This year I discovered my previously dormant talent in catching mostly-extinct-rather-rare-and-horribly-inconvenient tropical diseases. I excel in the fevers: dengue, malaria, a bit of yellow and typhoid in there. I do not, however, discriminate against parasites, stomach worms, or broken bones either.
I also learned, from ex-combatants and ex-pats worldwide alike, that people accomplish beauty when someone lights a fire under them, or when they carry a fire within them: a fire to learn, to give and to grow.
I learn about myself through others and through all they can teach me by their own example. The greatest lessons of the past year did not lie in conflict management 'best practices' or tips on what to do when a Middle Eastern border guard asks for your thoughts on marriage (though, if you are curious, this year schooled me in both).
This year, I learned that I am as much of an idealist as the "save-the-worlders" at whom I sometimes roll my eyes while doing field work. I learned that I am, and wish to remain, an Eternal Optimist. And most of all, I unlearned two lessons from my childhood and college years that may have been holding me back: I let go of the notion that happiness is not a useful guide for making decisions and found it to be certainly as useful a criterion as its step-cousins 'Accomplishment', 'Ambition', and 'Obligation'. And I let go of some skepticism and guardedness about love. I no longer roll my eyes at affection; I seek it, dole it out, revel in it.
I am lighter, happier, and more loving for it. And I am most thankful to those who have been teaching me these lessons over the years, with patience and with full, open hearts.
|Love at an orphanage quinceaneara - Portoviejo, Ecuador|
|Love at the paralia - Thessaloniki, Greece|
|Love quarrel - Bogotá, Colombia|
|Winter love - Caesarea, Israel|
|Botero love - Bogotá, Colombia|
|Handholding love - Gulu, Uganda|
|Love at the flea market - Usaquen, Colombia|
|Love and salsa dancing (/stepping-on-feet) at the orphanage - Portoviejo, Ecuador|
|Aching heart- Bogotá, Colombia|
|Love in the fog at the top of the mountain - Monseratte, Colombia|
|Kitty love - Bogotá, Colombia|
|Love on the Ohio River - Northern Kentucky, USA|
|Teenage love - Antigua, Guatemala|
|Love at the doorstep - Antigua, Guatemala|
|Mario Benedetti love - La Havana, Cuba|
|Schoolyard love - Antigua, Guatemala|
|Love and street music - Candelaria, Colombia|
|Love and Jesus - Candelaria, Colombia|
|Love on the walls- Thessaloniki, Greece|
|Love - Cairo, Egypt|
All photographs are my own, apart from the final image,
which is courtesy of the lovely and talented Dani