Thursday, August 7, 2008

Au revoir et a dieu!

Dearest friends,

Please find below my last post on this blog. I promised you over a month ago that I would close this online journal in a proper manor and I always keep my promises ;) In fact, you might be interested to know that I have enjoyed keeping this journal so much I have decided to start another blog that I will write in whenever the spirit moves me. The new blog can be found at: My plan is that the theme and style of this blog will change and evolve as I find myself in new places, with new people and new experiences. You’re welcome to join me!

While this particular adventure to Africa has come to an end, I truly hope it marks a very special beginning to a life lived through eyes wide open. Since the time I landed in Chicago on June 26th until now, I must admit things just haven’t seemed quite right. While I am happy to be back, I feel anxious, confused, and frankly unsure of myself and what comes next. Before living in Africa, I thought I had a pretty good picture of what life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness looked like. What I discovered was that I was only looking at a fraction of a masterpiece of cultures and lifestyles each with unique beauty and value. Compared to how I see things now, I feel like I used to see life through a pin hole. The crazy part is that even though my view has been expanded exponentially there is still so much to learn and experience. So I am living with my eyes wide open to all of this world’s wonders which challenge my understanding and reveal more of that amazing masterpiece of the human race.

I have loved being home with my family and friends. Reconnecting like no time had passed at all is a genuine blessing. But somehow even in the midst of happy reunions, my mind keeps wandering back to Ouagadougou; to a place where it doesn’t matter if you wear Abercrombie or Hollister; to a place where there was always time to greet someone and buy a mango from them; to a place where my list of things to do consisted of drawing, reading and going to the market. Here at home I feel like I am always busy, but never accomplishing anything. Even when I do accomplish my goals there is always something else nipping at heels keeping me on my toes and running; I am still trying to figure out exactly what I am running towards… I have seen how one can live in a totally different way and still lead a life of incredible meaning. So where do I go from here? (At this point is when the anxiety, confusion, and self-doubt set it…)

I have been reading all sorts of development and economics books and could talk and argue with you for hours now about foreign aid and topics I never dreamed of being conversant in. But at the end of the day, the problems in the third world are still very real, and the question of where do I go from here still remains. Pragmatically, the answer to that question is very simple. I will be going to Stanford, but I also managed to plan a trip to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore before school starts, and quite honestly, the prospect of exploring Asia is way more enticing that starting graduate work… But what am I going to do right? One very important development is that I am really considering pursuing photography in a more serious way. Taking pictures has become something I love to do!

Living in Africa seems like the first hit of a very addictive drug. Do I jump ship on the PhD and live like a bum traveling around taking pictures and working odd jobs to earn my keep? That surprisingly sounds pretty appealing right now. Admittedly though, when I get down to the very heart of the issue, I think I am simply ready for a change and I will love it when I get to Stanford. I like being home and all, but I lived alone for nine months and moving back into a house of 5 people is a bit of a shock and very distracting. And the whole travel picture bum idea… well, thankfully my chosen area of study makes travel a must. So the plan is to get a PhD and use the travel opportunities which come with my new life’s pursuit to take pictures and develop myself as a photographer. Phew. Glad that is all settled. Sometimes I just need to talk things out.

My friend Hahna leaves for Burkina tomorrow for a one year Princeton in Africa fellowship. I am kind of jealous. Talking to her about what to expect and what I liked about the culture and what drove me crazy, really made me miss it! Oh well. C’est la vie. I will be back in Burkina at some point…

So what have I been up to since I got back to the USA? Too much to go into detail, but I will give you some highlights. My family hosted a lovely graduation party for my brother Jordan. My friend Annie drove down from Michigan to visit. I got to go shopping and replace the clothes I left in L’Afrique. I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon on the beach in Chicago with my friend Joanna and then the evening barbequing with Katha. I got very sick the next week when my parents went to Aruba; lucky for them, not so lucky for me. I even went in for a malaria blood test since the chills, sweating, high fever, shakes, and headache really got me worried. I caught up with my friend Raj and my boss from last summer, Sharon. Leanna came to visit which was awesome. I visited Philadelphia for a day and then hung out with my friend Caroline and her parents, getting to visit Longwood Gardens :) I spent a week at the beach with my family, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents in Seaside Park, NJ. I managed to take a day trip to Princeton to visit the Professor who helped send me to Africa, and see my two friends Joanna Nice who got married and actually just had a baby two days ago! Yeah for Calvin James Nice… he is one lucky kid :) and I saw my roommate of three years, Cassy. She is doing very well, and I loved getting a chance to catch up on things in person. After vacation, I spent a week helping my friend Lillie at Camp Hope, a truly awe-inspiring camp for young adults with developmental disabilities. I somehow earned the affections of one the campers, who had no qualms about expressing his affections by saying, “I love you Sara!” at the most random times; namely after he sang the national anthem and as he was jumping into the pool. It was actually pretty good for the self-esteem ;) I also achieved a life long goal by going to a concert at Ravinia with Lillie and her friend last Sunday. Check that off the list. And drum roll…I finally bit the bullet and purchased a new guitar, a ticket to Asia, and new computer. While my bank account is hurting, things are looking pretty good ;)

I’m now back home happily preparing to head up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a weekend reunion of 11 girls from Princeton (+1 baby who is 4 months old…). It’s called the Duzz reunion (because there are twelve of us) and it is going to be amazing! I leave for Stanford on the 23rd and in the mean time I am going to busy myself reading photography books, learning some basic Thai phrases, and packing my life up into four to five 50lbs bags… not to mention painting random houses for my father.

There are lots of new photos up on my Picasa website so please explore.

[Camp Hope]

Alright then. (Deep breath…) Over and out.

Sara A. Piaskowy