Africa is beautiful. The people, the culture, the smiles, the laughter, the faith. I can’t really describe it. It’s one of those things you have to experience in person to really understand.
My stay here has been so amazing. We’ve been staying on Kachele Farm, the primary residence for Hands at a Work, the organization that Nurses for Africa teams up with. It is a Christian based organization that supports African careworkers, who go into the community to mentor and watch over orphans and vulnerable children. Some people have asked me how it has been working with such an organization given my own faith, but it’s been quite an enriching experience. While I identify as a devout Buddhist, I also think my faith allows me to embrace all religions, all cultures, all beliefs with an open heart. I’ve always believed in living life with an open mind, with pure intentions, and taking in everything that the world has to offer you.
Hands at Work has an amazing hospitality team, and they’ve been cooking us three wonderful meals a day. I’ve honestly been eating better here than I do at home. Fresh vegetables and fruits, eggs, and home cooked meals. I couldn’t have asked for more. I’ve become an expert squatter, the mosquito nets protect me at night, and no food poisoning (yet). Hot water has to be rationed, as does the wifi but we’ve all been managing really well. Our days have consisted of doing holy home visits and working at the mobile clinics. Home visits have been challenging emotionally. People let you into their world, and sometimes it can be devastating. But I think it has been so beneficial, because I’ve always believed that mission trips aren’t just about the physical labor and doing work in clinics. I think an important part of humanitarian work is connecting to the people you are serving, whether it’s emotionally, culturally, spiritually.
Since many of you know that I could talk to a wall if I wanted to, I’ll save the details of what I’ve been doing for when I see you all in person. But I must say that there have been many emotional moments on this trip. I think the most defining moment of this trip so far was meeting the people of Chibote for the first time. They were so unbelievably happy. The kids were running towards our bus and giving us hugs and kisses. And as we stood in a circle while the careworkers sang us a prayer, I couldn’t help but cry. It was such a beautiful moment, and something I will remember for the rest of my life.
The level of poverty I’ve seen hasn’t surprised me the way I thought it would. But I think what touches me the most is how these people have so much warmth, happiness, laughter. You wonder how those who have nothing, have the most beautiful smiles, full of life and soul. It really makes you think about your own values, and what you find important in life. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always been an optimist, but I’ve always believed that personal wealth is not a measure of how much money you have, but rather a measure of the love you have for yourself and others. My dad used to drill this principle into our heads as kids: money doesn’t equate to happiness. And the people of Chibote are a living example of this virtue.
And with that, I’ll wrap up my update. I’m missing my friends and family and I can’t wait to see everyone soon. I’ll hopefully try to write again this week, but no promises!
With all my love,
As I sit here during my 8 hour layover in Frankfurt, I can’t help but wonder what the next two weeks of my life are going to be like.
I usually have something to say before going on one of these trips, but for whatever reason I am having severe writers block. Perhaps it’s the nerves kicking in. I consider myself a pretty fearless traveler, but this time I’m exceptionally nervous. I don’t know what to expect, and with a health crisis currently overtaking west Africa, I honestly don’t know what I’m going to be faced with when I get there. I guess it doesn’t help that the first thing people say when I tell them I’m on my way to Africa is “don’t catch Ebola”, or that my mom has called every couple of days in the past two weeks to ask me if I could back out.
Unfortunately for her, I’m not. I never planned to. I think facing your fears is such an important part of growing as a person. The experiences that make you uncomfortable are the most enriching ones, whether it’s traveling to a third world country, quitting your crappy job, letting go of a relationship, etc. From quitting my first nursing job, to moving to a new state, to traveling alone, I’ve realized that these decisions have been the toughest and scariest ones I’ve ever made. But when I look back, each step forward into the unknown has made me a better person, and has made my life so much more fulfilling.
Fear is such a driving force in our lives. We fear being lonely, fear growing up without finding anyone to love, the unknown, change. We stay at boring jobs because we are scared of pursuing our dreams, stay in bad relationships because we are scared that no one will ever love us. But quitting my first job has allowed to me find a specialty that I love and thrive in, and being alone has given me the opportunity to love myself and really understand what is important to me.
I guess the whole point of this post is to say that yes, I’m scared. Ebola is a nasty disease. Africa is a scary place. But with each new experience, I gain so much personal wealth, strength, wisdom. I know I will come back in two weeks a better, stronger person than I am now. I am so blessed to have these opportunities, to do what I love and to make a difference. If it’s anything I’ve learned in the past few months, it’s that facing your fears opens the doors to happiness, one small step at a time.
With all my love,Sandy
I had such a great conversation with an old friend yesterday. While dining on gourmet food and sipping on fine wine, we came to the conclusion that as people, we will always choose being SOMETIMES happy. Because taking risks and not knowing what life will throw your way is such an incredibly hard thing to swallow. To many of us, being sometimes happy is better than maybe being happy.
But what is life without risks? What are we willing to do to feel safe, happy, and comfortable?
I have always believed that happiness is a choice you make. It does not fall graciously into your lap. You have to make choices, work for it, live for it. If something makes you unhappy, do something about it. If you hate your job, quit. If you have toxic friends, get rid of them. If you’re in an unhealthy relationship, free yourself. Granted, saying and doing are completely different things. We naturally crave stability, comfort, familiarity. Change is a scary thing. I feel that as humans, we’re wired to endure pain and suffering in order to experience even a sliver of happiness.
I want to live the life I’ve always dreamed of in the most passionate way, and the best that I can do is at least try.
So I’ve said earlier that my tumblr would serve mainly as a travel blog, so that I can update my friends and family on my adventures. But once in a blue moon, I’ll reserve a spot in this blog for truly special, meaningful, and defining moments. And this particular moment happened to be a few weeks ago.
So I’ve made it no secret that I recently ran my first Spartan Race a few weeks ago. I say funny things like, #barelymadeit and #almostdied, post awesome pictures on social media, but it’s really not meant to be in a boastful and pretentious way. Few people truly know what finishing that race actually means to me. Now, I don’t want to ruin a totally badass moment, but this post is just to offer some perspective into why finishing a simple obstacle race could become such a powerful, life changing moment.
I think in addition to the sense of accomplishment and pride I had after the finishing the race, I also felt fulfilled, successful, liberated, and strong. But most of all, and most importantly, to describe how I feel about crossing that finish line in not-so-clever twitter lingo AKA hashtags: #fuckwhatyousaid #immabeaightttt, #provedyouwrong.
To clarify, I am so used to being labeled as a certain kind of person, or being a certain way, so much to the point where sometimes I find myself unconsciously labeling myself. Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism after being criticized all the time, you kind of get into this habit of always defending yourself. You’re conditioned to feel like you will always disappoint, so you prepare people for the worst parts of you even when they never gave you a reason to. I have the ability now to be whoever I want to be, yet at times I don’t even give myself that chance. I’m so used to being labeled a certain way that I have subconsciously accepted all of these qualities as part of my identity. But you know what? We are so unbelievably lucky. As people, we have the ability to grow, to mold and shape our identities, to forge new roads, and to rewrite our own life’s script. We can be, and aspire to be, whoever we want to be.
These past few months have given me the opportunity to really try to learn (and accept) who I am as a person. And through this beautiful, sometimes painful process, I get to be whoever I want to be, and not who or what anyone says I am. Finishing that race was about so much more than running 4+ miles through a freakin’ mountain and subjecting my body to brutal pain (although my elementary school gym teacher, Mr. Plunkett, would be SO proud). It was about me realizing that I severely underestimate myself, and don’t give myself enough credit for the amazing things that I am capable of doing. It was about me realizing that I, in fact, can take care of myself. To finish any kind of race is liberating, but this race was liberating on a much deeper level. I felt free. The weight of everything I was ever told I couldn’t do, wasn’t capable of, about who I was and why I wasn’t good enough, suddenly disappeared the second I crossed that finish line.
So to end this post with some not-so-clever, possibly inappropriate hashtags:
#fuckwhatyaheard #imaboss #whocaresifimshort #vi3tpryde #swerve
So I know I´m late, but time has been limited and I only have internet access via a sketchy internet cafe down the road from my hotel.
I guess I should start by describing my current living situation. The village of El Remate is a remote area right outside of Flores. The hotel that I am staying at, Hotel Sunbreeze, is more of a cabin (although I do have my own bathroom). I get my own complimentary porch and hammock! There is no AC. You can´t flush the toilet paper. There is no hot water - the most you get is lukewarm, which is fine considering it´s been 100 degrees every day here. The shower head has these electrical wires connected to it to heat the water (my roommate Dale got shocked the other day). There are horses, chickens, roosters, dogs, and pigs running around everywhere. All in all, it is perfect.
I am here with two other people, JP - who is leading our trip, and Dale,an ER nurse from Atlanta, GA. We started off our first day taking a tour of the clinic. A few people showed up so we tried to help them as best as we could. It´s amazing how much we take for granted sometimes. Finding clean supplies to treat people was extremely difficult, but we managed.
The hardest thing for me about this trip is that there are no doctors. The clinic is currently run by JP, Dale, and myself. We are in charge of diagnosing and treating patients, something that is way beyond our scope of practice in the states. Anne, the owner of the clinic (a very lovely Canadian expat, but more on her later) told us that we will most likely have to suture people as well, as it is machete season around here. Thankfully, both JP and Dale are ER nurses, so they are experienced and are exposed to much more than I am.
Sometimes we are so caught up in our own lives that we unknowingly shelter ourselves. We forget to just stop and appreciate the beauty around us. This trip has given me that opportunity, and I will cherish it forever.
I wish I could upload pictures, but because of the lack of internet access, it´s been really hard. Hopefully I will get wifi access soon….
With all my love,
I decided to revamp my tumblr for a few reasons, but mainly to make this somewhat of a travel blog, so that I could keep those close to me updated on my travels while I’m abroad, whether it be for volunteering or for cultural and personal enrichment.
I’ve spent the better part of the last 4 years trying to live up to the expectations and impossible standards of others. Somewhere in between trying to prove that I was responsible enough, reliable enough, tall enough, pretty enough, punctual enough, GOOD ENOUGH, I had to ask myself - what does Sandy want to do? Who does Sandy want to be? These are the answers I’ve been looking for, and I hope that eventually I will find them with a little persistence, love, and faith.
What I DO already know is this: I am kind. I am caring. I have a warm and fuzzy soul. I love to dance, sing, laugh, and cry my heart out. I am a closet vocalist, intermediate pianist, multicultural dancer, creative artist, eclectic chef, loving nurse, and I give the BEST hugs. I am the eldest sister of three, a devoted daughter, and a loyal friend. And most of all, I will always stand by you when life gets hard.
I also know that I am an imperfect person. I’m sensitive, careless, and emotional. I’m immeasurably type B and extremely forgetful, oblivious to social cues, and talk way too much sometimes. But despite all of these so called flaws, I also know that I have a lot to offer to those that are willing to receive all the dedication, warmth, and kindness I have to give. I hope that one day, someone will be able to look at me and love and embrace my soul for all the love, hugs, and quirkiness I have to offer. Until then, I will nurture myself, grow as a person and as a woman, invest relentlessly towards my happiness, and continue to love those around me as selflessly as I can.
They say your 20s are all about finding yourself, and recognizing who you are as a person. With that being said, I have always wanted to do humanitarian work, especially internationally. As a nurse I knew that my skills and innate compassion give me the ability to impact the lives of others at such a profound magnitude. I want to live a life of adventure, passion, and selflessness. Life is often too short to not do the things you love and to not pursue your dreams. As some of you may know, I recently got accepted to do a mission trip in El Remate, Guatemala, where I will be consulting at a medical clinic called Ix-Canaan (translates to “Guardians of the Rainforest”). It is an amazing opportunity: I am only responsible for half of the round trip flight, whereas the host organization, One Nurse at a Time, funds the rest (which includes airfare within Guatemala, food, and hotel expenses). The program, Jo’s Nurses, is aimed towards getting nurses to get over that initial hump of volunteering. I applied because I knew that this trip would change my life forever. I will come back a better nurse, friend, sister, daughter, and person. I’ve always believed that the beauty in being human and living life is that we have the ability to learn each and every day from the people we interact with. This is why being a nurse is so incredibly rewarding, because everyone has a story to share. It is because of this belief that I continually challenge myself to explore the world and what it has to offer me. I challenge myself to listen, to learn, and to love. I always use to tell myself that I was going to save the world one day. And I’m officially taking that first step. I want to be fearless. I want to be free. I want to love like I’ve never loved, and give as though I’ve never given.
Guatemala will be my first of many mission trips to come, as I’m also headed to the remote villages of Zambia, Africa this coming August. I’ll try my best to keep you all updated on my journey through El Remate, although it may be hard to get wifi in the middle of the rainforest.
Until then, please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I help those whose happiness comes from life’s small pleasures. People who do not have much, but are rich in spirit, faith and love. Because in the end, personal wealth is not a measure of how much money you have, or how many brand name items you own, but rather it is a measure of your happiness, the love you have for yourself and others, your dreams and passions, and the difference you make in the lives of others.
With all my love,