The harsh truth about re-entry.

They try to prepare us for the bumpy ride back into normal life.  They offer us counseling sessions.  They even provide us with a ton of ways to prepare for life back in the states.  I have neglected my blog, one of my best outlets for my struggles, because I am struggling with my struggles.  I want to strong and invincible and pretend like life is just going to be peachy, but reality is, it is not.  Life is a struggle and without that struggle it might be boring but sometimes that struggle is too much to bear.


I got back stateside on June 7.  Richard brought me pizza and met me at the airport.  It was incredibly comforting to have a familiar relationship that felt new all over again.  It was like moving back home to your parents house after years of being on your own.  It is comforting, but things have changed and you have to find your place.  I guess I am still trying to find my place.  I started back with a focus on healthy diet and exercise, but now I just have to force myself to do anything anymore.

Two days after I got home we went to Alameda to a RPCV meet up with other Returned PCV’s from Jamaica.  This was a Jamaica specific event and I met many new people.  But it was in the Bay area and that is not exactly where I am located.   The following Tuesday we took a trip to Tahoe so I could give a presentation on Peace Corps Service in Liberia and what life was like there, even though I had a limited view the insight I shared was much more than the students had before talking to me.


We got home and the car was acting up so Richard told his daughters we were not going to Tahoe that weekend again, apparently our trip caused some frustration and anger in them since they had wanted to go.  So we made arrangements to rent a car and go back.  This turned out to be a disaster.  I joined the Peace Corps when I did because his daughters seemed to be jealous and dislike me.  I helped move him down to be closer to them and rebuild that relationship and then left to allow this to happen.  I was hoping that when I returned, they would be used to the idea of me being his partner and being in their lives.  I was so very, very wrong.  This issue caused us to break up back in 2011.  I did not want it to break us apart again.  I do not have an answer for this, but because of the weekend we have vowed to not allow other people to break our relationship apart.  I am not saying I do not want him to see his girls, I really want him to have a good relationship with them, but I realized they do not want a relationship with me.  This reality hurts some, but I am not going to force them into that relationship, it is not healthy for anyone involved.  So I am stepping back, but it is not currently an issue as they whole summer is booked up for them.  Maybe in the fall we will have to see.


The other issue I am having is job hunting.  I am struggling with finding a job, I thought it would be a breeze, but the longer I go without work the worse I feel and less motivated I get.  I mean for real I am bored out of my freaking mind.  One can only watch Facebook and TV for so many hours in a day.  I had no idea it would be this hard to find a job or that I would feel so lost without one.  I am truly struggling with this lack of focus and my money is quickly dwindling down.  I know I am drinking far too much, mostly out of boredom but some out of depression and a desire to suppress those realities.


I lost my Washington License when I was in Jamaica, it was found and I just got it back today.  Now I can go get my California license and food handlers permits, liquor license and whatever else I need to cater again.  I am at the point of not filing any job history and just applying to restaurants, because I need something to do.  I am going to go crazy soon, I just know it.


This week I think I have hit pretty much rock bottom, or am getting close.  So now it is time to stop wallowing in self-pity and get off my butt.  I just wish it was easier to do.  First thing is to get my license transferred and get myself into counseling.  I had no idea these feelings of anger and frustration would manifest in such a way.  I have been unemployed before and remember drinking far too much to cover the pain, but this time I do not have to do it alone with kids to support, yet I seem unable to ask for help and support.  I hate that feeling of vulnerability.  It seems to manifest itself into anger and frustration and I am worried that I will lash out at the people I love the most.


Jamaica is not a single story!

This is the second in a series of blogs as part of the #BloggingAbroadBlogChallenge I was given the prompt about the Ted Talk “The Danger of a Single Story“.

I want you to close your eyes and think about what Jamaica means to you?   Does it mean fruity rum drinks?  The sand and sea?  Does it mean jerk chicken and fish fry?  Does it mean posh resorts and craft markets?  Does it mean high crime rates and marijuana smoking in public? Does it mean poverty and dirt roads?  Does it mean children in no shoes going to school?  Does it mean low education levels?  To me Jamaica is all of this and so much more.  As a joke this is considered Posh Corps in Peace Corps lingo.  Site envy is a thing among volunteers and many seriously think we spend our days at the beach and our nights drinking rum.  Sometimes that happens, most often we spend it trying to make some sense of how a country that by all outward appearances is rich and wonderful could be so impoverished and hard.


You see when you come here as a tourist, you are limited by what the leaders want you to see.  They want you to take back stories of fun and fabulous times.  They do not want you to talk about crime rates, accidents or poverty, they wish you not to see any of that.  This is true for most tourist destinations.  You see only the fun and beauty, but you miss the poverty and struggles.  This is the single story that most people have of Jamaica.  It is where Bob Marley came from, Reggae, Rum and Ganga, beaches and beauty.  But Bob Marley could not have been such an icon without the struggles of crime, poverty and despair.  His music would not still haunt us to this day if he had no message to share.  The movie Cool Runnings, as silly as it is and hyped up Hollywood overdone, it still is a story of the great spirit of the Jamaican people.  To face such adversity and still get back up, only a people who have struggled their whole life could do that.

The diversity of the people here is similar to almost everywhere else.  You have rich, you have poor, you have a struggling middle class.   You also have criminals and scammers.  What you do not have is a single story.  You cannot say you know Jamaica if you come here and spend the entire time at the all-inclusive resort.  You meet Jamaicas, sure, but they are working and conforming to standards that are set forth for them.  It is a job for them to interact with you, not to get personal and share their true feelings.  They smile as though they are having a great time, but maybe they have a sick child back home and cannot wait to return their family.  They might agree with whatever you say, but deep down they know you have no idea what happens outside the walls of the resorts.  Even if you leave the resort it is typically by charter bus or taxi where you are taken to specific locations.  You will not be taken to the small school that has children who have not eaten since breakfast and will not likely eat until nearly bedtime when they get home.   They will not take you up into communities of captured land, where the electricity is tiefed from JPS and the cost is put back upon those who have legal electricity.  They do not take you into areas where scammer are polishing shiny new cars and looking for their next victim.  They do not show you how, much of Jamaica lives.


You will not see domino games that go on into the wee hours of the night, often ending in a drunken brawl.  You will not see a dead yard (ded yaad) or meet a local family (yaadies).  You may see a few Jamaicans along the roadside bagging up trash and debris, but you will not stop and share a drink with them.  No you are going to be shown only what they want you as a tourist to see, what you came to see.  What you came to see is not really Jamaica, it is the brochure you bought when you purchased your tickets.  Not one place on this beautiful Earth will you ever see the real “” in a brochure.  You see what you want to see.  It keeps you coming back, because, hey you are on vacation and you paid to live in paradise for a week and forget about the worries of the world.  Sadly the worries of the world might be a direct result of you ability to forget about them.  How do you think you can find such a wondrous way to forget if not at a cost to someone/something else?  Do not kid yourself the cost is so much higher than any of us would ever want to pay.

The beaches in Jamaica are mostly pay beaches.  The spots on the river are starting to be the same.  This equates to pushing the poor away from their own inheritance of a beautiful sea and fresh water resting place.  Imagine if you had to pay $100 every time you wanted to relax with your family?  How do you feel now that you have to pay for day passes or a yearly pass to most state and federal parks in America?  I resent it.  That land is owned by us, why do we, the taxpayer have to pay?  The same is happening all over Jamaica and it is frustrating.

So now go back to your original thoughts on Jamaica, but add watching the catch from the fishermen coming in, cooking fresh fish on the beach on a Sunday morning, buying produce from the farmers at the market, buying callaloo from the Rasta peddling it from his back or bicycle.  Imagine instead of fruity drinks an icy cold Dragon Stout blended with some Foska Oats, peanuts and Supligen vanilla milk, this is called  Strong Back and if a man is drinking it run ladies run!   Imagine lazily floating down the river without a care in the world, looking at the canopy of fruiting trees overhead.

Imagine the back breaking work in the fields to bring in the harvest just to make enough money to pay the children’s school fees.  Imagine being a small child in an overcrowded, hot classroom that is not separated by actual walls but by chalk boards, imagine being the teachers trying to talk over the noise from the other classrooms.  Now imagine all of this hardship and struggle and you still having a smile on your face?  Why?  Because Jamaica, No problem, mon!  It is really hard to keep a Jamaican from enjoying the simple pleasures in life, because for many of them, it is the only pleasures they have ever known.

You can never quite outrun your past, but you can overcome it.

I hate this.  Just before a major change in my life, I meditate on how I got here.  It is not intentional and I cannot help it.  It invades my dreams and my thoughts randomly.  It is like I cannot escape yet it really has no effect on my current situations.

Most notable are my past relationships.  I want to point out here that in no way am I sad by the end of those relationships.  But they sometimes haunt my thoughts.  Why?  Most likely because without the struggles and the abuse of my past I would not be at this very juncture in my life.  I would not have moved forward this far.  I would not have found my voice and my strength.  I would not have found the courage to pursue my dreams. So this post is not looking at specific incidents but more at the result of those incidents.

What most of us forget is that our struggles make us who we are.  Without struggles our lives never grow, we simply exist.  It was one of the most frustrating things about growing up religious that I encountered.  So here is where it begins, my childhood, which I resent passionately.  I resent being force-fed religion and being bullied into submission if I questioned what I was being fed.  I often think about how during my church days the pastors always suggested to me that my struggles were do to lack of faith on my part, or lack of full commitment.  Anyone that knows me, knows that I never waver, I am either all in or not at all.  There is no fence.  It was often suggested that my life would be perfect and struggle free if I would tithe and get more involved.  I tried to get more involved but I was never quite good enough.  Tithing is difficult when you have no money for food for your kids.  Paying the church $200 a month could mean living on Ramen or having real fresh food for that month.  Trust me I tried to have faith in that, but it pained me to see my children suffer.  In many places that should be considered child abuse.

Think about this fairy tale for a moment.  The perfect life, free of struggle is yours if you struggle right now.  Ok so life without struggle, what does that look like?  I envisioned a life where kids are perfect, money is never an issue, you have a home and reliable transportation and you go to tennis lessons.  You sit down as a family, there is not conflict, life if like Leave it to Beaver!  Think about this for a moment, would you be happy in this life?  A life that is predictable and boring?  A life that is just too perfect to be real?  I would and it took me until my 30’s to realize that this life was not only a fairy tale but also just plain damn boring.  Without struggles we become complacent.  If there is not challenge there is not reason to strive to improve.  If we are handed the perfect life, then what is left?  I imagine Heaven to be a very boring place.  No struggles, no challenges, how very well  perfect to be frank.  How perfectly boring.

So I embrace the struggles of life.  Not knowing if you can pay the bills, not knowing if you will be able to eat today, these struggles are a little harsh.  Yet they cause us to be creative to learn to trust ourselves.  These struggles give us strength and allow us to realize how much we can carry.  In those days I used to say to myself, I am not Job.  I do not want to be pressured this hard, I cannot carry the burden.  What I did not realize is that I could handle the pressure but the dream was a fairy tale.  When you realize that the goal is not attainable, you give up hope.  What your really need to do is figure out what it is that is attainable, and reset our goals.  It is this weird trap, you set yourself up for the perfect life, which you will never be able to attain.  You fail, you lose all hope and you give up.  When you find yourself in this space it is time to realize that society set you up for it.  Whether it be religious leaders or societal leaders, they guide you to this unattainable goal.  They make it look perfect and happy, but the reality is, it is never going to be reality.  It is a way to keep us in line.  If we start to question these ideas we become dangerous to the underlying norms.

This was probably my biggest lesson.  When I made another decision or went into another relationship the goal was ultimately the same.  To get to that perfect life.  Even those times I chose the baddest boy I could find, the goal was to gain that perfect life.  The choices I made were also a bit of rebellion at that goal.   I did not want to achieve it in the traditional paths.  I wanted the perfect life, but I wanted it on my terms.  I have since learned that my terms will never get that perfect life anymore than the traditional paths.

Once you move past those realities you begin to see things more clearly.  This is the gift of my past.  Those struggles and failed relationships enabled me to move past this fairy tale goal.  They helped me find my true passion and my real goals.  Without those struggles I would still be seeking that fairy tale.  I would still be hoping for Prince Charming and  little house with a white picket fence.  I would still be expecting that perfect struggle free life, instead I seek out adventure.  My life now is about living not waiting.  It is about adventure and learning and growing as a human and not about seeking the perfectly boring life.  My life is now about the Journey not the destination.  The journey itself is the goal.  It took me a very long time to realize that, it took me through abusive partners, partners who took financial advantage of me, partners who never considered my goals or desires, but I made it.  I made it to the point of having the best partner I could ever ask for.  A partner who supports my dreams.  A partner who loves me for who I am and is not afraid to let me fly.  I would not change anything about my life, except maybe how long it took me to learn the lessons I needed to from the bad relationships I have been in.  Sometimes letting go is the only way to learn to fly!

Move more eat less, at least eat less processed stuff.

Ok so two years ago, I stepped on the scale and it read 228lbs.  I nearly fainted.  How did I get so big.  I didn’t feel that overweight.  I know I am heavy, but pictures of me always look bad.  That was April of 2010.  I was frustrated.  I was feeling depressed.  Here I had been riding a bike for several years, yet I was at the heaviest I remember.  Well I didn’t have a scale when I was married so I could have been heavier then.

I am a vegetarian, so how could I fall into the obese range.  Seriously what the hell?  A few months before that, some guy at the bus stop was checking out my bike.  Asking how long I had to ride? I told him nearly 22 miles a day, but not that day.  He asked how long I had been riding, I answered that I had gotten my bike in 2006.  He looked at the bike, looked at me and actually said, you think you would be skinny by now.   I was so astonished, I stammered that I liked beer a lot!.  What a rude person, but at that same time, he was right.  With that much riding, I should be skinny by now.

So in April, I began my quest to seriously drop my weight.  I did it too.  I lost nearly 60lbs by September.  The secret was that I stopped being lazy and putting my bike on the bus to go up the hill home.  I tackled every hill.  I may have had to walk but damn-it, I was going to lose that weight.  I was looking good, too.  I got into a size 12 pants for the first time in years.  I had been a 14-18 most of my adult life.  Even slipping into 22. The other thing that helped drop that weight was I stopped buying and consuming processed foods.  I would make a smoothie of fruit only every morning.  I would not eat bread, poached or hard boiled eggs only.  I watched my portions, and took a to-go box anytime we went out.  I focused not only on my food and exercise but also my waste stream.  The less packaging I had to dispose of the better the food I was consuming was.

Over the next few months people started to notice the weight loss.  I was excited, I felt good about myself for the first time in forever.  I dropped that weight and I improved my health, but a drawback was that I allowed my body to be depleted of certain nutrients, such at B-12 and Vitamin D.  Being a vegetarian, I had not realized the consequences of removing all processed foods from my life.  I had to either add more meats or supplements.

Tragedy changed my life forever a few months later.  In March of 2011 I was rear ended on my bicycle, thrown through a windshield and ended in the hospital for several days.  The recovery process was long and painful, but the worst part was being dependent on other people to help feed you.  People like your children, who did not want to saute greens for dinner and cook beans and grains for you.  So many processed foods were reintroduced.  It doesn’t help that other than a few hours of rehab, for 3 months I did not hardly leave my apartment.  No real physical activity and bad food took me nearly to the place I was when I started.

The weight came back, the pain kept me from physical activity.  I have slowly started working on it again.  I had to get past my depression, my anxiety and my fears.  I had to get back to some semblance of structure in my life.  I needed to regain my discipline.  I am working on being way more active, but that is not enough if you overeat or eat the wrong kinds of foods.  I know I can do it.  I just have to push through.

Yesterday, I went on a bike ride with a co-worker who just bought a bike and was looking for someone to ride with this weekend.  We biked 33.76 miles, give or take.  I then biked back home adding 6.5 miles to that.  I made fresh Bruschetta and a huge salad for dinner.  This morning I had some chard to be used so I sauteed it up with onions and some zucchini and patty pan squash.  I added a couple of eggs scrambled up with some feta to it.  Made for a very tasty breakfast.  I ate half and I will have the rest for breakfast tomorrow.  Initially my plan was to bus down to Georgetown and play tennis with a friend.  After breakfast and some fresh coffee, I just could not justify taking the bus on such a gorgeous day.  So I packed up my bike with a tennis racket and some tennis balls along with sunscreen and water.  I took the 6.5 mile trek down the hill to meet my friend.

Neither of us have played tennis in years.  The goal was to move more and eat less today.  We did not keep score, since neither of us remembered how to really play.  We just got out there and whacked the ball around.  As our time on the court went on you could see both of gaining more control of our swings, him more so than myself.  I am happy to announce that we will both feel pain after playing for nearly an hour and a half.  Biking only uses certain muscles, and at some point you hit a plateau and you need to change your movements. I am of the school that whatever physical activity I am doing should be fun, otherwise I probably will not do it for any length of time. So as of today, we plan on getting out there about twice a week.  I ride daily and with that addition of tennis, we should start to see some serious weight loss, but I have to remember my rules about eating real food.

As I left, I was tempted to call Richard and ask if I could drive his car home.  I was feeling rubbery and didn’t want to bike home.  But I decided that I can do this.  So I hopped on my bike and for the third time, I conquered Beacon Hill going North!  Hell yeah, who is the wimp now? Not this bad-ass Biker chick!


UpHill Battles

I bought my bike to cut down the cost of my commute to and from work.  At present it costs me $3.00 both ways if I ride during peak hours.  This cost almost as much as gas in a car.  Why am I willing to pay that and not own a car?  Initially when I ditched the wheels it was $2.25 at peak times.  I bought a monthly pass.  But as I moved to bigger places my rent went up.  Coming up with nearly $100 at the same time rent is due was not feasible.  I bought a scooter first.  I still own her, but she is not very environmentally sound.  I should ride her more often but my environmental side balks at the idea.

I bought the bike when I was 6.5 miles closer to where I work.  Three years ago I moved back to the Central Area of Seattle.  Not the CD but close to it.  I now ride that big old beast almost 20 miles a day round trip.  Some days I go further to go visit friends, join in activities or go to the doctor.  This would not be a huge issue, except that I live on Beacon Hill.  It matters not which direction you come from, that hill is an obstacle.  I have managed to make it all the way up from the South end twice and twice from the North End.  Everyday when I get home, I am so tired I just want a drink some dinner and to fall into bed, but no, I have to clean cook, and do laundry.  My knees often hurt, beyond belief.  Tonight is one of those nights.  I truly want nothing more than an ice pack some ibuprophen, a stiff drink and some dinner.

It is all I can do some mornings to get out of bed.  The ride to work is not my issue, it is mostly downhill.  On my way home I drag my feet.  I stop at my partner’s place, sometimes saying screw it and staying the night.  This week I am making an effort to fight that uphill battle and win.  Once I get up the hill the rest of the ride goes by quickly.  What I need is to motivate myself and challenge myself to get up that beastly hill on my beastly bike.  If I can do it once it can be done, and if I do it on a regular basis that makes me a truly badass biker chick, right?


Disclaimer, this is not my picture, I just copied it off a website.