Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Another Update... Blerg

Hey everyone!  Sorry I have been so delinquent when it comes to updating this thing.  It would serve me well to be documenting my experiences because the trip I'm on is sort of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

For the past 6 weeks I have been wandering up and down the Pacific Coast.  I originally made a "move" to the Seattle area, living with my sister in Everett for a few weeks.  But soon after that, Real Life called and made it very clear that Michigan is where I'm supposed to be for a while.  USDA-NRCS has asked me to return to my Soil Conservationist position, and I have agreed.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So anyways, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco have been my main hotspots.  First I drove down to Portland to visit Elijah, one of my best Peace Corps buddies.  Portland is a great town!  I'd never been to Oregon before, so it was really fun to see a new place and see a good friend in his natural environment, instead of... well... whatever Paraguay turned us into, haha. ;)  I also got to catch up with Becca, who was up in Portland for the day, and we went to a Trailblazers game!

After a few days in Portland, it was back to Everett.  I spent lots of time with my energetic nieces (Rayne and Neve), and got to do some fishing with my brother-in-law.  I even managed to find some Col√≥n Completo yerba mate (My FAVORITE!) at the latino market in the Pike Place Market in Seattle.  $12.50/kilo as opposed to $1.50/kilo in Paraguay, but the scarcity of it in the US makes it worth it, right?

Neve and Rayne at a park on the Possession Sound in Everett, WA
 Next stop San Francisco, California!  I have known Stephen and Mandy Decker for 22 years.  At my age, it's rare to have those kind of friendships, and I was so excited to spend time with them and catch up!  They live in a great apartment right downtown, and it gave me the opportunity to do and see a lot while I was in the city.  Both of them work, so I was able to basically go a different direction every day from their apartment and see different things. 

Mandy and I at Muir Beach

Stephen and I at Pirates Cove

I also got to make the trip up to Zamora, California to visit with some other Peace Corps friends.  Mark and Susan were great inspirations to me while I served in Paraguay, and it was SO GOOD to see them and catch up with them.  They live in a truly beautiful area.  Yolo County is where a lot of almonds are grown, and Mark took some time to take me on a mini agricultural tour.  We saw rice fields, mustard, onions, almonds... I've always been super proud that Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the country, but it was really fun to spend some time in rural California, which is number 1 in crop diversity.

Susan, Mark, and I at their beautiful house in Zamora, CA
Mark giving me the scoop on how almonds are grown and harvested
 And now I'm back in Portland for a few more days with Elijah.  We're hopefully going to get out and do some hiking or visit the Oregon Coast while I'm here.  Yesterday was beautiful, so while Elijah was out for a bit I took a 5 mile run around the Willamette River.  All the trees were in bloom!  No matter what is happening in Michigan, Spring is on the way somewhere! :D

View of the Willamette River and the Steel Bridge in Portland, OR
  I head back to Michigan on March 26 and will be moving to the Kalamazoo area in April.  NRCS has placed me in Van Buren county, and I am extremely excited to get back to work!  I'm going to get to learn about grapes and blueberries, which is all new for me.  Plus, where I'll be living is close to Lake Michigan and only a couple hour drive from Chicago, which is fantastic!

I hinted at this before, but this trip has taught me some big lessons.  In my discussions with Stephen and Mandy (we got DEEP the last night I was there, lol) it was so great to know that I have such amazing people in my life.  They're people who are not afraid to tell me the truth and challenge me, and are always there to support and encourage me. 

My whole life I've sort of fought this "nomadic" idea.  I've always claimed to hate change and I've always preached commitment and consistency.  My actions over the past 10 years have proved otherwise, haha.  While those latter two concepts are good things, sometimes I take them too far.  I've learned that I need to embrace this nomadic element of myself and stop trying to fight it.  I'm much happier when I stop projecting myself five years into the future and actually live in the present.  I'm going to be much better off if I let life take me where it takes me instead of trying to force things that just aren't there. 

So that's what's going on right now.  Drifting, learning, and living it up on the West Coast!  It won't be long and I'll be back in the frozen tundra of Michigan (Which, believe it or not, I AM excited about).  I am much more of a Midwesterner than I ever thought.

As for shameless plugs, continue to check out my YouTube channel for updates on RPCV life and more Peace Corps information.  If people keep asking questions, I keep making videos.  So thanks for reading and watching, and I hope you continue with me onto my next adventure!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What IS this place?

Happy 2014!  It's hard to believe that 2013 has come and gone, and alone with it so has my Peace Corps Service.  I've officially been back in the United States for three weeks now!  Life is good, but never void of challenges.

My Christmas was excellent!  It was low-key, but that was probably good for this year.  America is crazy!  Especially around Christmas.  My aunt came up from Texas and we just had a small family Christmas with turkey and lots of pinochle.  I even got to go cross-country skiing up in Grayling, which I haven't done for like 10 years!

Mom and Dad out on the trail at Heartwick Pines in Grayling, Michigan

I've really enjoyed the cold weather, seeing that it's literally 100F cooler here than it was when I left Asuncion.  The winter weather has definitely taken it's toll on Michigan though.  Many people still don't have power, and it's been over a week.  My family shockingly did not lose power--even with me, the most cursed person in the world when it comes to power outages, living in the house!  So even though it caused a lot of frustration for people around us, we were really able to enjoy the beauty that Ice Storm 2013 provided for us.

Winter Wonderland

Me with my parents
All in all, December has been a great month!  Tonight I will be spending New Years Eve with some old friends that I've known for over 20 years!  I'm very excited.  But I will never forget my 1st new years eve away from home, when the G37 Ag crew took over the Zaphir and watched fireworks from the fire escape on the 11th floor.  Remember that guys?  That was good times! :D  Remember when we looked like this, guys?
New Years Eve 2011 - Photo by Lauralee (as usual)
So if you made it down this far, there's also a video!  Haha.  It's about my first month home as a returned Peace Corps volunteer.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Well friends, as crazy as it seems this adventure has come to it's end.  I'm leaving Paraguay tomorrow and returning to the great state of Michigan tomorrow afternoon!  While I am sad to leave Paraguay and the people of San Jose Boqueron behind, as well as my fellow PCVs, I'm very excited to move on to what's next for me.

I don't have a lot of time to write a good final blog here, so I'll wait until I get home to do that.  Back home... where it's not 115F outside and I won't feel like I'm gonna pass out.

Until then, thanks for following me on this adventure, and check back frequently to see what other exciting things I have to say!  Haha.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Applying to Peace Corps: The Process

Here is Part 2 of my videos on the Peace Corps application process.  I've heard from some PCVs that it operates a little different now, so please understand that this is 100% based off of my own application, and that you may have a very different experience.

I'm in Asuncion this weekend for my G's despedida.  It's basically the last time we'll all be together before people start boarding planes back to the United States.  Three have already left, and many many more will be leaving next week.  There will only be a few of us that will be in Paraguay for the actual Close of Service Ceremony on December 6th.

I don't judge anyone for leaving early.  Everyone has their reasons.  Some people are going home to spend time with family before the holidays, some are taking some time to travel around South America before going back home for Christmas.  I just know that if I were to leave early, I would always know that I left before my time was up.  I committed myself to 27 months -- I'm completing 27 months.  It's always been important to me to finish something after it's started.

It's sad to watch everyone leave though.  It's definitely bittersweet.  I consider G37 to be my family in away.  These people have shared a shocking, beautiful, sometimes horrifying and challenging 2 years with me.  We've had our ups and downs.  We've fought with each other, traveled with each other, picked pique out of each other's feet... These people are not just normal friends to me.

I'll write more later.  They're not gone yet!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Applying to Peace Corps: Preparation

I've been receiving some questions about the process of applying to Peace Corps, so here is part 1 of a 2-part video.  I'll be uploading part 2 another day because I've had some problems with uploading to YouTube today for some reason.

Signing up to do Peace Corps is a big commitment.  It takes dedication and a lot of time, but in the end, is totally worth it!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fin de Octubre

Woah.  It's really starting to hit me that my time in Paraguay is running out.  My friends back home have started contacting me about events happening in the next couple of months. Things that I may actually be able to attend.  That hasn't happened in over two years!

Life in the campo has been pretty tranquilo, but whenever I leave, it's just insane.  For the entire month, I have been at home for three or four days, then hopping on a bus to go to somewhere else, than going back home for a few days... it's been a crazy month of medical appointments, meeting new volunteers, helping out with training-- just a lot of stuff going on.  I've barely had time to draft up my final reports and develop a new resume.

But most of that stuff is done now, and November is on it's way.  I don't know 100% how I feel about it yet.  About half of my training group is leaving early for one reason or another. We're having our "G" despedida in Asuncion the second week of November, and almost immediately following, they're going to be getting on their planes and heading out.  It's going to be a little sad, I think, when our Close of Service Ceremony is only attended by like 10 people, haha.  Oh well.  It's getting to the point where we have to cut some ties and try to shed the co-dependency that we've built over the last two years and prepare ourselves for the ambitious, fast-paced life in the United States.

I know I promised some videos... I have a couple done that just need to be uploaded.  Maybe once I find a decent internet connection.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Hey guys!  I decided that it would be smart to put all of the "Remembering My Peace Corps Service" episodes in one spot, so if you look at the tabs along the top of the page, there is a new tab for the series (or click this link here).  All of the videos will be posted there from now on.  Sometimes I feel like this site gets too cluttered.

I decided to start filming on a regular basis because as my service comes to a close, I have a lot of balls in the air and I really want to have visual documentation of where I lived and what I was doing.  Plus, it's fun and I really enjoy it as a hobby.

The next few weeks for me are really starting to pick up speed.  This weekend I have a VAC meeting in Paraguari, then next week I have a mixer where I will meet the trainee that I've been corresponding with over the last few weeks, then after that I am going to be doing a training for the new group of agriculture volunteers on how to build a bamboo fence, use a machete safely, etc.  With my luck I'll probably chop a toe off during my session, haha. 

I'm really starting to weigh the options on some major life decisions.  When I got here, I knew that I had two full years to think about what I want to do when I get back to the United States, and now I have about two months... it's all starting to get real. 

From now on, blogs may be coming more often in video form.  I feel like people are probably more likely to watch a 3-4 minute video than read a novel that I post here, but we'll see.