Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hola a todos!

Hola a todos! Since today is Sunday, my traditional blogging day, I thought I should start on my first in-country blog post…though I’m not sure when this will actually get posted. I cannot believe that as of tomorrow I will have left my house a week ago…it feels like I’ve been here FOREVER (in the best way possible). In this post I’ll just give you a quick overview of what I have been up to since Monday. I’m not planning on making every blog post an executive summary of my life but this one will be.

Monday: Bright and early Monday morning Brand and her Mama came to pick me up and drive me to Logan Airport. After a quick run back to the house (I forgot my jean jacket) we were on our way. The moon was a beautiful crescent hanging out with Venus (I think) as we made our way down Route 9. The whole trip to Miami went smoothly, I met up with one of the girls in my training class, Berlyn, in Boston and her cousin drove us to the hotel in Miami. Our first night was pretty low key; we had registration and then a short introduction. I just layed low that night, went to Panera, and sat in my room watching HGTV.

Tuesday: I started Tuesday off bright and early (are you sensing a theme?) with a trip to Pasión de Cielo, a coffee shop, with my hotel roommate Candice. We headed back to the hotel to grab something to eat and then were in “staging” sessions all day. Staging was a great opportunity to get out there and really start talking to people in our cohort. We all of course bonded over Trump’s ridiculous UN speech which was playing on all the TVs (including in the bathrooms). A group of us also went out to a sushi place for lunch (I got veggie fried rice) and bonded over being late getting back…Latin time right? That night, after packing and repacking and repacking Candice and I went out to a Spanish restaurant. It was so wonderful. I wanted to cry when I looked at the menu because it felt like I was back in Spain. We had a big pitcher of Sangria with dinner and talked about everything under the sun. One of the best parts of being in Peace Corps so far is the amazing access I’ve had to a diverse group of people who at their very core see the world as I do- a place for opportunity, change, and creativity. The people I’ve met over the last week are down to debate the education system, how we grow food, cultural norms, prejudices, etcetcetc. It’s wonderful.

Wednesday: If Tuesday was Christmas Eve, Wednesday we were up at the crack of dawn. We met in the lobby at 5:30am to leave for the airport and say goodbye to the staging staff. We all complained about the early wake up call, especially for an 11am flight, but it was warranted. It took us forever and a day to get through security and there was a lot of packing/repacking to get everyone under weight limit. The flight was short. I sat next to a very nice woman who I talked to a little bit about Peace Corps. When we got off the plane and went through customs, we came down the stairs to a band playing and Peace Corps volunteers and staff dancing and shouting to welcome us. There were definitely tears. Trying to get luggage, and everyone organized was very overwhelming, as was walking out of the airport. We all got crammed into busses and were taken to the Peace Corps office. It was a very overwhelming couple of hours but in a good way. The rest of that first afternoon was sessions and lots of information. I was really tired so after a quick walk around town and dinner at the hotel I went to sleep.

Thursday: After breakfast at the hotel and official pictures, we had lots of sessions on Thursday. My favorite part was having our second language proficiency interview. These interviews determine out training groups: where we live and who we work with during training. My facilitator was Felipe, he’s very funny and has been working with Peace Corps for a long time. He got me talking about Spain (how they speak multiple languages there) and my work with the International Rescue Committee, two topics that I could talk about for days. The best part of the day was after all the sessions when a bunch of us went to the hotel to change and then went back to the PC office to workout/play games/hang around. It was really cool to just share a space with a bunch of people and drift in and out of all the activities that were going on on the soccer field. Plus being barefoot in the grass was wonderful. Note to self: you only feel like garbage when you are trying to connect to the wifi.

Friday: Our last full day at the hotel was pretty overwhelming. I started off the day frustrated because I was still trying to connect to the hotel wifi and then we had a huge medical session. I’m all for learning about health stuff but getting our med kids and health manuals made me a bit queezy. We had our first language class which was good-our next one is manana! I walked home like a big girl after sessions and did some yoga/dance on the rooftop terrace of the hotel before dinner. That night we had our Bak’tun X (our training cohort) talent show. Y’all is was great. Throughout the week we also got to talk to lots of current volunteers and that was one of the highlights of my first few days in-country. 

Saturday: Día de la familia! After a couple of sessions on Saturday morning we met our families, had lunch with them and then we were out of there. It was very exciting and nerve wracking and definitely a whirlwind. This was the time when I decided that I definitely packed too much-the torrential downpour when we were trying to get all of our stuff didn’t help. Eventually my host mama and I got back home and my Community Based Training (CBT) began. I’ll save the rest for another day, I just wanted to give you a quick view of my first week in PC Guatemala. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

And I'm off...tomorrow

I woke up early this morning, my last full day at home. Preparing to leave has been stressful in that I feel like I'm waiting for some sort of justification/approval. Like: "okay, you're all set! You packed what you need, you have your paperwork, time to go". I feel like I did a sloppy job of packing and am definitely missing things. In any case, the crescent moon kept me company. I think the hardest part has been the waiting. I just want to go. I applied over a year ago and am very anxious but also very excited. Let's get this show on the road folks!

I head to staging for a couple of days tomorrow in Miami then it's off to Guatemala for a three day in-country orientation and then we get placed with our host families for pre-service training (PST)!

I had originally intended on doing a "packing list" post, but I've just had so much else to do. After I've been in-site for a while I'll let you know what I'm glad I brought and what I wish I brought

Monday, May 29, 2017

“A single bracelet does not jingle”

This Congolese proverb rings true in many situations but I have related to it strongly in the past few weeks.  Because I am constantly moving around, I find myself saying goodbye more often than I might like. Don’t get me wrong, I love the thrill of a new adventure, of meeting new people, of breathing new air, but it can get tiring having to say goodbye to a place or an experience that you are in love with.

As I was preparing to leave my Virginia home I remembered this proverb and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. It can be interpreted in a few ways but I like to imagine and arm full of bracelets, each different from the last–some bright and colorful, some understated and elegant, some very loud and some silent–each one representing an experience, or a place, or a person. We are made up of our experiences, comprised of our stories. This beautiful arm represents our entire being and when we reflect and celebrate those experiences…when we dance with all of the energy that life gives us…those experiences sing and shine for us and for those around us. 

This beautiful image is even more impresionante when you remember that you and your friendships, and kindness, and shared adventures are actively weaving the bracelets of others. Your participation in the lives of others is important and you too are celebrated and carried across the globe. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"A place to stand"

Welcome back!

Those of you who read this blog when I posted regularly during my year abroad will notice the new title. The purpose of this blog largely remains the same, it's a way for those at home to keep up with me and also to inspire and encourage others to get out and see our big, beautiful world.

As a Peace Corps Guatemala invitee, most of the posts this summer will be focused on my preparation for departure as well as other things I am working on or have participated in in the past year. Maybe I'll even get around to finishing writing about Spain, Costa Rica, and Norway.

SO, the title change. My year abroad was focused on self-reflection and improving myself. My next long-term travel experience, Peace Corps, will be focused on serving those around me and attempting to better the world in whatever way I can. I believe that you can't be effective in helping others until you are confident in yourself. Self-esteem, self-respect, and self-care are extremely important, this I have learned through experience.

"A place to stand" comes from John F. Kennedy's speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1963. Speaking about the limited (nuclear) test ban that was recently signed with the USSR he said: "It will not put an end to war. It will not remove basic conflicts. It will not secure freedom for all. But it can be a lever, and Archimedes, in explaining the principles of the lever, was said to have declared to his friends: 'give me a place where I can stand - and I shall move the
world' "

As a Peace Corps volunteer I know that I will not change the world but if I can help to move it along, I will be content.

Look for more in the coming weeks :)