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  I originally made a "move" to the Seattle area, living with my sister in Everett for a few weeks.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 Colón 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!