Why I changed my name to Jo.

I changed my name to Jo, hence the title.

Wait so your mom and dad now call you Jo? Instead of the name they chose for you? Yes, well at least they try.. and I would like you to try too 🙂 ! Also my middle name is Jo, so its more of a name slide over than a total change.

Changing my name is both drastic and not at all. Below are a couple sources of what pulled me to change my name. Wanting to share as some are curious and as always this blog serves as a public diary for myself. Welcome to the inner world of Jo, or at least at parts I choose to share. Here I am as twenty nine year old Jo. This story does meander, and yes I do get to my point eventually. Welcome to the journey of Jo.

First lets start in February 2022, when I bought my first set of ‘medicine cards’ somewhat like tarot cards. For those who have never seen them or experienced ‘pulling a card’ or may just disregard as some hippy shit. To each is own. If you are interested the process can look like shuffling the cards, ask a question of the deck or just pull a card of the day to focus their intention on- or at least this is how I interact with them. I never believed much in things like tarot cards because I believed it was somewhat like astrology or just making broad statements that could mostly relate to anyone. I wouldn’t base my life off of an astrology reading, so why put so much power into it? I thought I would draw the ‘wrong’ card and would make no sense to me. How can I ask a deck of cards intimate questions about my life and expect it to tell me something wise? Here is an amazing 15 min podcast from NPR about reading tarot cards if you want to learn more.

I appreciate my ability to be wrong and change my mind if I have experiences that points me in a different direction. One day my mind was changed. Rewinding back even further to a cold day in January 2021- I was on a weekend trip with girlfriends to a hot spring. My friend Brooke pulls out her animal medicine cards and prompts us to ask a question, shuffle, and pull a card. At the time I was in a treacherous part of an inevitable relationship coming to an end. During that time the things that I love most about myself felt dull, cloudy and inaccessible. I felt lost, hopeless and heartbroken. I was far away from the women who felt most alive in her independence and freedom. That Ally was trudging through the mud and trying to make love be enough.

On that January morning I shuffled the cards, laid them in a rainbow arch in font of me. My three lady confidantes encouraging me smiles and anticipation. I held my hand up as I felt the pull of gravity, hovering my hand over the cards hoping something would happen. Again and again when I am slow, quiet and centered then my intuition has a moment to speak. I saw a card that felt right, placed my hand on top of it and felt the urge to slowly flip it over.

My first inclination was to turn the card around, as I was invited to pause from my friend. You don’t turn the card right side up if it was pulled in reverse, that in itself is apart of the card reading. I flipped through the book to find the words of wisdom for an upside down eagle or ‘eagle in reverse’. The paragraph for the card spoke about an eagle who’s wings had been clipped. Spoke of loving yourself and seeking higher ground to build back up your ‘nest’ that was not currently strong. I felt a deep resonance with this card. All of my friends surrounding me knew of the struggle of this relationship over past six months and didn’t know how deep in I was. How hurt I was, not just by him but also hurting myself by staying in something that I knew wasn’t meant for me anymore. The most heart wrenching question was asking, “Can I even trust myself any more?” How could my heart and my mind want and need something that felt so opposite in nature. Staying or leaving.

I have so much love for this Ally, especially during this time, just wanting to love and be loved. Leaving felt like a slit in my chest. The next step, after the breakup, needing a bit more endurance. The step of trying to return to my sense of self that now felt fuzzy even when I squinted with my watery eyes to try to find her.

Over the next year I continued to call her closer, continued to find my centre, my joy and really my pleasure. This looked like marijuana infused art nights, solo camping trips, yoga for dayzzz, antidepressants, micro dosing and therapy. Looking back over my life I have trusted into this sense of self more than I can understand.

Tapping back into my sense of self also feels so similar now to the practice of pulling a card.

;or listening to my intuition

Centering myself, be slow, listen

; Listening to my inner knowing, my inner wisdom that goes beyond my life and my experiences

Laying out the options in front of me

; knowing there are many more options that I can even fathom or acknowledge in this physical life.

Let myself feel pulled

; I may not like the answer, or maybe confusing to me

Learning that its not really about pulling a card its about listening deeper to myself, my intuition.

; I get a chance to ask myself deeper questions and connect with those emotions in the most intimate way.

This is where the name change comes into the story. Thanks for tagging along this far 🙂

It first started almost a year ago when a client arrived at my office and exclaimed, I’ve changed my name from my first name to my middle name. She expressed, “It just suits me more”. Outwardly my head nodded and a small smile of reassurance “okay” – inwardly I thought to myself ‘you can do that?!?’

Yes, yes!!! You can change anything about yourself that helps you feel more defined in who you are- or at least I have the privilege of doing that. Most name changes these days relate to more of a sense of gender and identity. Oh course the name Jo can has more male roots to my knowledge in the US and people may assume that I want to change the gender I want to identify with. This isn’t the case for me, rather feel more in my own feminine power making this shift. More on this soon 🙂

So there I was one month before I embarked upon what I thought would be a four month (really to be eight month) journey to Central America. Curious about myself, do I feel most at home in my name, Ally, or would do I feel more like a Jo or another name? Should I open up a baby naming book and just scroll through the pages? Jo, rolling off my own tongue felt strange and foreign and similar to the path I was about to embark upon to another strange and foreign land. So, why not try it out? To my intuition, this felt like like the right name.

Acknowledging my ancestry of my first name/ my family. My first name ordinates from my grand mother Alice. My fathers side of the family is a large polish catholic family, with many aunt/ uncles and cousins. Most Christmas days and thanksgivings were spent with this side of the family. So much food, loud voices and love in those spaces still. Knowing my first name comes from this linage, I feel so much gratitude for the family created by my grandma Alice and grandpa Bill.

My middle name, Jo, comes from my moms side, specifically from her mother Josephine. I never got to meet Josephine as she died from cancer when my mom was a teen. I sometimes try to mix the memories I have of my great grandmother Hazel, with my mom and try to envision what she would look like and the vibe she had. Speaking more to my moms side of the family- its a bit more scattered in nature and with the strength of my mom, and my two aunts you couldn’t be able to tell that their childhood was not easy. These three women who have been in my life always, Kim (mom), Shelia (auntie), and Connie (auntie) have guided me so much into the women I am today.

My mom is such a lover and gives in my opinion way too much of herself, crying at Christmas when our family refused to help decorate. She wanted to build the family she wanted for herself growing up and she has won the gold medal of doing this. She was always volunteering, and living true to christian values in the best ways. I love my mom so much, and mom if your reading, which I know you are because you always do, I LOVE YOU. To my auntie Shelia, a women of layers, emotion, and a giver. She’s a mama, a nurse, and a speed walker. Even though the males in my family always have a comment about how particular she can be- she taught me how to take care of myself and to set personal boundaries around family. How to rest and navigate relationships that no longer serve her. I love you auntie She. Last but not least, my aunt Connie, youngest, I remember her making hand made clothes for my dolls with her sewing machine growing up. Her emotion for all us children and her own is potent. She works with people who are dying as a nurse and has been so giving to her community when inevitably someone from our community is dying. She is a lover of the sun, a healer, and gives the best hugs. I love you aunt Connie.

To all these women in my ancestry, my great grandma Hazel, my grandma Josephine, my mom Kim and my aunties Shelia and Connie, I want my name to represent you. Women of sustenance, strength, healers, givers. I want to carry those values that existed in my feminine linage. One odd fact that I carry with me is when my mom was in my grandmother Josephine’s belly, the egg of me also existed in my mama’s belly. However small I am also apart of Josephine, me now as Jo. All the hard working souls, all the love and healing you have brought to those around you. Thank you, I hope I can make you proud in being Jo.

Maybe this can seem too serious for a name change, and I believe the more I feel connected with my linage I also notice how much more gratitude and connected I feel to my being.

So with my intuition, linage and excitement I am introducing myself as Jo. When I say that name I feel a grounding sensation in my body, feels so ‘right’ and calming.

There are so many oracle cards, decks, or tarrot decks and I am an absolute novice in this. The ones I chose are called ’The discovery of power through the ways of the animal’ by Jamie Sams and David Carson.

Here a two pictures that I feel express who I feel as Jo. Inward & curious.


Word Soup

Do I write blogs anymore? Yes, and its been awhile. I had a thought while waking up a few mornings ago feeling shocked. Like whoa, my life is going so fast. Specifically from age 26 to now almost 29. Its been incredibly fun and enlightening years. So much inspiration and hope for our world. Since age twenty one I’ve done a who I am/was at each age, so here I share with you my who I am at twenty eight years old. 

The phrase that sticks with me so much is ‘when you think there is so little, there is so much’. Referring to when I find myself in bouts of depression, hormonal or situational, I tell myself this to get out of bed, to go outside and let more magic into my life. How do I not only cope with whats happening in my life but also thrive? I believe and trust in what is mine will come and I don’t have to force anything or anyone to be in my life. Letting go, surrendering and letting things be as they are. This process is always a practice.

I’ve had the luck of free time on my hands this past year because of a conscious job shift from a company where I didn’t align with their values to a company that was much more transparent. I make alot less money and I believe I’m a whole lot happier when my work aligns with my personal values. I get to work with people, be a listener and share in their story which is something I’ve always dreamed of. I’m doing it.

I get to say what I’m grateful for before each meal, try new things and meet new people constantly.

I’ve been working on the concept of holding on to two opposing experiences. Currently for me this looks like loving traveling, learning and consistently meeting new people and the opposing of feeling scared, longing for community and comfort. Over the past six months I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I am so proud of myself and feeling my priorities changing. Listening to both the exhaustion that feeling physically scared for my safety at time. Being a solo female traveler and pressure to express to people back home that this is safe, that travel is an option for many people if they want to seek it out even if their solo. 

The place I am living currently is the first time I had multiple run in’s where I feel fearful of someone robbing me or assaulting me. None of these has happened and when I walk out my door every morning I feel the need to put a shield up so as if to make sure they don’t. I obviously can’t control this and I can put a ‘don’t fuck with me’ wall up that I believes wards off those people. I feel like a representative for female travel to people back home who ask me, ‘aren’t you scared?’ I say no, when I most time truthfully want to say yes WITH a big AND after it. I feel scared and this is my dream, this is what I want for my life, so I acknowledge the fear and do it anyway. My main resistance to wanting to say I don’t feel scare is my want to not play into the messaging that this world is a fearful place. It feels like a delicate balance to play.

Reflecting, I have been traveling for over six months now. Half of a year, living out of my backpack. Living in 30 different places. Seeing new things, learning, growing and the best part- meeting new people. This journey has been soul renewing. As many of you have maybe seen I’ve changed my name and started a business. What is this life? It is abundant, magical and loving.

I remember waking up that first morning in the middle of Guatemala city, hearing rumbles from the bed above me in the hostel. The world felt expansive, my life felt expansive. Thoughts flooded in, as I whispered to myself take a deep breath. Did I know where this path would lead me? No, and I set myself up for the next four months so I could be open to whatever the universe had in store. I’m tearing up just thinking of all the memories and opportunities I’ve had in these last six months because of this intention of openness.

I continually ask myself if I am still being relatable to people back home. I’m not sure, I feel shifted, defined and inspired as I always do after I travel. Its hard to describe ‘how was it’ or ‘what did you do?’ Each day was brand new, and there were days spent in my bed crying feeling so lost.

So instead of everything I did here are the beautiful faces that joined me along my solo traveling journey to Guatemala and Mexico. 

Two weeks from today, I will do something I’ve never done. Return to a place I’ve called home. I will be returning to Durango, to the magic bubble that exists there. I’m excited and cautious as I surrender to what feels right.

Why I think mushrooms are an answer

One month ago I got multiple calls and text messages from my mom stating a police officer was urgently trying to get ahold of me. Knowing my US number is no longer in service I assumed the officer first tried my personal number and then used an old emergency contact of my mom. Why was an officer trying to contact me? My mind instantly went to a concerning thought: one of my old clients had successfully ended their own life. During the past year I have worked with people who regularly had suicidal thoughts and sometimes plans. When hearing a police officer urgently needed to chat with me, my mind went straight to one of the worst case scenarios.

Fortunately the whole call was a scam for money and no authorities actually needed to talk to me. These scammers are getting absurd y’all!! The ‘Sargent’ was being passive agressive and thats when I ask for his badge number, and when he hung up on me. My mom called the local Durango police station, the station reported that this incident is actually an ongoing scam in Durango. I felt instant relief that I wasn’t about to hear about a person ending their own life. THANK GOD and this moment for me highlights how big of a concern mental health is within my work and society in general. According the the US national institute of mental health death by suicide is the second leading cause of death for people 10-34 years old in 2019. I have a-lot of hope and the sobering reality is suicide rates in the US are only rising. My plea is that we need integrate new strategies for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and the other plentiful mental health concerns.

My plea focuses on the world of mycology and how mushrooms can be one of the many answers to our worlds most pressing issues. As per the title of this blog, I do not think that magic mushrooms or psilocybin (active compound in magic mushrooms) are the only answer in our world rather an answer. An answer on a list of alternative modalities for people who want to try something different. I’m trying to write this blog in a way that is digestible to my friends and family back in the US & around the world. So, if you have questions or want to have more in depth conversations about this, I would love to chat more too 🙂 You can find me on whatsapp with my US phone number.

I’ve been working in the mental health field for around five years now. I’m still learning daily from podcasts, trainings, and the clients I work with. My perception of the mental health crisis is coming directly from people who I work with expressing their own lived experiences, my own experience with PMDD, research in grad school, internships and jobs now in this field. I want to acknowledge this lens that I am coming from as some of you reading this have different upbringings, religion, values and possible differing opinions about psychedelics.

I believe for us to have a healthier society we need distinct shifts in general from working 40 hours a week, being indoors so much, being disconnected from our emotions and bodies. These all contribute to why we have a mental health crisis happening and introducing psychedelics won’t fix all these systems that already surround us. Psychedelics are one path to altered states of consciousness, some other paths that I believe would lead to healing are through meditation, yoga, breath-work and ice baths. Each one of these practices takes a-lot of time, dedication, and discipline. It is a privilege for many people to have so much time and practice to get into a clearer head space and its hard to change patterns. In my perception mushrooms are a much more assessable way for people to connect to something bigger than themselves in a shorter period of time comparing it to the methods above.

How can people around the world feel more connected to community, nature, and themselves? My answer is mushrooms. Dosing with psilocybin in a therapeutic setting and with an empathises on intention setting before and integration work after. For me stepping into this field looks like starting my own psychedelic integration coaching business. Its call Jo’s Journey Work- currently in process of creating my website & starting off with a few coaching clients abroad! Staying tuned into Oregon and how I can start using psilocybin as a therapist around January 2023. I’m moving my things from Durango to Bend OR so I can be set if I want to move there in a year.

I believe much more research, training and advocacy needs to be put in place to make this track work for those around the world and be covered by insurance. This means concentrating on access, regulations of who have access to medicine, set, setting, intention and integration. Luckily MAPS (multidisciplinary association for psychedelic studies) is doing a-lot of trials in the US to work on advocacy and research.

Over the path month I’ve dove into mushroom culture by moving into an ‘intentional mushroom community’ called the Fungi Academy. I’ve taken a 6 day mushroom cultivation course and lived with 20 other people while sharing one hot shower, cooking communal meals and sang to a river almost daily. Yes one could call this a commune 🙂 Yesterday, the mushrooms I’ve been cultivating in a tub it my room got the third set or ‘flush’ to come in. I get to check in with them everyday and watch them grow. I can officially say I am in love with fungi, mycelium and mushrooms of all kinds ❤

I’ve been having a hard time writing this because I feel like its my manifestation to the world currently. Three years ago I was writing a senior thesis paper on psychedelic assisted therapy in grad school and now it feels like its time to take the next step into the psychedelic arena. People have their own reactions to the word ‘mushrooms’ whether that goes straight to food or to the world of magic mushrooms and psychedelics. I am talking about both and much much more– from helping the earth rejuvenate after all the poison we have put on it, to using fungi as medicine- to helping people zoom out of their life and feel more connected to the earth and nature. Here are a few suggestions of media to consume about how mushrooms can help all of us:

#1: Recorded in 2008, and still super applicable to what is happening on our planet.

#2: Go on your netflix account and watch ‘fantastic fungi’; wonderfully made film about the world of mycelium, fungi and mushrooms

#3: This one is a bit more time consuming but read/ listen to on audio book Michael Pollan’s: How to change your mind. This goes over a major history of psychedelics and why they stopped research in the 70’s when the war on drugs started- also in depth therapeutic effects on the little research that has been done in the last decade.

While I’m nervous to start my own company & venture into the world of psychedelic journey integration there isn’t anything else I would want to be doing. Cheers to this new path and working with people on integration before and after a ceremony or journey. This feels like important work that is missing currently from the psychedelic journeys that are already happening every hour all around the world. Up top is my logo so far! Your reaction could also be wait whos Jo? If so, I’ve been going by Jo while traveling. This name feels like it fits more with myself currently, feels playful and easy to remember as I meet so many new people. Ally has been honoring my dad’s mom Alice for the past 28 years. Now I would like to honor my mom’s side lineage from her mom Josephie. My middle name is simply just Jo so it was an easy switch from my first name to my middle name. I’m not particular if you change what you call me, Ally or Jo, or Ally Jo 🙂 All the same, love you guys! I’ll be home for a few weeks soon going to Michigan, Colorado, Oregon and Florida!

Into the thick of it

Yes, for those of you who know this title is a tik tok reference or just a viral song. 🙂 I do long to watch tik tok videos endlessly and here I am four (?) weeks not having my number one vice of tiktok, netflix, or social media. I am finding it refreshing and easier to take care of myself when not numbing my mind as much.

So far I’ve been a total of three places in my travels: Guatemala city for one day, Antigua 5 days and finally last but not least San Marcos on lake Atitlan in Guatemala for 3+ weeks. Never thought I would be spending this much time in one place and it has been one of the best times in my life. Its a lake surrounded by some active and nonactive volcanoes. This lake is HUGE with 10+ small/medium sized towns surrounding the waters edge. So although I have stayed in one place this long I have been taking day trips to other towns around the lake via boat and getting out and still traveling. So, what has my time here looked like? I took language classes for three hours a day for two weeks and feel like a have a 9 month old baby brain of Spanish down. You know I can say mom dad, and cry when I’m hungry.

But for real I’m living in a pretty hippy town. There are workshops on anything you can imagine from breath work, crystal healing sessions, messages, to tantra to the best yoga classes I’ve ever taken. I take a swim in the lake daily, meditate, hang out with people at my hotel and go to live music at night. I feel like I’m getting my grounding here before I travel onward. I’ve met so many beautiful people and drank so much delightful coffee. However I’ve had minimal alcohol- its very normal here to be sober and have a mocktail while going out. Theres dancing, food and beautiful butterflys almost every time I intentionally look up. Its magic.

I think I will continue my journey soon to Tikal, an accent maya place with temples. I am in the heart of the Mayan people currently where spanish is not the locals first language rather is a Mayan language of Chontal. So when learning spanish I was told you could only be an absolute beginner because this was the local peoples second language as well.

Cacao ceramonies are also a big thing around this area. Mayan people will go harvest raw cacao, grind it down and make square blocks. Then during ceremonies will be served hot with water or milk. I went to one ceremony lead by a canadian women where she lead us in kiritan (singing together) and we put ‘intention’ into the cacao or ask it a question of what we wanted to get out of the experience. Busniess insider did a short documentary about the place right next to the place I’m living here, take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9xKQGbtCTI. Sometimes I describe a place as ‘too hippy for me’ and that was definitely my initial reaction to these ‘healings’ and I’m trying to stay open to learn from others even if I wont take any of it on in my own practice. So don’t worry friends and family back home.. I wont join a cult.. I almost did but thats a story for another time 🙂

I’ve been reflecting on my intentions or goals for this trip: learn spanish, learn to sail & more about plant medicine. With each one of these I’m realizing these are going to be life long practices and nothing that can be accomplished in a few months. So, to be more specific with myself and you who are willing to read. I want to learn spanish to have the ability to confidently travel alone or to make it more specific make it through unit three on duolingo 🙂 For plant medicine I’m applying in a few different directions to learn more- looking for mentorship, doing my own plant medicine in a structured setting, and self education through books, podcasts, and talking about it with almost everyone I meet 🙂 Then to the sailing! Looks like I’ll have to take a 5 day sailing journey from Panama to Columbia so this might be my only exposure on this trip as I dive deeper into the prior two goals.

For those of you who have or havent heard me talk about psychedelic assisted therapy, I am wanting to write a blog post specifically about this to have my loved ones learn a bit more, so I’ll be working on that in the coming months.

Last thought; something one of my teachers taught me that has suck in my mind is the idea of “I can/will be happy once….” I complete college, once I get the job, partner, house, retire ex… the list goes on and on. Take a moment today to appreciate where you are because one day you dreamed of the life you are now living. I was taught this and has changed my relationship to the present moment of where I am. I am proud of where I am and I’m exactly where I need to be. When I say this to myself I big exhale comes in and allows myself to be more settled. Maybe some of you want to travel when you retire and my thought is that I’ll never have this body again, maybe never have my health again in this way and this eagerness to see the world so why not now? I was scared to leave the US again and travel and I’m forever grateful I did. Okay now I’m just babbling and yeah thats a bit of my mindset right now. && lastly enjoy some photos from my journey so far ❤

The journey ahead

Old nail polish, change of seasons and leaving the place I call home

The first thing I remember was my co-worker playing his guitar while we climbed a mountain. I had my hands wedged to the straps of my backpack barely regulating my own breath. Trailing behind us was seven adolescent boys and another co-worker at the end making sure we are all getting to where we are going. Where exactly? The exact middle of the Utah back country. It was the infamous year of 2020 a few months before the pandemic struck and I was at ‘work’ backpacking for six days. I had advocated to go on this adventure to see what a day in the life of a wilderness therapy student looked like. I had been a family therapist for the company for about six months at that point. I was never able to see day to day student experience until this point. Over all during these six days I felt overwhelmed and seeking comfort from anything I could. Once we got to camp one night I got to take an hour break away from the group- I explored the land and sat and cried letting out emotion that I had held in while being a mentor to youth and trying to be a strong wilder women. This skin was something spectacularly different to try on from the ultimate comfort seeking side of me.

During the break my recent but distant past of being a traveler, living abroad and learning new things consistently felt oddly familiar to the journey I was on currently. I missed being pushed, stretched, surrounded by something so unfamiliar. What a privilege it is to seek discomfort. I felt a sense of urgency to make my next plan to go abroad for an extended period of time and have that sense of freedom that I longed for after going to grad school and now having a full time job. Have I ever witnessed another mid/ late twenty something quit their job to go travel? Not quite, and also why not? This is something that I know fills my cup for adventure and passion in life. So during that hour break out in the juniper trees and sage brush I made a undefined goal, a year from then January 2021 I would leave for a 3-4 month trip abroad, I would save over the coming year and make that shit happen. Plans came and went, as important wedding dates were booked for my best friend and attempting to get my full licensure in social work before I leave all played into why I was leaving Oct 2021 instead of January.

Now I’m here, the date has come, I quit my therapist job, the things are packed, I said goodbye the the place that felt the most like home, and the people who are family. I’m not going to lie, it does feel like a risk, I’m scared and this is not a reason to consider staying. I want to acknowledge the increased risk I’m putting myself in by traveling during a pandemic and I wouldn’t want to live my life in any other way.

Writing helps me connect deeper with this purpose, of why. So during these travels I want to stray away from my social media accounts, and write on here to share with you all of my adventure, struggles, and triumphs. In addition to this I have had a long and normalized addiction to television, movies and most recently tik tok. I’m going to pause using these outlets while on my trip as well to see how that changes my use of time, numbing and distancing from the world. This scares me a bit more than traveling, not being able to curl up in my bed in a hostel and forget about everything else. I’ve thought about doing this for a couple of years and have been unsuccessful in my attempts. My now old roommate from Durango has been doing it for a full year and is really my inspiration to try again as he has has success.

I will be starting in Guatemala city, meeting up with an old friend who studied abroad with me in Sydney 9 years ago. He grew up and still lives in the city so he will be showing me around for a few days before I start a language emersion program for a few weeks to learn spanish!

I have money equivalent for four months of backpacking/ hostel travel & I’ve never traveled alone this long so not setting specific time expectations for myself. Leaving the time frame open for now.

So, cheers to the adventures ahead. Cheer to intentionally making myself uncomfortable to learn and grown as a person. I am embarking on a solo journey abroad for no other reason than this is something that helps me feel free. Hoping to continue to live my life in hope instead of fear for our world.

Here are some clear intentions for my trip

  1. Become logistically proficient in Spanish
  2. Learn the basics of sailing
  3. Learn more about plant medicine being used in these regions
  4. Meditate for 5 min per day, 4 times per week
  5. Find other ways to cope instead of using TV, movies, tik tok 🙂

Not withdrawn

I can’t keep it out of my head. Thinking what people need in this world. Where they’re at in their lives and if I can help in any way such as a friendly smile or a simple conversation- But when you graze past my backside, and say your just trying to start conversation? You leave me wanting to be more of a solitary person than I did in the start. I want to be a person that is open to people- to experiences, but I feel like every time I feel at ease, wanting to start again with a fresh spirit something else bring me back to this want of living alone.

Being alone, and not having to deal with anyone but myself. Don’t touch me when I don’t want to be touched. Don’t assume just because I’m sitting in the back of the uber pool with you that I want to be touched. And no it doesn’t make me feel any better that you would do the same thing to a homeless person. Get me out of here get me away from these humans that don’t respect me as a human being. Should I react in anger? In confrontation? Some of my reactions have been:

As I wake up from a sound sleep for the third time feeling a hand on my hip:

ME: Nolan, are you meaning to touch me?

THEM:“No, uh sorry”

Wake up from an immense pressure on my pelvis

ME: Excuse me, you just grabbed my vagina.

THEM: “Sorry, just looking for my phone charger”

Then watch him crawl on all fours back across the room to his hostel bed

Inside an Uber pool with a man I do not know

ME: Stop touching me.

THEM: “I was just joking, I would do the same to a homeless person”

Paying in line at a coffee shop as an old man grazes my backside

ME: (Silence) Looking at him angrily

THEM: “Just trying to start a conversation miss”

I’m just learning that a touch can be so faint but it can also be so intrusive to who you are and what these people assume you will okay with. I’m not sure they think will happen after? What were they wanting? Just attention? Are they just lonely and haven’t been taught another way? Or, are they assuming me to be someone who wants to be touched? Someone that will respond with something other than me making myself small and wanting to live alone.

I refuse to think of this as my fault. I’m not asking for sympathy or comfort, I am fine- I just want to share my select stories. This is my experience and acknowledge and empathise with people who had had much worse things happen to them during their life. I just shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable in this way EVER, I want to acknowledge the times that have inhibited me from feeling comfortable and respected in this world.

It’s my privalage

As a Lowell gal; I grew up listening to B-93 on the radio. I felt like reminiscing today and turned my radio to 93.7 in my car. The time was just turning from 11:59am to 12, noon when I happened to switch to the station. If you’re from around west MI you know what that means– they ‘pause to honour America’ by playing the national anthem. As it started to play I couldn’t help but feel a-little more ashamed than usual of being an American.

The reason why I felt ashamed is the same reason that I found myself angered and letting out tears of anguish on Thursday night this past week. The recent comments of President Trump stating, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” are what drove me to write this. Although Trump denies making this statement, multiple people who were in the DACA meeting with him confirmed that he made this statement multiple times. This statement was referring to African nations as well as Haiti.

As a person that lived in one of the “shithole” countries Trump was referring to for over two years, I feel personally disgraced by what Trump said. Trump is no better than any of the Swazi people. In no way should a person be disgraced because of the lack of opportunities afforded to them by the countries they were born into. I think more of us need to stand up, voice our throughs and let cliche be the cliche by letting love trump hate.

Trump is the leader of the free world, wether we call him our president or not. We cannot stop him from saying ignorant, racist, sexist things, but we can over power his powerful voice with all of ours. The day Trump got elected, we gave him an international platform where people listen to him. When I lived in Swaziland he was on all the front pages of the Swaziland newspapers many times and I wouldn’t doubt that this recent comment made headlines there as well (see photo below). People AROUND THE WORLD are watching us, we have the PRIVALAGE of free speech, we do have a voice, and we need to use it. I simply cannot stand for Trump being the voice of America.

I am discusted with him as our leader. I alone cannot be silenced, and neither can you. Please if you are enraged as I am please speak up, show your support and let the world know that you will not stand for what Trump stands for.

*Sign the petition: HERE, this will urge Congress to pass a resolution calling for the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for the impeachment

*Let your voice known on social media

*& attend a womens march! If you’re in Michigan come to Lansing next Sunday with me!

Headlines of Times of Swaziland

November 10th, 2016: The front page newspaper in Swaziland, the day after Trump became president in the US


Being here in Swaziland for the whole election process and aftermath has been… an absolutely delight! However I could not avoid it forever; I did still hear of our politics all the way over in Swaziland. Everything I hear is based off of what Swazi’s hear from news, which is usually negative and about Trump. I have seen this cast a negative light on behalf of all Americans in general. This aggravates me because I feel most Americans stand for more than what Trump represents. To spread more of what I think the US embodies, I think to some of my role models. One of them being Ellen DeGeneres, she is an amazing light of positivity in the US and someone I hope more people to know about in the world.

It’s not just me who feels that of course, President Obama gave Ellen DeGeneres the highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, in November 2016. President Obama stated that Ellen is, “… so full of kindness and light – somebody we like so much, somebody who could be our neighbor or our colleague or our sister – challenge our own assumptions, remind us that we have more in common than we realize, push our country in the direction of justice.” (www. fortune.com/201611/23/obama-ellen-degeneres-medal/) I want more people in the world to know about her and the joy she brings to millions.

To accomplish this my fellow RPCV & I will be carrying two a laminated cut out of Ellen’s face around with me in Southeast Asia for the next 4 months. We will be “introducing” travellers and locals alike to Ellen, and if they desire, to do the one thing Ellen and I love the most…DANCE. These videos will then be posted on our Instagram page: haveyoumetellen. Not only do I want to shed a positive light on America throughout Southeast Asia, but I also want to continue to teach Americans about the world around us. I will do this by sharing a bit of the local culture in each one of my posts; either by a local song or by sharing the word for dance in the local language. So, please follow us on Instagram to see our journey with Ellen across Southeast Asia or SEA. I know this is corny, BUT the acronym SEA just happens to have the acronyms of who I will be traveling with Sam, Ellen, and me, Ally! Cheers 🙂

Instagram: haveyoumetellen

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Peace Corp Service: Check!

Today is my last day in my community. Tomorrow, early morning, I say goodbye to my sisters, grandmother and the rest of the family and neighbors. My host grandmother has told me 10+ times that she will cry on this day, but let’s see where the day takes us. I have everything packed into 1 pack, maybe weighing 30lbs and in a couple days I’ll be off on my next adventure. This so far includes the apartheid museum in Johannesburg, a stopover in Dubai, city life in Kuala Lampur and retreating to an island for some yoga in Langkawi! But enough into the future, let’s look at what I just accomplished!

So, 26 months later and I’m still here. About to leave but, Y’ALL, I made it!! I should be overjoyed, jumping up and down, yet I’m over here feeling quite numb. Numb to saying goodbye and trying to conceptualize the reality of never seeing my Swazi Grandmother again. She has cared for me like her own, now I just leave forever? It doesn’t seem right! My heart feels sad, but not in the way I was expecting to feel after two years. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because I convinced myself that I was never going to leave, so I wouldn’t think of that as an option. OR maybe just that I’m so ready to leave that my emotions have gone numb and simply all I need to think about is getting myself from point A to point B. Who’s to say? I do know that I am so proud of myself. Peace Corps has been my hardest hurtle thus far in my life, physically, emotionally, and has challenged me in ways that no other place in the world could. I am grateful I pushed myself to stay, because in this second year I have really noticed change and growth within myself and within the community.

I’m happy to leave (some of) my projects standing tall. My library has everything ready for books to come (they arrive September 13th!!), my HIV support group garden has had three successful harvests to sell at market and to improve nutrition for them and their families, and lastly a brother of mine has been going to get tested every 6 months, after first getting tested at my testing events. I feel admiration for all my Swazi counterparts that have put countless hours in to help me along the way when they really could’ve had a billion excuses to not give their time. I came here as a volunteer and knew what I was getting myself into, yet the people I work with are not getting paid either and freely have given up their time to make successful projects for their community. I have paid them in pancakes, chocolate cake, photos & cards as I said goodbye this past week. There is some good news though! A new volunteer will be replacing my spot for the next two years! She will be moving into my house in about two weeks’ time. She seems excited and ready to work over the next two years and I couldn’t be happier for my family & community. I hope the best for her in her journey ahead!

For my younger Swazi friends & family, it’s not a goodbye; it’s a see you later!

“Nobuhle (my Swazi name), will the new volunteer love me in the way you do?” Temkulako my 13 year old sister & is my best friend here. She will be the hardest person to leave. 2 years of baking together, singing off pitch songs and hanging from our front yard avocado tree. She is so bright and I want to continue to help her in all things life, but it’s time to say a “see you later”. 10 years I tell her, and I’ll be back to visit her. I ask her what she will be doing when she is 23 years old. She says she will be studying at university to become a doctor or business women. Over these past two years I have tried my best to prepare her for life ahead, not that I’m even close to a life expert. I continually tell her to follow your dreams, to read and don’t stop, that a women can do anything a man can do, and to keep the childlike laughter in your everyday life even when you’re a teenager it doesn’t seem “cool”. I have taught her about more serious things too like how to properly use a condom, even though she still claims, “I don’t want a boyfriend yet”. Many teenaged girls here have sex very early, and I just want her to be prepared for whatever life throws at her.

My life will never be the same because of these last 26 months, and because of what it was like to live here. The struggle for life’s basic wants and needs, such as education, a successful career, a home to call their own, is so much harder to obtain than I ever imagined. In the US people use the phrase, “pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get to work”, maybe a few times in the states that kick in the pants can work, but in a developing/ third world country there are SO many more hoops to jump through to get to where you want to be. In Swaziland I have met hundreds of well educated, down to earth people that give their absolute all in their studies (yes Swaziland has their own university), or in their jobs (if they can find one) and still end up with next to nothing. This seems to be because of the lack of opportunities, finances, educational opportunities, and the probability that if you do have a career you might be supporting 10+ other people in your family that don’t have a job.

This experience has broadened my mind about the destiny of geography. Meaning, wherever your soul is placed within this world has such an impact upon how many huddles a person has to go through to become self-sufficient. The ease of obtaining self-sufficiently in your life highly depends on where and to which family you are born to.

Don’t get me wrong, although Africa has many developing countries it is the most amazing, spectacular, intimate continent that I have ever been to. Just because people in some African countries lack some opportunities that we as Americans or first world countries are so accustomed to, doesn’t mean that some Africans are lacking in anyway as humans.

Something that I’ve learned; Whenever someone refers to “Africa”, know that this continent cannot be lumped together when speaking of the people and cultures. They are 54 DIFFERENT countries in Africa with thousands of different cultures and people. Personally I see what Swaziland lacks in opportunity they make up for in richness of their people. People truly care about one another here and take time to know how you are. They have time available to them, yes maybe from the lack of opportunities, but it’s beautiful all the same.

I’m not scared of traveling, because I will not let fear stop me. I believe humans all across the world are inherently good, and we should always strive to be the best versions of ourselves. Thanks for following my journey! It has been positive, negative and all in the middle, but I am thankful for everything that came my way!

“Peace is much more than the mere absence of war. Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.” -Sargent Shriver


Look for my blog post at the end of this week to learn more about following my adventure to come!

Small things

This week I had the joy of seeing children from my primary school READING, for the very first time, in their brand new library. For what it took to get there I should’ve been brought to tears by the sight. After dealing with many hurdles culturally and personally, in the end I’m able to say that these kids have a space that is just for them. 

Althought the 1,000 books for the library won’t arrive until October we have everything else set for these kids to excel in English literacy and to find a love for reading. Thanks to everyone who donated because my counterparts and I really couldn’t have done it without your dollar dollar bill y’all! 

So, that’s one small thing that happend this week. 

The second one starts off with a neighbor of mine, Nkhosibenele. He is a 12 year old boy who suffers from epilepsy. Something that doesn’t have a specific cure, but many things can help. With diet and medication the risk factors lower, yet he doesn’t have access to any of these. He suffers seizures 1-3 times a day and this has been happening since he was a baby. Back in October 2016 he was cooking on his homestead for his family. In my community, most cooking is done over an open fire. So that’s where he was, over the open fire. He started to have a seizure and fell into the fire with his left hand first. Once his family heard they rushed to get him out, but he still suffered great damage. He was in the hospital nearly a month when his family could no longer afford to keep him there. They then decided to keep him at home and hope the arm heals. During this time he was not going to school and wouldn’t be going until his arm “healed”. 3 months later is when he came over to my homestead when my parents were visiting. His arm was still noticeably not okay. I urged his grandmother to get him back to the hospital and finally she agreed. The Luke Commision, a US organization has a medical center based in Swaziland that took him in for free. From there he spend 3 more months in the hospital as he received a skin graft from his leg. THIS TUESDAY HE WAS BACK IN SCHOOL. Finally, and he was happy as ever. 

Time is winding down here and I just have a few more projects to finish up before I leave in a short 7 weeks from now. Travel plans currently are to go to Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam & Philippines for four months. So excited for this adventure & then to see everybody at Christmas. 

PS, if your looking for a good organization to donate to, The Luke Commision in Swaziland is doing life changing work. Click  Here to learn more about them. 

Cheers to you guys!