travel

Introspection

I mentioned in last week's post that I had a pretty rough journey to South Africa. I'll continue to pepper the blog with a recount of my travels because I want to share the experience with you. Today though I wanted to talk about change. 

Almost fifteen years ago I was in a pretty bad car accident and I shattered my left tibia and fibula. It was pretty gruesome and at one point there was talk about amputating my leg. It was a rough year because I was isolated and bed ridden. Yet, it made me slow down and take a look at my life. Even before I was fully healed I decided to make a pretty big jump and move to Madison, Wisconsin. I had a friend there and we found an apartment, but I didn't have a job. What I had was the conviction that I could do it. 

While it didn't seem like a big change to move from DeKalb, Illinois to Madison, that one jump changed the trajectory of my life. I decided to go back to school (I had dropped out of college my Junior year) but the University of Wisconsin rejected me and rejected my appeal. I made another leap and quit my job, packed up my belongings and moved in temporarily with my mom and commuted to the city to go to the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

I graduated and immediately found a job working for a university for an International Human Rights Institute. That job changed and transformed me. It also sent me on my first international trip to The Hague in the Netherlands and I took a day trip to Amsterdam. That trip opened my eyes to a world of possibility. I took every opportunity to travel. Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Belgium, Uruguay, UK, Ireland, and Egypt.

Then I took the job in Iraq and I went to Denmark, Turkey (multiple times), back to the UK and then France.  After my job ended I visited a friend in Qatar and then we traveled along the coast in Turkey. 

Then my passport sat while I started a new job and had to wait a year to save up enough vacation time, but then I started another new job and had to wait a year to save up enough vacation time. Three years passed and my passport expired. 

I find myself getting antsy when I haven't been able to travel. I realized why after this trip. When you leave town you leave your routine. The familiar falls away and you have to really concentrate on what is around you. 

Gradually the negative voices in my head subside. The thoughts that wing around like a trapped hummingbird in my brain are silenced. I'm not thinking about what the future brings because I am so entranced by what is happening today. 

The hardest part about returning (besides the full day of sitting in an airplane) was coming back to work and sitting at my desk. My fingers had lost the ache from typing so much and my shoulders were no longer hunched forward. Yet, the aches returned within a day. 

It made me really stop and think about what I want out of life and how do I want my days to flow. This trip made me see that I need to be out in nature more often. It helped me realize that it is ok to want more. 

I'm not sure how I am going to hang on to that feeling. I do know that I need to change my routine. I need to leave the house more and explore my city. I need to protect that time and space where I am alone and able to day dream. I need to find ways to silence the voices in my head. I need to get lost in my own hometown. 

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Finding beauty

Free State, South Africa

Free State, South Africa

First let me set the scene. I flew 13 hours from Chicago to Doha, Qatar with food poisoning. I have never had to use those little bags the airline provides and let's just say I never want to again! Then an 8 hour layover in Doha where I met my friend Barry. We get on the plane to go to Cape Town fly for a couple of hours and then learn that we have to turn around and go back to Doha. Found out later that Saudi Arabia had launched airstrikes on Yemen and wouldn't let us fly over their air space. A couple more hours in Doha and then finally our 9 hour flight to Cape Town. Checked into our hotel and I tried to eat some dinner and then got about 6 hours sleep before we had to get up in the morning early for a short flight to Bloemfontein. Basically I hadn't slept for 2 days and I still had food poisoning...

All of that disappeared when I saw my friend Cora and we started the drive to Mud Studio. 

Let's just say 4 wheel drive is a good thing!

Let's just say 4 wheel drive is a good thing!

Off a mud road nestled in the hills is a wee magical place called Mud Studio. It is located in an old mission within the free state (a plot of land king Mo Shoeshoe of Lesotho gave to the Boers in order to keep the peace). It is part working farm, part church and part pottery studio. 

We were lucky enough to be given a tour by the owner Werner.  He said when he first came to the area the women were making clay beads to be made into necklaces. He took their idea and expanded on it making beautiful chandeliers and pottery that are seen in the pages of magazines and stores like Anthropologie. He trains and employs people from the surrounding area. 

We also got to see some of the pottery being rolled out and then placed in forms. Some of the clay is rolled with an intricate design. Imagine my surprise when I recognized a set  of coffee mugs I had wanted to buy from Anthropologie. 

Each piece has the indelible mark of the people who made them. My friend Cora and I liked the ones that were a little misshapen because we could see the fingerprints of the people who were making them.

Werner took us to the storage shed where we wandered for almost an hour trying not to buy everything! I tried to winnow down my pile but it was impossible. His wife Phillippa is an artist and I fell in love with one of her vases that had stitching on it. I wish I could share pictures, but my luggage still hasn't made it to me! 

Out in the beautiful air shaded by a tin roof there were lines with clay beads strewn about the grass. Women were working on creating the large chandelier masterpieces. I need a bigger home to warrant hanging one!  I saw one of the Mud Studio chandeliers hanging in a restaurant in Cape Town and it was stunning. 

Even though all I wanted was a bed it was an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world. I am so grateful to Mud Studio for opening their doors, answering my questions and letting me take pictures. 

We were then invited to go over to the Mission to see the church. It is on on a working farm and so in the background you could hear the sound of men at work, but within the church all was peaceful and still. The grounds are simply stunning and Werner's mother is a master gardener. The flowers everywhere are beautiful. You can tell the family loves the land and are wonderful stewards of the legacy they inherited. 

This is why I travel. 

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