Home Sweet Kitwe

Dearest Kitwe,

It’s no secret that we had a rocky, rollercoaster-like relationship that dipped in valleys from tears of loneliness to tears of bliss. At the beginning of last August if you had told me I’d one day sit down to write a blog post reminiscing about all that you taught me and showed me, I would have laughed in your face and then likely lapsed back into sadness about being placed to live with you for a year. But it’s true. Last year was a profound experience for me, from starting my first job to moving to a new country to creating my own community.

Now to be fair, the first three months were very challenging. I was not at all prepared to accept power outages and a slow start to a new job or living in a new place where I knew no one. But in hindsight, I also think that transition period was necessary and normal. Maybe I dragged it on a bit too long, but now I can see all of the lessons I learned from it. I gained an ounce of patience. I learned that while I have Type A tendencies to control everything, I simply cannot. I learned to accept what I could not change and to focus on changing what I could, the first change being my perspective.

Even past the first three month transition, I continued to learn many important lessons from you. I got a lot better at hand-washing my clothes and learning how to cook balanced meals with the provided amenities. I also learned how to take a calmer, more relaxed approach to work and getting things done, a mentality I remember really appreciating while studying in Uruguay and a mentality that I do not always embrace easily.

You also taught me not to judge a book by its cover. I vividly remember declaring that I would never make any friends or find anything to do in the beginning (something my brother has no problem reminding me of) and then I suddenly found myself with an eventful social calendar and life-long friends. I now understand the value of exploring and digging deeper, rather than simply judging at the surface.

The most important lesson you taught me, though, is about community. Before moving I knew I had a sound community in my family and friends back home, but suddenly finding myself alone in a new country taught me how to find a community within myself and how to support myself while alone.

It also taught me how to build a community. Because I had been so lonely in my first few months, any time I met someone I listed everything there was to do, anyone they should meet, anywhere they should go, and all the places they could eat – all so they would never have to feel the same way. And before I knew it, I had managed to make an amazing group of friends that I still keep in touch with and that I will hopefully stay friends with for a long, long time.

Now that I have sadly left you, I want to appreciate the lessons I learned and promise to apply them forward. I am settling down in Reno, Nevada to work for the State Division of Public and Behavioral Health through the CDC Public Health Associates Program for the next two years. A new job, a new place, a new journey – I know, it sounds very familiar. But this time I will be patient. I will accept what I cannot change. I will dig deeper. And I will keep building my community.

So thank you for the memories and the lessons, dear Kitwe.

Until next time,

Reena

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