Today is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements and be inspired to create your own. I consider myself blessed to have so many amazing, strong, bold, fantastic women in my life to inspire me to be the best woman I can be each and every day. My mom, sister, aunts, cousins, gramma, host moms, host sisters, friends, family-friends. The list goes on and on. Today, however, I want to celebrate one woman in particular: Letisia. This week Letisia left this world to go inspire others to work harder in heaven and it still doesn’t feel real. While I will miss her tremendously, I will never cease to be inspired by this woman who did so much for everyone and gave to anyone. I will also never forget the time I was lucky enough to have spent with her.
When I first arrived at my site, I knew close to no one. Within my first week at school I somehow ended up on Letisia’s couch, watching Indian soapies. I couldn’t tell you how I came to be there, but I kept being invited back and I didn’t decline having company. For the next 4 months at site I was at her door at 7PM sharp every weeknight, ready to sit and gossip about the soapies with my new friends for the next two hours. Letisia would always walk me half way home afterward, which was only about 20 feet, so we could both walk back to our flats and arrive at the same time.
We quickly became great friends and I inherited her other two friends, Helena and Anita, as well. Letisia instantly became my go-to person. When I had a bad day, she was there to listen and offer advice. If I had a good day, she was there to applaud and encourage me. If I needed to know a word in Oshikwanyama, she was my translator. She was my rockstar! (More on this later). I looked forward to seeing her smile each day and I could always hear her coming, as she was constantly playing “No Longer Slaves” by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser on her phone.
Letisia had a good sense of humor and got my sarcasm (which is not understood here most of the time). She was a jokester and I loved all of her jokes. She would prank us, knocking at the door and pretending to be a man. She could make me laugh any time.
Letisia was so passionate about teaching, learning and enabling her students to do their best each and every day. She taught pre-primary and loved all the little ones like they were her own. Letisia was continually educating herself and encouraging others to do the same. Last year she enrolled in a Masters Program in Education. She would have graduated at the end of this year. When I first came to my new school, Letisia used to talk of going to university in Chicago to study. (I don’t know why it was always Chicago--pronounced “Chi-cago.”) Letisia was like me, always cold. I told her there was no way she could survive there. She’d freeze! She’d need four electric blankets! She was still set on going to Chicago, so I showed her some Instagram pictures which made my argument relatively clear. Soon after that, Letisia enrolled in her online program and whenever she had a writing assignment, she came to me for proofreading to make sure her English was proper.
Letisia was the sweetest and kindest person to anyone she met. When I was sick last year, she took care of me like I was her daughter (even though there was only a 13 year age difference between us). Her actual daughter got kicked onto the couch, so I could sleep next to Letisia in her bed and she could check on me throughout the night. When I would no longer allow her to kick her daughter out of her own bed, I slept on a mattress on her floor. We would watch TV and talk until we all fell asleep. Letisia would regularly check to make sure that I was eating and if I wasn’t eating enough, she would cook for me and have me come eat with them.
Letisia was a fiery and passionate woman, so full of life. She will be greatly missed by her family, friends, colleagues, community and I. Letisia is irreplaceable, but will live on in her two daughters and all the learners and friends she came into contact with throughout her life. She has inspired me to continue my education when I get home and pursue a Masters in Education as well. I hope to be half the teacher she was one day.
Lessons learned from my time with Letisia:
1. Always continue learning and educating yourself.
2. You are never too busy that you can’t take a moment to check on someone else.
3. Do your best because that’s the best you can do.
Some of my favorite moments with Letisia:
1. Taco Tuesday
Letisia LOVED cooking. I taught her, along with our two other friends, Helena and Anita, how to make tacos. It was such a fun night! The next morning as we walked to school, Letisia looked at me and said something along the lines of: “This morning I woke up sad, because my stomach is no longer having tacos.” I laughed the whole way to school.
2. “Take a photo of me jumping!”
When Anita was leaving our school for a new job, the four of us friends took some pictures together. As I was taking a few pictures of only Anita, I hear from behind me, “Take a photo of me jumping!” I turned around to see Letisia standing up on the concrete step and as I went to take her photo, she jumped! Here is the photo I captured.
One of the soapies we watched together was called “Rockstar.” I somehow received the nickname Rockstar from Letisia…that was until she saw my gramma on Facebook. Gramma quickly became “Rockstar.” Whenever my gramma commented on a photo, Letisia would say she was a rockstar. She always seemed to know if gramma had commented on Facebook, before I even did! I don’t know why, but I loved this every time it happened.
4. 4th of July S’mores
Last year my site mate and I hosted a Fourth of July celebration and invited our Nambian colleagues. I had had Mama Henry bring marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate bars, and graham crackers from home when my family visited in May. That night we ate burgers, kabobs, American potato salad and roasted marshmallows to make s’mores. I snapped a picture of Letisia’s first bite. When I showed her, she commented, “Check the eyes!” It was a moment of pure happiness in that first s’more bite.