#Level24

24. One more year until the quarter life crisis ‘officially ensues’. One more year of being considered someone in their early twenties. These uninspiring thoughts then led to me thinking:

What am I actually doing with my life and how am I actually going to do it?

What am I going to be when I “grow up”?

And will I ever figure out how do my taxes on my own?

Flooded with questions and uncertainty during this time after Q2’s majestic internal  and enlightened reflections coupled with the angst that comes with packing, moving, unpacking and (hopefully) nesting into a new place, I approached my 24th birthday with a doubting heart. As someone who has always loved birthdays, I was not sure it I was excited about this one. Not to mention that it was my first birthday away from my family. I was feeling unsure.

But, what I continue to be reminded of in this season of life is that everything happens for a reason. And much to my surprise, despite all the craziness of other people’s schedules and adjusting to their new living situations, my GHC ZamFam really made it clear that they were my family and that Zambia was my new home away from home. 

Rewind exactly 1 week from my birthday. And it was my amazing co-fellow, Lute’s, 24th birthday. The day right after Q2, we had sweet co-fellow lunch at Noodle. Yummy food, pretty pieces of cake, and surprise and sparkly gifts from the US was how we celebrated the first of our co-fellow pair to get on #Level24. And yes Lute’s older than me…by 7 days. 

Before I knew it,  it was my turn. Showing up to work in my newly made Chitenge pants had me walking with a new “I’m 24 today” swag. I opened my phone to texts and phone calls from the Burton crew and photos of the cards that they got for me (my parents love cards and always gives the to us for the holidays! And it was so sweet to receive mine this year via WhatsAp! #burtonblastoff). And I was so excited for work to be done, so that some of ZamFam and I could FINALLY try the best steak house in all of Lusaka, Marlins. And for those of yall that know me, I LOVE steak/meat/protein. Needless to say, I was super pumped and the day was off to a great start. 

Once we showed up to the Lusaka Club House for dinner  (with Lute dressed to impressed and swervin in her friend’s car), we waited for Kalin and Sara to arrive. Then it was time to eat. And NOM the Pepper Steak was EVERYTHING.

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And just when I thought that I was on cloud9, Lute (aka the best co-fellow EVER) surprised me with a HUGE toilet paper roll cake paired with cute little poop cupcakes that said “You’re Old As Poop”. I literally lost my shit, I was so happy.

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The INCREDIBLE cake coupled with the AMAZING steak and the ECCENTRIC light up crown that adorned my head courtesy of Kalin in addition to the PRACTICAL work goodies that Lute also gave me ALL made moving on up to #level24 so special.

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As icing on the cake, Lute and I had a joint ZamFam potluck celebration that also served as Effie, Doris, and my official house warming party at our new pad. It was so much fun to bring the gang back together again over yummy drinks and food (and I even cooked NOODLES!)

All of my prior premonitions about this year and turning 24 were instantly quelled and replaced by sheer gratitude for the people that I get to call my family- both in Zambia and stateside. Seriously. #Level24 was made perfect by all of them. Thank you all so much ❤ 

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Out on the Town  

This past weekend was an eventful one! My usual, casual Friday half day commenced, and afterwards, I went home and immediately to sleep. It was the last day Lute was house-sitting for her cousin and the last day that she would be driving us to work. Not having to worry about dealing with mini bus fee negotiations, sitting extremely close to strangers’ armpits, and praying that we wouldn’t drive towards incoming traffic everyday last week was glorious while it lasted!
After waking up from my cat nap, the roomies and I decided to watch some quality television AKA PITCH PERFECT and PITCH PERFECT 2, courteous of hard drives with massive amounts of space. Over the course of a few hours, people came in and out to watch with us and then, out of no where, Alexis made announcement.

“I have a surprise”. And in walked REENA + MWANSA!

We haven’t seen them since they left 3 weeks ago for Kitwe, which is about 6 hours away from Lusaka. We talk everyday and have been venting to one another about the inevitable adjustment struggles that we are all facing, but seeing them in PERSON was SUCH A SURPRISE!!

Reena stayed with Effie, Kalin and I which enabled long night chats about our lives here and what we envision for ourselves in the future. Saturday was full of events as well as we were celebrating  BRIANS 26th birthday, which was birthday number 4 for ZamFam.

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We began the day by getting picked up by a one of last year’s ZamFam fellows, Robyn, and going to ZamBean-a coffee shop notoriously known for having the best coffee in all of Lusaka. AND IT WAS FABULOUS! I got an incredible iced coffee slushie and a bacon/egg breakfast combo (per usual) that I shared with Reena since she got French toast. MEAT! Nom Nom!
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Of course, we all napped and Kalin put up her hammock following this breakfast feast.

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Next on the agenda was going  to Chengdu, a local Chinese restaurant and casino for dinner! We were really worried about prices, but it turned out to be really affordable and delicious. And to celebrate Brian, we placed a candle in a dumpling!

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Following dinner, we had a Zambian style kick back at our casa before heading out! After sorting out the cab/ride situation, we hit up CHICAGOS first. It was definitely a different scene than it was the first time I went there as it is a restaurant in the mall. Afterwards, we hit the Lounge for some dancing and mingling and then finally headed home to hit the hay. #wehitthatscene
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Sunday, was sad because Reena and Mwansa left and Brian left for Botswana for a work training :(. But it was happy in the sense of productivity. Effie, Kalin and I thought the power was going to go out so we cooked a lot, worked out, showered, and prepared for the week all before 1pm. AND I COOKED THIS INCREDIBLE BAKED AVOCADO + EGG MEAL that Reena taught me! It turns out that the fear of loadshedding makes us really productive, even though power did not go out on Sunday. Lawlz.

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WHAT an eventful weekend going  OUT ON THE TOWN with my ZamFam homies.

Birthday Bashes

I have always been a big fan of birthdays. I used to be the type that would have a full on birthday week with events with different groups of friends for the entire week of my birthday- which means that OF COURSE I was the girl who called dibs on the princess themed birthday party before other kids in my class so that they knew if their birthday was near mine, they would have to pick a different theme.

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As I have grown older, I have learned to really love celebrating other people’s birthdays. Its so much fun to surprise people you love and care about with songs, memorable photos and gifts while showering them with praise for how wonderful they are as a special person in your life. Because lets face it, it’s more fun to be belting out HAPPY BIRTHDAY in an off key, hoarse voice (not harmonizing like some of you acapella people) rather than being on the receiving end—because after 21, being on that sides can almost 100% of the time be very awkward. Like yayyyyy thanks for singing to me while I sit here smiling awkwardly at you…BAH. But of course I still love it because I relish the awkward moments of life.

In the midst of the craziness and haziness of the past 3 weeks, ZamFam has been blessed with 3 birthdays for 3 of my dearest friends thus far.

On July 4th I had the distinct pleasure of not only celebrating the birth of the United States, but also the beautiful existence of the purest light of our ZamFam. Reena, the youngest of the crew, turned 22, and we brought it in with margs and songs at Bucca de Beppo in Time Square. I loved celebrating with this lil nug and miss her so much since she moved off to the Copperbelt district of Zambia today, which is 5 hours away from Lusaka.

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On July 16th, our lovely Kalin hit the quarter century mark on an emotional roller coaster of a day. Still warming up to the reality of load shedding, the day began in a bit of a dark place (literally and figuratively), but came full circle that evening when we had an incredible nshima dinner with the current and past ZamFam GHC fellows. Kalin had been SO excited for nshima and it was SO delicious; I think we were all stuffed and happy following that meal while in the company of so many cool people. Of course we surprised her with a cake, card, and some NAUGHTY GIRL wine (which was loved by all). And in honor of traditional Zambian practice, Kalin had water poured all over her (which is suppose to be reminiscent of being born out of the womb…a really intensely graphic metaphor but we embraced it nonetheless)

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On July 18th, it was Sara’s 25th birthday and was the day that marked our first weekend in Lusaka. Reena, Brian, Sara, Kalin and I decided to adventure out to one of Lusaka’s top 10 places to eat, Deli, for a delicious brunch! After a night of no power, girl talk, nail painting, banana-grams playing, and New Girl watching (via an external hard drive), it was nice to escape the walls of the Belvedere Lodge for the day. And Deli was perfect! Although the power went out, it was a cute, boutiquey looking restaurant that served EGGS AND MEAT AND COFFEE. We were all ecstatic!

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Talk about celebrating the little things in life! We had such a great meal and conversation which transitioned nicely to our first Lusaka braii, or cook out, hosted by the current GHC Zambia fellows. Booze was a-flown and meat was a-cookin (for quite sometime since the power went out again), and everyone seemed to be having such a great time! And it was really fun getting to know some of the current and past fellows even better too! In honor of Zambian tradition and Sara’s birthday, we sang, we showcased a cake and we drenched her in water- and it was beautiful. Many people hit the town following the braii, aka Darty, and had the chance to feel out the Lusaka clubbing scene!

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All in all, ZamFam goes hard for birthdays despite power outages. It has been so fun celebrating my new friends in our new home!