A Look Back

It’s hard to believe, but as of today, we only have one week left in England. The past six months have gone by so quickly. Oh, who am I kidding? The past year has gone by so quickly!

It feels like just yesterday that I was sitting in front of a computer screen in Australia and Joost was sitting in front of a computer screen in the Netherlands and we were discussing the possibility of traveling and being on the move for a year. At the time, we laughed, thinking that surely, surely it was impossible. Visas and finances and jobs and timing–it was too much. But somehow, everything came together, and in the past 12 months, we’ve lived in New York, Minnesota, Tanzania and England. We’ve taken trips to Missouri, an impromptu vacation to Memphis (thanks Sandy), Holland, Zanzibar and Scotland. We got engaged. We traveled; we ate; we loved; we ran; we challenged; we saw; we met; we learned; we adventured. It has been one of the most interesting, wonderful years of both of our lives.

It’s hard to write a recap of the past year. So much has happened–I could fill books with our experiences (oh hey, maybe I should get on that). So, we decided to go list form for this post. Joost’s up first.

JOOST

6 Words to describe the year: 

Unconditionally. Gezellig. Adventurous. Mouthwatering. Heartwarming.

5 Favorite memories: 

The overwhelming experience of Times Square on a Saturday night. Hiking the upstate New York mountains during fall and taking a nap at the summit. Giving and receiving happiness while opening the school library in Tanzania. Proposing to Katie in Christchurch Meadows, Oxford, and promising to spend the rest of my life with her. Eating Katie’s delicious meals!

4 Greatest struggles:

Being away from friends and family. Adapting to the pace of life in Tanzania, and saying goodbye to the kids. Tying all the financial ends together–spare change jars for the win. Trying to avoid a perpetual hunchback at my work desk.

3 Greatest achievements:

Working towards my career in mathematics. Running the Kilimanjaro half marathon. Creating a happy home and life in general for me and Katie in the UK.

2 Favorite places: 

Comfy chair on our balcony in Tanzania, overlooking Kilimanjaro.

Our kitchen in England, where Katie’s cooking magic happens.

1 Thing you’ve learned:

In marrying Katie, I’m a lucky man.

KATIE

6 Words to describe the year:

Blessing. Seek. Love. Change. Awe. Gratitude.

5 Favorite memories:

I can’t believe that I included this, because it’s so hard! I’m cheating a little completely and including multiple favorite memories from some of the places we were.

New York: Times Square. Discovering the Highline. Roommate dinner nights. Hiking in upstate New York during fall (gorgeous). Lion King on Broadway. Wafels & dinges food truck. Passenger concert. Apple picking.

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Tanzania: Opening the library. Singing Rihanna songs with the girls. Seeing our kids kick butt at the running races. Coloring for hours. Laughing as the kids patted their full, distended bellies after pilau day. The Kilimanjaro half marathon. Long runs on dirt roads alongside fields of sunflowers, small villages and baboons. Date nights in town. Avocados the size of my head. Cooking for the staff. Giving kids books. Trips to the markets with Teddy and Inno. Running with Jordan. Hanging out with Adam and Terry and the Stella Maris staff. Going to a party with a bunch of other expats and volunteers in the area, sitting on the roof under a brilliantly starry sky with a beer in hand while someone played guitar and being overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude.

 

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Zanzibar: SCUBA diving. Eating fresh seafood on the beach. Sunsets.

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Europe: Edinburgh half marathon. Long runs along the Thames. Ben’s Cookies. Visits from friends and family. Joost proposing. 20 miler in Lake District. Roadtripping in Ronald’s adorable classic mini cooper. Joost surprising me with a bike. Date nights. Cooking for Joost.

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4 Greatest struggles: 

Visas. It seems like we are in a constant state of waiting for visa approvals to be processed!

Navigating cultural differences in response to our engagement.

Finances. I will be pleased when we are both allowed to work in the same country! One intern salary is pretty tough for two people to live off of in England.

Isolation. Being on the move can be lonely; it can also make it hard to relate to friends from home and vice versa. We have also been living in a very small, very isolated, very weird, not particularly friendly town here in England, which made it difficult to make friends. I am an extrovert, so all this alone time has been a challenge!

3 Greatest achievements:

Running races around the world and sticking with training for the Amsterdam marathon.

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Designing, painting and opening the library in Tanzania. Those of you who have been reading our blog for a while may remember the glacial pace at which things moved in Moshi, so finishing it felt amazing.

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Learning how to cook and teaching myself (and Joost) about food. People who have known me for years are pretty shocked to know that I can actually do more than just boil water in a kitchen now! I’ve filleted entire trout on our kitchen counter, baked bagels from scratch and acquired a hefty stash of herbs and spices. I have to be honest–I’m pretty chuffed with myself! I never thought I’d see the day that I had both the skills and ingredients on hand to whip up freshly baked honey lavender bread (topped with goat cheese, lemon curd and a sprig of fresh rosemary) or make turkey sloppy joes from scratch, loaded with veggies and spices. We made a conscious effort to eat as much fresh, local, in season food as possible, which was difficult on our budget, but attainable thanks to how many free hours I had to price compare between different grocery stores and find coupons. Grocery shopping involved careful counting, hours devoted to wandering the aisles finding the cheapest, healthiest ingredients and constantly having to google, “what do British people call _________” Almost everything we ate here was made from scratch by yours truly, including pasta sauces, salad dressings and dips. We avoided salt and preservatives as much as possible. I think we can both agree that this is the healthiest and best we’ve ever eaten!

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2 favorite places: 

Bottom of the Indian Ocean while we were SCUBA diving in Zanzibar.

Anywhere I’m with Joost. It sounds cheesy, but after 22 months of being in a long distance relationship, and knowing that we’re gearing up to go back to an LDR while we wait for Joost’s USA visa paperwork to be processed, waking up to his 3D, HD face is incredible.

1 Thing you’ve learned:

We are so blessed to have the privilege of having a place in this beautiful world, filled with beautiful, quirky, imaginative, inspiring people.

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