro
 
October 15 DAY 2
Machame Hut to Shira Camp
Elevation: 12,621 ft

Distance: 5.2 km
 (3.2 miles)

Time: 8:30AM to 1PM
 - 4 hours 57 minutes
Vitals: 97 Oxygen level
Zone: Alpine Forest

Today was rough and very steep. We were already above the clouds and climbed over rocks, mud and boulders. At one point, we were on the edge of a cliff with only a 3-inch thick ledge!! (not exaggerating at all)

day 2- kilimanjaro
Thank goodness for walking sticks. No stepping stones are stairs, only boulders.
October 16 – DAY 3
Shira Camp to Barranco Hut (via Lava Tower)

Elevation: Lava Tower 15,092 ft / Barranco Hut 130,70ft

Distance: 
Shira to Lava 7.0 (4.3 miles)
Lava to Barranco 3.7 km (2.3 miles)

Time: 8:30AM to 4PM
 - 6 hours 27 minutes
Vitals: 94 Oxygen level
Zone: Moorland

The first 3 ½ hours were straight uphill and extremely cold.The cold temps only make breathing in the thin air that much more difficult. To help acclimate (climb high, sleep low) we descended after reaching Lava Tower which is the highest point along the route until the summit.

Grace and I at Lava Tower; crazy Tim Burton-esque trees; me standing in front of Kibo
October 17 – DAY 4
Barranco Hut to Karanga Hut

Elevation: 13,255 ft

Barranco Wall (843 ft)
Distance: 5.8 km (3.6 miles)
Time: 8:50AM to 1PM
 4 hours
Vitals: 90 Oxygen level
Zone: Alpine Desert

The air had gotten so thin that it took me 5 minutes to catch my breath. Even going from the tent to the toilet tent and back was an effort. We literally climbed a rock wall known as the High Breach Barranco Wall. We put away our walking poles and used our hands to pull ourselves up and over massive boulders. On our walk, I had an interesting chat with Vincent, my guide, about how Tanzanian’s main news source is the radio because TV’s cost too much, papers are hard to find and people have to go to Internet cafes to get Internet access. When he told me Obama did well in the 2nd debate and bombed the 1st I realized just how disconnected from the world I had become and how at peace I was in the complete and utter silence, the serenity and the calmness of the mountain.

Yoga above the clouds, Niki and I climbing up the Barranco Wall and the four of us eating
October 18- DAY 5
Karanga Hut to Barafu Hut
Elevation: 15,092 ft

Distance: 3.4 km
 (2.1 miles)

Time: 8:45AM to 12PM
 2 hours 44 minutes
Zone: Desert

Upon arrival at the camp, we were told to rest up for our big night. The guides woke us up for dinner and then again at 1130p to begin our summit attempt. This was where it hit me. Time had come to go big or go home; but really just to go big because going home wasn’t going to be an option for me.

day 5 - kilimanjaro

October 18th/ Morning of October 19th – NIGHT of DAY 5/ DAY 6 SUMMIT ATTEMPT!
Distances on Summit Day
Barafu Hut to Stella Point: 3.3 Km (2.05 miles) ~ 6 hours 
(Stop & think about that. Climbing 2 miles straight up a mountain.
That puppy is huge!)
Stella Point to Summit Uhuru Peak: 1.2 km (.75 miles)
Summit to Barafu: 4.5km (2.8 miles)
Elevation: Stella Point 18,871 ft / Uhuru Peak 19,341 ft
Vitals: None taken. Vincent didn’t want to psych us out if we made it
this far?
Time: 12:20AM-1:30PM Summit. 13 hours!
Zone: Arctic Tundra

As soon as we left base, I felt like we were on a death march with what should have had dramatic Star Wars music playing in the background. Saving my iPod battery up until this point just to listen to music as I attempted to summit made all the difference in the world. It helped pass the time so much easier. I was wearing almost every piece of clothing I brought and while I was comfortable, others were vomiting and fighting frostbite. After all, climbing (pre-sunrise) in the cold, dark night at -10C (14 F) for  about 6+ hours was damn near frigid. When it is pitch black out, all you see is the feet of the person in front of you lit up in the light of your headlamp. You can’t see that you are on the edge of a massive cliff and you’re less likely to get psyched out by how far you have left to climb.

Did you know that the brain does not function very intelligently and often hallucinates at this altitude? One climber-friend said she must have blacked out while continuing to walk because she doesn’t remember parts of the climb near Stella Point. Another said he saw hippos. That’s bad, there are no hippos anywhere on the mountain. Thankfully, I didn’t have any symptoms of AMS. When you reach Stella Point you think you’re done but you’re not.  It’s a big tease. You’ve already climbed about 7 hours and you think you’ve exhausted all your reserved energy and that you can’t go any further but oh wait. You can! There is still (only) 470 ft to go! Even though I was struggling to breathe, I told myself, “Who needs to breathe!? I’ve come 5 days and have just an hour and half left! I can do this!” Admittedly, I cried a few tears when I got to the sign. Standing just feet away from a real ice glacier in Africa was absolutely magical. It  is so sad to think that they are melting and will likely be gone in 10-20 years.

summit

October 19 Day 6:
Barafu Hut to Mweka Camp
Distance: 6.3km  (3.9 miles)
Time: 3 hours
Elevation: Mweka Camp 10,138 ft

Vitals: Oxygen 70. Uh oh.
Zone: Alpine Desert

TOTAL Climbed Summit Day - Total 15.3km  (9.5 miles)

I kept thinking, “What comes up must go down” because for me the scariest part of it all was going down the loose scree. Couldn’t they have a ski chair lift to take me down? 10 hours into climbing and still 3 hours left, I was tired!! I thought once I descended and reached camp, my breathing would return to normal. However, I was wheezing coughing so violently that I almost vomited so the porters put me on a stretcher and carried me 3/4 of the way to Mweka camp to get me to lower altitude as fast as possible. They then gave me oxygen to help stabilize me. As it turns out, I was actually lucky to have been given a ride because really, going down is a lot harder on your knees and body and after 13 straight hours, I don’t think I had the energy to keep going.

complete
Happy and Dirty and in need of a shower, but we did it!
October 20 Day 7:
Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate to the hotel! AKA finally a shower 
with soap & water, a real toilet and a real bed!
Elevation: 5,423 ft

Distance: 8.5 km
 (5.3 miles)
Time: 8:30 to 10:30AM hotel by 12:30PM – 2 hours 47 minutes
Zone: Rainforest

I was lucky, even though I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t suffer from any AMS symptoms. I never had a headache, never saw hippos nor did I vomit. I think taking Advil and Diamox every day helped tremendously. Before we knew it, we were at the finish line receiving our certificates of summit completion! I immediately showered, laid on the bed and called home to wake up my parents to tell them that I was indeed alive and that I had succeeded! That night we all went to celebrate our successful climbs (and newfound access to showers) at Glacier – a bar hangout in Moshi with tables in a treehouse.

TOTAL DISTANCE WALKED: over 45 miles in 7 days.

Cheers'ing to our successful climb and to finally having a shower again
All 7 of us successfully made it to the summit. 100% success rate! Celebrating our successful climb and to finally having a shower again
October 21
Zone: Hotel & Airport

Time for my 22 hour flight home. Funny story – Before Grace contacted me to join her, I had considered joining a group of 6 Australians so I didn’t have to climb alone. When I got in the van to go to the airport, I was chatting with my van-mates who happened to be Australian. I  instantly knew who they were and when I asked if they climbed Rongai, they gave me a look like “WTF, how’d you know?” Turns out it is a very small world after all and they were the ones I almost climbed with! Good thing I went with Grace because it was a group of men all in their 50’s! That sure would have been an awkward 7 days.

A good life lesson learned – just keep your focus on what is directly ahead of you. Don’t look up the mountain and get caught up in how far you have still to go, just take one step at a time. 

It was such an incredible feeling of immense satisfaction and such a sense of accomplishment to know that I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro! I made to the top! I didn’t give up and yes, I did it! It was a very proud moment and in that moment, I felt untouchable, as if I could do anything. I felt on top of the world. While it truly was a once-in-a-life-time experience, it made me realize I am capable of so much more than I ever thought possible and am so much stronger (mentally) than I ever gave myself credit for. I am fierce, brave and independent. I enjoy adventures and camping and nature, too. I don’t need to wait for a man to come along for my life to begin. I  can accomplish dreams on my own. Looking back at pictures and memories, I am still impressed with myself that I was able to accomplish such a challenging feat. I am now apart of an elite club of people who can say that they made it to The Roof of Africa! I’m excited to see what my next adventure will be.

{Interested in climbing? Have questions about my experience or want to know more details on how climbing works, ask away in the comment section!}

** If you want to see more pictures check out my album.**

Climbing a mountain and what could have been

Confession: When I first added Mount Kilimanjaro to my Life List, I actually had absolutely no intention or desire to climb. I was content just seeing it from the base. In fact, I even noted that.

Standing at the Machame gate waiting to start the climb
Standing at the Machame gate waiting to start the climb. How/why am I standing at such an angle?

However, something changed after I signed up for CCS. One day it just hit me as if a ball bopped me on the head and I realized there was no way I could go to Tanzania and NOT climb. It just wasn’t an option to leave with that regret. I didn’t know exactly why I wanted to do it, I had never done any serious mountain hiking, never even been to Colorado before (to know how I reacted to altitude), nor had I trained in the slightest bit to prepare for climbing, but none of that fazed me. Something in my gut said DO THIS! Perhaps it was me wanting to start a clean slate and put the past behind me, maybe I just wanted to say I climbed Kili, or maybe because it was The Year of Caryn and what better way to honor that than climbing a freakin’ mountain to The Roof of Africa? Maybe it was to have that personal victory of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Or maybe it was to show the ex that I wasn’t being held back anymore. Perhaps it was to prove to myself that I could do it, or to show the world that I could camp out and climb a mountain with the best of them and prove that I wasn’t just another prissy jewish girl. Maybe it was another way to distinguish myself from my peers or from being compared to my sister. Maybe it was to make my parents proud of me. Maybe it was all or none of that. The why didn’t matter to me, what mattered was that I wasn’t going to leave the country without reaching the summit. It was gonna happen, dammit! After deciding, I was more caught up in the act of making sure I had all the right clothes and gear than I was about going to volunteer in a foreign 3rd world country. It took nearly all my energy and research and money. But I was prepared! I meticulously rearranged my trip so that I could still do everything I wanted to do while in-country.

The three other girls in my group and I had arranged to climb with Climbing Kilimanjaro Tours. There were definitely pros and cons but overall they were great. After stopping in town to pick up rental gear, we were off! On the way to the Machame route gate, I felt as if I was being driven to my death with a slow march of music playing in the background and silence all around. I didn’t actually think I’d die but it felt like a movie being played on mute as I watched myself drive closer to the gate. There was no turning back and I was teetering on how I felt about the climb. I was nervous but knew I had to stay positive and put the “can do” attitude to the test that I had worked on creating this year and preached about on my blog. I was most concerned about altitude sickness, hallucinating at the top and the loose rocks.

October 14, 2012. Not only was this the day that I anxiously waited for as the day I’d start my 7 day trek up the World’s Tallest Freestanding Mountain, this was also the day I had been waiting for since I got engaged. This was the very day I was supposed to walk down the aisle and become a Mrs.

Talk about irony and symbolism. I was going to “begin my climb on the mountain of marriage” but instead I wound up quite literally climbing a mountain. I knew when we booked that date it would be significant and about new beginnings and adventures but I didn’t know it would be a date I’d forever remember for an entirely different adventure.

It was a total coincidence, completely unplanned to have both events on the same day. Just how the Universe had it work out because of external factors: When the boss approved me to go to Africa (after rejecting April & August), and having to change volunteering from 4 weeks to 3 instead of extending because my sister planned her wedding 3 weeks after I was to return.

This was a date that always seemed down the road, off in the future, but it caused me much anxiety as it loomed over me and slowly approached. Focusing on preparing for the climb helped me to not think about the wedding (or as much, as I would have otherwise). It helped divert my thoughts and energy away from missing him. But just like that there was no more waiting for October 14th to arrive. The thing is, time never stops and no matter how hard you wish it away, that day always comes eventually. And it always passes. I was glad I had the climb to preoccupy my mind but that day took the cake as the winner of ALL THE EMOTIONS. The usual Holy crap, I am about to climb a mountain thoughts on top of the Oh look what time it is now?! Right now I would have been getting my makeup done, putting my dress on, walking down the aisle, saying I Do, having our first dance… The weight of the day was enormous. I spent most of it inside my head. To look at my watch and clearly envision the alternate universe as it would have been happening at that very moment was a very complex out-of-body experience. It was extremely depressing and disturbing yet justifying. Justifying because here I was embarking on an amazing adventure of climbing to The Roof of Africa thinking about what could have been, how much I had accomplished and the dreams I conquered. I was truly disconnecting from the world for a week to do nothing but get lost in thoughts of self discovery and to successfully achieve that personal victory.

In my travel journal that day I wrote, “To new challenges, to new beginnings and going over the hill to leave the past behind.”

A week later, after my climb finished, I found out that it was one of the worst days of Chicago weather all year with tornado warnings and torrential rain. It would have been a nightmare to have a wedding that day. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?

Day one in the Rainforest
The girls and I ready to start our adventure

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.