Monday in a Picture – November Project

I’ve been back in the states for just over a week now. It’s been a week catching up with family and friends, coordinating events and schedules, and other stuff related to readjustment. As I’ve moved around the city, it’s familiar in a different way. Businesses I used to frequent have moved. Luxury and boutique apartment buildings dot the city’s streets. Electric scooters and electric-assist bikes help to move Washingtonians around the city.

One of the things that I looked forward to most when I was coming back was November Project. For those who don’t know, November Project is a free fitness movement that started in Boston in November of 2011. Tribes in cities all over the world meet every Wednesday morning between 6 and 6:30 am, no matter what. I knew that in a city full of transients and constant change, November Project DC would be there. At the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday morning. The only requirement: just show up. I knew that I’d be greeted by cheery faces, high fives and hugs. I was late getting to the workout on Wednesday morning and it was much colder than SE Asia. But the tribe always makes it worth the early rising.

I was reminded of how out of shape I am. I was also reminded of how encouraging a group of people can be. It’s good to be back. The above photo was taken by Matt at the start of Friday morning’s workout.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

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Monday in a Picture – Cutting Grass

It was the summer of 2006. This was the summer before my senior year of college, and I was spending it with my uncle and his family in Fayette County, Georgia. All of the single family homes seemed to have perfectly manicured lawns. There wasn’t a blade of grass out of place. On one Saturday morning, my cousin, uncle, and I got up early. It was time to cut the grass at our house. 

This was a new experience for me. I had never cut grass, or done any yard work. My cousin and uncle taught me how to start and use the gas powered lawnmower. It was hard work. I wasn’t able to achieve that perfectly manicured look that I saw at the neighbors’ homes, but I got the job done. 

Almost eleven years later, I am responsible for maintaining the grassy area around my home on the homestead. My host mom reminds me of this when my grass grows too high. She warns me that high grass gives snakes places to hide. 

Lawnmowers are a rarity in Swaziland. They are practically non-existent in the rural community. There are two options for cutting grass. There’s an older pair of garden shears, and there’s something called a siheshe (pronounced see-heh-shay), or slasher. It’s smaller than a bush knife and has a modest handle with a thin, long metal blade. When my host brother was home for the Christmas holidays, I saw him using the siheshe to cut grass. I asked him how one cut grass with it. He responded simply, “just beat the hell out of it”. I remembered that on one weekday afternoon as I attempted to cut my grass, Swazi style. Eventually, I found a rhythm. I also found a new appreciation for lawnmowers. The slasher gets the job done and gives you a workout. Luckily, I only have to cut the grass twice a month. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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​Monday in a Picture – New Bike Day 

Merry Christmas from sunny Swaziland! In addition to Christmas, I recently celebrated another holiday: New Bike Day! Santa made an early stop to drop off a new bike in the Manzini region. I’m beyond elated. Peace Corps Swaziland approved me for reimbursement to get a bike just over a week ago. 

I knew that I wanted something that I would enjoy riding in my rural community. I wanted something that I could use for transport, recreation, and commuting. After speaking with a fellow PCV and a local Swazi about their respective bike buying experiences in Swaziland, I decided that I would check out Adventure Cycles in Manzini. 

I also decided that I would be purchasing a hardtail mountain bike. The shop had many options for mountain bikes. There were a few full suspension bikes that stole my attention for a while, but I regained focus. I wanted to have something that I would be comfortable fixing myself.  There were also some road bikes that caught my attention. However, I live in a community with gravel/dirt roads, so a road bike was out of the question. Again, I regained focus. As I perused the selection of hardtails, I settled on a beauty. 

This Scott Aspect 680 came home with me last week, and it is amazing! On its maiden voyage, it performed very well. It took everything I could throw at it. It handled like a dream while riding the gravel roads. It’s much more speedy than I was expecting. The suspension was phenomenal, and the ride wasn’t nearly as jolting as I thought it would be on the bumpy road. Of course, my legs reminded me that I should never be away from cycling this long. I’m confident to say that this bike was the right decision. 

For those of you who may be wondering, I have not named this bike (yet). Feel free to leave any name suggestions in the comments. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Monday in a Picture – Uyatsandza kugijima

Happy Halloween! 

Prior to joining the Peace Corps, I would have considered myself a fairly active person. I maneuvered the streets of DC on bike. Twice a week, I would join the greatest November Project tribe in the world for an early morning (running-oriented) workout. Although I ran with those wonderful folks, I never really considered myself a runner. A cyclist? Sure. But a runner? Not I. 

There is major opportunity here to be sedentary, which is tempting with many movies and television shows on my hard drive that I haven’t seen yet. There have been glimmers of hope as I have seen others riding bikes in my community. The thing is that I currently don’t have a bike. While I’m hoping that this changes soon, I have a desire and the energy to be active now.

Enter community runs. I’m not particularly fast or good at it, but I try to go out at least once a week for a run. I’ve found that this does a few things. First, it gets out all of that built up energy. Strangely, the more that I run, the more that want to run. Second, it allows me to explore new parts of my community and make maps of it (with my GPS watch). It helps that the watch tells me to move and posts my efforts to Strava. Lastly, it gives me the opportunity to meet and see various community members while they meet and see me. Some people have even commented when they see me, “Uyatsandza kugijima!“, or “you like to run!” I smile and laugh. I don’t know if I would classify running as something that I like, but I don’t hate anymore. I’ve even thought about signing up for one of those races. A 10K or half marathon, maybe? Because why not? 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

P.S. – I just want to say #GoBlue and #HowBoutThemCowboys! It was a sweet rivalry weekend.