So the world was watching recently, and so was I, when south Sudan became an indpendent country. There was a ceremony and a party, flag raising… but just like many of you back home I watched it all on television. Even though part of the story, Khartoum feels remote from what is happening around it. It always feels like there is a bubble surrounding this city, which makes it literally the safest city in the world but also seperates it from much that happens. So much so that often I feel seperated too…

So, life continues in Khartoum like normal since the seperation of north/south except that the tone and energy has slightly shifted. Maybe it’s the intense heat of summer or maybe it’s that so many people are waiting to see what the seperation means for their personal lives, but the north feels different…. a little sad. I think most in the north feel like they are losing something in the seperation, almost like your wife moves out of the house only to move next door. Well, maybe not that emotional or dramatic, life in the north is very reserved, but there is a definite sense of loss and uncertainty.

Maybe I am naive, but I really feel like the remaining issues will all get sorted out and that things will begin to return to normal. Maybe it will take another six months, but I really feel it will get there. Of course, that is just my personal opinion and I am known for always hoping for the best. For Sudan, both North and South, the best is yet to come! Insh’allah!!

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A Wedding and a Fat Little Baby

So, it’s no big secret my dear readers that I’ve been a little blue this past week. I knew I was going to be able to manage my sadness, but sometimes when it is just beginning you don’t know how it is going to happen, what will be the turning point. It may seem bigger than you… It’s also no secret that I love children. When a child takes my hand or voluntarily sits in my lap, my heart melts. I know that I am meant to in some way be surrounded by children my entire life. So that two children center in these stories is really no surprise.

For me this week the turning point came in two stages. 1. I went to my very first Sudanese wedding, which is actually very similar to American weddings. White dresses, flowers, good food, and dancing are key to a good wedding here. It was a LOT of fun to dance with all of my colleagues and to get dressed up. One of my colleagues brought her 5-year-old son to the wedding. His name is Basil and he is simply adorable, bright smile, mischievous eyes, and he absolutely adores me. So, when we saw each other at the wedding he came running into my arms, jumped up and started giving me a thousand little pecks on the cheek. Wrapping his legs around my waist, he insisted I carry him around like “a baby” the majority of the night. When I wasn’t holding him or dancing, he was holding my hand as we walked around the event. A child’s unconditional love… priceless and one of life’s pure treasures. 2. The next night there was a reception at the embassy and tons of people were there. It was a great opportunity to mingle and so the females tended to mingle with each other first, than branching out. A little group of us was together chatting when all of a sudden the husband of one of the girls came up, plopped a big fat super cute asian baby in her arms, and pretty much walked away. I could tell she was peeved and I know from experience with my sister that sometimes all you want is for someone else to hold that baby. So, that is what I offered… we stood there talking, just the girls, and me holding this big baby. He was simply adorable. Huge dimples and how do you suppose I found out about those dimples? He was getting fussy and I looked down at him saying in my best baby talk voice “what are you doing being all fussy? no, no I don’t think so… we want a happy baby.” Somehow, he thought this was the most hilarious thing in the world and started laughing hysterically with those dimples showing on each cheek. Picking up on this obvious cue, I kep saying “No, we want a happy baby” and he would laugh all over again. It was the easiest and most wonderful thing to be the object of this baby’s pure enjoyment.

So, it was little baby laughter and little boy kisses that turned the tide for me. When you are blue, what makes the difference? What is your turning point?

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Happy 4th of July!!

Hello faithful readers… at some point later today you will wave your flag at a parade, crank up the bbq, pop open a beer, and watch some fireworks. I’m totally there with you, at least in spirit. When you are posted overseas the 4th of course isn’t the same and when you aren’t in a Western country, it’s non-existant. Well,  except for my Facebook photo now changed to a patriotic American flag and the greetings I gave one fellow American this morning- who had forgotten it was Independence Day.

So, for all of you out there making a party happen, think of me, toast to our country, and then by all means, have a drink for me too. 🙂


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Live Blogging Zanzibar Day 4

Okay so this was the day I was waiting for… Open water dives. We went by boat early in the morning to Memba Atolls, a very small island surrounded by coral and teaming with wildlife. This time, since it was a 2 hour boat ride one way, I took some seasickness meds and they definitely did the trick. I enjoyed every single minute of the ride there and once we were kitting up, I really didn’t feel the panic of yesterday. Well, not until I actually had to take my mask off again. I did it though, flooded it with water like 5 times, and cleared it. On top of that success, I saw so much underwater wild life. Star fish, turtles, and literally swam with a school of fish that are the same as Dora in “Finding Nemo.” That was perfect because you know I speak whale…. 😉

Then came the second dive, more mask skills, but then we really just swam around. This time it was a little more of a work out. Still so beautiful but we had to swim against the current. Let me tell you, that is some tough stuff. We still did skills tests like emergency ascents and what not, but it was so beautiful. Then gorgeous calm seas greeted us on the way home. Two hours skimming across the turqoise green Indian Ocean to come back home…. it was a perfect way to spend my birthday.

Now, I am treating myself to sushi, a little drinky poo, and a dessert of some sort. I am totally knackered but so happy. Tomorrow is one last short dive and skills session to make up for the one I cut short. Then I am a PADI certified Open Water Diver (with a hell of a sunuburn! LOL)

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Live Blogging Zanzibar Day 3

So, today was not a great day. It wasn’t because of the ocean, any rain, or anything like that. Today was the day that Lara’s issues came to the surface along with the bubbles. Everything seemed to be going fine except some minor tummy upset overnight. I ate very lightly in the morning and was ready to get on the boat. In conversation with a couple of the dive shop guys, I found out that it was a little choppy out on the water so I took a seasickness pill to prevent any issues. Well, it definitely did not work… the lessons on the boat were hard to follow because all I wanted to do was puke. Knowing that it would all end once I could jump in the water was motivation though. So, I stuck with it for the first dive. That dive was amazing. All my sickness floated away and I swam peacefully with schools of fish. I saw a sea anemone with a little Nemo family of clown fish living in it. Really it was so beautiful and relaxing.

Then at the surface came time for some physical tests. I had to float for 10 minutes (no problem, I like resting!) pull on and off our gear in the water, and complete a 200 meter swim from the boat to a buoy and back to the boat. Well, I completed all those tests with flying colors, but now it was time to get back in the boat. The seasickness immediately returned and we were informed that all the horrible tests (without the mask) we already aced, we had to do again and the next dive site. There were new tests too, but all my mind could think of was that I was at a deeper area, flooding my mask again with water. Mask, mask, mask, puke, mask, mask, mask, puke…. that was the thought in my mind. Over and over again.

Well, I was trying to deal with myself and get under control by the time we got to the next site. We kitted up, rolled backwards off the boat, and down we went except this time something was wrong. This time my chest was tight and as we descended there was a pain every time I would breathe in. I hung in there for a little bit while my buddy started his skills test, but at the time I didn’t know what this was. Plus, I was just taught that if something is wrong just go up. So, I signalled our instructor and cut the dive short.

On the boat we talked about how I used to have asthma, how much I’ve been working my lungs and all that day on the physical tests, and a little about anxiety. I’ve now postponed this skills test, slept a couple of hours, and folks I can tell you I’m pretty sure I had an anxiety attack under the water. What the hell, right?!?!? The regular diving is so peaceful and lovely, but I have to go through all these tests to make sure I am safe/know what I am doing. I can’t believe I am letting myself get all worked up over silly little tests, but then again I have always done this over examinations. The SATs, language tests, math tests… I always get anxious and it affects my ability to manage my emotions. The SAT, however, isn’t 10 meters below the surface and requiring me to take off my mask. Ugggh!!!!

That being said, I am regrouping tonight and re-evaluating the situation in the morning. So far I am 100% good for the dives tomorrow. I think they will be really relaxed and fun, so little anxiety over them. I’m rescheduling the skills tests I missed today probably for Wednesday. So, I will more than likely stay here through the day on Wednesday and check out Wednesday night to go to Stone Town. I will then have a celebratory cocktail, not only for completing my course but for also conquering myself. Which I seemingly have to do, again and again.

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Live Blogging Zanzibar Day 2

Wow, what a day! My head aches, my back aches, and I am ready for sleep… it’s not even 7 pm yet. It’s all because today was my first day actually diving. I actually BREATHED under water. It was amazing…

 It started off with a quick breakfast of mostly fresh passion fruit juice and then straight to the dive center. I took my final exam, only missing 4, and then it was off to suit up. Wet suit, fins, mask, snorkel, BCD, all the gear, and tank… for someone my size it weighs a ton. Plus, we had to walk to the ocean with all of it on. I know I looked a sight, but my instructor Olly says divers must walk with confidence and so I tried to strut the way he was showing me. I only managed a slow waddle, but maybe that will improve in time, lol.

 Then there were lots of tests… tests that included some pretty scary but very necessary things to experience. I learned what it feels like to loose my air, what it feels like to lose my mask, how to swim without my mask on but my regulator still in, and all the basic emergency procedures. The “no mask” tests really scare the crap out of me, but I learned how to deal with my panic. I haven’t conquered it yet, but Olly says I am ahead of the game. It only gets better with time and more experience. So, that is a comforting thought. Along with the fact that I probably don’t have to do another 15 meter mask free swim… talk about torture!  J/k

I have learned so much… about the ocean, the equipment, how to be safe and how to be healthy. I saw little tiny white jelly fish today, but not too much so close to the shore. I hope tomorrow will begin to show me the wonders underneath the ocean. 🙂

 All in all, I had such a fantastic day. Tomorrow is my first open water dive. I go out to the boat at 9:15, get kitted up, and head out to the open water.  I am so excited… as I sit here at the café, watching the sun go down I can’t help but wish I could share this experience with you. It’s really so fantastic.

 Okay, I am off to eat sushi and to crash hard tonight. Be well everyone!


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Live Blogging from Zanzibar- Day 1

Wow, what a great first day inZanzibar. The first night was a little rough, as I am getting used to the “stripped down” vibe of the resort I am staying in, as well as the party oriented atmosphere (which causes a LOT of noise late into the night- thank goodness for my Ipod!) Today, though, is just what the doctor ordered… everyone that works here is very nice and friendly. I think they are just realizing I am traveling on my own so now I am very popular. Also, the manager of the restaurant here is a guy about my age from southernCalifornia. He has taken it upon himself to keep me informed of all the latest parties which one of the largest while I am here is happening tonight. Ya’ll know me though; I’ll be in bed by 9 pm. 🙂

 Accommodation- I am staying in a tiny little hut with a thatched roof. There is a big double bed with a thankfully gigantic mosquito net surrounding it. I have a full bathroom with shower and everything is open air, although it does have an a/c which I figure I will use at night. It seems it is rainy season here and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it rain twice today from my front porch with a little hammock. Living inKhartoum, I haven’t realized how I long for the familiar green tropical plants and afternoon rains I became ingrained with living inFlorida. The desert has its own beauty but tropical environments make my soul sigh. The accommodation is more than basic and after I get my certification I am thinking of moving intoStoneTown. I’m a little too far out to spend more than 4 of 5 days here. It’s good for now…

 Food- well, the food is pretty great. Breakfast isn’t such a good meal but every other meal is just fantastic. The fresh seafood I keep ordering means the local rat catching cat is my best friend. The little black and white kitty meows at me, staring his big green eyes into mine… well, let’s just say today at lunch he got more fish than I did. I even de-boned the thing for him!  Well, it is worth it in my opinion to have this little wild cat, sitting at my feet, purring contentedly.

 Of course the real reason I am here is my diving certification. I’ve spent a LOT of time today watching diving informational and safety videos. I’m about to take some quizzes and one big examination on the videos. It’s a great deal to remember, but it gets me to some fun stuff tomorrow. Tomorrow, I finally get in the water, get some gear, and have some diving fun. I’m, of course, a bit anal and the American/European guys in charge of the diving are making fun of my diligence with studying the book. They keep insisting the answers are in the video and the test is just the questions I am filling in are from the video. I’m too much of a “book worm” even here it seems. I am taking it seriously though, which I think we will all appreciate down the line. The course starts today with the videos and testing. Then it goes through the 14th with various shallow water and open water dives. On the 14th, my birthday I dive one last and proper time, receiving my certification. I hope to use it to divePort Sudan on the Red Sea andFiji. That would be fantastic. I took the 4 quizzes, back to back, and aced them. I have the big written test tomorrow and the beginning of the dive work. I’m excited…

Now, I’m sitting outside with this laptop watching the sun set on theIndian Ocean. Everyone is bustling around me, getting ready for the big party. I am ordering a margarita to drink, contemplating what to have for dinner, and getting sleepy already. I knew I’d be old tonight and go to bed early. That’s just how I roll… 🙂

 Well, I am off for now… Namaste everyone, blog at you tomorrow.

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