Monday, April 6, 2015

Important People I Would Not Have Known Without YES, Day 3: Lydia Larson

We were in a hotel. It was beautiful, but not much different than your average hotel in America. It wasn’t even in Denver. It was DIA, Colorado, which is its own place if you ask me. I was in a hotel in my home state with 89 high school students across the country. These weren’t just any high school students, though. They were like me. Students who cared about global issues and craved adventure. Students who weren’t afraid of going somewhere completely off most Americans’ radar.

Even for our similarities, I didn’t exactly blend in at the YES Abroad IPSE (fancy terms for interview and sleepover). I enjoy social interaction, but I can get lost in crowds. When I saw Miss Lydia Larson, I knew we would be able to connect. Lydia and I talked for at least four hours about anything and everything. We found we had more in common than our desire to go abroad. We were both from small towns (though Lydia lives much further from a city than me), we both valued our education, and we somehow…fit. During our first conversation we were never scrambling for “something to talk about.” We were enjoying each other’s company and viewpoints.

Little did I know that that conversation would be the first of hundreds. Yes, hundreds. Lydia and I were sent to Kumasi, Ghana together in the fall of 2012. After every day, we would call each other and process our experiences. Lydia and I saw each other at our best and at our worst. Before Ghana, I never really let people see me at my worst.

There will be a few of these blog posts that will leave me, the writer, at a loss for words. This is one of them. I can’t really express the kind of bond you form with someone when you, together, leave everything you know.

Lydia and I didn’t always see eye to eye, that is true. But friendships where you always see eye to eye are fake in some sense. My friendship with Lydia is real. We navigated Kumasi’s tro-tro system together. We celebrated Eid-al-hada for the first time (see the picture). We traveled cross-country. We played a sour game of pool on New Year’s Eve of 2013. We went on a running adventure where we burst into someone’s house (He didn’t care. In fact, he asked us if we wanted to borrow some chairs while we sat on his roof.) We laid the groundwork for what is now Enliven Mama together. (Lydia was the professional eye in the room. Had the website been left to my designs…let’s just say there would have been hidden jokes and nerdy cultural references.) After sharing a room several times on trips, we decided we should never be roommates and always be friends. Lydia was the first and remains the only person to notice the bizarre way I sleep – on my stomach, with my hand up at the pillow. (Yes, I sleep in that position every night.)

That is not even a sixteenth of what Lydia and I shared. Lydia and I…we grew up together. Not in the way that we knew each other all our childhood. We became adults together. We arrived in Ghana two American teenagers with a lot in common. We left Ghana two brave women, marked by our experiences. Ironically, I think we have less in common now than we did then. We have grown in diverse, beautiful directions.

I don’t have a sister by blood. My female friends are lucky because they become my sisters.


  1. Does that mean you are still in contact and that Enliven Mama is still happening?

    1. It is still happening. Check out: