Creating a new normal.

Hey there! It’s been a while since I’ve written on here.

According to the analytics on this page, seems you guys keep coming back, hoping for something new. I’m thankful someone is still checking up on me.

So, I guess I should fill you in on what’s been going on the past year or so.

Well…we left Ethiopia. I was literally in tears on the way to the airport because I absolutely LOVED [nearly] everything about living there. The nearly part is sort of why I left when I really didn’t want to go.

We were stressed out and I wasn’t handling things well. I needed a shift to figure out what I wanted to do to advance my career. So I set out to start a PhD program in Boston.

But before we left for the States, we had a few adventures in Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris and London.

Shortly after we arrived in Beantown, I realized my optimism in being able to create a new life as a grad student again were crushed by the high rent, housing discrimination, and low pay. This made it really hard for me to begin the program and buy groceries. So I chose to put off the program for a year, save up, and regroup to continue my studies.

So that was the plan. I worked 2 jobs and even drove Lyft for a while to try and save up. But Boston was proving to be WAAAAAY more expensive than I could have even imagined. So in December I decided to try and find a job overseas again because my life in Boston wasn’t sustainable.

I figured I could save more money by not having to pay rent or expenses and I could decrease my travel (tears!!) and save even more. So I went through the craziness of the international job hunt.

Email, email, email. Interview, interview, interview.

At the Search Associates Job Fair.
I was SO TIRED that weekend.

I eventually was offered a job as the whole school counselor and learning support coordinator at a school in Mali. I’d never been to Mali and I’m always up for an adventure! Plus the position could help me grow as a school psychologist and develop a new skill set. The slow pace of the city would remove the temptation of going out and allowing me to save more of my money each month. #winning So, I accepted the offer and made plans to move to Bamako in August.

In the meantime, completed a year-long certification program with Mindful Schools to become a certified mindfulness instructor. We had an opening and closing retreat in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado at the Shambhala Mountain Center.

At the opening retreat I was pretty anxious meeting a group of strangers, but by the end of the first retreat I made a lot of ginuine connections, tapped into a part of myself that had been dormant for a long time, and learned how to parent my inner child. This experienced also challenged me to confront the poor choices I’ve made as a parent out of ignorance and pride. It was the catalyst to a year of change, growth, and difficult conversations.

August 2018. Red Feather Lakes, CO.
After a hike up a foothill for this amazing view.

The closing retreat was about reconnecting and strengthening my practice and grow as a mindfulness educator. It was a great experience overall and I am so thankful for the friendships I’ve formed over the past year.

My cohort. Mick, Victoria, Shannon, our Guiding Teacher Devon, Mo, Pauline, Taina, and Rick.
2019 Mindful Schools Graduates

So fast forward to now.

We’re living in Bamako, Mali. Slowly adjusting to this new life.

It feels similar to Ethiopia in many ways. I often struggle to refrain from comparing the two. But I’m easing into finding my way around and getting to know the areas.

My new job is also an adjustment. I have a lot more responsibility than I’m accustomed to. But it’s good. At the very least, I feel this is a job where I can be myself, whole heartedly, and this is having a profound effect on the way in which I do my job.

This is the first time that I’ve felt like I could completely be myself, both professional and personally. I wear sleeveless dresses or shirts to work, as others do. But my tattoos aren’t deemed “unprofessional” and I haven’t been asked to cover them. I have my nose piercing in full time and it often goes unnoticed. It feels amazing. No code switching. No pretending. Just me.

This new normal in Mali involves being patient with myself when I’m frustrated. Reminding myself I’ve only been here for less than a month. Remembering to be patient with the boy as he is adjusting as well. But also mirroring the patience and calm I ask of him.

In this new normal there is also a slight sense of jealousy of my friends who attend boozy brunches on the weekends, live near or have access to a beach, or movies in the park. I realize this is just Instagram FOMO, but I’m owning it in this period of adjustment. (I know, I know. I have a pool in my yard and I’m sad about brunch and a beach. Leave me be!)

I’m thankful my place has a space for me to make a sacred meditation room. I’m thankful I have a pool to relax in on hot days (and they are plentiful here!) Thankful to be in a space where I feel I can grow professionally. Thankful my child is happy.

So that’s the update. I promise to write more and even back track and fill you in on the past year and the travels and adventures we’ve had.

I hope you stick around.

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4 Comments

  1. Julie Leonardo

    OMG, I have gotten rid of most of the blogs I belonged to, but when I saw your post, I kept it in my Inbox. You are living the life that I’ve always dreamed of. I feel like travel is like breathing, and I haven’t had even a real vacation since 2002 or so. Meeting new people, getting to know a new country, learning a new language and absorbing the culture into which you’ve been thrown is amazing. Thank you for sharing your journey while raising a boy all on your own!

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    1. I am so excited you keep my blog in your inbox! And I feel the same way. Not traveling for the past year was really hard, but I’m so blessed to be able to work overseas and explore new cultures through my career. I hope you keep reading and I’ll be sure to keep writing!

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  2. Greetings, Elmeka. I was in the process (never-ending) of doing some thorough, deep decluttering; going through and shredding old files when I came across your name. I believe you did some photography for Jos Duncan here in Philly some years back at one of her Stories In Service days. At any rate, I googled your name and stepped through the Vagabond Door! I’ve been reading – catching up with you and The Boy’s adventures – for two days now! I absolutely applaud – and understand – your choice to make the bold leap to live abroad with him. Don’t want to make the post too long (Warning: I’m a storyteller!!), so simply: thanks you for inviting us on this wonderful, personal, challenging, growthful journey and doing it with great honesty, authenticity and humor. The pics are absolutely wonderful. What a wonderful man-in-the-making you are nurturing. I’m a new fan (also a former ‘progressive school’ educator and mother of a beautiful son – now 44!) All the best in your new position – and life – in Mali. Look forward to your upcoming posts.

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    1. OMG!!! I did photograph one of the Stories in Service events a long time ago. I’m so glad you found my blog and stuck with it for two whole days!! Thank you so much for your kind words and reading my blog. You and others keep me coming back to writing and sharing our stories and adventures. This is amazing! Jos stays connecting people even a DECADE later!

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