Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 trifles & treasures and onto 2012!

What a trip 2011 was!  Ups, downs and all arounds!  I learned a lot this year, made some wonderful friends and celebrated some beautiful moments.  Weddings, babies, heartbreaks - I think all my emotional bases were covered and I can't wait to see what 2012 has to offer!

Looking back through my old blog, I'm so glad I have a digital scrapbook of all these moments in my life and I am looking forward to continuing the blogging in 2012!  Here are some of my favorite posts from 2011:

January: happy times.  sad times.
February: musical times.
March: thankful times and on-the-edge kind of times.
April: yellow dress times and romantic times.
May: internet times.  learning times.
June: long-term visitors and a wedding!
July: books, 3 years in Mali and veterinarians.
August: a new baby!
September: bad news and a new bridge.
October: international engagement part I. i.e. part II
November: a new blog and a new movie!
December: phoenix phriends and seattle by storm!

closing out 2011 right with my treasure of a friend and bride-to-be, Kate
showering Fredericksburg with our bridal love

see more pictures from Kate's bridal shower here!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Movie time!

I'm by myself for the first time in a few weeks and I think I'll snuggle into bed so I don't think about it too much.  To console myself and share with you my trips to see friends in both Phoenix and Seattle, I'll share these videos!  I hope you enjoy!

Seattle, WA with Esther & Alaric

Phoenix, AZ with Joe & Ashley

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Got the Moves in Phoenix, Arizona!

It is the last day of my first trip to Phoenix, Arizona to visit Joe, Ashley and Mia Rose Wollersheim. I sit in the airport with a heavy, happy heart as I wait for my flight to Seattle, Washington - to visit two other dear friends - to board.  I look around the waiting area of my gate and see occupied business travelers with laptops and older couples with cowboy hats leaving and going to see their own loved ones. Airports always make me reminisce.

I remember meeting Joe and Ashley in July, 2008 during our 2-day pre-service training with the Peace Corps. We sat at large, cloth covered tables in a generic conference room full of foldable wall dividers at a Holiday Inn in downtown Philadelphia and were given 'getting to know you' worksheets as one of our icebreakers. I knew after meeting the Wollersheims that Joe was an excitable person with limited reservations and I could also tell that Ashley was a little more reserved than her gregarious husband and had a sweet look about her. What I did not know from that first meeting and what I could not tell from a getting-to-know-you worksheet was that this couple would become two of my best friends in the Peace Corps and more than that, simply two of my best-friends.

The villages where Ashley, Joe and I spent our first two years in the Peace Corps were about 5 hours apart on a good public transport day. Different in traditions but similar in their unfamiliarity we, like all volunteers do, spent a lot of time musing about our sites, Mali, West Africa, development work and the Peace Corps – among other things, of course. We would see one another every other month or so and in between those times we also went on some pretty epic adventures throughout Mali and in some neighboring countries. We climbed, along with our treasure of a friend Cassie, the highest point in Mali – Mount Hombori – and traveled in a taxi throughout Guinea, including hiking in the Fouta Djallon, and down through Sierra Leone to Freetown where we lounged on the beach and rubbed elbows with some dubious characters on the remote Banana Island.

When Joe and Ashley left Mali I knew we would stay in touch but also wondered how our friendship would evolve as they moved on with their lives in America and as I moved on with my new life in Bamako. While I was transitioning to a volunteer position with more responsibility in Mali's capital for my third-year with the Peace Corps – Joe and Ashley were transitioning to even larger life changes – a baby, buying a new home, new jobs. What would it be like when we all hung out again? Would it be the same? Would we still dream about traveling to different places together and within the same breath make goofball jokes as Ashley made popcorn?

I got my first chance to see Joe and Ashley only six months after they left Mali. In January 2011 I went out to Las Vegas with my family to celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday. Even though Joe and Ashley had just closed on a house in Phoenix days before our trip and Ashley was about 7 months pregnant and growing seemingly by the hour, they still drove the 6 hours to Las Vegas to see me and my family (and hit the black jack tables and slots!). Like all my adventures with the Wollersheims, this one was unforgettable, too.
I knew you 7 months in the belly and 7 months out!
My second opportunity to see the Wollersheims came just a week and a ½ ago. Home for four months from Mali before I start graduate school - you could say I have some free time. I decided to come out to the West Coast – somewhere I hadn't visited since I was 12 years old and traveled with my Dad and family from Vancouver, Canada down to Tijuana, Mexico (in the days before trading drugs and trafficking people became popular – we spent most of our money in Tijuana on chicklets and trampoline jumping).
A community Christmas party
I flew out to Phoenix a few days after Thanksgiving and spent ten days living the dream à la Wollersheim. We dined at Olive and Ivy's, wowed the club with our moves like Jagger at the W hotel, watched more bad romantic comedies than should be allowed in one week, hiked Squaw Peak, ate pizza, prayed together, made Christmas cookies and homemade baby food, drank coffee with hipsters and trolled the vintage shops downtown. Family, friends, community – I could not feel more thankful to have such generous friends.

After ten days with Joe, Ashley and their baby girl Mia, I know I need not have worried about what it would be like to pick up on the relationship that we built over the course of two years in Mali. Because while I could not have known when I met Joe and Ashley how much they would mean to me later - I know now how much they do.

See more pictures from my trip here!

                                Adam Shero (who performed at the W hotel) - Moves like Jagger

Jason Mraz on Sesame Street - I'd link to all the videos we watched with Mia but I'm sure there's a limit

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Living on Wollersheim Time!

Mali muso-ni

In her first complet!

I hopped on a flight to Phoenix yesterday and this is the good-looking family that awaited me!  Joe & Ashley were volunteers in Mali with me and I feel so blessed (along with my other treasure of PC Mali friends!!!) to call them friends.  We've had some fun adventures and lots of laughs.  And they didn't mess around when they came home - they got pregnant and had this treasure of a baby you see in these pictures - Mia Rose!  She's 7 months old now and hasn't stopped smiling since I met her (not because of me - she is just a really smiley baby!).  She also has her Dad's wiggles!  I'm looking forward to spending the next week and change with them - lucky, lucky me!!

All smiles and cheeks!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Top 5 reasons I am feeling pretty thankful

Mom's birthday scone from Panera+memory book present
Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year, has come and gone.  The last leaves of the year are falling from the trees in the park by my house and a new moon rose the day after Thanksgiving to usher in the Christmas season.  It seems like just last week I was admiring Halloween decorations and now the neighborhood is a sparkling display of twinkling lights and larger-than-life blow-up snowmen.  While it is hard to be away from Mali for so long, especially with my sweetheart there and not here (along with cherished friends!), I do have a lot to be grateful for this holiday season.  What better way to celebrate my gratitude than a top-five list?  John, my step-dad, did not actually ask me to tell him my top five November - but let's pretend he did since he listened to my answers.

1. Family and friends
  • John wanted me to itemize friends and family here in order of my thankfulness for them but I'm going to ignore him just this once.  I feel so incredibly blessed to be engaged to such a treasure of a man, surrounded by family that supports me and all my quirks and loved by friends who are (sometimes!) even quirkier.  You guys are wonderful. 
2. Taylor Swift
  • Taylor here is representing music and happy, bubbly moments of all kinds for me.  But I do just think she's the bees knees.  And John says that's because I haven't been a victim to her media overexposure.  But I also think John is sometimes a cynic. :)
  • As though to answer my need for more Taylor in my life, 60 minutes did a special on her.   
3. Whales 
  • Maybe it's because I was born in Virginia Beach and down the road from the Virginia Marine Science Museum.  Maybe it's because I have an affinity for large animals related to whales (see #4).  More likely it's because of all the good memories I associate with the Voyage of the Mimi and the 5th grade at Red Mill Elementary with Kate and Theresa.  Whatever the reason - I love whales!
4. Hippos
  • Not only does Hippo translate to 'Mali' in Bambara (HOW FORTUITOUS I WAS SENT TO MALI FOR THE PEACE CORPS!!!!), they're also really cute.  
5. Babies
  • Seems like I'm surrounded by some of the most precious baby treasures out there (also see below!!).  I'm almost counting down the hours until I meet Mia Rose, Joe & Ashley's 7 month-old baby girl!  Someone at church today said holding them is contagious.  While I'm sure I'll 'catch' the baby bug one day - for now they're just nice to hold until they poop :)
As I write this post, I look around my room and see my bed overflowing with magazines accumulated under my name over the past year while I was in Mali.  My closet is bursting at its proverbial seams with shoes, shirts and dresses pulled from Tupperware bins stored away in my absence.  Framed pictures of Abdoulaye and me compete for dresser space with books from the library and receipts from recent trips to TJ Maxx.  I'm facebook chatting with one of my best friends from my childhood and looking through pictures from the past week and feeling my heart swell.  Thanksgiving has come and gone and while I did not have to come to Virginia to realize I have a lot to be thankful for - it is is nice to come home to be surrounded by the reasons.

Looks like baby Ella captured my lens at Sheri's Thanksgiving feast!  She's such a doll baby, I couldn't help it! 
Memaw's lemon cake - kicking it up a notch after the scone!

I'm also thankful for timers, afternoon sunlight and family photos!

Amanda's birthday party included, but was not limited to, Wii 'Just Dance'!
Are you feeling especially thankful for anything? 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mali and the Magic School Bus

Mrs. Frizzle
It's been a little over a month since I returned to the States and I have quickly settled into the Virginia Beach groove.  Exercise at the Rec center with Memaw, trips to TJ Maxx and Target, and visits with family and friends.  I recently stopped by my friend, Heather,'s office (a former teacher) who thought another former teacher of mine at Ocean Lakes, Mrs. Windish, currently teaching at the Global Studies & World Languages Academy, might like to hear from me, too.  She sent an email to see if Mrs. Windish would be interested in me dropping by to talk about my Peace Corps experience in Mali with her internationally-minded students.  While Mrs. Windish's reply was 'Yes!', I do not know who was more excited about the talk - me or her!
With Lady Luck and the Black Swan - OLHS grads and now VBCPS teachers!  So proud!
But before I went to visit Mrs. Windish a cherished American holiday happened- Halloween!  On October 31st, I donned a favorite complet and sat expectantly with a bowl of candy on my front porch.  After a handful of cute kids in costumes treated, a group of teenagers waltzed down the street and I darted into the front yard to unload some of our mini-size Snickers, Almond Joys and Hershey bars on them.  But I decided, since these tricksters were a bit older, to ask a few geography questions before I doled out half my bowl of treats to them.

"Where is Mali?" I ventured to this group of too-cool-for-school teens.  "West Africa!" one of the girls quickly answered.  'Impressive,' I thought.  "What is Mali's capital?" I continued, knowing I would stump the group with this one.  "Bamako!" the girl answered, almost as quickly.  'Jeesh,' I thought.   "What is a major river that runs through Mali?" I finally asked - knowing that, this time, I had them.  "The Niger?" one of the boys in the group offered.  "Goodness!" I said to them, "where do you guys go to school??"  "Plaza Middle," the girl replied.  "Tallwood," said the boy.  'Wow,' I thought - VBCPS is doing their job!

This morning I had the great pleasure of going to Tallwood High School to talk with two of Mrs. Windish's Global Studies classes about my work as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali and to see for myself what the Global Studies Academy was like.  If trick-or-treaters can answer questions about Mali at the drop of a candy bar, VBCPS must be doing something right and my visit this morning just confirmed what I already knew - they are!

I was nervous when I started my presentation, but as I talked about Mali, Annie and Esayi and my work in Bamako, not to mention my tall, dark and handsome fiancé, I felt right at home.  I talked about Mali's ethnicities, Malick Sidibé, GIS in Mali (Mrs. Windish is starting a unit on it and asked if I could incorporate it in my presentation) and everything in between!  I loved sharing my experiences with students who were interested (for the most part!).  They posed in-depth questions about Mali on topics as diverse as ethnic divisions and religious freedom to what the stars look like and where Abdoulaye and I want to live when we get married :) 

At the end of the class the students thanked me for sharing my experiences in Mali with them.  "You're going to be a great teacher," one of the students said (she was also the most active-listener I have ever encountered - nodding her head and smiling at me during the whole presentation! - thank you!).   "You remind me of Mrs. Frizzle with your dress and they way you present," another student said.  'Mrs. Frizzle?' I thought.  I think I'll take that as a compliment! :)

                      In case you were missing village, a video from where I lived my first two years

                                      And in case you're nostalgic for the Magic School bus!

Do you want to know anything more about Mali that I haven't already shared?  What do you think is the best school at the beach? :)

(Top Image here)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In Morocco in Love

Abdoulaye and I traveled to Morocco in October. We got engaged, traveled the country by train and put our hands in the Atlantic Ocean together for the first time. Here's our video.

And here are some of my favorite pictures:

Here are more of our pictures from Fez and Meknes and from pictures Rabat

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A new blog beginning!

Sunset in Rabat, Morocco
I've been itching for the past few months to start a new blog.  A blog where I don't feel limited to write things only about Mali or my life in Mali! 

So here she is - trifles & treasures - where I'll write about wedding things (even if the wedding is awhile off!), graduate school (more on that soon!), working in Mali and so much more!  I'm excited to start this new chapter in my life - and so glad you'll be here to share in it!

Meet the Corcorans!

All smiles and maybe a few tears

UMW crew!

the newlyweds!
Amanda and Ryan got married on Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 in Richmond, Virginia.  I don't think I've ever heard more heartfelt toasts than at their reception.  Such a beautiful day and a great way to come home - thanks for letting me be a part of your day!

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