Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's official....

Today, my sister Annie spent her first day in Rwanda as an official Peace Corps Volunteer. She was inducted in a ceremony yesterday in Kigali, and now she is off to her post for the next two years. She made it through nearly three months of culture shock, intensive language training, mock-teaching in "model school," learning to cook over an open fire, and bugs (but thankfully, not to many bugs). Three months of missing home, being strong, meeting amazing new people, and living the adventure of a lifetime....

Now she'll be teaching biology to the U.S. equivalent of 8th & 9th graders. And she'll be AMAZING!!!

I couldn't be any more proud of her.

So, Annie was all I could think of when this prompt came in from Picture Winter today:

We all have rituals and routines. Our daily life is full of them! And for as much as we use certain items each day with little variation on the routine, we often overlook (and take for granted) the staples of our everyday lives. How about really paying attention to what we use, eat, look at every single day, without fail and give it the recognition and appreciation it deserves.

I take so many things for granted everyday. I'm sure Annie did too when she was here. But now, she'll be doing without for the next two years. It isn't necessarily "less." Just different. (that's my mantra while Annie is gone - not less, just different...)

For example, Annie's breakfast will NOT consist of Lucky Charms, or any other sort of "open the box and eat" meal. Instead, she's going to have to work for it. Every meal. Every day. But there is certainly something lovely about simple food. Fresh whole food. Life without the constant distraction of "fast food."

I think we need a little more of that around here! Ummmm, obviously....


My guess is that Annie is not going to be surrounded by a lot of personal clutter and junk. She'll be living out of her backpack. Just the basics. If she can't carry it, it's gotta go.

Not really the case at our house. Especially just after Christmas. We've got lots of stuff. Too much, really. Yesterday, Anna was playing with these toys in her dollhouse. Not sure where they came from. If I'd have to guess, sadly I have a feeling most of these arrived with nuggets and fries....

For better or worse, we take the snow for granted here in Minnesota. We better be ready for 20 below at some point over the winter, whether we like it or not. But obviously, no snow in Africa. Just balmy, lovely 78 degrees and sunny. Year-round. Too bad Annie....

Here, turn on the tap and you've got water. Hot or cold. Clean and safe.

Not for Annie. She'll have to carry her own water, and then heat it outside over a fire.

It certainly makes me think twice when I relax at night in the bath... Okay, I can't remember the last time I took a bath. BUT, I could take a bath if I wanted to. I could!

I do think of Annie though, when I turn on the faucet for a drink or when I wash dishes. But a sink-full of dirty dishes just didn't make for a very pretty picture....

So, I admit that I don't give much daily thought to the great privilege of having a car. Of going where I want, when I want. For Annie - no car. In fact, even riding in a car is grounds for being shipped back home. The Peace Corps doesn't want that liability.

But, the Peace Corps did give Annie a nifty bicycle and helmet for the duration of her stay. There are certainly MANY benefits to that mode of transportation. No insurance. No gas. No untimely breakdowns. Plus great calf muscles!

I totally take mail service for granted. God forbid something arrives a day late. And email. Don't get me started...if the email doesn't arrive instantaneously. Oh my.

Unfortunately, postal mail pretty much sucks in Rwanda. I mailed an envelope to Annie in late November, and it still hasn't gotten to her yet. It may never get to her. But the great thing is that Annie does have a modem and we email her and Facebook and Skype and instant message. Amazing!!

Bottom line....I take lots of things for granted. All the time. And I could name countless more things. Especially the big stuff - - our health, a roof over our head, jobs, clean air, family near and far....on and on. We live with great privilege.

But the reality is so will Annie in Rwanda. The life Annie will lead over these next years will have a different rhythm. A beautiful simplicity. I'm sure things will be difficult for her at times. But surely it will give her great gifts. It will be the adventure of a lifetime.

Annie, know that we think of you every time we turn on the faucet and mail a letter and eat cereal. We yell "good night Aunt Annie" really loud every evening before bed. Just to make sure you'll hear. We'll be grateful and appreciate all we have. But beyond the things, of course, we'll appreciate the love more than anything!

We're always sending LOTS and LOTS of love your way. Everyday.

We miss you!!


A few more pictures from this morning....

As I've mentioned before, Anna insists on dressing herself, and she has a style all her own. It is her morning ritual. Her routine. And there is no way to take that deliberate and often time-consuming process for granted....

Each morning, she carefully lays out every piece of clothing on the floor and then tells the story of which item goes on first and which goes next and next. Piece by piece.

And then, when she's finished, Anna usually does a twirl or two. Just to see how those clothes are going to move when she dances her way through the day.

When I actually catch myself. When I stop my morning chaotic rush to get out the door, and just watch, it is such a joy. She is lovely and stylish and oh-so-proud of herself.

She is growing up before my eyes.

And I don't take that for granted.


  1. Wow, how brave your sister is and what a wonderful life experience she will have. Best of luck to her!

    Love your everyday photos. I would love to be in that bath right about now.

    Becky Sue

  2. i loved that bath photo on picture winter and the rest are all so wonderful! i especially like the second lucky charms photo. that little stack is so simple and elegant and beautiful -- and it's a kid's cereal! i must also try and take more photos of my children from above. i love that it captures your perspective of them (while guarding their privacy) and gives a different feeling than shooting them head on.last, best wishes to your sister. my cousin did the same in the ivory coast and it was a life-changing experience for him. i hope it may be as rewarding and fulfilling for you sister. thanks for sharing! -- Mae (pmaelee on Picture Winter)

  3. What would I do without such love and support in my life, definitely not what I am doing! I love you all so dearly and think of you all the time. I cannot wait to come visit and eat cold cereal and wash your dishes!