Heaven on Earth

There are few things I really enjoy doing. But, the things I actually love make me very emotional. I have a habit of bawling in the presence of true beauty. The irony is I hate crying. It typically bothers me when I feel my face getting hot, cheeks turning red and my eyes swelling up with salty tears. I swallow my emotions, scold myself in my head and make the tears disappear. Hiking, accomplishing physically challenging feats, Butterfly Exhibits, sloths, elephants, mountains and lush wilderness are a few of the things that bring me pure joy. And, despite my typical disdain, I can care less about the tears flowing when I witness these things. I can’t help but bow down to the flood of emotions. I can be in the middle of nowhere for hours as long as there are trees, plants, moss, guava, starfruit and a running stream near by. The whole time I might cry; that’s ok with me. 

Last month I hiked the tallest peak in St. Vincent from the most difficult side of the island—the leeward side. It’s name is La Soufriére. I’m a “bad Haitian” with limited French and Creole vocabulary but, if I’m not mistaken, Soufriére means sulfur. Duh! That makes sense with La Soufriére traditionally being a name given to volcanos and hot springs throughout the Caribbean. La Soufriére is an active volcano. The last eruption was in 1979. It typically erupts every 30 years. So, any day now it may blow! While hiking this beauty you pass through different climates and terrains. One hour you’re on the beach. Then you’re walking in a flowing rivers. The next hour you’re surround by farms. Hour three you’re being poured rain on by Mother Earth. Hour four you’re legs begin to cramp walking through volcanic ash. Before you know it you’re in the clouds with a 20 degree drop in temperature and thinner air. It’s truly a magical experience. I went with a group but quickly left them behind. I wanted to challenge myself. I also wanted to experience this spiritual journey alone. When I made it to basically the end of the trek, I pulled out my almost empty hydro flask, a bottle of Sorrel I had made the night before and some roasted nuts. I sat on a rock, put on my hoodie, began snacking, waited for the others to catch up and cried. Yes, I’m being honest, I cried. I’m sensitive, don’t make fun of me. I had about 35 minutes of solid crying before I began hearing the others. You haven’t seen fast moving until you see me frantically trying to clean myself up after crying. No one can see that side of me except my love, nature—and she won’t tell anyone. She’s loyal to those that are loyal to her. I finished the last few yards with the group. The view was breath taking.  

This was one for the books. All together the hike is about eight hours, 4,048 feet above sea level and 10 miles long. This is the story that makes everything in life worth it.


Spend more time in nature and with animals. It’ll change you for the better. 

Let Me Be Honest

I should probably explain my absence. Let me be honest. It’s taken me a lot more time to adjust to living abroad then I thought it would. To be frank, I still have yet to fully adjust. Even more honestly, I may never “fully” adjust. But, I believe that that is a good thing. Thats OK. The feeling of being uncomfortable has been the best thing for my personal growth thus far in my life. I have been doing nothing that I thought I would and everything I never imagined. 

I signed up for the Peace Corps to serve. Humanitarian work has always been my passion. When asked what I want to do with my life my answer is always service. I remember raising funds for the homeless population in Chicago when I was 15 and gathering donations for Haiti after the earthquake back in 2010 when I was 16. I saw my undocumented father work three plus jobs to make sure he lived out what so many see to be the American dream. What so many of us, Americans, believe to be the right and only way. I was destined to be a humanitarian. It’s funny though. I think I’ve gained the most humanity I’ve ever possessed through my service in the Eastern Caribbean. 

This journey has been rougher than I thought it would be. I’ve lived away from home before for years at a time. Why is this so much different? Why have I felt such an existential crisis. Let me be honest. I am more American than I believed myself to be. I have learned this, I have accepted it and I now love this about myself. I see things in a very analytical way. I make list for just about everything. I check each item off that list before I can even think straight. I wake up at the same time daily. I eat at the the same time. I eat the same things all the time. I meal prep on Sundays, religiously. I go to the gym (yes, I found a gym here because I felt incomplete not going to the gym anymore). I follow a schedule to the T. I think about work outside of work. I go home and disconnect from the world. If I don’t I feel uneasy being around too many people in a social setting. I think for myself and about myself—only. I am not nearly as collective as I’ve thought I was all this time. I was raised in a individualistic society. With that, I am learning more about humanity and how I exist within it. 

As a volunteer doing humanitarian work you have to learn that you are not placed in your community to “save” or “fix” anyone. I repeat, you are not to save or fix ANYONE! No one needs fixing. Let me be honest. If you have that way of thinking about service, my friend, you need the fixing. You need the fixing—quickly! The literal definition of humanity is the human race as a collective. I want to emphasize the word COLLECTIVE. Collective thinking/existing is mutual, joint, and communal. We are not meant to live on this earth individually. Rather, we are individuals living amongst other individuals. Making us all members of a huge community of humans. We all do things differently but, we are all members of this planet. With that, being a humanitarian means spreading the necessity of sharing other individuals ways of operating to make the collective more versed in the diversity and worldliness of humans in their thoughts and actions. 

That was a lot, I know. Bare with me. Anyone interested in being a humanitarian and doing humanitarian work I pray you surround yourself around humans that are different, similar, accepting, impartial and challenging to you. Volunteering doesn’t give you the Bible of all things right. In the famous words of Kanye West—yikes— you don’t have all the answers Sway. Being a volunteer and a humanitarian gives you the opportunity to experience new cultures, share your culture and create experiences for someone that might not have the opportunity to experience those things. Please, don’t profess, just share your experiences. Volunteers, Humanitarians, Philanthropist and Aid Workers are blessed to have their positions. We get to see the world and see the various types of ways people operate, think, live, communicate and thrive in it. You have to make sure you remain open minded so you can learn. Just because things are different than what you do doesn’t mean they are wrong. If thats the case its a huge possibility that what you do is wrong. Share what you do and learn what others do. 

Remember when I started this piece I said I was having a hard time adjusting. Well, I was having a hard time changing my way of thinking. There will be times that I miss home, my sister, my dog, Ethiopian food, and the hustle and bustle of the big city. That is normal. That vulnerable place has opened my mind to receive the lessons I need to learn. The first lesson has been the lesson in the collective. My first six months of service and I just now have a good grip on humanity. So, look at that. The humanitarian got schooled and educated by the host country on humanity. This lesson has taught me the need for humbling myself. I know nothing in the grand scheme of it all. I hope that the rest of my one year, eight months and 27 days of service is even slightly as impactful for those around me as it has been for me. Let me be honest. I have many more lessons to learn. 

I can’t wait to document them all! No more writing breaks. I promise!