2015 In Review

As usual, I started this blog 3 months ago when I first arrived in la Réunion, and here I am the day before New Years having not written another post. I hope to catch up, but let’s be honest it probably will not happen.

I did however want to take the time to write a bit summarizing my year because dang what a year it has been. I have a cousin in law who always includes a yearly update with their Christmas cards and I’ve always adored it.

Looking back comparing 2014 and 2015 my life could not be more different. 2014 included me returning to America after having studied abroad, taking the most hours and most challenging courses of my collegiate year (I saved the most difficult for last), getting a mysterious illness no one ever really figured out after Spring Break, graduating from University, taking an unintentional lazy gap year (partly due to lack of effort in looking, partly due to not knowing what I want to do, partly due to feeling like I wasn’t actually qualified for anything, partly due to what was most likely mild depression), painfully and regretfully losing some longterm friendships, and out of that making lovely new friends and adventures. In summary 2014 was a down year for me and I often felt like a complete failure.

2015 was such a whirlwind and life changing year. Starting the year in Disney and Universal should have been a foreshadow of a crazy year. My family ended 2014/ started 2015 with a vacation instead of a traditional Christmas, hilariously (read as: miserably) ending with everyone getting terribly ill and being confined in a car for 24 hours back to Kansas. Sadly in January my graduating class came together to mourn the loss of a wonderful person. Out of this disaster I realized life is short and there’s no time for petty fights, so I tried to apologize and mend friendships, which didn’t work in the end (I am still learning a lot about communication).

I had a nice birthday cosmic bowling with new and old friends in February. In March I got word that I was hired for my first real job! Excitement and utter fear and the need to rush a trip to the Grand Canyon with my dad before I started work. The trip was absolutely incredible as neither of us had ever been. We even hiked our lazy selves on a 3 hour mini hike after which we were utterly exhausted. Little did I know by the end of this year I would actually rather enjoy hiking.

I started my grocery store job and almost immediately I got word that I was hired for a summer archaeology gig- a literal dream that I never thought would happen! I stressed about giving my notice, stressed about moving to Oregon, but in the end I moved into a spacious basement (there was literally only one sketchy apartment available in the city and it was not safe. Luckily a gracious person also in the FS had room to house 3 20-something arch techs! thank youu!) My dad and I drove cross country again to southern Oregon and he stayed a week to help me and my new coworkers settle in. Saying goodbye in the airport was scary but the transition to this new venture, though at the start wayyy out of my comfort zone (10 hour days, but 3 day weekends!, and working outside??), ended up being pretty easy. The city was smaller than the population of my university, but it was beautiful and with my car we could pretty much do whatever we wanted. My roomie and coworker Karen and I even took a trip to Portland and Mt St Helens which was hilarious in that we learned that everything in the city is closed on the 4th of July and also we bought $70 worth of donuts! The job itself was fun and hilarious because of my great coworkers who became friends and also a constant learning experience for me. It was my first real job, which happened to consist of spending long days driving and in the forests. I found my role in reading off the daily news from Twitter on the drives ha! (and arguing with Moises about sports- just saying Kansas City is looking pretty great in the sports world right now :P). There were tough days and easy days- we referred to specific days like “the really hot day” (little did I know I would experience consistently hotter days here) and “the other really hot day” (that day we almost all ran out of water), but the most interesting and fun part of the job was spending the days laughing with my coworkers (my favorite quote is still “your butt hole took me out!” as Don lay fallen in the spot where Maggie had sat for lunch).

Also in summer two of my best friends Abbey and Danielle flew to San Fran to meet up! It was a busy, hectic, not planned out weekend, but I did learn I could drive myself 5+ hours. Also just being in their presence cheers me up, I am so thankful they made the trip out. The best part was definitely the winery tour! Nearing the end of my time in Oregon (I already had news that I got the job in Réunion and after a bit of deciding whether I should go or stay I had to get things together for the next move before I told my coworkers if it was definite) I took another trip to San Fran for a visa and ended up spending time with friends from study abroad- Hannah and Andy- who are currently living in that area which was a fantastic, spontaneous couple days!

After weeks of scary stress and Maggie somehow psychically knowing I was leaving before I said anything the morning I was going to give my notice, I prepared to move across the world- a much more difficult task. My parents flew out a week before I left to spend time with me and help me pack. I showed them a bit of the area and was grateful to escape my unwelcome roommates (the many mice, not the humans :P) for a hotel. Before we knew it I packed up my life for 7 months in a Super 8. Never having been on a tropical island plus having worn jeans and long sleeves to work for the 5 previous months, I packed way too many “warm” clothes and not enough clothes for extremely high heat and humidity and SWEAT!

The goodbyes in the Oregon airport were extremely difficult and it was hard not to ball my eyes out knowing that the distance and time difference would make it really difficult to stay in touch especially in the start. Also I had spilled Starbucks on myself twice that day (had to have one last PSL before journeying to the land of no iced/sugary/big coffee), was running on minimal sleep, and knew I’d be “traveling” for about a week before even arriving in Réunion. But off I went!

To Los Angeles! I had to get to a big city anyway so I decided to stop and visit my bestie Farrah for a couple days. It was a whirlwind, but we ended up hanging out at the Grove with Yolanda, Felicia Day, and the cast of Agents of SHIELD! This was during the dubsmash war, so fangirl hearts were running wild. If you ever want an adventure buddy, Farrah is the girl! It was a great time before I took off again-

to Stockholm! I hilariously thought buying a bunch of separate legs through norwegian and xl would cut costs, but coming home is looking to be killer expensive. Anyway I had around 8 hours in Stockholm and I walked around old town and the Vasa museum after spending the flight sitting next to the literal worst, most obnoxious travelers possible. Then off again-

to Paris! For 2 days, which was actually kind of a train wreck in that I ran around the airport for more than an hour looking for the supershuttle guy who ended up trying to drop me off at around midnight nowhere near my hotel. Then of course I got last minute notice that my shuttle back was canceled because it was actually no car day in Paris. Luckily I was only a few blocks from a train station. I did finally get to visit the catacombs however, so that was a plus. After arriving 6 hours early to the airport, standing in the wrong line for an hour, going through non-EU border control with 1 person working (2 hours?), traversing the entire airport to the farthest reaches I made it to my flight 30 minutes before boarding. Except there of course was a delay. We finally left and stopped to pick up more passengers in Marseille where the police ended up kicking some annoying dude off the plane 1 row away from me. Turns out about 4 assistants were on that same flight.

But finally I arrived in 3 layers of long sleeves, jeans, and my winter-ready work/hike boots to ultimate summer where I waited until last to get my bags and hoped I could wander the pick up area and the teacher who was picking me up had a sign (she did!). Things for the next couple weeks were a whirlwind of meeting new people, stumbling through my terrible french that I hadn’t used in over a year and a half, and feeling sad for myself that everything I attempted was a painstaking struggle. After a week it was already vacation part 1 here and we explored and relaxed and I sent a video home crying saying I wanted to come home. Things aren’t always great here, and I by no means had the most difficult venture (I at least knew I had a place to stay since before arrival. Some other assistants were homeless for over a month!). Things were tough and I still was reeling from the past trying to keep my mental health in check. A lot of change and stress and having different ideas about how things were supposed to be lead to breaking down, multiple times.

Things are comfortable here now. I still have days where I really miss home (like today- it’s raining and without a car it’s basically impossible to do anything. I really miss my car, the buses are ridiculous) and there are days I look up flights back home when I’m down or frustrated or sleep deprived. But for the most part it’s a grand adventure. No adventure is 100% good days and it’s easier to appreciate the highs when there are lows I suppose. I have been really figuring out who I am here and what I want out of life. This job includes a LOT of down time to fill, in which a lot of thinking and doubting and dreaming and self discovery and realizations happen. My students have taught me a lot and constantly inspire me. My friends here have taught me a lot and I am so grateful to have them here because they understand. I have so much to learn, but life is a struggle and an adventure and facebook doesn’t tell the whole story (especially since I rarely post photos at all). Even though I live in paradise, it’s still actually living and working here, and as much as others like to say it- it’s not actually a constant vacation (mostly thanks to not having a car and only knowing how to drive an automatic). A big thanks to my friends here on the island and my roommates for helping me out, keeping me sane, and hanging out with me even though I’m not the best company :]

I’ve been living in la Réunion for 3 months and it feels on one hand that I just arrived and on the other that I have been here forever. I really hope to update more about actual adventures thus far on the island, so here’s hoping to more time for writing because somehow with all the free time I have, blogging never actually happens. For a taste- I’ve gone hiking, visited cities around the island, saw an erupting volcano, witnessed many religious and cultural celebrations, laughed with friends, spends dayssss at the beach (helps that we live mere minutes from the best ones), snorkeled with dolphins and turtles, watched the postseason and World Series at around 4am start times, paraglided from the hills to the ocean, listened to a lot of Dear Hank and John podcasts on bus excursions, did I mention time on busses?, been crawling through lava tunnels, eaten new food I loved and hated, begged students to pay attention, had hilarious and deep conversations with students in their second or third language, argued with a lady at the bank over 10 times (I still can’t get online banking…), waited 2 months to be paid, hiked more, forgot my laundry in the one washing machine we have at the apartments, literally ran to see Star Wars, celebrated Christmas like 5 times, got lost in an unfamiliar city, and oh yeah sweated more than I thought was humanly possible.

In short summary, in 2015 I went from lazing around jobless and bored, to getting a first job, to moving across the country for an arch gig, to moving across the world for a teaching gig. I could almost literally not be further from where I started out the year. It’s not at all what I had envisioned, but oh am I thankful for the opportunities I have had. I don’t know where the future will take me (or even how I will get home from here), but I am off to Madagascar in a couple weeks with 5 friends, so here’s to many more adventures in 2016!

Sincere thanks to everyone who has been a part of my journey called life thus far ❤

(still don’t know how to work this thing- photos might be uploaded in like 5 months)