Thank you, 2014

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What a year.

No really: What. A. Year.

So much has happened, so many things that I’ve learnt, so many opportunities that arose, so many people who I’ve met.

I honestly could not be more thankful or appreciative.

I don’t even have words to explain everything that happened this year or how it changed me and helped me become the person I aspire to be.

One of the things that stood out most to me were the people I got to meet this year. I’ve made new friends all over the world. I met inspiring and hardworking people. I was fortunate enough to talk about life and get a glimpse into their view of the world and learn from them. The friendships I made in 2014 are probably the most coveted thing I take with me into the new year.
It’s also how these people made me think about the world differently, how they influenced how I feel and think about myself, how I consequently I carry myself now.

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I originally titled this post “Goodbye, 2014” but no, I don’t want to say goodbye, and thanks to all the crazy memories I will never have to say goodbye. I want to thank you, 2014, for teaching me about myself. For allowing me to be brave, for letting me do things I never had done before and for being patient and encouraging.
When I say 2014, I mean every single person I’ve met, everything I’ve done, every song I’ve heard (and obsessed over), every book I’ve read and every stranger that threw me a dirty look on the street for no apparent reason.

I have a feeling that 2015 will be different in many ways but with what 2014 has taught me, I hope it will be easier for me to navigate through the next year.

So thank you, 2014, it’s been real.

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Reflection

What did I know – or thought to have known about life? About living standards? Adventure? Poverty? What did I know about myself?

I was in Kathmandu in February once, and I remember being so, so cold. The cold was inside of my bones, seeping through my entire body. I felt like I’d never get warm again. We didn’t have warm water for showers, no heating, next to no electricity, and I woke up more than once in the middle of the night because I was freezing.

So I thought I knew how to appreciate electricity and warm, running water. I thought I wouldn’t take it for granted anymore because I knew what it was like to have to live without it.

The reality is different, though. It’s frightening how fast and easily you adapt back to what you consider normal and take things for granted again once you’re home. And how, from that experience onwards, you think  “Oh well, I can go through anything now.”

How wrong I was.

My days in Africa were filled with difficulties: the language barrier was the most obvious one for me, but it was something I expected to be hard. What I didn’t know about was the complete lack of electricity whatsoever. The lack of plumbing or running water – never mind warm water took me by surprise, too.
I carried buckets of water from the cistern to the main house, making a ten minutes walk seem like eternity. If we wanted hot water for the shower, we had to heat it up over open fire. Toilets? Ha! How about a hole in the earth that was used by the entire village?

Cooking dinner? Awesome when you can’t see anything at all. We sat around a tiny bench, torches in our mouths trying to cut tomatoes and the chicken that was, until a day ago, still living right next to our room.

I thought I’d seen everything. I thought I was conscious of poverty and I thought I was able to handle it all. Culture shock seemed to be a word I thought I didn’t know.  And in a sense I wasn’t shocked, it just took me by surprise. Never once had anyone mentioned that this was how I’d spend those two weeks. Never once had I thought all these things would end up complicating my stay – adding to the already established difficulty I experienced because I couldn’t speak the language that well.

However, my days were also spent with playing with kids, “teaching” mathematics and French, cooking meals, washing the dishes or collecting water. I went on wild taxi moto drives up to a waterfall – the true speed never to be known because the speedometer was broken. I was in a car with four French girls when the driver got lost in the African bush at four o’clock in the morning.

I danced around the fire, clapping and laughing to the sounds of a drum, drinking Togo Gin, eating Fufu, and having a great time.

It was difficult, yes. More so than I ever could have imagined. Was it worth it though, in the end? Yes. A thousand times, yes.

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