down by the river.

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The Kavango River: separating Namibia from Angola.

It still amazes me how different the landscapes are as you travel through Namibia. This weekend I spent some time in Rundu. I knew I was getting closer to town when I saw vivid green foliage, traces of water from recent heavy rains, and elephant crossing signs. Yes, seriously. I live in a country where elephants and people can cross paths (although, it wouldn’t be a great idea). How crazy is that?

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One of the many beautiful peacocks roaming around Camp YEAH over the weekend.

Each year volunteers in the Kavango Region host Camp YEAH. YEAH stands for Youth Exploring and Achieving in Health. The camp focuses on educating youth about the risk of HIV/AIDS and other issues affecting youth such as teen pregnancy. Volunteers and counterparts select motivated learners from their communities to participate.

This year, we will be introducing this camp to Ovamboland, creatively rebranding the name to Camp O-YEAH. Camp O-YEAH will be held during the first week of May. I have been put in charge of getting all the kitchen/nutrition stuff in order for camp. Since this is my first time being on the operations side of any camp, I figured this was a great opportunity to check out Camp YEAH, but also see how a camp kitchen is run.

When I completed my dietetics degree, I never thought I would use any food management concepts again. Not because I would never need to, but because I never wanted to EVER again. (Never say never, my friends!) I fell in love with the community health aspect of dietetics, and not so much with the food management or clinical side of it. Dietetic professionals know that creating menus to feed the masses takes a lot of time, math, tears, and preparation. Move to Namibia and add in converting everything from US to metric, and it turns into one heck of a good time.

I watched as a team of two volunteers with the assistance of a few locals cook and serve three meals per day to approximately 50 campers and staff. I was thoroughly impressed and mostly relieved that some school kitchens in Namibia are equipped with appliances found in commercial kitchens in the States. (They had a tilt skillet, y’all).

Mariah and Winnie cooked and introduced delicious new foods to the campers while reminding volunteers of the yummy foods we sacrificed for two years.

 

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Delicious cheese…oh, and chili.

 

For me, planning six days, 17 meals including 5 tea breaks, and 50 expected attendees will make anyone want to pull their hair out, but I think it will turn out just fine.

 

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Speaking of hair, do you like my new style? Can’t beat a new look for $10 USD.

 

❤ Krystal

 

malaria immunity. what’s your superpower?

Meme insisted that I got tested at the clinic.

I carry sickle cell trait.

Let’s clear a few things up before I go any further.

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) also known as Sickle Cell Anemia is an inherited form of anemia in which mutated (sickle-shaped) red blood cells do not carry enough oxygen throughout the body. Because of this, the red blood cells “stick to the walls” and cannot pass through capillaries. As a result, this causes chronic pain (sickle cell crisis) typically at the location of the “sticking,” which is often crippling for those who suffer from SCD. SCD is common in those of African descent, but similarly Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, and Asian Indian ancestry can also have SCD.

A carrier of Sickle Cell Trait is a person who only inherited one mutated gene of SCD. Remember dominant and recessive genes in biology class? In most cases, carriers of  sickle cell trait are asymptomatic and commonly do not have issues related to SCD, although there are always exceptions.

Interesting research shows that carriers of the sickle cell trait are IMMUNE to malaria, because SCD stems from mutated red blood cells which carried malaria.

Now, malaria is a real nasty disease. Malaria is caused when an infected mosquito transmits a parasite, most commonly P. falciparum, to its host. Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, chills, and vomiting.  If left untreated, malaria can lead to more severe symptoms including death.

Does anyone like needles? Nurse Anna laughing at pain.

Don’t get me wrong. Being genetically resistant to malaria is really cool. But, it does not make me immune to mosquito bites or mosquitoes buzzing in my ears a night. So, I make sure to sleep under my properly installed ITN (insecticide-treated net) and wear insect repellent.

Doctors still recommend carriers who live in malaria zones to take daily prophylaxis, especially during the rainy season – which is now in Namibia.

Hey, the more you know.

❤ Krystal

rustlin’ up some grub.

There are a few life lessons to be learned from watching The Lion King. Particularly, “grubs are slimy yet satisfying.”

Every day of my PC Namibian life is an adventure. I learn so much from the children I share a home with. They are so adventurous and fearless. But, aren’t most children?

Yesterday’s adventure led me to oshuungu from a nearby mopane tree.

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In many countries, edible insects, such as grubs and caterpillars offer a source of nutrition as well as income. Dried mopane worms have 2-3x more protein than beef by weight. 100 g of dried mopane worms contain about 430 calories and 50-60 g of protein. For comparison, 100 g of cooked beef is about 290 calories and 25 g of protein. Since mopane worms feed on healthy green foliage, they contain many of the required vitamins as well as significant amounts of fat, phosphorus, iron, calcium, and other minerals.

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My host siblings think it’s funny when I do things that really only children do in the village. Things such as running barefoot through puddles, hanging upside down from trees and getting excited to gather oshuungu provide pure entertainment and laughs from all.

Over the weekend, my youngest host brother, Mengela, was out playing and came home with branches filled with plump mopane worms. I begged him to take me next time. Ask and you shall receive.

On Monday, Mengela escorted me to the mopane tree where he had collected his harvest. After giving him a boost into the tree, I stood below, nervous yet excited to collect my very own mopane worms. As Mengela climbed from branch to branch, I stood to assess the tree for worms at the ground level while collecting a few (okay, one) mopane worm(s) in my reach as Mengela climbed his way up and through the tree limbs.

He climbed higher and higher, yelling, “Meme Krystal take,” and as he tossed down branches with mopane worms munching on the bright green leaves, something dawned on me.

“Mengela,” I shouted, “are there snakes in this tree?”

“No,” he responded firmly from above.

Not even a minute later, I saw slithering movement from the corner of my eye.

“Mengela, it’s a snake,” I squealed.

I watched as it dangled from a lower tree limb trying to hold on. But, it was too off balance and dropped to the ground. Once on the ground, it’s lateral undulation caused it to quickly blend into the grass below.

I ran quickly away. Everyone is safe.

Here’s a recipe for mopane worms:

After cleaning, heat oil in a pan and fry your mopane worms until their done.

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❤ Krystal

 

from the ground up.

I enjoy gardening.

In my early 20s, I shared a garden plot with a few colleagues when I worked for Chesapeake. It took a while to realize I cared more about hot compost and blossom rot and sweet potato curing than the average working young adult. I was captivated by sustainable gardening. Although, back then, I didn’t know sustainable was more than not using chemicals and pesticides.

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After returning back to school, I dabbled in home gardening. Bone meal and trellises and garden gloves and worm casing and lady bugs, I soon realized I was spending a lot of money for a tiny harvest.

Here’s one thing the US has wrong about gardening.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to grow a garden. 

We rely on fancy tools, seeds, and fertilizers which make gardening expensive. Many times we take on a backyard garden as if it’s a commercial farm. We start too big. And then our gardens fail.

 

Enter the idea of permagardening. Simple and teachable methods to link nutrition and agriculture which can be implemented anywhere around the world.

Upon returning to site after this workshop, I was on a mission to get serious about our household garden. I knew that this would require some help from my host family. So, I gathered my host siblings.

The type of permagardening technique we used is called double-digging. Double digging not only breaks up the top soil but increases the ability for the soil to hold water as well as adds air to the soil.

I use the term soil loosely because what we are dealing with here in northern Namibia is sand. Sand lacks essential nutrients for plants to grow therefore many plants cannot thrive in sand. During the hottest portion of the day, sand can increase in temperatures to about 120 degrees F. Not an ideal environment for a garden.

This is where science and knowing your environment comes in.

Our biggest task was to improve our soil and we didn’t have to leave the homestead to find all the right materials to do so.

Carbon Nitrogen Microbes
Charcoal Chicken manure Goat manure Egg shells (calcium)
Brown Leaves Coffee grounds Cow manure Wood ash (minerals)
Green leaves
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Host sisters and I pulled overgrown plants around the homestead to add nitrogen to our garden.

Healthy doses of carbon, nitrogen, microbes, as well as calcium, will change the sand into soil over time. This will make a soil rich in organic compounds needed to grow a healthy, sustainable garden.

Cost: Nothing (Except some time and hardwork).

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Collecting rainwater from the roof runoff. One less expense.

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Buried a few palm leaves to provide some shade for the young plants. Also, added twigs and branches from a neraby neem tree to serve as mulch. Neem is also a natural insect repellent. Dark green leaves- Black-eyed peas

My host siblings are thrilled and eager to assist in beginning and maintaining our garden. They have even started growing mango seeds to plant in the garden, although I remind them our garden may be too small for a tree.

❤ Krystal

 

>>–> follow your dreams <–<<

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I am still coming back to reality from the last week. I guess I graduated last weekend. Milestones such as this sneak up on me so quickly. Plus, it has been a difficult concept for me to grasp, since 1) Commencement isn’t until May and 2) I still need to take my board exam.

Last Friday night, I was able to celebrate the marriage of two friends in Oklahoma City. Then, I rushed back to Texas on Saturday morning to take a cat nap, study a little, and head to my final exam for my Anatomy and Physiology II class.

When I finished my exam, I called my mom to tell her how it went. I cried in relief of it being over with. I also began to cry about all of the life events that have transpired in the month and days prior. It was finally a chance for me to be still(ish) and absorb the moment.

Once I approached my neighborhood, I told my mom I would have to call her back. I walked in and to my surprise, my mom was standing there waiting for me. However she pulled this off, I do not know. But, all that mattered was my mom was here. I gave her a huge hug as I cried like a big 28 year old baby.

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I want to thank all of my friends and family who have supported me over the last two years:

Josie and Dennis D: Thank you for the room and board, delicious food, shoulders to cry on and listening ears. Thanks for checking my car for flats and making sure I bundled up when I weather got cold. Thanks for celebrating my promotions and giving me advice on approaching serious subjects. I love you both and thank God for you both.

Rachel W: Thank you for the text messages and phone calls throughout this time. You always lift my spirits. You are a great friend.

Libby D: Thank you for the beer and/or wine and pep talks. Thanks for helping me pronounce all those stupid medical words and visiting me on my coffee breaks. Thanks for telling me like it is and keeping me grounded.

Carrie H: Thank you for the continued encouragement throughout this entire journey and reminding me that not everyone can do this. Thanks for listening to my blubbering tears through the phone and letting me know that it was going to be okay. I love you so much, sis.

Stephany P: Thanks for being my voice of reason. You are always there to help me think out loud and really dig deep. Thank you for your support, emails, text, and calls.

Brent and Kyle: Thanks for being my study relief with good laughs and company. I needed that.

❤ Krystal

rewiring.

Today, I had a blog view from Brazil. That’s pretty awesome. I hope that they weren’t lost on the internet and actually intentionally found me. I know if I found a Brazilian blog, I would be lost. Which happens quite a bit for me. Including today. I started my summer class, good ol’ Anatomy and Physiology I. This is actually my second attempt at this subject. Well, I got lost going to class. I’ve been to this campus over a dozen times, but it was over a year ago. But, still. It’s embarrassing. My lack of direction and whereabouts is atrocious. 

Have you ever had a really great invention idea and some stole it? I have. I mean, it’s not like I ever put the idea into fruition. But, when I was about six years old, I thought it was a grand idea to create a retractable sunshade for the car. Living as a Californian girl (for three years of my life), I always wondered why my parents had to always put their cardboard accordion folded sunshade with the tropical sunglasses on the dash each and every time we got out of the car. I thought to my six year old Krystal self, “why can’t they build that in?” I even verbalized it to my parents one time, without knowing the word “retractable,” and was brushed off with something like, “that’s just not how things are.” Do me a favor, and do not Google “Retractable Auto Sun Shade.” SkyMall, baby!

This week I lifted. A lot. With my work schedule being crazy, as ush, I found made time to lift after work, with a few of my workouts crossing over until the next day. I am doing my best to rewire my routines. If I make the effort and take the time to pack a gym bag, I am making sure I go to the gym. In my mind, part of rewiring is taking pride and appreciation in the time it takes to plan ahead, which should make it harder for me to give into anything other than that. And even if that isn’t the case, it usually challenges me to consider the time I put into planning.

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June 2, 2015 Workout Sets x Reps
WU: Treadmill 1. 00 mile
DB Step Ups 3 x 15
Romanian DL 3 x 15
Leg Press 3 x 15
Stiff Leg DB DL 3 x 15
Leg Ext. 3 x 15
Leg Curls 3 x 15
DB Lunges 3 x 15
Standing Calf Raises 3 x 15
Seated Calf Raises 3 x 15
June 3, 2015
WU: Treadmill 1.00 mile
Bench Med Grip 1 x 15
2 x 15
Incline Med Grip 3 x 15
Dips with Plate 3 x 15
Incline DB Flyes 3 x 15
June 4, 2015
WU: HIIT- Treadmill 15 minutes
DB Rows 1 x 15
1 x 10
2 x 10
Bent Over Rows 3 x 15
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown 1 x 15
2 x 15
Iso Row 3 x 15
BO Two DB Row 1 x 15
2 x 15
DB Shrugs 3 x 15
Back Ext 3 x 15
June 8, 2015
WU: HIIT- Treadmill
DB Shoulder Press 3 x 15
Side Lat Raises 1 x 15
2 x 10
Seated BO Delts 3 x 15
Arnold DB Press 3 x 15
BO Rows with Plate 3 x 15
Standing Calf Raises 3 x 15
Seated Calf Raises 1 x 15
2 x 15

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

❤ Krystal

year of transition.

Do you have a familiar face? Every few months I meet a person who either knows someone who looks like me, talks like me, or both. I for one like to think of myself as a one-of-a-kind gem or precious stone, such as a crystal. See what I did there? But, ever since I was 13 or 14, I’ve been told I have a “twin”. Her name may be Kendra and she seems to follow me from coast to coast. This year, I found out she previously worked for the rehab facility I interned at and today, I found out she used to workout at my gym. I have no clue if she’s the same person, but it’s amusing to think I could have a look alike out there. So, Kendra or whoever you are, I would like meet you (and possibly judge if we really look alike). I personally like to credit Atong for being my long lost twin. A woman can dream, right? image IMG_6212 Any who! My calves hurt. And, so do my arms. My everything hurts. In the spirit of getting back on track with my workouts, I decided to hire a personal trainer. I’ve always been a person to rely on my feelings on whether to workout and eat right. The quality (and quantity, for that matter) of my training and dieting often times lands in the the in control of my moods. You heard me, a women can have M-O-O-D-S. Plural not singular. Take notes.

Here’s a few things I learned about being a “feeler” when it comes to working out (adapted from BodyBuilding.com): 1) Easily discouraged.  *I want results sooner rather than later. If I don’t see changes after a couple workouts, I am usually on to the next best thing.

2) Eat or drink for comfort. No limits. *Beer, cookies, cookies, cookies, and cookies. 

3) Self-conscious in the weight room. *I think everyone is watching me do something wrong, I mean isn’t that the reason for all those mirrors?

4) Extremely enthusiastic, so I train hard—maybe too hard. When I’m not enthusiastic, I struggle to get to the gym at all. *Many times my competitiveness and enthusiasm lead to injury because I push myself beyond what I am truly capable of doing and the cycle of pity begins.

Maybe, you’re like me. If you are, there is hope. Just like every other aspect of life: MAKE. A. PLAN. That has been the biggest hurdle for me. But, even one step pass that- Be proud of yourself. EACH. STEP. OF. THE. WAY. For myself, I think a lot of my discouragement comes from comparing my current self to what I was at my “best” self. I forget to compare all the training, sweat, blood, tears, sore muscles, aches, and pains. I need to remember to be proud of myself for each step in reaching my goals.

Limits. I need to learn that indulging is not a bad thing. But, it should not control my life. Excessive anything is usually not a good thing.

Be myself. Who cares if I am doing it wrong? I’m trying. There are so many resources on how to do things right. But, how will I ever learn if I don’t make a few mistakes along the way. I’ve heard that one the your worse enemy is reading about the world, and not going out to see for yourself. I, for one was guilty of reading and hoarding knowledge about how to do something, but never making the initial step into actually doing it. Seriously, I read about yoga for years, but it wasn’t until this past semester I finally took a class.

Don’t take on the world (too quickly). Yeah, I wanna look good by my 10-year reunion and all, but be smart. By default, I typically end up as the “team leader” among my friends. For example, in January two of my girlfriends and I decided we wanted to run a half marathon in April. You can imagine my enthusiasm when by January 24th I had already calculated about 50 miles and by January 31, I could barely walk. Really?! And from February to May I sat on the couch and ate cookies. Pace yourself, girl!

So, short story long. This is my year of transition. 28 years old will be a good year (even though I spent two months thinking I was 29), and it begins with the steps I decide to make each and everyday. Today is a good day for a good day. Today is also a good day to decide to have a good year! image