Category Archives: Just Talk

Tuesday Talk: Remedy for the Crazies

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Five days from Mozambique. To do list:

See everyone we know.

Buy too many ‘last minute purchases.’

Organize financials.

Become a regular caller to the student loan office.

Try to pack ‘memories.’

Load hard drives.

Eat. Eat. Eat.

Drink. Drink. Drink.

Catch a cold.

Cancel the phones.

Pack our bags.

Remember:

 

🙂 

Cheers to the last Tuesday Talk from Colorado for a while.

Tuesday Talk: Three weeks from Mozambique 

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In a historic hotel in a little Colorado mountain town, a hot bath is drawn and delicious whiskey is poured. Bart Simpson murmurs quietly on cable TV in the background. 

Behind us are two weeks of what we’ve started calling the ‘good-bye America’ trip. We’ve lived in our favorite way: out of a backpack, out of the car, in our tents, in the woods. 

Yellowstone and the Tetons satisfied, as always, and we had spare time for back roads in Wyoming, 20 minutes through Idaho, and the calm and quiet canyonlands of Dinosaur National Monument. 

Realizations of what we’ll soon be very much without are setting in.

We’ll miss our public lands, we realized.

And after two weeks of sleeping bags, sweat, dust, and freezing nights we realized too that we’ll miss the luxuries  of America, so we decided to get a bit of that too. 

And I just keep remembering a gem of a line, delivered by Alex’s brother during our most recent visit to Telluride:

At about year 1 in Africa, remember this.

For all the missings yet to be discovered in the next three weeks of getting ready and the next 27 months of service, we know we’ll have little moments along the way to get us through.

For now, we procrastinate the madness of packing, the anxiety of goodbyes, and the health effects of shameless bacon-eating before we head on to Mozambique in three weeks. 

Tuesday Talk: Shoshone snapshot

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Boxes are packed, the house is moved out of, last paycheck in the bank, and Peace Corps plane tickets arranged! 

We are a bit homeless and a bit jobless. We are starting to say our slow goodbyes to America.

So a week ago we strapped the canoe to the top of the Subaru (how Colorado is that?!) and headed to a place we love and consider quintessentially American: Yellowstone National Park.

Here, we can say ‘see you later’ to the wilds, the public lands that are one of our favorite parts of the good ole USA!

We had to jump for joy at the end of our four days on Shoshone Lake 🙂

  
More to follow! 

Tuesday Talk: Live in each season

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I’ve taken to buying brands of tea that provide me with some kind of small inspiration- a quote or an affirmation- every time I brew a cup.

I’ve come across great ones:

To be calm is the highest achievement of the self.

I hope this day brings you peace, tranquility, and harmony.

Be well.

Breathe.

Smile.

The power of small tea tags has become quite significant for my emotional well-being. This was even more true during the school year, when these small tags would be taped to my computer at work, stuck to the fridge at home, and set carefully in various other places to be found later.

And exactly this happened today. 

With just a couple days left in Grand County, we are getting ready for big transition number 2. After a morning out canoeing, we were clearing and packing, and cleaning this afternoon when Alex found one of my favorite tea tags. There were the words of Henry David Thoreau, reminding me to “live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.”

I remember ripping this from a tea bag  in the dreary days of May mud season, trying desperately to not feel squeamish during that yucky time of year.

Now, as the second half of 2015 becomes a queue of transitions, a practice in adapting, these words stick with me again.

Take it in: the excitement along with the nerves, the curiosity along with the unknown, the endings along with the beginnings, the joys along with the frustrations.

Live in this season of change. Observe it carefully as it goes by. Breathe it in. Drink it up. And taste the fruits.

I’m a Coloradan, but

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I say I’m from Colorado- born and raised- and you might think certain things about me. 

If you’ve read any recent articles about this great state, you might envision me, the ‘native,’ smoking a joint and sipping craft beer while climbing a fourteener with my dog. 

Maybe you see me riding my bike to a stellar running trail and stuffing my face with green chiles afterwards. 

Perhaps, in your vision, I love Boulder.

The truth is I am a Coloradan, but I feel tense on a bicycle and I’m not too fond of running…no matter how hard I try.

I’m a Coloradan, but my favorite beer is not a craft beer. Wait, what exactly is a craft beer? Does Blue Moon count? Doubt it. 

I’m a Coloradan, but I prefer 13ers to 14ers. Sometimes, I even climb lowly 12,000 foot peaks. 

I’m a Coloradan, but I don’t think Denver is cool. And Boulder is pretty much the worst. 

I’m a Coloradan, and legalization is cool, but I don’t smoke weed.

I’m a Coloradan, but I don’t own a dog and, to be totally honest, only like a select few dogs.

I’m a Coloradan, but I don’t like green chiles and have never eaten Rocky Mountain Oysters.

I’m a Coloradan, but, even here in the second happiest state, I get darn crabby some days and downright sad on others. 

I’m a Coloradan, but I have indeed thrown recyclable materials in the trash before. Gasp.

I’m a Coloradan and I love where I live. But I’m not convinced that this awesome state is awesome in the way it’s being branded to be awesome…

My Colorado? 

Childhood camping trips at campgrounds. Hot summer days at the pool. Construction zone. Learning to ski at age 5. Road work ahead. Being a days’ drive from Yellowstone. Begin: Fines double in work zone. Hiking tan lines. Ski traffic…jk I live in the mountains. Trading 14er crowds and status for lonely 13ers and a total lack of glory. End: fines double. Skipping the ski resort for backcountry skiing in deserted forests. Begin: fines double. Snow in September, followed by 7 months of solid winter spent  skiing, snowboarding, and consuming too much cheap whiskey and bacon only to find it’s still snowing in May. 

And drinking a regular old beer out of a good old-fashioned can at the end of the day. 

End

….. : fines double. 

Tuesday Talk: On Gratitude

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There is a common sentiment that floats around. I hear it from friends and family; I read about on blogs and in articles. It’s inevitable. It’s a part of life, a part of the human condition.

The sentiment?

Time passes too quickly.

We’ve all had that feeling before. The feeling where the days just pass by, the weeks, the months, the years. Suddenly life feels like a blur and we wish we could have slowed down, put on the brakes, and soaked it all up.

In my own experiences with this feeling, I’ve found only one solution.

Gratitude.

Each time you stop to look at a moment through the lens of gratitude- each time you realize your ‘luck’ at just being there- the moment extends. When you stop to really look at a moment, suddenly you’ve slowed down enough that you notice the sounds and smells around you, the way things feel. You see the moment with wonder. You wake up.

What got me thinking about this most recently was some unsavory weather conditions on a backpacking trip. All day I had been freezing, curled up in my sleeping bag in a hammock. Mid-afternoon, we found ourselves inside of a cloud, in the middle of an hours-long drizzle. No more fishing, no more sunning on a rock reading by the lake shore. But I kept realizing I was smiling. Being a human, and being that sometimes things like being cold make me grumpy, I started to wonder why it felt okay this time, why I felt so calm. I didn’t feel like our trip was ruined, not one bit.

The trees on the ridge looked beautiful in the high mist. The ploppy sound of the raindrops was funny. I could hear a distant stream gurgling, and it was calming. My body was so cold that I could feel every toe and finger, every muscle flexing to keep warm; the cool air on my cheeks reminded me of childhood nights playing outside so long that my cheeks felt this exact same way. The search for sun behind the clouds was hopeful.

There was absolutely nothing to do but sit there and notice the things around me. And I began to feel that all these things were good things after all: beauty, funniness, calm, childhood, hope. And I began to realize how lucky I was to be there in the rain to notice them all. What an ordinary and awesome moment.

It was gratitude sneaking up on me, reminding me of its effect. 🙂

Life is changing. Things are ending. Things are starting. Right now, and almost always. With this I wonder how long I’ll be able to so vividly recall that rainstorm, that time when my senses were so awake, when I felt like the luckiest person in the world just to be in the middle of it, thankful for that snippet of time.

Tuesday Talk: Popsicles and Portuguese

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We are in a tug of war right now: enjoy our dwindling time in the States as much as we can and simultaneously prepare for our upcoming departure to Mozambique. Be here, but be thinking about the near future…a lot. Enjoy the present, but prepare for what’s coming up. Between playing outside and packing boxes, spending time with family and spending time researching I think we are doing a pretty good job of balancing our tug of war.

Mostly, it’s manifesting in two ways: eating a lot of popsicles (and frozen treats of all varieties) and working every day on Portuguese.

That pretty much says it all.

As we begin to realize the many small things we will do without for two years- like frozen treats- we don’t hesitate at all to enjoy them almost daily.

And as we begin to realize the vastness of this upcoming change, we work on the one thing we can right now that we know will help us feel more comfortable in Mozambique: learning the language.

Happy Tuesday, and here’s to two and a half more months of happy treat-eating and independent language study.

Tuesday Talk: Canoeing to a Stronger Marriage

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In the world of marriage, ours is a baby; We are coming up on 2 years in October. It’s a drop in the bucket when you think about that whole forever thing. Although we haven’t been married all that long, we are also coming up on 10 years of ‘togetherness’ in October, and in the world of relationships that’s pretty significant! In this time, we have shared a lot; From travelling internationally, to road tripping, to weathering growing pains through college, we’ve seen many sides to each other’s personalities.

I believe strongly that with each new and different thing we experience together, we see new sides of each other and, as a result, grow stronger. Seeking new experiences is a great way to continue to get to know each other, even after ten years. And I hope this holds up through the decades to come. Whether it’s in setting up a tent together, moving, communicating in a foreign language, or even trying a new food we have a lot of opportunities to learn new things about each other. And, most recently, it’s in canoeing!

We bought a canoe to have around this summer and, from our first excursion with it I knew we were in for a great learning opportunity; Sure, we are learning how to canoe (how far can we go in an hour, how to pack the canoe, etc.) but, I should have known, we’re learning new things about us too.

To be successful in our canoe, we have to communicate frequently and clearly. From the moment we begin taking the 80 pound watercraft off the top of our Subaru we have to be clear with each other. If we aren’t talking about when to lift it together or which way to flip it, we end up with a bobbling, messy, and possibly dangerous unloading of the canoe. Then, if we don’t talk about how to get down the trail to the water, we end up stumbling and falling. On the water, if we don’t communicate about our destination, we travel in inefficient paths. If we don’t trust each other about what those big, gray clouds mean, we end up arguing about when to go in. And if we don’t listen to each other’s directions, we wind up out of control and being taken by the current straight into a patch of thick willows. Then, with tired arms, if we don’t talk about how to flip and load the canoe on top of the car we wind up a) laughing hysterically in the parking lot and hoping no one is watching or b) in danger of injuring ourselves as we struggle to load the thing.

Despite the fact that Alex and I both think we work quite well as a team and despite the fact that we’ve had great fun on our canoe trips thus far, all of the above-mentioned has happened already in our three canoe excursions together. But each time we unload and reload the heavy canoe, each time we lug it to the ‘put-in,’ and each time we get on the water, I notice that we are getting better.

It went from silence through the whole process to something more like:

“Ready? Lift. Okay, flip to the right. K, set it down.”

Then down to the water:

“Rock. Go to the right. Slow down. Rock, lift it.”

And on the water:

“Let’s aim for the patch of willows, then that rocky point, then the island.”

And things like, “Paddle hard on the right until I say stop.”

So, as with travelling, as with moving, as with trying new foods, new sports, new languages, I see that with this new experience our communication and, therefore, our marriage is getting stronger.

Happy Tuesday, and here’s to remembering the power of trying new things! 🙂

Grand County will always be here

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The time for Big Transition number one has arrived: school ends today, and we must learn how to adjust to new and total FREEDOM. It will be tough…

Not really 🙂

But what is tough is the process of saying goodbye, realizing that we really are leaving our awesome students and staff, at least for now. This week has been a bit crazy and a bit emotional and a few tears have been shed (by me, the nostalgic one :)).

I think it’s interesting that when you get ready to leave a place, you realize with heightened clarity its many positive qualities. There have been countless times in the past three years of working with Grand County kids and families that I have stopped to appreciate the values and views, but this week especially I notice how well-behaved, funny, and kind the students at my school are; there’s almost nothing they could do in this last week that would displease me! I realize how supportive the staff is and what a beautiful view I have from the library where I work. I realize how lucky we are to have worked in a school district that values things like high school river trips and school bike day.

On the flip side of things, it seems that as we get ready to leave school people are realizing our many positive qualities, and showering us with endless compliments and encouragement, things that I didn’t even know people thought about us. And, of course, there’s no shortage of, “Ohhhh I wish I were young again.” and “Do it while you’re young, before you have kids.” and just simply, “I’m jealous.”

As we talk about leaving, it’s so easy to be excited about our next step and it’s equally easy to be excited about all the amazing things we’ve experienced in Grand County and in this school district; Whether it’s in learning to work with challenging children, helping kids love books, or floating down the river with 20 high schoolers, I’ve learned that there’s little more satisfying than working with kids. Aside from living in an outdoor playground populated with an awesome community, that lesson alone makes our three years in Grand County so worth it; we wouldn’t be going where we are going next if we’d never learned that lesson! It feels good to be ending school on a positive and satisfied note, with two whole buildings full of people encouraging us on our upcoming journey, and reminding us that Grand County will always be here.

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Tuesday Talk: ‘Are you gonna have a toilet there?’…and other musings on Africa from the minds of children

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Last week I had the exciting and heartbreaking job of telling all 200+ of my students that I am not coming back next year, that I am moving to Africa to work with the Peace Corps. Some said they felt like crying (I said ‘me too’), some looked a little mad, and others wrapped around me in group hugs. Through all of this I, of course, received some interesting and thoughtful questions, comments, and connections. I always love getting glimpses into how a kids’ mind works…and I thought you might too! Without further ado, I present: child’s musings on Africa!

Connections:

“My mom did Peace Corps in Namibia. When kids were late for school they had to stand outside with a brick on their head.”

“My cousin lives in Africa. She brought me a beaded purse.”

“When I went to Africa, I went there to comfort the people.”

“Ms. Cece, when I went to Disneyworld, I stayed at this resort and there were giraffes and everything right outside our room! That’s the same as where you’re going!”

“I went to Africa once when I had a day off of school.”…..does this count as a connection?…

Comments:

When showing pictures of schools in Mozambique, I asked students what they noticed that was different than our school:

“They are all a different color than us.”

“Their recess looks more fun…they get to spin in circles.”

“They have no walls and any rain or anything could just come in.”

Then I explained that many students don’t go to school past 8th grade in many places in the world, because it is expensive. I asked them how they would feel if school ended after 8th grade:

“I would probably be less socially active, because I wouldn’t see my friends every day. I would be at home in the fields or doing work that had to be done.”

“I would miss out on a lot of knowledge.”

“I would be bored”

“Good!”

Misc.:

“Did you know that cheetahs die if they run for more than 10 seconds?”

“Did you know that the most dangerous animal in Africa is not the lion, it’s the elephant?”

“I wish I was from Africa or could go live there.” (to which I replied ‘maybe you can join the Peace Corps someday!’ 🙂 )

“Whale sharks have no teeth.”

Questions, with answers in case you’re wondering too!:

“Can you use American money there?” > I will use the Metical when in Mozambique, so I will have to go to the bank when I get there and exchange my dollars for meticals.

“Can you say something in Portuguese?” > Eu nao sei (I don’t know) or Eu gosto de macas (I like apples.)

“Why do you want to move there?” > Tricky one….For my own personal growth, I want to move there to see what it’s like to live in a different culture, to live how many people in the world live -without running water and electricity-, and to learn what I can learn. I also hope I can teach people there new things about school and healthy lifestyles. One of my jobs there will be the share my knowledge and new things I learn with other teachers, so they can be more effective with their students.

“You’re going there to take them money, right?” > No

“WIll you be able to wear your normal clothes there?” > I will be able to bring clothes from here, but I will need to make some adjustments, like making sure my knees are covered and not wearing tank tops with thin straps.

“Are you going to start a library there? How would you get the books there?” > Maybe. I would have to probably raise money to have the books mailed there.

“If you don’t have electricity, how will you wash your clothes?” > With soap and water in a bucket.

“If you don’t have a cell phone, how will you talk to us?” > Email!

“Will Peace Corps make sure you’re germ free and healthy before you come back?” > Yes! I will have a medical examination before I come home to test for any weird stuff I may have caught there.

“If you don’t have a refrigerator, what about meat?” > Meat will probably be sketchy business in Mozamibique…I probably won’t eat much. But I might eat it if I am in the city at a restaurant with a refrigerator.

“How will you keep your food fresh without a refrigerator?” > I will probably go by the local market on my way home from work each day and get what I need, instead of going once a week like I do here.

And the most asked-about thing of all:

“Ms. Cece, what about going to the bathroom?”

“If there’s no running water, how will you go to the bathroom?”

“What about drains?”

“Are you gonna have a toilet there?”

>

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And just for the sake of ending on more pleasant note, a few pictures from our last trip to Kenya and Tanzania!

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