Greetings from Kigali, Rwanda. This is the second-ever edition of the holiday letter from the southern hemisphere (although this time, just barely. I'm about 4 hours bus ride south of the equator.) As always, I hope this bulk e-mail finds you happy, healthy and well and if you've grown tired of this particular tradition, do please let me know as this newsletter operates on an opt-out policy.
2012 saw my return back to residence in Washington DC, this time in NE. It was surprisingly good to be back in town. Special thanks to Sarah, my close friend and college roommate for adding the title landlord and letting me move into a space she had in her row house on Capitol Hill. DC is a great town for disc and I made a lot of new friends playing women's club for a team called Veto and about seven varieties of league (spring, summer, fall, women's, weekend, weekday, etc.).
This September I travelled with my mom through Fargo, North Dakota to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota for Sarah's wedding. (Earning her a rare double-mention in the annual holiday letter, typically reserved only for family and Allen Iverson.) It was great to see the foliage, the beautiful lake and the moving ceremony. Congratulations Frank & Sarah!
This year's big news is a career change. For most of the year, I continued to work for Perfect Sense Digital, mostly in Knoxville, Tennessee for HGTV.com and FoodNetwork.com. ("Hey, ya'll!" to my home away from my home away from home in Knoxvegas.) In October, I resigned to pursue a year -long opportunity with Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, in Rwamagana, Rwanda, about 45 minutes bus ride east of the capital Kigali.
I had the chance to visit the ASYV (www.asyv.org) last year for about 10 days as an English language volunteer and I just fell in love with the place. The school is for orphan and vulnerable high school-aged kids. The philosophy of the organization is one of capacity-building and is about healing kids past, enabling them to maximize their full potential and to help them become successful adults. I was struck with the effort to give the kids avenues to pursue art, technology and culture and amazed by how appreciative and receptive the kids were to work with.
Now I'm back for a year as a Professional Skills coordinator. I'll be working to help the kids write CVs, practice interviews, learn about potential future careers and help build and deliver curriculum that will help the kids find paying jobs when they leave ASYV. I'm so excited about doing this work that feels truly meaningful to me. I arrived here in Rwanda on December 14th and so far am getting adjusted, oriented and trained. The new class of kids will arrive on December 27 and that will be the real start of the new job. Wish me luck as the stakes are higher here than anything I've ever done. If I fail, I'm failing a kid that needs my help. If you give to charities this time of year, do consider ASYV, as it's about as worthy an organization as you'll find, and I can tell you from experience that the donor dollars go to fund meaningful programs for these kids.
I'm looking forward to a year working in Rwanda. I'm trying to learn a bit of Kinyarwanda and also planning to travel in Africa on my breaks (April & August). Do look forward to next year's holiday letter which will no doubt have some adventures to relate.
My family is all doing well. My mom got settled into Selma, North Carolina this year and now has a new Golden Retriever puppy, Nolan. We had a lemonade stand again this year for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation and it was a lot of fun:
My sister Lynn is still in Raleigh with her husband Robbie and my nieces Kate and Lindy are doing just wonderfully. Kate is a freshman in high school now, though no one knows how that happened. Lindy pretty much runs her elementary school.
I had the chance to see many of my cousins, aunts and uncles over the Thanksgiving holiday in Louisville, KY. Here is me and my sister Lynn at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving Day:
Before I headed out I had the chance to go to hiking with a friend in Virginia and also catch an Eagles game. (I don't want to talk about it.)
Do let me know if you have any plans to be in East Africa or any interest in going Gorilla trekking. (Rwanda has the best and safest trekking expeditions for this severely endangered species.) Otherwise, you can always find my updates here at http://courtneyspondence.blogspot.com/.
Peace to you in the coming year.