don’t forget your self-care

i met annabel years ago at sangam. (well actually, we first met on email because she won a scholarship to come to a sangam event!) annabel is a long time supporter of girl guiding and girl scouting, both local and global. over the years, the guiding world has brought us together in several locations: india, uganda, madagascar. most recently, we were at sangam together in april. working on the archive, having fun at easter with all of the sangam local staff and exploring good restaurants in pune!

a few weeks ago, annabel’s doctors discovered she has stage 4 ovarian cancer. today she is having round 2 of chemo.

when you hear ‘stage 4,’ you think, surely there must have been signs? but that’s the tricky thing about ovarian cancer. she was just feeling tired after work, but shrugged it off (as many of us do). but then the bloating started and, as a nurse, annabel knew she couldn’t shrug this off. the doctors did an ultrasound to find 5.1 litres (1.4 gallons) of fluid. that fluid revealed the ovarian cancer.

annabel’s life has completely changed, but things are looking up!

what you can do!

even if you don’t know annabel, the first thing that goes through your mind is ‘oh my goodness, what can i do to support her?’ well that is a very good question and one that annabel has some answers to!

“there is nothing people can do for me – support is wonderful and much appreciated but this is my battle.”


i know this quote from annabel sounds a bit harsh when you first read it. you instinctively say, well that’s not true. of course i can support and help annabel! but as you ponder it, you realize that in fact, we can’t do anything for annabel. we are (probably) not her doctors. we can’t do the chemo treatments for her. we can’t keep her hair from falling out. we all want to support and help annabel, but this is her personal battle.


annabel has a few suggestions of changes and actions we can do in our everyday lives that will make her journey and battle have an even stronger purpose.

step 1: listen to your body

we all know when our body is talking to us. sometimes it’s good (wow! thanks for that yoga practice, i feel incredible!). and sometimes it’s warning us (hey christa, stop eating all this oily food because you are making that gallstone bigger!). we feel those aches and pains. but do you take a moment to reflect upon what those aches and pains mean?

do you need to go to a doctor? do you need to exercise? do you need to eat a healthy meal?

annabel has been sharing her story and struggles with cancer in hopes that this will encourage at least ONE other person in this world to listen to their bodies and get checked out.

when was the last time you went for a physical? when was the last time you got that pap smear? when was the last time that you got that mammogram?

preventative medicine can go a long way, so don’t delay! if you have been procrastinating that check up, just GO!

“this is why i think, as a nurse and a guide leader, i’m in a position to try and help women stop and think about themselves and to get checked out. maybe this will stop someone else going through this trauma.”


step 2: support kusafiri

“i’ve lost a lot through this diagnosis – work, being a guide leader, my flat and my independence. but i refuse to allow cancer to remove my passion for travel and world experiences.”


annabel is an incredible advocate for kusafiri world centre (the world association of girl guides and girl scouts’ world centre in the africa region). and cancer is not stopping that! it’s time to step it up! let’s all become friends of kusafiri to support annabel!

you can become a friend of kusafiri with a simple, one-time donation of GBP40/US$50. the time to donate is now! because there is an anonymous, generous friend out there in the world who is going to match donations up to US$10,000!!!!!!!!!

ready to donate? follow this link and you’ll learn everything you need to know!

so remember…

  • let’s all support annabel by getting our regular check ups
  • take time for your self-care routine
  • encourage a friend to take time for their self-care routine
  • and let’s ensure that annabel’s passion for travel and world experiences stays strong and resilient – become a friend of kusafiri!

a journal entry: 17 august 2009

today the french press died and i (well, had) no reason to live. until i texted brittany and she said that i could have her’s. i owe her my life. only someone with a serious coffee addiction would cry over a broken french press (which i did!). so i ended up that joy of all people broke it. on accident. it was the worse sound i think i have ever heard in my whole entire life. and it’s not just cracked but broken. beyond repair. but for some reason i can’t even throw it down the pit latrine. it’s sitting on my table just looking sad and lonely and broken. needless to say, i had quite the day, all before noon.

so as soon as that happened, i decided i needed to get to town. and as soon as possible. so i’m getting the hell outta dodge tomorrow. i knew i should have left today but i wanted to try and stay here a long time. well screw that. next time i get that feeling, i’m outta here.

no goats for sale anywhere around here. which is unfortunate cause i just want some meat! but sandra found pig meat at mr. ny’onge’s place. so at least one part of the day is going to be ok. here’s to not getting worms!

the lions must be gone because i haven’t heard one thing about them since that day on the radio. which is too bad but i guess good for people. just bad for my entertainment levels.

well the frogs are back. bawesley says it will probably rain some time next month. then the rains will start in november. maybe even october. i just hope i don’t get sick and sent home early. i’m seeing this thing to the end!

alright. i think i might have a plan. so i’m going to stop stressing about what i’m going to do after peace corps. i should still be enjoying my experience and not looking to what is next. plus i want to relax and de-stress from zambia. then i can figure what i want from life. or what to do next, at least. i was just thinking that maybe i should at least apply for 3rd year in another country. just to see where it would get me. i would get to go home for a while in-between. i’m not sure. i wish someone would just tell me what to do. too bad it isn’t all that easy.

the other day we had the worst (and i mean WORST) relish ever! some weed named black jack, and it tasted like you would imagine a weed would taste like. it was terrible. so i choked it down. joy took one bite and started yelling that he wanted chicken!

joy ignored me the whole day. he knew i was mad he broke my french press. he came back to my house after i was mostly finished crying and i told him to go outside. then he stood on the outside of my porch and just looked sad. then shimbi came and got him. and he didn’t come back all day. but i told everyone that i had a bad day and that my french press broke. so i don’t feel like i have to hide it. but i still can’t bring myself to chuck it down the pit latrine. where things go that i don’t want to see again. it’s just too sad.

guinea fowl roosting for the night

we had 3 nice days of weather but now we are back to the cold. i wanted to immediately switch to hot season! i busted out a tank top and everything. the incessant wind was gone and it was actually hot in the sun. i hate the crazy annoying wind of cold season. you can’t cook without dirt getting in your food. no matter where you cook or how hard you try. but it’s my last cold season in zam-land so i only have to suffer a few more weeks!

sandra and i are going to town tomorrow. i like going to town with sandra cause then i have someone to talk to when i walk to the mission. and someone to wait with! and i’m finally excited to go to town! yesss!!!!

oh and the pig meat was DELICIOUS!

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earlier this year, i went to nepal. we walked, we ate momos AND we went paragliding!

i almost didn’t do it because i kinda have a thing about heights. you sign away your life in case of an accident and then you pile into a van, drive to the top of a mountain and run off the top! so i went to the top of the mountain where you run/walk right off the edge, and it didn’t look that crazy, so i just went for it!

the jumpers match you up with someone about the same size as you and apparently that’s all there is to it! the guy i jumped with, jimmy, was in charge of everyone else. so i got to watch and cheer as the rest of our group took off one by one!

and then it was my turn!

you step in the harness, get attached to another person (in my case jimmy) and then you walk and/or run when they tell you! jimmy patiently watched the wind sox and told me to walk, nope STOP! ok, wait… ok, RUN! nope NOPPEEEE! ok, let’s try this again. wait, wait ok now! run! and we were off!!!!!

it was such an incredible feeling to walk off the side of a mountain!

there were a bit of clouds in the sky, which meant that the thermals were right for going crazy high up before we headed back down towards the lake. (but also the reason for my start/stop take off!) and, because of the amazing weather, we could see the top of Fishtail above the clouds. 

but the best part of the entire thing was to spiral around and down towards the lake. we went so fast it was like being on a roller coaster without a track.

so if you ever get the chance, i recommend giving paragliding a chance!

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a journal entry: 10 august 2009

my friend kelsey has been saying recently, ‘what even is your life?!’ and this journal entry couldn’t highlight the hilarity of my life any better than causally saying i almost feel into a well (which is what prompted the comment!)! lions and fires and an extreme casual-ness about both! enjoy!

lions are on the loose! for real. so they were talking about a lioness and cub that were seen around batoka. which is a little outta choma. so i was immediately scared/excited. lions man! then i went to fetch water and told bamary and jacqueline about it. that is when things officially got scary. something was eating cows and only leaving bones in katete, which is only a village over from me. like maybe 7 km. which is nothing for a lion.

so the lions – well one at least – have gotten out of kafue park.

the radio said that zawa (zambian wildlife authority) can’t find it, them. so i’m on lion alert. i think i would leave if i ever saw a lion here. elephants i could handle but a lion would be way too scary. too much threat of actual death. lions are predators! elephants would just stand there and look at you. and you could probably back up slowly and get away… a lion would chase you, kill you and eat you leaving only a few bones. if you were lucky.

i’m hoping that what the safari guy said was true, if you want to see it, you won’t. because, let’s be honest, it would be kickass to see a lion in the village. scary. but kickass.

so i met the zambian version of those crazy kennedy cousin sisters. at least i’m pretty sure they are kennedy. except this was a mother/daughter paid. the daughter is 79 years old. the mother is 93 years old, at least. she actually doesn’t know how old she is. all she knows is that she was born the same year that the railroads were built in zambia. and she said that she doesn’t know how old she is because she is uneducated. it struck me when she said that – that education is something so powerful that even knowing something as simple as your own birthday is considered ‘education.’

but these 2 ladies were hilarious! the daughter came to ask if i would come and take their picture. she has ovarian cancer (that’s my guess – they call it ‘cancer of the female parts’) and is going to lusaka next week for a follow up. so yesterday she came to collect me, and jacqueline as the translator. so we all walked over and as soon as we showed up it was hilarious!

jacqueline was laughing the whole time and was translating for me. i guess as soon as we walked up the mother refused to get up because she didn’t want the white girl to see her because she was old and not beautiful. and in the pictures, the mother didn’t even want to stand because she was in a rubbish chitenge and her daughter was in a nice long skirt. i couldn’t even understand one thing being said but the body language was awesome!

so i promised to get the pictures to them. then for my payment, i got sweet potatoes! amazing!! jacqueline kept them for me and will be keeping them to cook for me every day until they are gone. even better!

fire went sweeping through the farm today. i was reading and heard that whoosing and crackle of a large fire. stood up and saw a wall of fire behind the lemon trees. oh zambia!

christa social media authenticity post

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a journal entry: 8 august 2009

still don’t know what i’m going to do with my life. i thought going back to america would help but it made things even more fuzzy. i think about it all the time. august was the random month i had chosen to make my decision. and i’m nowhere near close to any sort of decision.

a chicken has been laying eggs in the porch. there was one last week and today there was 4! i had to have nchimunya come and scare the chicken away because it was on my charcoal. 😉

it is starting to warm up. bit by bit! and school is out so i have nothing to do! well, not really nothing. i think i’m going to start my garden. and in september we are going to have a permaculture garden workshop in choma. i’m hoping it will be successful. i got everyone 3 days for it!

nchimunya, bamaama and sonia in the garden!

last night i came back with eliot. he had to go and get poles so i had the whole front seat to myself. it was nice. until we got stuck right outside the mission. the guys had to unload half the poles, then eliot got unstuck, then we had to load all the poles back in. well i didn’t, but you get the idea. so i got home late but i didn’t miss dinner. i did break 4 of my 10 eggs so we had eggs for an extra relish.

i’m trying to decide where i want to go for my birthday. i have no idea. none whatsoever…

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a journal entry: 29 july 2009

before you read my journal entry from 10 years ago, i would suggest reading my blog post from 10 years ago! it really explains what happened and why i was ready to stay in zambia. check it out here!

so i made it outta my depression! who knew that if you actually left your house and got to work, things would actually improve.

more things to note. they got rid of dakota. sold him for 2 new dogs that will be coming in 2 weeks. it is kinda sad, but one less thing for me to yell at when i’m cooking. saw a huge snake on the way to school yesterday. i let it go on its way before i kept going on the path. i’m not the only white person in the village tonight. a group of mission kids from holland are here. they came to the clinic. it’s always weird having other foreigners here. i’m not sure why. i feel like i have to explain everything. but whatever. i’m sure they will have an eye opening experience. one girl said she was 17. i could only imagine how freaked out i’d be if i came here when i was 17. although i was 18 when i went to haiti, so i bet i would have been ok.

i’ve been helping at the clinic a lot the last few days. its been busy but fun. i’ve been entering patient information from their notebooks (or charts if we were in america) into the clinic book. i’ve also been handing out charts and helping dispense medication. basically all the stuff that they would never let you do in america unless you had some sort of specialized degree. but i’ve been having a lot of fun doing it.

not sure what we were baking here, but definitely not the cake and brownies…

today we are celebrating turnwell’s birthday. we celebrated bawesley’s birthday on monday. we made brownies and chocolate cake. the cake was a bit underdone but still pretty good. the brownies were amazing!

party this weekend! we are celebrating the departure of kersi, dre and tati. i don’t know if celebrating is the best word, but you know what i mean. pizza and apple pie are on the menu. i’m kinda excited about the apple pie. i haven’t made any since i’ve been here. i’m sure it will turn out alright.

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a journal entry: 27 july 2009

things were not always the greatest in the village. and after coming back from america? they were pretty dark, but don’t worry, things do get better!

exactly one month since i wrote in this journal. i wrote in my red india journal on my trip home. it was nice to be back but now i want to go back for good. i’m hating it here. yesterday it hit me. i should just go home. so i’m giving it 2 weeks. then things should be way better or way worse. then i feel like i can make a for sure decision about if i stay here or not.

well one good thing happened (well, 2, depending on how you look at it). so eliot was supposed to go and take a book back for me the last time i was on transport and yesterday the guy who the book belongs to came looking fro it. eliot never gave it to him. so i’ve been a bit stressed about that but bawesley just told me that eliot was going to ‘prepare it and let us know.’ whatever that means. hopefully it means it is going to be returned. and happy number 2? i just made myself another gin and juice!

so i think the main problem is what i always thought was fake. a quarter life crisis. i’m so listless and i don’t feel like i have any sort of direction at all. it doesn’t help that i sorta got in trouble for only having 3 activities on my last quarterly report. and nothing seems to be going my way. i’m way too negative to even write. so i’ll just go back to reading and trying to forget that i’m in zambia.

things of note: the baby’s name is christa. grandpa is doing better. joy speaks way more chitonga that me now. and i’m too depressed to think of other things i wanted to write.

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#plasticfreejuly, ruined

My #plasticfreejuly was ruined on the 1st of July.

I still have my braces and it involves a LOT of single use plastic. Special plastic toothbrush. Special small plastic tooth brushes to clean under your braces. Special plastic floss threaders. Plastic holds the metal onto your teeth to make the braces work in the first place. Retainer? Made out of plastic (at least mine has glitter in it??!!?????).



They come off next week! And my teeth will be looking straight and beautiful again, to the detriment of Mother Earth.

So I’ll need to make some other lifestyle changes to make up for it! Stay tuned for the next edition of #plasticfreejuly, where I’ll share how I’m turning the house into a 100%-new-plastic-bag free zone!

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in photos: july and august 2009

i went home for a visit for the 4th of july. these are the great sioux falls!
jacqueline and her new baby, named christa!
the kids licking the bowl after making chocolate cake!
tree pose!
more licking of spoons after baking!
went on a community school visit at siambele church of christ.
and the compulsory group photo after school!

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a journal entry: 4 july 2009

back home in america for the 4th of july!

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