My annual birthday blog, where I look back on the year and think over all I've done, the small goals I've accomplished and all I still dream of doing!
This year was a surprise for me. All my intentions were aimed at staying at my same job, getting grounded in Toronto and studying art therapy in Barcelona, Spain.
And all my little plans were upheaved in the best of ways. I never made it to Spain (or Catalonia, depending on your view of Barcelona's history). As readers already know; I've been living in Tanzania for the past 5 months. What readers may not know is that instead of studying art therapy, God surprised me by giving me the opportunity to open an art gallery in Zanzibar- my favorite place on earth.
Not what I expected, but so, so much better. So here is to my year of 27, I'll start with Tanzania:
27 Things from last year
1. Started a business in Zanzibar. Yes. I know it sounds crazy. I felt like God told me to do it, so I did. I have a business partner, and together we own an art gallery. Guess that means I'll be coming back soon!
I guess I can say I crossed 'visit Zanzibar again' off my list.*
2. Am doing an internship with an NGO for children's rights in Arusha. I have learned so much about NGOs, about work in developing countries, monitoring and evaluation.
3. Visited Ngorngoro Crater; rhinos, elephants, zebras, wildebeests, lions and hippos.
4. Got another tattoo*
This tattoo had the least amount of thought put into it than all my other tattoos. It is a beam of light, because “Ellen” means light. I often pray that God will make me a light in dark places (especially prisons or the inner-city), and then one day I learned that my name actually MEANS light, which was so encouraging. Now I have a permanent reminder to be a light everywhere.
5. Drank hibiscus juice, I love it!
6. Hiked to the Arusha waterfall.
7. Learned how to make pilauw (a rice dish flavored with cinnamon, cardamon, cumin and garlic)
8. Learned how to make grate a coconut, it's quite a workout, even with a special razor attached to a stool so you can sit while you grate.
9. Improved my knowledge of the Swahili language immensely.
Back in Toronto
10. Started volunteering at my church in Canada, helping watch kids while their parents sit in the service. I love children, and I really respect my church in Toronto because of the practical programs they have for the community, and the church community. And to think, the first time I went I thought it was too big and didn't want to continue attending!
11. Around May I started biking. I finally got over my hesitation and went for it. Guess what? I LOVE biking as transportation! A great way to get exercise, too.*
12. Visited Niagra Falls/Horseshoe Falls. Did you know there are like 3 different waterfalls in that area? I always thought it was just one because Horseshoe Falls are the most photographed. I went, I saw, I took pictures. Then I had pizza and went back to Toronto.*
13. Quit my only job. It didn't make sense to quit, I had only one job, part-time, with flexible hours and the freedom to take weeks off at a time and it was in my professional field. There was no 'sensible' reason to quit. But I felt like I was supposed to, so I did.
14. Got a job in Restorative Justice. Just after I quit my other job, God opened an awesome (even if incredibly short) opportunity to work out of a court house doing restorative justice and direct accountability. I really enjoyed this experience, the only draw back was that it was too short! I got to work out of two different court houses and learn Canadian court proceedings, even figured out how to address a Justice of the Peace (while you're supposed to say 'your worship', I did not feel comfortable staying that, so I said “your war ship”).
And I also went to Uganda
15. The shortness of that job opened the opportunity for me to go to Uganda. The second time this year. I got to see my favorite small person, spend lots of time reading and giggling and cuddling with him.
16. While in Uganda I also had the opportunity to volunteer with YWAM Arua. I helped with the kids program, did a little administrative work to help them with raising support and hospital visitation. If you've followed my blog, you already know that the hospital visitation was the most impacting for me. I saw what hospice ministry is, and that the greatest gift you can offer another person is your presence.
17. Saw the inside of a Ugandan prison. On the one hand, there was electricity and a television set. On the other hand, inmates were served only beans and porridge for all meals unless they could somehow buy fruits and vegetables. Stealing a cell phone could land you in prison for two years or more, but assaulting someone in your family wasn't something to even bother the police about.
18. Got typhoid. Twice. Avoid it, it is not fun. Especially in rural Uganda. I've seen hospitals in Tanzania, Thailand, and Ethiopia and I would prefer anywhere but Uganda.
19. With the help of friends we raised over $2000 for Charity Water. After I got typhoid I started to learn about water-related diseases. I learned that dirty water causes more deaths than all forms of violence, more than HIV and more than malnutrition. Doing a fundraiser made my birthday so special, and people from all over sent me their love in a tangible way, along with encouraging messages. I felt so blessed.
20. I was much better this year about not wasting food.*
21. Thankful *
This wasn't so much about effort, but about being aware. To take a moment and consider the good, to include thanks in all of my prayers and to make sure I stated what I was thankful for each night before I slept. Being thankful is part of being happy. And the opposite of thankful is envious, greedy and coveting – so be thankful!
22. I DID apply for Canadian Citizenship. There was an error with one document, so I must reapply. Do I get a star for this? No. I will wait.
23. Visited my family in Pennsylvania. I didn't go for the most pleasant of reasons; my grandfather was very sick. But being with family at that time, getting to know my cousins who I had never met before was wonderful.
It seems this year has a reoccurring theme of good does not mean easy or fun. I had the blessing of being with my grandfather when he died, such a hard and painful moment; but so good. Because I saw with my own eyes the peace that enveloped him as he crossed into eternity. I don't actively doubt, but I have never been so sure of the hope of Jesus as in that hospital room. It is what life is all about. Good is so much better and deeper than momentary pleasure.
24. Became an aunt again! I have another niece and nephew; Zoe and Tyler.
25. Started to "do" something with my writing. I submitted a devotion which was accepted and will be shared tomorrow. Not paid, but there are other contests and ways I've been actively submitting my writing, so this is encouraging. It's after my birthday, but I submitted it before, so I count this one as done.*
26. I danced. A lot. With the girls I volunteer with in Arusha, or Thursday nights at a club where I know people every time I turn around, with my old roommate in the kitchen, on the weekends in Toronto with friends. I attended a salsa social, went to dance-themed parties, or crashed Brazilian world cup celebrations. This year was full of wiggling and shaking to beats. I don't now about singing in heaven, but I know there will be dancing.
27. I really was so happy this year. Not because I skipped winter, not because I was in Tanzania. I was just happy. I think making a point to be thankful, shifting my focus off of my job and career and instead towards faithfulness and obedience to God. I have never been so blissfully content.*
28 Things for next year