Year of Fire, Finesse, and Flights

It has been a while since I have posted! I have been up to some exciting things over the second half of the year. Hopefully, I will write up about them soon(er rather than later). However, it was really important to me to do an overview of this year for my own record keeping. Although 2017 had some rocky moments politically, it was a great year!

Accomplishments

  • Figured out how to sublease
  • Got a new large passport!
  • Got interested in real estate
  • Made my first investment (Betterment!)
  • Began graduate school studying and prep
  • Got a great new job!!! In the field that I want
    • Like literally a job doing what I want
  • Traveled extensively to West Africa
  • Started a blog
  • Managed to finesse my Delta flight to Nigeria
  • Also managed to get through a finesse with this last travel snafu
  • Led meetings with farmers and officials in French!
  • Held interviews with cocoa officials in Spanish!
  • Learned how to draft a proforma financial report
  • Traveled Colombia by myself!
  • Helped people learn Spanish
  • Visited a coffee farm!
  • Connected with Afro-diasporic populations
  • Managed to do some freelance work!
  • Visited a farm!
  • Donated a lot of money and time to charities that I really value!
  • Saved a lot of money!!
  • Started therapy (again)!
  • Visited 10 countries!

 

Cuba Colombia Jamaica Haiti Ghana
Nigeria Burkina Faso Mali Morocco Portugal

 

Vision for the Year

My plan for the year was to embrace the challenges and the twists that came. I first called this the year of ambiguity, that would hopefully be productive. I knew I was taking a chance leaving my job and going forward with a scarce plan for only the first half of the year. I believed in my own self-worth and God’s plan. I knew I wanted to somehow focus on agriculture, nature, writing, cocoa/coffee. This was a chance to live the unstructured life that I had seen during my travels, open to the wind. It was a test of being able to push myself towards a goal without any backing. Ultimately, this year was more successful because of this approach.

Starting Off Not-So Strong

I had started regretting this plan early on. I wasn’t able to secure a sublease for the apartment. And ended up losing one person once they agreed (potentially because I seemed to be trying to upsell them.) Overall I ended up losing one month rent outright and when I lowered the price of the place, the spread equaled another month’s rent lost. I didn’t know what I was doing when I got to Colombia and seriously kept considering pushing back the trip. But Karland encouraged me to keep the same date, get over the jitters and get on the plane.

Taking on Colombia

Colombia was incredible from the moment I landed. I loved seeing those mountains and once the flight took off I felt the nervousness decreasing. I had been here before and I felt encouraged thinking about the life choices and growth I had had to bring me back to this place with a different mindset. I wanted to explore and I ended up carving out a niche in one of the central neighborhoods in Bogotá, Chapinero. It started to feel like home and I nestled in to a schedule that was productive and included dancing. My Spanish improved drastically. I loved the fact that I was able to explore all different aspects of the country. Meet incredible people in all these places and have unforgettable experiences. I loved seeing and experiencing a different way of life from all those whom I met around us.

Making Colombia Small

The coolest thing about Colombia was the community that I found and how connected that community was. I guess it happens within expat type slightly disposable income crowd. I met Janelle (#1 blessing of Colombia) randomly at a café who happened to be the author of a book a guy (her friend) had mentioned my first week in Colombia at a scavenger hunt. She also knew the random barista who taught me about coffee. And Pilou whose studio I had been to. And then randomly on the street one day I am walking back to my house and I see Justin on the street (Janelle’s friend) then Janelle randomly pops up then Rebecca (Pilou’s friend & roommate) and it turns out we all knew each other. Then that random time I went to Cali and Pilou happened to be there for a kizomba weekend and I walk into a random restaurant where I am to meet Pilou and I see Avalon from the Spanish language school. Then the next day in Popayan I see the guy from my hostel in Cali in a café on the street. By the end of my time in Bogotá, I had café waitresses and Starbucks employees who knew me. I had a routine of meeting Janelle to write and work on freelance work and chat about life. She waxed on and on about all the things and I loved that she let me talk freely as well. She gave me advice on writing and I gave her advice on social media. It was a perfect pairing. In Medellín, I loved living in Envigado, getting to explore the city I had once known long before, and the little community nestled within the school. My life was rapidly changing and while it was exhausting, both mentally and physically, being able to find pockets of community and stability was incredibly reassuring. I realized that I need more structure than I let on. Something a personality test would also confirm later

New Job, New Location

Towards the end of my time in Colombia, I started interviewing for a new company, Context Network. I had been interested in them since I was at HighQuest. This time they were talking about being working in development in Africa and I was pumped! They offered me the job and I was to start in like….3 weeks. Pretty much as soon as I got back. I flew from Colombia to Florida to a cruise then New York then a week and then I was off to Africa!(Maybe there was a Chicago week in there?). My new job had me supporting different programs they had in international development. One was on a cassava and then a yam seed program. Another was supporting sorghum & millet productivity enacted through different methods by different NGOs. I like the team I am working with, although I feel like my immediate supervisor is a bit obnoxious. I get to travel and work directly with farmers but also in consulting and looking at the business side of some of these things. It is still challenging and I do always feel like I need to do better, but I really hope I can grow in this role while getting some really cool experiences and pushing myself.

End of Year, New Horizons

After hopping in between Africa and the states for a few months, I have made the medium-term move to Accra, Ghana!! Although I have only been there for a couple weeks, I am settling in nicely! I live in a house with two cats and 10 dogs on the compound. The power has been going out a lot recently, and I live super close to the Impact Hub Accra where I work. I am hoping to be more reflective on this year and be really focused on making next year a great year professionally and personally. I believe in myself and my abilities and building a community around me to help me succeed and that I can help as well.

Reflections & Evaluations

Great year. Took a chance on myself and it worked out. While I could have been more strategic with my time off, I think it allowed me to have some great experiences and learn more about my work style. I definitely have trouble getting started/continuing with writing, but I can actually pull together good stuff. I still need to figure out what inhibits my second stage of writing/research. I genuinely like to write, it’s not so much to prove it to anyone else. I also like being able to have different skills to be self-sufficient in all of the things that I need/want to do.

Stability. I realized that as soon as I left Boston that I valued the stability that life gave me. I loved having my dance spots that I would go to on certain days. Fun night spots, friend groups that each had their own niche and personality. I loved learning and feeling like I knew the city. Then I left and I was in a city I did not know with nobody that I knew. During this time and throughout the year, I went through a lot of periods of loneliness – feeling disconnected from friends/communities at home, finding it difficult to connect to communities abroad. I didn’t necessarily do a good job staying connected with people at home, and I know that this is even more pertinent as I plan to stay in West Africa a bit longer. Luckily in Ghana, I have been able to find some community that feels authentic.

Finding strengths. I need to really work on understanding my strengths as an employee and building on my core capacities. Part of that is learning to ask for help before I waste too much time, as well as making sure I support myself with as much knowledge as possible from different sources. I am capable of learning and growing as long as I focus and put time and effort in to it.

Reflection. This year has given me a lot to reflect on and I am hoping to continuously work on reflecting next year to help me build and be better as well as stay focused.

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