HI! I'M JESS.
I have fallen in love a lot in my life. I’m a passionate person with an affinity for romance. Boys, experiences, lands far away, I’ve loved them and lost them, found them again and loved them even more. The most life changing love found me in the summer of 2006 when I was sitting around a fire on the edge of a little village in South Sudan. Clapping and singing in harmony with the night, the sky was so full of stars, it was dripping with magic and I knew this was love. It was intoxicating and I drank it all up.
In 2007, I took a full time teaching position in Nairobi, Kenya managing a class full of crazy 4th graders from all over the world. A few months into that, I fell in love again. This time with a tall Swede who I called Orik for the entire first night that we were together. He bought me a glass of white wine and we started a conversation that has taken us 10 years yet.
In 2009 we married on a beach on the Indian Ocean, we danced, we sang, and my heart was so full I thought I would burst. Love moved me to Hargeisa, Somaliland a few months later and we started out our life as most newlyweds DON’T: living in the middle of the desert in a house full of guys, we were trying to help the Somali people in whatever ways we could. I spent months teaching English to anyone who wanted to learn, and eventually ended up as the Education Advisor for a Danish NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) and traveled all over Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda teaching communities about conflict management tools and helping children identify the dangers of leftover explosives from their country’s civil wars.
It was intense. Not at all like teaching 4th grade, but I was in love, with a life I had dreamed into existence, a job where I felt like I was making a difference - it was all I had ever wanted, all I felt I could ever need.
All of this was cut short on October 25, 2011, when out on a routine field mission, my car was overtaken by a group of armed men who marched me out into the desert and attempted to execute me. Ninety-three days of what I call ‘the most extreme camping experience’ followed - I lived with a group of men, slept on a mat under an acacia tree out in the elements, didn’t bathe, shave or properly wash my hair until I was successfully rescued by an elite unit of U.S. Special Operation Forces on January 25, 2012.
It was the ultimate freedom. A miracle. A gift. To be alive and free - I will NEVER take that for granted.
One month after my rescue, I found out I was pregnant with my first child, and with that, came the next part of my survival, of which The Survivor’s Well was “birthed.” I realized so many other mothers had experienced trauma in their own ways, and had to figure out how to mother in the midst and the aftermath, but no one was really talking about it.
I wanted to see what was in everybody’s inner well. How did they keep it full and how did they access it at the most crucial times of their lives? My intention is to share those stories in my next book, ‘The Pilgrimage of Motherhood’ due out whenever I can manage to get it finished. But until then, I write about mothering and the aftermath of survival, and the intersection of the two.
Mothering is HARD. Mothering while you are trying to cope with PTSD is even harder.
I hope to build a community of mothers who are grieving and wanting to let it go, who are hoping and knowing they can heal, who are inspired and willing to share their stories.
Thank you for being one of those today.
I’m now a mother of two, Auggie is 5 and Ebba Jane is 3. We live in the DC metro area and Erik/Orik continues to work on African issues from DC, traveling back and forth to Somalia, still. I travel the country speaking, sharing my experience on overcoming, and write for various different outlets. I’m on the Board of Directors for Hostage US, a non-profit working to support the families of hostages and for the former hostages themselves.
I’m a believer in Nature- it is where I find peace that is so necessary for healing. I trust that it is no accident that I spent the most trying time of my life deeply connecting to the Earth and learning how to cook, sleep and BE in it. During our free time, you will most likely find me and my family out hiking or camping, or if at home, growing medicinal herbs in our gardens, because that is where we have found we are all the best versions of ourselves.
I’m a grateful person and you will read a lot about that. I also have a heavy soul. Sometimes it gets weird and complicated. This is a place to give my feelings the room to work themselves out. I deeply believe in community, and so I invite you to be a part of this journey with me.
Things don’t happen TO us, they happen FOR us. It is no accident that we are both here.
Let’s dig deep into our souls and see what is at the bottom of our Survivor’s Well.
If you are interested in the story of my kidnapping, it is chronicled from my side, as well as that wonderful Swede, “Orik’s” in our New York Time’s best seller, Impossible Odds.
I’ve been interviewed by a range of people about the ordeal, from ’60 Minutes’ to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Many of those can be seen on my website www.jessbuchanan.com