thera is not participating in nanowrimo

if you haven’t been solicited (or roped into) for nanowrimo i shall tell you what it is, and then tell you why i’m not participating. i suppose the official name is NaNoWriMo, and is a fun way to say national novel writing month. november is a time for pro and amateur novelists to write 50,000 words of a novel between 1 and 30 november. a noble undertaking, i say.

never before have i seriously tossed around the idea of participating, and i didn’t really change that this year. why? zero desire to write a novel.

however, i am going to take this opportunity to challenge myself to at least write a little every day. fear not, i’m not planning on clogging up your email/google reader/rss feed of choice with a post-a-day all month (yet).

in my great this-blog-is-so-half-baked tradition i think i’m going to add a new page (tab?) to this blog and write a letter a day under that new tab. admittedly i have no idea if this will show up in your feed/email (i’m thinking of email subscribers here, the thought of my name showing up in your inbox every day makes me really nervous that you’ll like me less or something) so would someone help a girl out and let me know if it does or does not? thanks in advance.

so, no novel but letters.
why not just write a novel in letters, thera?
i have no idea. why didn’t you suggest it before? maybe next year. (DOUBT.)

and with that i leave you to go figure out this whole page/tab thing and maybe even post my very first letter of the month. this is highly unplanned and unstructured. a lot like yours truly.

and off we go!


amerika: a weeks worth of impressions

tomorrow (thursday) marks one full week back in the united states, so i thought this would be a good benchmark for sharing some observations/vignettes of first enjoyment and secondly reverse-culture-shock.


the power never goes out! i do, however, find myself waiting for it to, especially late at night. the first few nights home i stayed up with my computer plugged in trying to get it to charge before umeme quit, only to remember umeme cannot plague me here-and if KCPL (kansas city power and light) quits on us i may want to actually show concern.

the shower is always hot! i still comply with “green living” standards and take shorter showers, but must confess that i am not collecting gray water (dunno what to do with it, this isn’t my house) and i’m not turning off the tap to put shampoo in my hair, etc. i’ll start again, promise.

I CAN (and do) DRINK WATER FROM THE TAP. there is a good chance you have no idea how wonderful this is. maybe you do, but if you don’t, it makes me chuckle. every. time. for a week now. there was a tiny squelched sequel of delight at my first water fountain. judge on, judger.

fall. its beautiful. and smells just like i remember. heavenly.


giant box stores ARE FRAPPING TERRIFYING. so. much. stuff. i felt dizzy.

interstates/highways again with the dizzy. smooth road + high speed = me feeling wretched. i’m sure i’ll get used to it again, but in the meantime its not my favorite.

commercial television– i didn’t have a television in kotido. i would watch movies and tv shows on dvd or from my external hard drive on my computer. there are no commercials. commercial television is enrapturing. if there is a television on-even if the sound is off-my eyes are drawn to it like the proverbial moth to light. i can concentrate on nothing else. and FORGET IT if the sound is on and you are going to try to talk to me–this sort of makes me feel like i’m losing my mind. i won’t even touch commercial content with a 10 foot pole. basically, i’ve sworn off commercial television except for special events. and even then if i leave the room its not you, its my brain about to implode from over-stimulation. and/or nausea.

“…little boxes on the hillside and they all look the same…” [subdivisions]. i have never been a fan of the suburb-subdivision. if you live in one and love it and don’t understand why i feel like a caged bird, trapped and doesn’t know how to get out in them: that is okay. but i sure hope i never live in one. (you know, other than now). while i steeled myself for my landing in dallas this time, being in the heart of a subdivision is far more overwhelming than i had expected. while out running the other day i was so overcome with all these nice houses, with clean yards (everyone watering them…one was flooding…) and clean dogs and their clean chubby kids. they have clean decks, and clean kitchens (comparatively speaking, anyhow) with no fears of amoebas, parasites or rats and clean bathrooms where they don’t have to worry about cholera or typhoid.

all of this was racing through my mind as i was running up a sidewalk between many of these houses. it was far too much to consider at once and i found myself sitting in the middle of the sidewalk trying to pull  myself together.

i don’t judge people for having nice things, or clean things. nor is this really a dis on subdivisions. the things racing through my head in those moments were along the lines of my mind and heart trying to make sense of what i was seeing in front of me and what i’ve been living the past three years. and i’m having a difficult time holding those things together in one

this will happen, again i will learn how to balance these two worlds and not forget one to live in another. however, this may take a lot of time. be patient with me.

01 october: a harvest dance

this post contains photos–for those with slower internet connections i have reduced the quality of the photos to ‘least’ in hopes that it will not consume all of your credit! this will remain a standard practice.

on first october the MCC SALTer, annali phoned and asked if housmate and i wanted to go to a harvest dance in the village. and we, of course, said “yes!”

people are celebrating the harvest things like sorghum and maize and for days had been gathering to dance and sing–to revel in the promise of food for the coming dry season.

a “dance” in karamoja often consists of a circle of men who take turns leading and calling out the songs to be sung, and leading the sharpest and loudest clapping i have ever heard. men will enter the circle one a time and jump as high as they can–the circle timing their claps to the footfalls. the higher you jump, the cooler/more desirable by the ladies you are.

women jump, mostly in hand-holding-pairs, on the outside of the circle.
today there were two pairs teaming up for some beautiful dancing.

perhaps on a different day i will use more words to describe these events, but for now i’ll let pictures be words:

the men

the women

c25k: saying goodbye

its been a while now since my last run in kotido. my shoddy math skills are correct it would have been the 7th of the month-or whatever that friday was. i had wanted to go on saturday, but the “baibai” party for housemate and i was purportedly going to happen that night (that means it didn’t) and i figured better safe than sorry on the “last” run thing. (i suspect somewhere in the back of my mind i knew the party would be “shifted” from saturday to sunday, and we were leaving monday…)

so, i went running that friday.

to mark this end of an era i made 2 ~15 minute playlists as a way to acknowledge this transition. the songs weren’t particularly “goodbye” in makeup but good things that were speaking to me at the moment. (speaking to me in this context meaning kicking my butt.)

there was a “first” in this “last” run, though, which made it extra exciting: i was expecting a phone call that evening so i ran with my phone, which i never do. but that isn’t the fun “first” the fun bit was answering said phone mid-stride and coming to a halt under the peace-billboard on moroto road.

the dry season is coming, so its getting extra windy. i was having a hard time hearing anything but the wind in my ears or in the phone. being the problem-solver i am, i stepped into the sorghum field directly to my right and let the leaves and sorghum stalks break the wind for me.

a lovely location for a lovely talk with a lovely friend.

post phone conversation i finished my run-paying extra attention to my surroundings and trying to drink in the scenes of the bush at dusk. toror the mountain looked lovely, and i could see the hills of abim clearly. the sky was a opalescent play on the themes of pink, orange and purple. stunning.

i watched the ants going about their work from one of the large underground ant-city-openings near one of my favorite trees. i stopped to pet a donkey, and shake a child’s hand. i gave my favorite greetings in karamoja to a mzee: both hands raised, “toyai!” and was met with a grin and returned greeting.

i ran in the middle of the road.
the middle of the bush.
through the middle of a large heard of cows,
brushing my hands along their skinny ribs.
the shepherd boys laughed,
someone said i was brave.
and then i laughed.
shook my head,
and ran on.

15 minutes 1: “baibai ‘moja”
1) “shake it out” florence + the machine (still so grateful to eew for this!)
2) “ready, steady, go” the meices (empire records soundtrack)
3) “all i got 2” amel larrieu
4) “polynesia” mother mother (touch up)
5) “kick drum heart” the avett brothers (i and love and you)

15 minutes 2: “baibai ‘moja [mbili]”
1) “jump around” house of pain (thankfully there are no photos to confirm nor deny if i actually “jumped around” in the bush. you will never know the truth…)
2) “dirty town” mother mother (touch up)
3) “the looks” MSTRKRFT (the looks)
4) “imma be” bep (e.n.d. delux (there may have been dancing at the drop…))

c25k: not running edition

were you to be operating under the assumption that the lack of running posts has been because i haven’t been running, you would be correct. were you, however, to be operating under the assumption that there hasn’t been running because of laziness or lack of will you would be incorrect.

every part of me wants to hit the road and run. every day i’ve wanted to run. my body is practically begging me to run.
and yet i continue to not go.
i’m plying my self with various levels and amounts of yoga.
(seriously, i’ve probably out yoga’d all of you combined in the past week and a half. unless of course you’re a yogi… then you could probably give me a run for my money. maybe.)

“so, thera, if you WANT to run, why aren’t you?”

i’m so very glad you asked.

i haven’t been running since i’ve been back in kotido because i’ve decided that this is a “last” i have total control over. if i don’t run again in kotido i don’t have to be aware that it is the “last” of something. it will not be a conscious “last” decision. unlike most of the choices and decisions i’m making every day of this last week in kotido.

as a matter of fact, i decided to sit here and write this blog post rather than go for a run this evening. and then i’m going to change my clothes and do an hour and a half of hatha yoga. which isn’t quite running, but it is difficult and makes me feel healthy. and then i’ll sit in meditation tonight before i go to bed and hope that it keeps me almost as healthy has taking a nice long run would.

this isn’t to say that i’m not going to run again in kotido. i hope that i do, actually.
i suspect that i will only go once this week. so that i’m not wondering “IS this the last time i’ll run in kotido?” but will have a firm, “this is my last run in kotido” train of thought which seems a lot more sane for me right now.

granted, i’m kind of insane right now so perhaps i’m not in the best place to name what is and is not sane. ah well.

foundations: meeting people where they are

when i say “meeting” i mean a myriad of things. from actually going out of your way to go across town and meet people where they physically are, to trying to understand where someone’s
political/ideological/religious/personal beliefs or standards stem from, to making specific language choices so whomever it is you are speaking to can “pick you well.”

one cannot necessarily expect others to meet you where you are, but one can be prepared and equipped to meet others where they are. otherwise where are you? alone, without conversation (the kind where you are truly conversing and not convincing) and missing opportunities for community and personal growth. that and you just seem like an ass. (and while “i’m and ass, and you’re an ass” and “what would you expect from an ass?” sometimes i do try to avoid seeming as such. [HT* to kmm.])

and, perhaps, a part of truly meeting people where they are is not expecting them to necessarily do the same. placing expectations and assumptions on people is already like building a small wall in the relationship–in doing so i have found that this creates division before a union could even be attempted. however, i have found that when i do meet someone who is also making a conscious effort to meet me where i am that there is an instant connection–if not a quickly formed friendship that goes beyond that of acquaintance in a matter of minutes, at least a strong mutual respect and, if nothing else, a strong working relationship. these are rare and beautiful moments to be treasured and honored, but not expected.

these past three years have given me ample opportunities to practice and exercise the muscles necessary for meeting people where they are. there is something about being an obvious outsider in at least some respect, that has really heightened my desire to make that effort. in a way this was a selfish decision–my desire to fit in driving the scramble for understanding and wanting to blend in/be as invisible as possible. on the other hand, doing this work affirms the humanity and person-hood† of those i was working to meet and made what could have been superficial and patriarchal relationships something much more profound and mutually life giving.

often times i have found myself standing on the total opposite side of an argument regarding religion, politics or personal matters with people whose community i have been trying to be a part of, and realizing that if i were not working to understand where they were coming from or how they got there i could have easily written them off as “ignorant” or “backwards” as others have historically have done. through trying to understand culture, place, people and person-hood i try to be conscious of personally doing the leg-work towards meaningful relationships beginning where others are and searching for our common ground where we can stand together. that place where we can come back to from exploring different or opposing thoughts.

my point in meeting people where they are is not to necessarily bring them to where i am. i do not typically proselytize my faith, but will discuss it; i do not try to convince you of my political stance** (very often) and do not think my personal preferences are The Only Way to live. my point is to understand. or at least try to.

“its not necessarily wrong, it’s just different.”

*for those not up on the latest blog-lingo: this means
hat-tip/thanks/i stole this from you, etc.

†also, child-of-god-ness.

**protesting and rabble-rousing aside.

other related lessons that i will not expound on at the moment:

• networking

• holding two seemingly-incompatible ideas at the same time (for relationship and conversational sake–holding my beliefs and ideas in one hand and someone else’s in the other so as to be able to converse and be able to meet them where they are (especially when others are incapable/unequipped/not ready to do the same.))

• how to wait (buses/travel, bank queue, for the man with the key, for answers [that may never come])

the trouble with love

i love love.

i love being in love,
and falling in love
and that divine queasy-dizzy feeling of realizing that
i’m in love.

and i really
love being loved.

but there is a trouble with love.
the trouble with love is sometimes,
when you open yourself up to love,
you open yourself up for equal or even more hurt.

i’m in love.
and i’m hurt.

you see, i’ve fallen in love with a people.
and a place.
with the karimajong people.
and the place of karamoja.

a literal head-over-heels-love that has me reeling and smiling. laughing, crying.
with joy and with sorrow…

joy for the beauty and strength,
the creativity and survival.
for the love the people and the land have shown to me.

joy for being welcomed, accepted.
for my new name(s),
and family.

with that joy comes great pain.
the hunger.
the drought.
being ignored and shunned by their own country.
(a country that i also love, adore and cherish as part of Me.)

the pain of now leaving,
being asked to stay.
the hurt in the eyes of new friends
and family
as we discuss…


you see, that is the trouble with love.
i’ve opened my heart wide to give and receive love–
and have given and received far beyond what i once thought capable of my puny heart.

i knew this would happen.
i knew it would hurt.
but i hope to always choose love.
to choose to open myself to love
even when it comes to feeling the hurt and pain, too.

you see, there is a trouble with love.
and i’ve never really been good
about staying
out of trouble.