We leave beautiful and cold Chicago behind us and head to warm sunny Florida to stay with my brother and his girlfriend Bella. We took two quick flights, having a nice layover in Georgia to watch a quick show. Elli and are not the best flyers might I add and these two flights were very very bumpy making them a little less fun. You may ask why we are doing all this traveling if we don't like to fly... and that is very valid. For me I simply just get airsick yet I can sleep very easily anywhere and planes are no exception. So the only way for me to avoid these feelings are by closing my eyes and pretending I am indeed not on a plane and just having a nice snooze safely on a bed. For my lovely Elli she has flown all over the world but one rough 15 hour flight from Dubai left her an anxious flyer. Thankfully we have each other to stay distracted and hold hands for take off and landing. We are finding our balance of her needing a distraction like watching a film, playing a game or embroidering. Where as I tend to feel worse when I do anything but sleep. Maybe all these travels will make us feel better about flying.
Back to our adventures in Florida... We were very happy to finally be on the ground and greeted warmly by Dane and Bella. There was s short drive to their house where Tsuki their dog, and their two cats Tula and Grim waited patiently for us. Bella so nicely made us rice and curry for dinner which is exactly what we needed. Something delicious and warm in our belly. As we ate we caught up with each other and watched a show or two. It was so strange to be in the freezing cold to 65-75 degree weather in just a few short hours. It would have taken us days to drive, oh the technology that exists is amazing. With no real set plan we were excited to see where the next 9 days took us.
After waking up and realizing this is not a dream, we are actually spending 3 months traveling we were ready to start our day. First stop was of course thrifting! They took us to their favorite, plato's closet, even though Elli and I continue to say we are NOT in the market for buying things. Since we only have 2 backpacks and carry-ons that were already packed full to the brim. And an apartment full of boxes waiting to be unpacked when we return.. I got a shirt and we ended up getting two things for her brothers. We then headed to grab some lunch where we sat outside and continued to catch up now that we were a little less tired from a travel day. We also had a lovely walk on a board walk. We ended up going to a beautiful beach that was covered in piles and piles of seashells. For anyone who knows I am not a fan of the beach, I am not one to go lay down and tan for hours on end. Though I love a good sunrise, sunset and collecting shells moment. So I was all for it! We walked for awhile all jumping from pile to pile comparing shells, deciding which were pretty or cool enough to come home with us. Dane and Bella have so many amazing shells I had never seen before in person all around their home. After a few hours we decided to turn back.
Since the four of us all love to cook we had so much fun bouncing ideas and recipes off one an other. We also got really into making fun mocktails that went along with what we were making. Some of my personal favorites included Danes frozen strawberry with fresh pineapple that we ate with Mexican food. Dane made fresh pico and Bella made homemade tortillas. Another night was fresh orange juice and grapefruit juice with a raspberry tarragon compote we enjoyed with Elli's steak and beet salad with my roasted sweet potatoes. Finally, a moscow mule with three homemade pizzas, one with pineapple and feta, a margarita, and the last had onions, peppers and pepperoni. Dane made the dough and Bella made the sauce. All hit the spot perfectly. We enjoyed lots of wonderful home cooked meals where some nights we sat together in silence because the food was so good, others we talked and even some we had a show on in the background. They would show us something and we would show them another. It was fun to bounce suggestions off one another. My personal favorite was Wild Babies which simply was a documentary series that followed along a few animals as they grew up like lions, elephants, seals, etc. Baby wild animals I mean come on.. you cannot beat that!
We also enjoyed lots of yummy food out of the house like Taco Bell! If you know anything about Elli and me, we went more times than we would like to admit in Maine. Simply because there was one halfway between the Inne and where we lived. Plus it was the only one we had found with frozen baja blasts. Which is the best reason for going to Taco Bell. We did also enjoy some nicer cuisine at an asian restaurant and a farm to table place that had nothing on The Waterford Inne. Truly in comparison, my sisters food is the best far and wide. Lastly we went to my lovely grandmothers house where she and Charlie cooked us a nice lunch.
To list some fun activities we got up to I will start with my personal favorite which consisted of us with full bellies sitting at home in the living room with switch controllers in hand teaming up playing overcooked. Which is a silly little game where you are a chef that has horrible coordination and mobility trying to cook meals like sushi, burgers, donuts, etc. all to please the Onion King. Such a fun game, if you have a switch I strongly recommend. You can play alone but boy is it more fun and more chaotic with 3 loved ones. Continuing on we went to two different beaches than the one talked about earlier of course to collect shells and to enjoy the sun and water. Elli told me I had poor beach etiquette because I was digging a hole and the sand was blowing into her face. I apologized, laughed and agreed. Another reason to dislike the beach I guess. I cannot sit still and would much rather be burying or building something. Moving along we brought many more shells home. We went to plato's closet again where I got two more shirts and Elli got one as well this time. But it's okay because we are not in the business of buying things. So it worked out perfectly. We stayed strong... Elli got a tattoo of a flower that neither of us know the kind of. So if you see it and ask her she will say "I don't know." We went mini golfing at Tiger Woods' course where Elli got two holes in one and Dane got one! I was very impressed by the two of them. Bell and I tried we did very hard on 36 holes but sadly we came short. Dane won both rounds which was sad. We all gave it our best and a run for his money in the end he went home a champion and I sunburnt. The last adventure I will mention is the botanical garden we went to on our way to grandmas house. We got to walk around, see stunning flowers and plants, a great hall full of the history of the facility and the best thing was the children's section. I mean talk about a child's dream. There was an waterpark splash pad, a rope bridge crossing a river, a huge pirate ship playground, a fairy garden and honestly so much more. My grandmother said we had to check it out while we were here and boy am I glad we did. The whole experience over all was exactly what Elli and I needed for our last day. A walk in the fresh air and a space to take fun photos of one another. The day was not over though, we got to go home, pack and play overcooked!! Yet we had to wake up at 4 am and head to the airport.
Sadly our time with Dane, Bella and their furry kiddos came to and end. We are forever grateful for them hosting Elli and I. We enjoyed every second with them and cannot wait for them to be back up in the east coast. With our Florida travels coming to an end we prepare for 2 more flights onward to see Elli's family in Utah. Check in soon to hear about meeting the pilots on both flights! One for a good reason and the other for a not so good...
Feels like just yesterday I was in the wonderful city of Chicago with my sister Kember. I remember sitting in a Starbucks cafe writing posts for this blog. Though this time I am not traveling in Vandy but by plane. I cannot believe that was 4 years ago...
Elli went back home long before me so I flew alone, well I was accompanied by babe our stuffed pig. Julie got it for me one day while we were all in Maine at the inne this winter. So I decided this little pink pig should see the world and join us on our travels. We have made it a mission to take a photo of her on every plane ride and as many outdoor adventures we can remember to bring her on. I took one of her looking out the window. Oh how big this world is, she had no idea.
Once I landed in Chicago I was warmly welcomed by Elli and her two younger brothers so eagerly waiting for my 2 hour delayed plane to arrive late at night. It was my first time meeting Simon(20) and Fischer(18), I must say they are not very little... they both tower over me by over a foot. My 5'4" self cannot compare to 6'5" and 6'8". I feel bad for their necks having to look so far down just to talk to me. It was so nice to get to talk to them and hear about there time in Chicago as Fischer just returned from college at BYU for winter break and Simon had just returned from his 2 year long mission in Wyoming and Taiwan. Elli's family had weekly zoom calls while Simon was away that her and I joined so honestly it felt like I already knew her whole family before meeting them in person. The next morning I met her older and final brother Jeron(26) once again standing at 6'8". My nickname in the family is a beautiful little pixie thanks to their family friend April. I have been so grateful to the warm welcome the Dastrup family has given me. From day one they opened their arms to me and have made me feel like family.
We got up to a lot in the short 8 days we were there. For one thing we ate lots and lots of food. They all wanted to take me to try their favorite spots we often hopped from place to place. Elli took me to the lovely bean which I went to with Kember back in 2018. I learned that the real name is called cloud gate which all the people of Chicago call it... but in reality it is just a dirty bean shaped mirror. Cute for photos I guess. We also explored the Chicago cultural center which has beautiful tile all over the walls and ceiling. I went to the chiropractor for the first time ever, my bones were cracking for many days after my adjustment. The woman knew my body better than I did. She would feel a part of my back or neck and link it to an injury I had or pain in other parts of my body. I have been saying for years I should see a chiropractor but never did the research or called anyone. I think I might just go from time to time when we get back in April. On to some other fun things we went to the Museum of Science and Industry and saw baby chicks being hatched! They were so little and so fluffy! I will say it made me miss the inne and our beautiful egg producing ladies. If you go follow Thewaterfordinne on instagram you can keep up to date on all the beautiful colored eggs they lay. Plus just see what Kember has been up to and the mouth watering food she makes.
Elli got her masters at the University of Illinois so we took a weekend trip to Champaign where I got a tour of where her family lived for a few years when she was young. I then got a whole tour of the campus, I almost bought an U of I dad hat, met some of her friends and stopped by some of her old stomping grounds... aka bar hopped. She even tried to convince me just a bit to get my masters there. Overall a wonderful little getaway. To wrap up this list of activities for her moms 51st birthday we went to a Korean spa called Kings Spa. Let me tell you this was an experience and a half. It cost 37 bucks for the pass which included access to over 10 different saunas, a wet spa and 24 hours access to everything inside. Once you enter you are given a "uniform" which differs by sex. Men got a grey t-shirt and grey shorts, while Women got a pink t-shirt and pink shorts. Amy, Elli and I spent the next six hours jumping from 100+ degree rooms to the 30 degree ice room and the "napping" rooms as we called it. I have never sweat so much in my life. Though it was very relaxing. It was truly nothing like I have ever experienced before but I am glad I got to go through that with both Amy and Elli. We entered not knowing what to expect, Elli and I were honestly a little anxious about it but we had an open mind. Amy has since gone back so if you are ever in Chicago and want something to do... Hit up Kings Spa.
After our lovely time in Chicago was coming to an end we got all packed up for our 3 months of travels. We are both only taking a carry on and a small backpack, though if you ever want a sneaky travel tip you can fill a pillow case with clothes and anything else and bring it onto the plane no charge for too many personal items. So that is what we will be doing whenever we cannot fit something into our bags. We are sad to leave Chicago but we are excited to go stay with Dane and Bella in Florida! I for one am looking forward to some warm weather. I am already tired of snow and it is only January. Follow along for more posts about all our adventures.
I will be adding photos throughout these travels in the photos tab if you want to keep up to date on all the beautiful places we go. Of course the photos of the piggy will be there as well! I mean that is the reason I am sure most of you follow this trip... just to hear about babe's adventures.
a trip around the sun
Well friends... 5 years later I dust this old web page off and begin a new adventure. I have packed up my bags, graduated college a semester early might I add and got a real job! I will be working 8-5 pm 5 times a week in a small cubical in New York City. Ha just joking... I could never! Now that I have a piece of paper that says I have a degree in Psychology, Marketing and English... I won't be searching for a job any time soon! Who needs a job anyway?! I once again have decided to skip the "normal" route and create my own path. I leave today for a 3 month long travel with my best friend and partner Elli. Who has planned the whole trip and I will take 0 credit for. Though I will reap the rewards. I will give a quick list of the places we will be going. My first stop is Chicago today to meet up with Elli and her family. Then we plan to head to a few stops in the states like Florida, Utah, and Arizona. Following we travel to Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. On the way home we will stop in Hawaii before heading back to the lovely Connecticut.
I will keep this first post short and sweet just to say hello to my few friends and family that may remember I do indeed have a blog. I am beyond excited for this next step in my life. I am so thankful for everyone who as entered my life making me the person I am today. I cannot help but be grateful for my parents who have raised me and pushed me to challenge myself in new ways each and every day. They have never once expected me to follow the crowd. They have always known I will do the right thing in life, the right thing for me that is. At the end of the day this is my life and I get to make it how ever I see fit. I do not want to look back to the days I was in my 20's and regret wasting away working myself to the bone living pay check to pay check. Instead I want to know I got to see the world, put myself in new and uncomfortable positions, challenge myself, learn how others live, all while being kind and grateful. I am not one to set expectations for myself or for any adventure. As I see that is the best way to set yourself up for disappointment. I have always believed that traveling is the antidote to ignorance and these next few months will continue to open my eyes to the world we live in. The only things I hope to get out of this trip is that I continue to learn and grow each and every day. I want to continue to gain a deeper understanding of who I am, my wants and my needs. I want to put my psychological well being first and to keep an open mind to everything I am faced with. I love the life I have been given and that I have created for myself. I will take nothing for granted and live each day with its fullest potential.
Thank you all for listening to what I have to say today. I will be sure to keep you all updated on my travels. Feel free to reach out at any time!
Vans off the Wall
I made a blog post back in 2018 called Vans Sponsorship where I talked about my love for vans and added some photos of me in vans. I just went and looked at that posted and added some more photos I have taken since 2018....
What I have come to realize is that I have literally traveled the world with my vans. The third pair of vans I ever bought (the tan MTEs) have seen just as much as this world as I have. They have seen the 28 states my sister and I traveled through for 3 months while living in Vandy. I mean thats CRAZY right?? But wait.... It doesn't stop there! I brought them to South Africa where they lived and explored with me for 3 months! Now they are up in Orono, Maine getting the college experience with me. I hope they don't mind all of the cliffs I have dangled them off of over the years. So far I have not had any of them slip off my feet so they all get back onto land safely every time.
I am sure many of you know this company is a huge part of who I am, I don't wear any other brand of shoes besides when I workout... even then there is still a slim chance you might catch me at the gym or on the track in a pair of them. Here I am up in college right now in a small dorm room and I am saddened by the fact I do not have enough room for all of the shoes I own. I have 6 up here in Maine with me right now and 3 back in Connecticut, which I miss so deeply. I bought another pair a few weeks ago so that makes my 10th pair. As I write that out now it seems kinda crazy to own that many shoes that look more or less the same but to me it is not. Each shoes brings a new meaning into my life and the more possibilities to match them with my socks and hats. Something about this brand made me attach myself too, and allowed me find myself through them.
All I can say is I am thankful for what this company has done for me over the years. Something that is totally crazy is that if you type in "Vans Sponsorship" into google the 6th link to come up is my BLOG post!! I mean if that doesn't show my loyalty to this company along with my deep love I have for every pair I own I don't know what does.
Any way here is another post by me and of course it just happens to be about vans. I have been looking into working for the company over the summer and the idea of that makes me so unbelievably happy. So if there is anyone out there that works for vans, loves vans, knows someone at vans, definitely hit me up. I have a lot of ideas in my head about how to help this family grow.
Love you all!
My heart still breaks at the fact you are no longer in this world. I will never be able to forget the last day I spent with you, I held you in my arms for hours. It was the day where you showed up late to school, the little ones were already outside playing, I would say about and hour or two late. I was outside with a few other volunteers playing with the children when I see your mother walking down the street with you in her arms. I remember opening the gate and seeing your red puffy eyes. Your mother then proceeded to place you on the ground and you instantly were hysterically crying. I figured it would take a few minutes to calm you down, that you were just upset about your mother leaving. That day I remember doing everything I could to distract you. Oh how you loved to play with the rubber balls, kicking them and chasing after them, trying to steal them from the older boys, sometimes they would even share with you. That day you did not want to play. You just stood there right where you mother placed you on the ground and cried. I decided to then pick you up and sing some songs, talk to you and just take your mind off of what I had assumed to be the reason for your crying. After some time passed I realized this was not like all the other times I had to distract a child from their leaving parents. I could feel your heart breaking with ever cry you let out and tear that fell down your cheeks. You were in pain. I felt it radiating off of you. No song seemed to be working, not even no more monkeys jumping on the bed. I remember walking around the front court yard dozens of time bouncing you in my arms just talking to you. Although you were most likely too young to really understand what I was saying you would look at me with your big eyes like you knew what I was trying to do. I just wanted to be close to you, hold you and tell you that I care. I needed to show you that day I loved you and nothing else mattered to me but making sure you felt that.
Slowly I got your crying to calm down, I then decided to sit down with you, I put my back against the school wall and stretched my feet out on the cement tiles. At this point you were no longer crying loudly, just tears continued to roll down your face. I held you in my arms with nothing else on my mind. At times you would lift your head up off of my shoulder and we would just look at each other, no words needed to be said. You would then place your head back down and I would rest mine on yours. Your little fingers would curl around mine or you would be playing with my hair.
It was time for the little ones to go inside to play and for the older children to come outside but I could tell you would soon be falling asleep and I did not want to move. I have no clue what it was inside of me that day, but I needed to be right where I was. That is just what I did, I sat there and watched the older children play and continued to make sure you were cared for and loved.
With time your eyes began to grow heavy as I hummed to you. I have no clue how long I sat there with you but I did not want to move a muscle to wake you. Eventually I moved you from my left shoulder to right because my arm started to fall asleep alongside with you. As I moved you, I looked down at my blue shirt and saw this large tear and snot stain. Almost everyday I left the school with some sort of stain on me and never really cared, that day was no different.
As time passed I continued to hum to you as you were sleeping. At some point I was forced to go inside, I so slowly stood up hoping not to wake you and brought you into the school. I then got you a mattress placed you down on your stomach and then sat with you for a minute. I rubbed your back instead of getting up and cleaning or feeding children. I was pulled to you, something inside of me that day was screaming at me to stay with you for as long as I possibly could. When I knew you were fully asleep I stood up and said "goodnight Mackenzie I love you" and then turned to finish up my day at the school. I helped give the older children lunch and put them down for their naps, I was then off to do the dishes until the bus came to take the volunteers home.
When the bus came I was off to get ready for an adventure packed weekend with my friends on a safari. I got to bungee jump off the tallest bridge in the world, see wild animals, and just overall make great memories with my friends.
When Monday rolled around I could not contain my excitement to see the children. I remember impatiently waiting for Seia the bus driver to come pick us up. I then had to sit through the whole bus ride, my heart full of excitement to laugh with the children all day. When we finally roled up to the school, like always I jumped off the bus, thanked Seia and ran into the school.
On this day I walked through the front door and was faced by Jody, one of the girls that ran the school. She stops all of us volunteers before we head in. As we all gather around her she proceeds to say "girls something terrible has happened" she pauses and looks right at me continuing on saying "Friday night Mackenzie was killed." In that very moment I felt my heart shatter into a million pieces and scatter themselves all across the floor. Everything else Jody said came in fragments. All I could think about was your beautiful smile, your sassy dance moves and struts, you screaming at the top of your lungs when we would sing no more monkeys jumping on the bed, and how happy of a child you were. Jody explained to us what had happened that Friday night, that a drunk driver had driven into your house killing you instantly and severely injuring your mother and sister.
There was so much noise happening inside of my and so much pain breaking through my heart. I didn't want to move, I didn't want it to be real. It all of a sudden went quiet. I knew in that moment I would have to walk inside those two glass doors and continue my day playing with the rest of the children. I needed to put on a mask pretending I was okay and not heart broken at the fact you were gone. Somehow that is what I did. Although I could not stop thinking about you, about the last day I had spent with you. I wondered what was going through your head just before it happened. Where you happy, did you feel loved? I do not have much memory of that Monday in school, I was on autopilot.
When Seia came to pick us up I remember getting on that bus and instantly crying. I had just spent the last several hours putting on a smile and giving the children all the love I could possibly give to them in that moment. I was so drained and had nothing left. I remember getting home and looking at that shirt you had stained with your tears the last day I held you. I could not contain myself. Honestly it took me a long time to build up the strength to wash that shirt and then even wearing it again.
Mackenzie you changed my life forever, there is not a day that goes by where I do not think about you and wish this world was not so cruel. You were a beautiful girl that had a pure soul. The last day I spent with you will forever be a day where I gave everything I had to you.
In the last year since your death I think about this day constantly, my memory is not perfect, and that is the hardest part about all of this. This is the story I have been telling myself of how that day happened. There is no way of me ever knowing if I truly said I love you enough times or said that I am there for you. I will never get to know how you felt in my arms. I will never know why it was you were crying so hard, or what you were thinking about that day. I will never know what the rest of your day was like after I left school, or when you got home, I won't know what you were thinking as the car hit your house. These are all questions I continue to ask myself yet will never get the answers too. I just hope the last day I held you in my arms allowed you to feel the love I have towards you. I will never begin to understand why this world took you from us so young, only a year an a half old. You had so much left to explore and learn, laugh and love about.
May you rest in peace my beautiful Mackenzie. I hope you are up in heaven dancing like no other. I pray that you feel how much love everyone has for you and the hole in all of our hearts for losing you.
I am back.
I have not written in a long time, well at least not on here. Part of me had this idea in my head I did not want to be at college and post for the world to see. I have recently come to the realization, I could not care less what other people think about me. This has been something that I have lived by for awhile now, that I do not need the approval of others to feel whole. Anyway I have had a lot on my mind recently and I figured writing about it would be my best bet.
I truly doubt anyone will be on this website because lets be real here... Why would they be? I look forward to seeing where this page takes me. I enjoyed getting to explore this world and sharing it with those who cared. I am still here exploring who I am as a person just now I get to do it in a tiny college dorm room. Of course I would love to be waking up in a new place everyday but honestly I have loved getting to learn, especially the part where I spend hours upon hours doing homework and reading textbooks!! I guess the more I know the less I have to learn. So here is to the next four years of the college experience!
So yea I am back and I hope I stick with it for a while.
That was unexpected...
My favorite part about writing on this page is I know no one is really looking at it anymore. The idea of having my friends and family reading my stories about the adventures I took on my gap year were of course amazing... Although it took something I was passionate about and made it feel like work, that people enjoying my words made me not want to do it anymore.
To me this makes no sense at all yet at the same time I truly understood why and what was happening. Yet here I am back on this page and all of a sudden the words flow much easier, maybe thats just because I have more stories to tell but it also is the fact that I am not thinking about what people will say.
I mean of course that is something I never worried about, I have lived pretty much every day of my life not giving a f#ck about peoples opinions on myself. Ha I say of course because that is just the way it is, to me it is something that has just come to me, I see the false realities and the facades the world has created. I do not mean to make that sound as if I am better than those who don't I just know if I was in a world where I listened peoples judgements I wouldn't be where I am today. I would not have done half the things I have done. I would be almost finishing with my first year in college, I would be doing the same things as everyone else. Something about those words, doing the same as the people around me has made me run in the other direction. I don't want to be a person that has the eyes on them but I definitely do not want to be someone who blends in with the crowd.
That is something my family has taught me, that we can be who ever we want to be, we can achieve anything we put our minds to. I have taken so much from all the people I have met over the last 18 years of my life, from the random strangers I hold the door for and don't get a thank you from, to the people on planes, trains, buses, to my best friends growing up, and the friends I have gained along my travels. (Side note: I am not sure why I started out with people not saying thank you to doors being held but that happens all the time... it is such a small moment it time yet you never know it could make the slightest of difference in both parties. Kember and I were at Shop rite the day before Easter picking up a few more things we needed for hosting dinner for our friends and family. We were in the milk section and I saw the sweetest little lady looking at here phone and then at the milk several times. She was clearly looking for something, so I went over to help her, together we spent the next 5 minutes looking for what I learned to be she actually needed cream and the photo was from here son. Sadly this story does not end in a happy ending because Shoprite did not have any left on the selves. So we parted our ways and I adventured off to find my sister. This story has a point and it definitely was not that one... What I wanted to say was when Kember and I were checking out I had dropped a block of cheese unknowingly and the lady in the next isle said "Oh your cheese" so Kember jokingly yells at me and I am taking full responsibility by saying "My bad." I was so distracted by talking to my sister I did not even get to say "thank you" to this lovely lady who told me I dropped my cheese!! I then hear her say "you're welcome" under her breath. To be honest I felt like a shitty person in the moment so I quickly turned around and insured she heard my delayed thank you. I guess sometimes we all need a little bit of a reminder to be grateful for people. Yea not sure why and how this turned into this but I think we are too far deep in this hole to dig ourselves out. So onward we go...
I will tell you about what happened in the office today, one of the secretaries was complaining the food from the Monday meeting was in the break room. She came into our office stating she needed us to go take it and throw it in the dumpster. I of course get out of my chair basically running to the break room to get Free Food!! I was told these 3 day old muffins were rock hard... They Weren't! So I took the box into our office and started to eat them. I also later left with the box of Dunkin Donuts muffins and thanked the office for free food.
Not that anyone cares but yea that is what happened today at work... Conclusion of side note).
As I was saying about all the people I have met over the years I don't hide from making new friends even if its people you will never see again. In Africa my friends would joke with me that I talk to everyone! I was constantly meeting and chatting with random people we stumbled upon where ever we went. You never know, that small conversation or compliment on their shoes or jacket could make their day. Just making one person smile is enough for me, because to me that is a day where I can rest my head knowing I did something good in the world, even on the slightest scale.
Do not fear meeting new people and starting a conversation, you can be anyone you want to be when you meet a stranger for the first time. That is what I learned this past year of my life. The more people you immerse yourself with the better.
For the 0 people reading this right now, I hope you enjoy this very random yet meaningful collection of words I just wrote. Feel free to use it as a college essay, I am sure several college professors would love to hear about you on a 5 minute scavenger hunt in the dairy section.
I am sure I will be writing more about random things I think of, who knows maybe I will help a guy looking for cheese next week. All because I can do whatever I want.
“We are so blessed for having you here”
The last 10 weeks I have spent in South Africa I have heard these words from the people that run the school I worked at. They were blessed because I was here.... me, an 18 year old girl who grew up in a privileged world. A girl who knew nothing about this world and 10 weeks ago I started to learn a little bit more about it. I have now seen the true extremes of poverty and true wealth. I have see things that words can not even describe, that any one person would have to see it with there own eyes to believe it.
That 10,000 people can live in a community of metal storage containers, scrape metal, left over bricks, any and all remnants from homes are all pieced together to house 4-6 people. These small homes that most would turn their noses up and walk (run) the other direction at the sight of. All while this community is proud of where they live, they hold their heads high and continue their life with the cards they are dealt. I’m sure a lot of them hope for an opportunity to get out of their world to escape their reality. They must dream to live a life across the street where you find a very well off community filled with beautiful homes. Just around the corner so close yet so far. These exact words can describe dozens and dozens of communities, one after the other, filled with thousands of people who live in homes the size most of us wouldn’t even call a bathroom. Yet if you just continue to drive not even 5 minutes in either direction you will start to see these extremes. Time and time again I would se the drastic differences in each community yet I could never wrap my head around how this is possible... How do we allow this to happen?
It makes me think of all the times I’ve thought about wanting... needing to get out of Fairfield. That I hoped to find a better life to live. But why? I am so blessed to have grown up where I did, with the parents and siblings I have, friends, education, food on the table, running water, electricity, never having to worry about anything. It all seems silly now to have dreamed about leaving that life. It must sound like a false reality to most South Africans.
So coming here it’s hard not to feel guilty for everything I have in my life, that I got to wake up everyday for the past 18 years in my own bed in my own room, clean clothes, loving parents, knowing I would have 3 meals a day, even the feeling of safety, there are an endless amount of privileges I had everyday of my life that we never truly think about.
All this being said I don’t think one should feel guilt when it comes to uncontrollable outcomes. I was born into this world in America, in Connecticut, in Fairfield, I had no control over that. But what I do have control over is what I do to help others, to feel others, to give, to put smiles of peoples faces, offer a hand wherever I can.
That’s something I am truly blessed with, the type of person I am. That I can thank my parents and everyone around me that shaped me into a person that never wanted to live a day for herself, someone who knows happiness is created by giving love and joy to someone else. I cannot thank the people who created me enough. I am proud to be who I am today because I see this world in so many perspectives. I don’t hear people, I feel people when they talk.
Never in a million years would I have thought I would live my dream by the age of 18. Nor did I think anyone would ever be blessed to have me there. I’m not a religious person at all yet the people I work day to day with are and they thanked their lord for sending me to them. Hearing those words talked about me brings an emotion I didn’t know existed. I truly am honored to be here, to get to do what I am doing, all thanks to everyone who donated and believed in me, believed in my dream.
This trip has created lots of stories and I cannot wait to share them with the world. It has filled my heart with pure love, that each day I get to wake up and put a smile on 40+ kids. That the sight of just one child’s smile or hearing one contagious giggle melts my heart completely. I don’t want to leave this place, I don’t want to leave these kids wondering where I have gone, I don’t want to leave the community I now call home. I want to live everyday I have on this earth making someone else smile because that’s just what I want to do... I don’t think I need to explain myself on that, it’s just something that runs through my body. I’m not sure why it’s that way, it just is.
So the next time someone asks me “what do you want to do?” Or “What do you want to study?” I’ll just say I want to make people happy and hope they smile at that. A reaction can describe the type of a person you are in seconds.
“Wow. Greta got into Harvard?” That’s gotta be just one of my favorites so far...
Not to get side tracked. I have learned so much about this world, about the people around me and most importantly myself. That’s all I could ever ask for, I know I cannot change the world, I that knew going into this, the kids would leave a bigger impact on my life than I did on theirs. I leave here with amazing memories, genuine friendships, and about 40 kids I want to take home with me.
I’ll be back to leave another footprint in the South African sand, I leave with bigger dreams for next time.
Arriving in Africa
Here I am in Africa...
I’ve been in Muizenberg South Africa for 3 weeks now. I have met a lot of people, fallen in love with every child I meet, heard some crazy stories, done things outside of my comfort zone and said some goodbyes. I am sitting in Africa writing to you. Wherever you may be and whoever you are, l write a story about all I have seen.
I will start off with everything I have been up to outside of my time with the kids. Although that is most important to me I figured most people want to know what everything is like. So here that goes. I live in a house with 9 other volunteers. There are 5 houses for volunteers, 4 all girls and one coed, all the houses are walking distance from one another, and there are about 50 volunteers in total. So right from the start I have met a lot of people, all kinds of people. Some in the same boat as me, traveling before school, while some in their late 20’s who took time off work to bring some change into their life as well as others.
Some people are here to make a difference while some call this a vacation, so I’m trying to navigate my way through that. To find the people who share the same passion as I do.
Everyone I have met has been wonderful and welcoming and I thank everyone so much. I had to say some goodbyes too soon into the beginning of a new relationship and I was sad to see them go. I knew with just a few more days we could have grown even closer.
I now have found myself very close with the 4 girls I arrived with 3 weeks ago. We live together and stick together. I can’t even imagine how close we will be at the end of this long journey together.
Everyone loves the beach of course... still not my favorite thing to do but I’ll sit out there for an hour max maybe. If there are hot surfers out in the water maybe an extra 15 minutes:) Being here I could be anyone I want to be. No one knows the Greta who grew up in Fairfield Ct, they know the girl who came to South Africa to be with kids. I could have made up an whole new personality for myself! I honestly should have faked an British accent for 10 weeks... then I’d really be a whole new person.
I like being able to be anyone I want to be, to find my true self. That what people think never crosses my mind here. At home I was classified into several boxes, here no one knows what boxes I was forced into. I can break down those walls and venture into the girl that likes to dance¿ or the girl who isn’t afraid to jump of the tallest bridge in the world!!! Yea that’s right! I did, and I am still alive to show you the pictures and the official certificate they gave me.
It’s funny because I’m still exactly the same. I love to read and write, I put others before myself, I do ALL the dishes, I sweep the floor... like honestly who the f#ck does that, I don’t want to go out, I don’t drink even though here I legally can, I still don’t know how to really cook, etc. etc. on and on and on I could go.
I know there’s someone out there that’s scared to see how much this trip makes me change. But I have yet to understand why, because I will always be the Greta they know and love but now I am learning to give more and love harder. To walk towards change and adventure and step out of my comfort zone. I mean I’m supposed to be in college right now yet I am getting so much more than a college degree could ever give me.
A degree could never show me what it’s like to live in South Africa, to work in a township with kids who have nothing, to be surrounded by children who just want love. I’m sure a degree could show you how to blow a runny nose the correct way... but I’m doing alright at that. There is honestly so much more that I have experienced that a college dorm in the states wouldn’t have given me.
So on that note, I thank my parents and everyone in my life that pushed me to do this. The ones that didn’t look at my like I was an idiot when I said I didn’t want to go to school right away. I also thank the people that disagreed with the idea, the ones that shot it down. I especially thank those who once they heard “I got into Harvard” that’s when they gave me the time of day... The people that only care about an image. Those are the people that make me work 10x harder to be the best person I can be. So thank you.
I will leave this on that note. I will begin to write a story about all the children I have fallen love with at the school I work in!
Exploring Austin Tx
Austin has been very good to us I cannot lie, we got an apartment all to ourselves to crash in for a few days. We made Dane burritos the night he got it, then we all just hung out and caught up. I don't really like to write about specific details of what we talk about or what we are doing because I like to hold a lot of that in.
Keeping it between the three of us, to me it hold more sentimental value. (Secret secrets are no fun unless you tell everyone).
The next morning we made breakfast burritos... Mexican is a very reoccurring theme if you guys have not noticed yet.
With a full belly we were off to explore Austin, S Congress st is the main strip that has all these shops and restaurants on it, so we spent a few hours walking around, listening to music and buying little trinkets for the car.
We got tacos for lunch and honest to god the best queso any of us have ever had... That was a grand ol time.
There is so much we did but I forget the order of everything... I guess I am not that good at story telling. So I will just list a bunch of other things we did.
We met up with a friend of Kembers at a very cool bar garden that had food trucks outside, we sat by the fire of course to keep our little fingers and toes warm.
We swapped cooking shows with each other one night, Kember and I got hooked on a baking show in California while Dane showed us the Final Table which was a very cool cooking show. Although as much as we would love to sit on a couch and watch Netflix we decided to get off out asses and explore a bit more. So on we went to another bar for live music.
I am honestly not sure what you would classify this band as but there was a bass, guitar, sax player and even a TAP DANCER!! That was an experience no doubt. I have never seen someone tap dance like that and I cannot lie it sounded really good.
Then we met up with a friend of Danes from home who goes to school in Austin. That was a good time lets just leave it at that...
The last night in Austin we were watching the good ol baking show and decided to bake along with it! We made some chocolate chip cookies. Honestly to die for! Okay... they were nothing that special we just bought cookie dough and cut them up and placed them in the oven for a few minutes at 350 degrees. But golly they were great:)
Anyway yeah that was our last night in Austin, we were out of the apartment by 11 the next morning, we explored a little bit more but we were then off to our next destination New Orleans.
We camped about 3 hours out of Austin which was fun, we made quesadillas for dinner, ate some candy, and watched the Great British baking show... that was our night. I hope Dane gets used to how small our van is. I will gladly set up an interview with him and let you all know. I am sure you are very curious to hear what he has to say.
Honestly I have no idea what this post will end up like, kinda just random information thrown all together. That's all I got for you today folks.
Have a good day!!
Greta Ann Vanderblue.