Definitely overdue but I wanted to finally share my favorite photos from the Give A Heart to Africa graduation that I attended this winter. GHTA is a school in Moshi, Tanzania that I’ve volunteered with twice now, with intentions for a third soon. It’s mission is to empower at-risk women of Tanzania to become autonomous by providing them free english, business and vocational skills training. I’ve seen the incredible impact the school has on not just the women of Moshi, but also their children and entire community as well.
After my experience at the school last February, I made the decision to come back for graduation and I’m so glad that I did. Three of us teachers trekked back and the students weren’t told so we were able to surprise them; the look on their faces when I walked into the room was easily one of the best and most emotional moments of my life, video below. To see how far these women had come in just a few short months and how proud they were of finishing the program was incredible and humbling to be a part of. The day was filled with laughter and joy and so much dancing that all of our legs were sore the next day. Out of all of the travel I’ve done in the past few years, this short 3 week trip was easily one of my very favorites. I was reverberating joy by the time I left and I can’t wait to go back to see all these women I’ve fallen in love with and to do it all over again and fall in love with a new class. Finding the right volunteer organization on the other side of the world was an intimidating task but I’m so glad we chose GHTA. If you’re considering volunteering internationally and would like to talk about my experience, please just send me a message on my contact page. Additionally, GHTA has begun a grad program to help sponsor graduates in their business pursuits. If you’re unable to volunteer but can contribute otherwise, please let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction; I’ll make sure your contributions go directly to the women on the other side of the planet who need it. Here are a few of my favorite snaps & videos from our resplendent day:
The ladies getting food ready for our celebration
The teachers in our homemade dresses, along with our manager, Rhiannon and one of our best students, Redempta and her family.
above photo by Adair Dammann
One of the students, Saidati, made me this amazing dress!
And a couple videos: my student surprise & some scenes from our graduation day.
The end of March marked 6 years since I woke up from a coma. On the evening I came to, there was a sign at the end of my bed that said ‘Today is March 31, it is sunny outside, you are at Guelph General Hospital’
I immediately and simultaneously thought 3 things:
1- What the fuuuuuuuuuccckkkkkkk
2-Water. Dear God. Water. Please. No coherence. Will never ask for anything ever again. Dying. Give me water. Only water (hours later I was offered a disgusting faux-mint moistened swab to quench a two month thirst).
And 3-I cannot BELIEVE I have missed out on being able to play the world’s BEST April Fools joke by ONE FREAKING DAY
Okay, jokes aside, my post-coma year in 2011 was one of the worst periods of my life. When I finally was discharged from the rehab hospital, I had nowhere to live, was too sick to work, had a goddamn tracheotomy tube sticking out of my neck, a brain injury and was in a painful haze from being weaned down off a boatload of fentanyl. I could barely talk or walk. You know that cliché about when things go to hell you find out who your true friends are? It’s an unfortunate truth. The guy I had been casually seeing for months met another girl while I was having my big nap. A bunch of my friends bailed on me. My body, my mind, my relationships, my heart- everything hurt. To be clear, this isn’t a ploy to air my grievances with those who I felt abandoned me, not at all. People, particularly people in their mid twenties, are not always emotionally equipped to deal with a friend with critical illness and the grapple with mortality that comes along with it. I harbour resentment towards no one and I bring it up only to illustrate what it was like for me at the time. As anyone who has had their health taken away from them can tell you, the road to recovery isn’t just about your physical health, it is multi-faceted, long and overwhelming.
One particularly bad night about week after I went ‘home’, I laid awake in bed in a friends spare room, my possessions piled around me in boxes, staring at the ceiling, trying to figure my life out. I was mentally in such a dark place, I didn’t know where to start or how to do it. Then a song I had never heard came on my spotify that had been playing randomly in the background that straight up saved me from giving up. You hear emo kids say trite things like ‘music saves lives’ all the time, but for me it was really true that night. I needed that exact song so bad in that moment. It was William Fitzsimmons ‘Beautiful girl’ and I listened to him sing ‘girl you will get better, you will get better’ over and over and in that moment, for the first time since getting sick months before- I believed it.
A couple years ago I ended up working merch for William at his Toronto show and I got to tell him that story. When he went on stage and started playing that song, I watched in wonder at how far I had come from that sick person clutching her stomach on that bed. I only recorded this short clip towards the end because cause I was so caught up in the moment but here it is below, along with the full song. I keep it on my phone and still watch it when things are hard.
At the risk of adding to the faux inspirational garbage that saturates the internet: Wherever you are in life right now, no matter how daunting the road ahead of you seems, however far you need to go- you can get there.
Thanks to William for writing this song and telling me that I would get better.
It worked. I did.
Victoria is in full bloom right now, it’s basically a cotton candy dream around these parts. Here are a few photos of my dear friend Rachel and I playing in the cherry blossoms.
Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.
You are like nobody since I love you. Let me spread you out among yellow garlands. Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south? Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.
Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window. The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish. Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them. The rain takes off her clothes.
The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind. I can contend only against the power of men. The storm whirls dark leaves and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.
You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry. Cling to me as though you were frightened. Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.
Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle, and even your breasts smell of it. While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth
How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running. So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes, and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.
My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.
This is a photo of me getting my infected middle finger sliced open by a Balinese doctor in a strange clinic, sans freezing. They didn’t have much on hand and didn’t want to waste it on my silly finger so he took a scalpel to it while I made these faces and tried to
I’ve finally finished editing the 7k photos that I took during my year of travel and I think this is my favorite one of them all. It’s not very good, I took it on my phone, hastily. I was out walking along the beach in Nungwi and looked up to see this group of
Last week I received my booklet for Year 3 of the Eaux Claires music festival in Wisconsin. I was traveling when I ordered the tickets and had it shipped to a friend on the east coast so they just brought to me when they came to visit a few days ago. After shaking the
Definitely overdue but I wanted to finally share my favorite photos from the Give A Heart to Africa graduation that I attended this winter. GHTA is a school in Moshi, Tanzania that I’ve volunteered with twice now, with intentions for a third soon. It’s mission is to empower at-risk women of Tanzania to become
The end of March marked 6 years since I woke up from a coma. On the evening I came to, there was a sign at the end of my bed that said
‘Today is March 31, it is sunny outside, you are at Guelph General Hospital’
I immediately and simultaneously thought 3 things: