In-Security Secrets Revealed

This morning when I woke up I absolutely knew it was time for me to be in a different space.  I have felt this way for weeks now and wasn’t really listening. After being away for 5 days in a room all to myself, being engaged in the work with Justin  it just doesn’t fit for me to be in this house or this room. This transition is over and a new one has begun.

It feels like a heaviness, a stuck feeling and it usually makes me want to hide. I wake up with no motivation for the day, which is the typical “depressed” response to a life that do not want to be living. I have been waking up in the morning wanting to do my own thing, quietly making my way to the bathroom and sneaking back to my room for hours of undisturbed Yoga practice, dancing and just giving myself time  and space to start the day in the way I want to. It takes time for me to accept that this is not selfish, this what I need. What does feel selfish is the not wanting to engage with the people in the house and that is why it is time to go. I need to be in a space that I choose, that I find comfortable and that provides me with the things that allow me to Thrive. This is something I am capable of giving to myself and by honoring this I show myself Love.

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What feels the most fearful about this process, other than the money part, is the shopping for food. I love to eat simple, barely cooked greens and veggies, grains and fermented foods like saurkraut. I have discovered what makes me feel good physically and mentally and it is not fried banana’s, Fanta and white bread. I am not so sure that this culture has what I consider to be very important in my life and am not that willing to budge on this issue.

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I walk the isles of “supermarkets” that are more like convenient stores, with row after row or processed, packaged foods that I don’t want to even touch never mind put in my body and I wonder what the message is for me here.  Why am I here? Why are my values being so challenged? Why are the things that I have found as “cures” for my disease being taken away from me and/or made very difficult to find? Can I let go of what I believe is the only way I can be healthy and work with what is available in the best possible way? Yes, I can. What it allows me to see is just how much I take it for granted back home, in that I don’t always eat the way I know is good for me even when it is there for me. I will appreciate the abundance in North America when I return and be more passionate about showing myself Love in this area as well.

I have been putting out requests for info on places to rent for a while now and have a few great options opening up. If there is one thing I have learned in the last year especially about transitioning from one place to the next its that I need to go when it feels like its time to go and it is not a bad thing, its a fact. When it feels wrong, it is wrong and that is why I have my life set up this way – to listen and follow through with what I feel. No more 1 year lease rents, no more mortgage, no more permanent work positions all telling me what I had to do every morning when I get up even if it goes against what I know to be true for me. I am no longer stuck in that system and it is a wonderful gift to have given myself but along with it comes uncertainty. Uncertainty in the form of not having the false sense of security anymore that I used to so heavily place on having a home, a job, a car, money,etc.  None of those things are 100% guaranteed just like everything in life. I prefer to live in the space of uncertainty as a way of practicing my ideals and living by truly being guided by every moment in life. No more, oh I wish I could do that but…….Now I am free to act on these feelings, which means I have to act now on this feeling, again as a way to show myself Love.

What it has opened up for me is the ability to feel settled, comfortable and at ease with any situation that I am presented with. I used to be such a homebody, afraid to sleep over at someone’s house, uncomfortable if I didn’t have my pillow with me or that I wouldn’t be able to do things I needed to do to feel safe and secure. All things that really were about control and the fact that I felt out of control emotionally made them all that much more important to me. These security blankets were a way for me to feel safe but they were external, which meant that they could be taken away at any moment. This in itself was a scary thought.

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(Doesn’t that look “safe and secure”!)

I sucked my thumb until I was 25 years old and this was one of the biggest forms of security for me. It was a way for me to feel safe within the environment I was in. I would day dream about being at home with my pillow and sucking my thumb when I was at school, work, or anytime I was not actually doing it! It was all I thought of at times. I was so insecure and it was all I knew as a way to feel calm on the inside. I was ridiculed constantly at home, made fun of, my thumb would be forcefully yanked out of my mouth, my pillow or “thing” would be hidden for days or sometimes lost forever. I was threatened with all kinds of things to make me stop but I couldn’t? How could  I give up the only thing that felt like protection for me? That was a tall order to ask and it was never asked in a very compassionate way or in a way that would make me feel like it was ok to open up and reach out for help in finding a way to feel secure on the inside. Something shifted at 25, on Mother’s Day, and I just knew it was time to stop. I somehow had the feeling that I was strong enough to be on my own, with out the thumb! It took a while to not wake up in the middle of the night with my thumb in my mouth but I really did stop cold turkey that day have not looked back. It took a while for the pillow to loose its draw and now I have very little and get to watch as  I use the limited things I do have  to sooth me during trying times ie: movies, chocolate and chips!

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I am 33 now and when I think that it has only been 8 years since I did that it seems unreal. I am not the type of person that anyone would think of as being insecure, especially the person I am today. It is because of putting myself out there and facing fears that I am where I am in terms of internal strength and it is all worth it when I look back on my life and see how far I have taken myself. I am still moving forward into gaining the self confidence that I know exists within me, within us all really, and every step I take is a step towards embodying what I know to be true. I love myself enough to give myself what I need and sometimes that means  leaping into unknown situations, working with the fear to see what it is really telling me and giving myself a chance to grow. This is how I build the strength to be the person I dream of being inside, there is no fast track or quick route to growth. For me, taking it slowly is how I make the changes real and permanent in myself.  Dreams will come and as I grow they seem to get bigger and bolder than I even thought possible!

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(No in-securities here!)

What this experience also offers me right now is the ability to see what things are really important and what things are not, and when I am using things as a security instead of trusting and believing in my own inner strength.  I am able to give myself the things I NEED to thrive, a few things I WANT and not have a bunch of other junk clouding my path. Living simply does not mean not having, for me it just means knowing why I have, want or need the things I do have and then making my life simply about living the best way I know how.

Much love and thanks to Justin and his family for their support, love, kindness and generosity during the first phase of entering into Rwanda living. I have plans to come visit often and spent time with my new Rwandan family. Now, I am on a mission to remain open to what is next for me in Rwanda and I have enough experience with me to trust that it will be revealed. I am listening.

Returned To The Earth

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As I drove down the road once again with precious cargo in the backseat I felt so honored as I was driving members of the Fish Farming Cooperative to the funeral of a member who had passed away the night before. I was driving slowly behind the pick up truck that carried the wooden casket, draped in a white cloth with a purple cross on it and I felt like I was in disbelief of what was actually happening. How did I end up here, doing this? It felt so much like I was part of the community, a member being embraced by the event but in a way that is very different than how I usually feel when I do cultural things in different countries. This was not a performance to demonstrate their culture and it was not celebration or something they want to show tourists who come to the country. This was a funeral. This was death and sadness. This is something that I feel not many white people get the privilege to witness, let alone be a part of in this way.  I am humbled and honored to have had this experience with these people.

I was told about the woman’s passing last night but still have not gotten any details about it as Justin has been very, very busy with the whole event. He only had 2 hours sleep last night so I wanted to be a quite and ask as few questions as I could. I also became photographer once again which at first felt disrespectful but I was told by Justin “take as many photos as you want, there is no problem.” After we left the church I felt better about it and realized that I was putting my own cultural bias on the situation, there were people walking up the casket taking pictures throughout the whole service and I was there to help Justin document the event so I stepped up and began to engage in my task.

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The burial site was a hike up a hill into the trees, the air smelling like fresh Eucalyptus accompanied by people in brightly colored outfits singing and clapping beautifully. There was a line of people walking on red dirt for at least 2 Km’s, maybe more, against the backdrop of the lush green fields of tea and jungle. We all moved slowly and somberly up into the hillside to the large hole that had been dug by hand. It was probably 10-12 feet deep and 7 feet wide at the top, getting narrow towards the bottom. A few men jumped down inside to await the casket being lowered with a rope, which made for a few loud voices and men at work kind of sounds. They were pulled up by strong hands reaching down to them and the shoveling began. The hole was filled completely in less than 20 mins. It is so nice to see community working together like this. The woman sang and the men shoveled, hard and fast, handing the shovel to another man when they tired. They were on a mission to get that hole filled as fast as they could so the funeral could move into the next phase of honoring the deceased, which was more singing and a few words from the Church, then flowers being laid in a circle on top of the grave site. It felt so natural to put a wooden box in the ground with a human body and cover it with dirt and to do it so soon after the death. It felt so connected to the earth and to the natural cycle of life. It was beautiful to watch.

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There were two young men who came in late to the service and were ushered to the front and then put their heads in their hands, bent over and wept. One was immediately brought over to another bench where he was embraced and soothed by the men who sat there. I watched these two boys to see if I could figure out where they fit into the puzzle. All I know for sure is that they were comforted, allowed to cry, to be very sad and that they were about 14 or 15 years old. Wherever they fit, whatever their story or connection who the person in the casket, it was the way they were embraced during their time of emotional vulnerability that struck me and will stay with me. The people of Rwanda are so real, so human, and so wonderful to be with because of this. They are teaching me to be even more alright with who I am as a person, and embrace even more the fact that being human is a wonderful gift.

**Update: Words from Justin’s email about her passing. “She was a widow, her husband died leaving her with 6 children and she had to look after them, she was so courageous and hard working in this co-op. She died the same day I did the final assessment on the new project ideas (expanding their fish farming project).The next step is to think of her children.”

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As I sat in the crowd as part of the service and saw how deeply impacted the people were by this one person’s death I immediately thought of the Genocide and how much it would have impacted them. I also thought maybe they were this way because of the fact that they have lived through a genocide. I watched as people hunched over on the benches and cried into their hands, looking up once and a while with big brown” puppy dog eyes”. I notice a lot of behaviors in these people that are very similar to animal behavior and I feel it is part of what keeps them so connected to the earth, each other and a way of life that most other people could not handle. They are so beautiful. I am beginning to notice the impact on my own behavior, which I am very grateful for. I am hearing a gentleness in my voice, feeling a calmness in my body, and a humility in my actions which I am so grateful for and will continue to strive to embody even after I leave here.

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After the burial, we made our way back down the hill and by this time Justin had enough and was ready to sleep. He did tell me that everyone now was gathering to “wash hands” which literally meant a washing of hands to symbolize the ending of the burial process. Then there was to be sharing of drink and words from members of the community. My friend and Justin’s sister-in law, Celine, was there as well as one of the leaders from the Pygmy tribe that we were to deliver mattresses to today but will instead see tomorrow. He remembered me and was happy to hear I was staying in the country.

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It was a gift to be a part of this community today and I was there as a representation for  “Goats for Life” and “World Dance For Humanity”, this was a token of my appreciation for the work they do and how it has impacted the lives of the people in this country as well as my own. I was an honor to be of service.

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Contagious Confidence

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Confidence is the word for today as I stepped into the role, once again, as driver. This morning Justin handed me the keys and said “I will pay you….”, which was his way of asking me to be the driver for the day! I laughed and said ” You really want me to drive?” He nodded and said it would help him get work done on the way to the Fish Farm co-operative, the same one World Dancers visited during their trip. I had a tiny moment of doubt and then remembered that I am a great driver. I have a father who was a driving instructor for the government and he made sure I knew how to handle a vehicle, which meant he took me to the arena parking lot on a cold winter night and taught me how to pull the e-brake, go into a spin and steer my way out of it – so much fun! I also grew up driving quads, Ski-doo’s, dirt bikes and spent lots of time on the farm and in the bush so these roads were bad, but nothing I couldn’t handle and I was driving a stick shift!

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(Meet “Inga Ja”, she was a stick shift, my dream car and I swore I would never sell her – things change!)

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(My dad finally warmed up to Inga while I lived at the Ashram and he got to drive her around town!)

I watched as I relaxed into the role and remembered how much I love driving. I have always loved driving and especially love old cars, of which I used to own 2! I sold both of them as part of my healing journey and have been learning a lot about how much I used them as a source of freedom in my life as well as a security net. I have now learned to embrace the world in a new way by relying on others for transportation, public transport, hitch hiking,  walking, biking and taking the bus or flying to my destinations, and most recently taking Moto’s! What this has done is opened me up to trust, community, new people, a new slower pace of life with more of a “do I really need to go and do I really want to go” approach. It also helps me practice using my newly forming boundaries, meaning I need to speak up if I want to go home or get myself home in some way that feels safe to me. It also makes seemingly easy things much more of a challenge, like buying groceries. While living in California last fall I bought a pink beach cruiser with a basket just for the sheer joy of owning one even though Santa Barbara is mostly hills and this baby only had one gear! It was such a challenge to get around and yet I loved (almost) every second of it! I love being outside and being on a bike allows me to feel the freedom that a car does, I get exercise and I love to feel the wind or rain on my skin as I do my daily tasks. I am in love with the simplicity of my life at this point.

The fact that Justin just trusts that, not only I can drive a standard vehicle, but I am capable of driving in a different country and on these kinds of “roads” was such a confidence booster for me. He sees me as capable of so many things and doesn’t even bother to ask if I want to do it just asks me to do it, which I love. It is very different than my world of trying to prove that I can do things and being told I can’t, especially when it came to me being a girl as the reason why I couldn’t do it or the classic and most frustrating response of all “Because I said so!” I spent a good deal of my life trying to prove I could do things just like “the boys” because I thought I had to be like them in order to be loved. It took me a very long time to begin to acknowledge myself as a girl and I am still working with accepting that I am a woman. Something about it felt weak or like a bad thing, so I didn’t want to be it and I tried to hide a lot of the things that I really was drawn to doing because I was afraid I would be made fun of (which I was) and that I would be somehow letting my family down. I know this is not the case and I have really begun to feel my feminine strength coming forth in a much stronger way since being at the Ashram and the choices I have made since then fall more in line with my softer, more vulnerable side which is a wonderful and at times a scary place to live from.

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(At 27 years old, I decided to start exploring the art of Bellydance as a way of embracing femininity. This was a huge step for me and lead to one of the best years of my life! This was my first Tribal Fusion performance.)

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(Me at Healing Waters Spa in Santa Barbara, CA learning the Art of Water Release Therapy which is my most vulnerable expression of myself to date. It is truly my hearts work.)

Justin also had me taking photos for him to use in his business plan for the Farmers. This too was just a given, of course I can take pictures and shoot a video of him doing an interview, there was no doubt in his mind and so there was no doubt in my mind. This extreme sense of not being good enough has really been a barrier to me being happy and to me doing what I want in life. As a nurse, I was subjected to the very common and well known behavior of “eating their young”, which is in reference to older nurses treating the students, new grads and new hires like… well, like crap. It is well known and even accepted that this takes place and it really took its toll on me, it was a big part of the reason for my first sick leave from my job in 2009. This constant criticism, belittling and mean spirited nit picking took me from being the type of person that could walk tall and show up everyday with a smile to a sunken, slumped shouldered, cowering, emotional mess with a major lack of confidence and a lot of pent up anger. In this world, I always felt as though I was a fraud, a phony, and that someday I would be “found out” for not being a good nurse, a smart nurse or even a nurse at all. I even worried I would go to jail for making a mistake. This extra bit of emotional abuse on top of what was already unraveling in my life was enough to push me towards seriously considering suicide.

 

 

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(Me at 110lbs, doing whatever I could to keep my life from falling apart – I’m so glad it finally did!)

I saw today how important it is to surround myself with people who see me as a strong, capable human being and that hold me to being exactly that. I first found this at the Ashram and I am finding it here as well. I have discovered a love of writing in the last 3 years and today I felt as though a big piece of my mind was just blown open to make room for more potential in that area. I had images of me doing documentary films and really using my voice to make change in the world. Being on this trip with Justin  watching him work, seeing what his days look like and how he is making what he feels important in life his mission  is inspiring to say the least. He is supported in doing so by “Goats for Life” and “World Dance for Humanity”, which must have seemed like miracle from God for him when they arrived with money to help him do it all! I am grateful to both of these organizations for all that they do for Justin and unknowingly for me as well.

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As my mentor and teacher at the Ashram said to me before I left for Africa, I am doing things in my life now that help me find out who I am. It is up to me to give myself the experiences that I need in order to heal and to reach my potential, and they can be as simple as driving and taking photos (in Africa!). As I ran up and down the hillsides taking photos, surrounded by lush green Jungle and looking out at the magnificent view in front of me I felt ALIVE, engaged and so ready to do more. This is a big sign for me that more healing has taken place as I feel ready to move into the next phase. I am preparing to move into my own place and begin to put myself out into the world in a new way, a way that feels like my Love is in Action.

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As we listened to “Africa” by Toto for the 3rd time in a row, me driving and Justing singing, it occurred to me that I have only known Justin (in person) for less than 2  months and it feels like and has always felt like, we have been friends for a very long time. I equate this to my own openness towards people in general but I think I have met my match in terms of it being returned to me with the same level of sincerity. He treats me with the kind of respect I have been longing for in my life, especially from a male friend. To know that he and his beautiful family are a part of my life fills me with Love, Joy and happiness. The reasons why I am in Africa keep on showing  for me and my commitment is to keep on showing up for them!

Thank you Justin! Thank you Rwanda!

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Going to the Chapel

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In keeping with living in the present moment I will go against my urge to post things I have been processing for a few days now and just write about today, which was an amazing day! I have joined Justin on his trip to Cyangugu to purchase and deliver the promised mattresses to the Pygmy tribe that World Dance supports and that we visited together on our trip earlier in June. As a side note to that, Justin says to me “oh and I have been invited to a wedding on Saturday so you need a dress!” Well, it is never as simple as Justin makes it out to be and this wedding ended up starting at 6 am this morning and he is still going strong, I decided to call it a day after 14 hours of wedding!

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It started with picking up the Groom and his men to take them 2 hours away to the home of the bride’s parents to present the Dowry. This was such an amazing event to witness, the whole thing kind of ancient and tribal but very much western in the clothing and drinking of Fanta! They love Fanta here! It was like watching a play. They acted out the scenes and played the roles, pretending to question the groom’s spokesman about why he was there and why he had gifts for the family. They brought out a few different woman for him to choose from when he said he was there for a wedding, this brought on a few chuckels from the crowd as the first girl was about 7 years old!

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Then the brothers or protectors of the Bride came out with spears to guard her from the men that wanted to try and trick them into letting her go to the wrong man. When the groom approached and gave the right response to their inquisitions he was welcomed and they were engaged to be married, a ring was placed on her middle finger. It was so wonderful to witness tradition like this actually taking place, and being respected and honored.

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Let me back up for this next part, it started last night with a meeting to discuss details. Justin said he was just a guest, then by the time we left he was the best man and a guest of honor to a man whom he doesn’t really know all that well! Turns out Justin is a person who people want others to know that they know. He has a great reputation of being a man of his word and capable of great things, this I see to be very true. So after the meeting, we are presented, as usual when you visit someone’s home, with a meal! This meal looked familiar at first and then I took a second look because it appeared as though someone had left their ear in the stew! Turns out I was almost right! I asked Justing what it was and he said with a totally straight face – “Oh, it’s intestines, heart, stomach….” WHAT!!  Man was I glad I had practice with the Sheep Brains earlier in the week!

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I took a few potatoes and tried one small piece of ear..errr I mean intestine. It wasn’t bad, just gross. It smelled like cow, like fresh cow. It was grainy and very rubbery! I politely turned down a second helping and thought to myself, ok that’s done, I tried it and I didn’t like it!  Then today after the dowry ceremony I pointed to a stew like substance and asked Justin what it was and he said “oh, its banana’s.” I think he’s bananas sometimes because it was full of intestines too!! I am not sure if my own intestines were meant to digest this much intestine! It was sneaky this time, cut into small pieces – I am on the look out now for anything resembling an organ. I have been there, done that – check!  All the local village children hanging through the tent walls asking for food was difficult to manage as I ate right in front of them with 100 other people. They ran in and grabbed any scrap left on a plate, any bit of liquid available like animals hunched over, guarding their meal. That is the reality of this place and it makes it a challenge at times to feel worthy of all that I am given not only here but in life. Here I am turning up my nose at food and these children are ravaging other peoples left over intestines – good reminder of Gratitude!

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After the Dowry was given, which was a cow and a few offerings of Fanta, it was time for the Bride and Groom to head to the church. Turns out Justin had more roles to play and his car was decorated, he was dressed up and was the chauffeur for the newly engaged couple. He was clearly not happy about what was being asked of him today and yet because of strong cultural influences he gave himself completely over to what was being asked. I often thought I was missing out on something by not being from a strong cultural background with traditions, etc but I am seeing more and more how it seems to keep people from doing what they feel is right or what they need to do for themselves. An example is that when you go to someone’s home you take a beverage of some kind and it is not ok to say “No Thank you!” It usually means someone leans over and tells me to just take a Fanta, which is exactly what I don’t want to put into my body. It helps me be strong in sticking to what I need for myself to feel well and I do say “No thank you” or ask for water. I am willing to bend but not if it makes me sacrifice my health. So maybe part of my Karma is that I have no strong cultural background to work against in terms of speaking up for what is right for me, I am lucky to have the freedom to choose in my life, even if its as simple as saying “No thank you” to a bottle of soda pop. At the same time I appreciate very much the culture and see the importance of it being carried on.

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The Church was rockin’ as we went in with singing and dancing and to my surprise there was another bride and groom, yup, two couples getting married at the same time!  It was a joyful time full of song, preaching and lots of noises from the crowd. In this area, when one wants to express happiness they make a “zagareet” sound with their mouths. Its like a really fast “lalalalalalalalal” or a light, high pitched “eeeeeeeeee” can be used as well. It took us off guard when the Pygmy’s did it during out visit with World Dance but I see now it is very common here and I enjoy participating in this tradition!

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Next, photos at the Hot Springs!  World Dancers will remember this place, it is beautiful – but don’t go in the water! I was invited into the wedding photos with big smiles and warm hugs by everyone. Then the tables turned, I have been used to taking peoples photos and think nothing of it really, but when I became the centre of attention for the guests to have their photos taken with it felt ….well actually it felt ok. I feel like a celebrity a lot of the time here the way people look at me, smile at me, touch me, talk to me and want to marry me so this was just another way that I could surrender to the reality that I am a highly sought after photo op where ever I go! I get to just surrender to the fact that I am different and exciting for people to see. It really is a great practice for my ego to just smile and then walk away without any attachment to the photo and to the great desire people have to be seen with me. The rest of the time I was taking photos and playing with some children. I plan to give all my photos to the new couple as a gift for their generosity and warm welcome into their special day.

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(Theo and his new Wife!)

So off we go again for another 2 hour drive back to the hotel where the reception will be held, this time I get to drive! Now for those of you who have been here you know that driving here can be equated to a bowl of spaghetti, it is all over the place yet somehow manages to flow smoothly. I felt very confident and because I was carrying the precious cargo of the Bride and Groom it was an honor to be the one behind the wheel. Part of me knew it was sort of planned that the wedding party be driven by the Muzungo, which I was fine with. We arrived for the reception and I was again escorted in and given priority seating and a head start on the meal line up. This part was very similar to a western wedding complete with cake cutting, feeding each other, head tables, etc. Everyone drank Fanta after Fanta, ate foodand then it was time to go. The couple was given gifts before they left the building and were danced outside by my friend Celine and her best friend which led to more dancing in the parking lot with all of the children that again made their way into the building for scraps of leftovers.

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I was thankful that Justin at this point knew I would prefer to go back to the hotel and he dropped me off with an uncertainty of his estimated time of return. He went from being just a guest at wedding to being almost as important that day as the Groom – very interesting to watch it unfold and so he had duties to uphold tonight! I am sure I will hear about it tomorrow!

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