One Year Ago Today... My Peace Corps Service Ended

June 10, 2015

Over the years, I've come to terms with the fact that just about anything can bring tears to my eyes. When I'm happy, I cry. When I'm frustrated, I cry. When I'm sad, I cry. When I'm overwhelmed, I cry. You get the idea.

But not the sobbing kind of tears. Just the bambi-tears-welling-up-in-my-eyeballs kind of tears. If you know me at all, you know this to be true. It reminds me of a line of my favorite poem... "you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." And goodness, I sure do love a lot. Today, I'm referring specifically to the love I have for my Peace Corps service and all the remarkable people I met along the way.

Today marks one year since my close of service in the Peace Corps in Botswana. Ironically, I woke up this morning and put on a Zebra soccer jersey I was given as a going away gift. I didn't even realize it was my year mark today until I just looked up the date on my final paperwork.

For the past week, I've just felt it. I couldn't shake the feeling. I really, really, missed Botswana. I missed my friends, my village, my life as a Peace Corps Volunteer. So, it only seems fitting that today snuck up on me and these emotions all come from a constant reality... I miss Botswana every day (some days more than others).

My service in the Peace Corps changed me. challenged me. frustrated me. taught me. humbled me. helped me. guided me. questioned me. motivated me. delighted me. comforted me.

These words don't make sense to anyone. But they evoke every emotion in the book for me. Bambi tears included (ok maybe some sob tears too).

I thought of writing about my Peace Corps experience on many occasions after returning home, and each time, I concluded that words couldn't do any justice. I knew that I could fill pages with stories and people would never understand the sense of calm I experienced when I laid down with my head in my grandmother's lap in the shade of the tree in our yard. No one could feel the joy bursting from my heart when tiny voices called out my name, Boitshepo! No combination of words could relay the satisfaction of knowing my existence made some kind of difference. I felt as though I could never guide another person through my tangled mess of emotions throughout the 26 months of my Peace Corps service.

And so, I have kept a lot of my memories to myself. In a way, I think coming home from the Peace Corps has put me through many stages of grief. It's really difficult to come to terms with the fact that one of the biggest chapters of my life will remain a mystery to so many. I am so grateful for the visitors I had during my service, for they can recall some of my favorite places and people. But in so many ways, my service belongs to me, and me alone.

For that, I am thankful. And for that, I am saddened.

I wish it was easier to share the lessons I learned with others.
But since I cannot force the words to flow....the tears will.
Tears of joy, tears of remembrance, tears of gratitude.

So, until I can find the words to do justice to my time in Botswana,

Motho ke motho ka batho.
I am because you are.

Active Lifestyle Meets Daily News

June 5, 2015

If you're anything like me, it's difficult to find time to sit down and watch/read the news every day. I usually have very little free time and I prefer to use that down time relaxing or spending time with my loved ones. But just about six weeks ago, I found the perfect solution.

Two brilliant young women decided to start this website that breaks the news down into more simplistic terms. If you sign up for this free service, you'll be sent an email each weekday with a breakdown of current new stories. The best part is that the information is paraphrased and written in such a way that you'll be able to understand it without having much previous exposure to the topics. The email has links all throughout to take you to outside news sources or a more detailed breakdown of the news story within their own website.

It's absolutely perfect for me and I would recommend it to anyone who would like to stay up to date on the news, but can't seem to find the time to do so. I can skim through the email while I'm getting ready in the morning and feel prepared to discuss current events as soon as I walk out the door.

Check it out! I dare you to sign up. :) I think you'll love it too. And plus, if you don't love it as much as I do, you can always unsubscribe.

This has been a game changer for me!

Meal Planning : Part One, Selecting Recipes

June 3, 2015

Let's start with a confession.

I'm not a very good cook.

Cooking has never been intuitive to me and quite honestly, I never really had to cook much. Once I graduated high school, I had a meal plan my freshman year, I ate the same few things a million times during my sophomore year when I lived in an apartment, and I had a chef prepare all my meals when I lived in my sorority house my junior and senior year. Sooooo.... you get my point.

I skipped the part when you should learn to cook.

Then I went to the Peace Corps and I developed an interest in cooking, baking, and making things from scratch (although most of the time, I didn't really have a choice. If I wanted pizza, you better bet that I had to make the dough and the sauce). The only problem was that I had poor internet access to look up new recipes and even if I found things I wanted to make, it was even more of a challenge to find those ingredients out in the Kalahari Desert.

So you see my point.

I basically started from square one when I came home from the Peace Corps, which means that I've had ten months to get it together. :) My goal was to find healthy recipes that would be easy enough to make in medical school once my life got really busy.

I started collecting recipes. My approach was that I would try everything once - - and if I loved the recipe, then it would make the final cut. My other challenge is that now I'm cooking for two, thanks to living with Michael. We both have different preferences as well, so when we both give a meal two thumbs up, it's a huge success.

Obviously, everyone has different guidelines that dictate what meals they want to prepare. Here is a list of what helped me find recipes that would work for me:

1. Low prep time. This one was really important to me because I know I won't have much time to prep meals during medical school, so I wanted to find recipes that were easy to prep, cook, and clean up.

2. Relatively healthy. I don't like eating super unhealthy and I'm not going to lie to myself and say I eat super healthy every meal. I wanted to find most of my meals somewhere in the middle.

3. Light on meat. While I did begin eating meat again this year, I can't say I'm super crazy about it. Michael would love to eat a giant steak as often as possible, but I'm happier eating some chicken and seafood here and there.

4. Low cost. I won't have the money to buy expensive ingredients while I'm living on a medical student budget, so I wanted to be sure that the ingredients were affordable. I hated finding recipes with some obscure ingredient that I would buy, use once, and watch it go bad in my fridge. The ability to use up ingredients in other recipes was key to my low cost factor as well.

5. Yummy leftovers. Some food just sucks as leftovers... and that won't work for me. I like to eat whatever I prepare for dinner and bring leftovers for lunch the next day (or later in the week). If I wasn't excited about eating it a second time around, or if the leftovers just weren't as delicious as the first time I prepared it, the recipe didn't make the cut.

Using those five super simple guidelines, I've found a bunch of recipes that work for the two of us. It was frustrating to prepare meals that we both ended up scowling at, but in the end, I call it a win. Eliminating meals is just as important as finding good ones because it helps narrow down preferences even more.

Selecting recipes is just the first step in all the madness of meal planning. But I'm so obsessed with how easy it all is once you've gone through a few tedious steps.

Stay with me as I take you through the rest of my meal planning steps!

Meal Planning : Part Two, How to Use Pepperplate
Meal Planning : Part Three, Creating a Rotating Calendar
Meal Planning : Part Four, The Final Touches

Do you  have a collection of recipes that you love?

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