Spring Vacation

Many of you may already know that Thomas and I recently went back to the States for a couple weeks. I wasn’t gonna write a blog post about it, but I’ve had a December vacation post saved in my drafts that I think it’s too late to publish, and I’ve been generally terrible about posting the March/April vacation photos on social media, so I decided to throw some here while I figure out what else to do with them.

The primary reason that Thomas and I went home was for his sister’s wedding. We love to celebrate love, plus it was nice to wear something other than my usual outfit of stretched-out jeans and t-shirts and thick layer of sweat.

Y’all know I love a good wedding, and it’s even better when there’s delicious food. Which THERE WAS and it was Italian and we ate leftovers for days and it was amazing.

The day after the wedding, we took the scenic drive to Blacksburg to see Grandma and Papa and celebrate Easter. I ate Grandma’s deviled eggs and Chris made some delicious chicken. We didn’t take any pictures (oops) because we were too busy having wonderful conversations and catching up. I’ve always loved the drive to Blacksburg from Missouri (despite the likelihood that I’ll get carsick driving the winding mountain roads.) The drive from Richmond was beautiful too, and as we were driving back after the sun set, we witnessed a glorious orange supermoon (ok, I’m not sure if that’s what it actually was because I forgot to Google afterward, but it was large and very orange.) We failed to get worthwhile pictures because we are not astrophotographers, obviously.

I’m shocked I was able to even get this photo without a tripod. The rest are complete basura.

The next day was Easter! We went to church and Thomas’s family all got together and again, I have no pictures.

We also went to New York for a few days! That was something that we’d been planning on doing for like a year, because I wanted to see Jackie and Jon at some point before my service ended, and I’d assumed we wouldn’t see them at Christmas (we did, but only for like an hour.) Anyway, we’d decided to go to New York, so I made the financially irresponsible choice of buying Hamilton tickets (the pretense was a late present for Thomas’s birthday/our anniversary, but let’s be real, it was a gift for myself too.)

That said, I feel like I need to *REWIND* to point out that I give Hamilton a ton of credit for Thomas and I becoming friends. When you’re in a new country with 40 other volunteers who you just met, you have no idea who’s gonna be important to you, or who to make important to you. Thomas and I had no formal introduction, at least not one that either of us remember. I was overwhelmed by new people, but we’d ended up sitting together at a charla or two, and all the volunteers had recently gotten each other’s phone numbers.

Anyway, his name is Thomas AND he’s from Virginia, so I thought of a couple Hamilton references and texted him asking if he’d ever listened to it. (He hadn’t, but said he’d be willing to.) It’s worth noting that comparing him to Thomas Jefferson was merely an excuse to text him, and that, gracias a dios, the first name and home state are where their similarities end. Well, they’re also both white men, but you get my point.

Anyway, I shared Hamilton with Thomas, and he shared Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book with me, and that’s kind of how our friendship and history of music sharing started. (Running into each other at the batido place in Catarina didn’t hurt either.)

So I bought four Hamilton tickets. (When people found out we were going, they kept asking, “so I guess it’s easier to get tickets now, huh?”) LOL NO, I bought those tickets in August, y’all. And I BARELY got them. I somehow managed to keep it a secret from Thomas until our anniversary weekend in February, but then I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer and freaked out and told him.

Anyway, that’s all to say that Hamilton is really important to both of us, and seeing it together was an indescribable experience.

We’re about to see Hamilton and we can’t contain the excitement.
Windy. So windy.

Ahhh I was telling this story chronologically and now it’s all jumbled because the process of buying tickets to seeing the show was like 7 months long.

Anyway, we were also suuuuper excited to go to NYC so we could meet up with our friend Maddie, who we last saw in September and have been missing like crazy. A few months before the trip, we told her we were planning to make our way to the city for a few days and that we would LOVE to see her if she could come down. We picked a meeting time and place, and I’m not even kidding, when I got there we locked eyes across a crowded room and everything went in slow motion for a second and then we hugged and it was incredible. Remember earlier when I said that at the beginning of the Peace Corps journey, you have no idea who will be important to you? Well somehow, through circumstance and coincidence and shared experience, we became friends. Important friends, and I can’t imagine my service without her.

After a delicious lunch (I ate tacos, and the dude who made my tacos automatically spoke to me in Spanish because maybe I look like I speak it, idk) we spent the day together walking in the crazy wind and talking about life plans and obsessing over books.

Maddie has a better Nica face than I do, but she’s also more Nica than me soooo

JUST SO HAPPY

I’m sad to have parted ways for now, but I’m excited to see how and when and where we come together in the future ❤️

The day of Hamilton, we also met up with Uncle TJ, who took us to lunch and to Roosevelt Island, where there’s an old smallpox hospital. It’s now a protected historical ruin or something, and also something I didn’t know existed, so I was glad TJ took us out there!

And OF COURSE, is any trip to New York complete without visiting the Balto statue? (Answer: no.)

I think I mentioned most of the big things we did on vacation? In the future, I’m gonna try to be better at taking photos, because this is basically all I got 😬. Specifically, JACKIE, how do we NEVER get pictures when we’re together? I think the last photos of us together were at your wedding??? THREE YEARS AGO? We fail.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I’m back in Nicaragua until I finish service, so I’m gonna try REALLY hard to keep on truckin’ and updating you more regularly. Hold me accountable if I don’t!

Matagalpa English Methodology Conference

In mid-January, I had the wonderful opportunity to help lead a conference for about 40 English teachers in the department of Matagalpa. I am one of five TEFL volunteers in the department, and together we organized a wonderful weekend of teacher training. Ben and Caley did a ton of work up front to get the grant funding for this project, and we all reached out to friends and family for contributions as well. We each planned sessions with Nicaraguan counterparts (shout out to Jessica, who I forgot to get a picture with that weekend, but who did an incredible job) and led small-group activities and communities of practice.

PCV Greg, PCV Jill, PCV Ben, Bossest boss Aleyda, PCV me, PCV Caley, and PhotoQueen Ashley

Honestly, even a month later, I can confidently say that this has been my favorite part of my service so far. Often, the work we do can be frustrating, unpredictable, and it doesn’t feel like we’re creating lasting change. The day-to-day work in my site has been a challenge at times throughout the last year, but the highlights of my service last semester were my weekends at STEP teaching English classes to Nicaraguan English teachers.

This methodology conference took it a step further. At STEP, we teach participants grammar and vocabulary, but during this conference, all of our sessions were about strategies that they can implement in their classrooms to make them more effective teachers. We spoke 100% in English and challenged participating teachers to do the same. It was a unique experience—both an incredible professional development opportunity and an chance to be completely immersed in English for a weekend. At the end of it, the teachers discussed and wrote action plans: How will they take what they’ve learned and implement it? How will they share their new knowledge with the other English teachers in their communities?

Conference participants (and PCVs) with their certificates! 

After the conference ended, I was overwhelmingly grateful to have been a part of it, and I felt like we had done something truly sustainable. Even after I leave Nicaragua, those teachers will have the knowledge that we left behind, and they will put some of it into practice in their classrooms. In that moment, I also felt incredibly motivated in the work I do every day with my counterparts. How we can work together to implement different strategies and be better teachers? What areas do we want to focus on this year?

I know that 9 more months seems like a long time, but the last year and a half went incredibly quickly and I feel like I still have a lot I want to accomplish before I leave. I hope that I can take the energy from the conference and let it motivate me for the rest of my service. If this ends up being the most fulfilling part of my time here, I will honestly be happy with that. No matter how long I ramble, I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words how incredible it was, but hopefully watching this video shot and edited by rockstar PCV Ashley will give you a little peek into the experience.

Gatito, gatito

Frito Lay is my family’s cat. She typically spends her days running around and keeping our house free of mice. These days, her life has changed somewhat.

On Friday, Frito Lay had 3 kittens! It was a magical, happy time in our house (for me at least. I don’t think my family particularly likes cats.)

I tried not to get attached to them because my family was planning to give them to other people who need mouse killers, but naturally, I had a favorite: This little babe with the orange stripe.

Unfortunately, tragedy befell the litter, and when I came home after the weekend away, only one remained. RIP first- and third-born kittens.

Baby Orange Cat is still with us, so until school starts (soooo sooooon) I’m protecting him with my life.

Wish me luck!

2017

For 2016, I recapped my year through photos that had never been posted. The only rules were that I had to be in each photo, and I had to share at least one photo from each month. I liked doing this, so I’m doing it again for 2017. Here we go!

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Dec. 30 – Playa Gigante: Closing out the year with this guy by my side.
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Dec. 23 – Springfield, MO: ❄️
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Dec. 8 – Glen Allen, VA: Snowtogenic?
Nov. 24 – Matagalpa, Nicaragua: I compulsively take people’s temperatures when they’re sick. Thomas had a fever of 103 and was basically as hot as an O-type star.
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Oct. 10 – Matiguás, Matagalpa: No puedo expresar la alegría que siento cuando la gente me regala fruta.
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Sept. 19 – Matiguás: She asked me to pour water in her mouth like this. Also, my floor is filthy.
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Sept. 16 – Managua, Nicaragua: Reunited with my Niquinohomo loves.
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Sept. 9 – Springfield, MO: There’s a pain goes on and on.
Aug. 29 – Matagalpa: When they review grammar, I review grammar.
Aug. 20 – Matagalpa: The cuddliest of all puppies.
Jul. 4 – Springfield, Missouri: Emotional day at the record store.
Jul. 4 – Springfield, Missouri: 💇🏽‍♀️🍭
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Jun. 28 – Ellijay, GA: S’more 🔥
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Jun. 2 – León, Nicaragua: Catedral
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May 31 – Matagalpa: Bodas negras
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May – Matiguás: Heaven on Earth
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Apr. 15 – Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua: Sunscreen Wilson© by Thomas Orange
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Mar. 19 – Estelí: Stacks on stacks 🥞
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Feb. 25 – Matagalpa: Sneak attack besitos at Kiss Me
Jan. 30 – Matiguás: With pain comes beauty? Or something? I don’t know.
Jan. 26 – Matiguás: Baby’s first fever, vomiting, and diarrhea in Nicaragua! #triplethreat
Jan. 7 – Matagalpa: Great views of my home away from home away from home.

I’m not going to give a long commentary on what this year meant to me, but I’ll say this: it went quick. There were good parts and bad parts, but I always felt supported and surrounded by love, and I’m grateful for that. I already know that 2018 will be an interesting one. I don’t know exactly what it has in store, but I’m excited to find out.

339 days

I meant to write this post like a month ago, but y’all know I’m a mess on the blog these days.

We’ve been in Nicaragua for 482 days. That’s 3 months of training and 13 months in our sites. That means that we have less than a year left in our service, and I honestly can’t believe how the time has flown. At the time, those 3 months of training felt incredibly long, but now it’s just a (critically important) blip on the radar, and the year since swearing in is a blur. There was a time before I started Peace Corps when I naively thought that one year would be enough time. Well, we’re 16 months in and have 11 left, and I gotta say, it’ll never feel like I’ve had enough time here. I have so much more that I want to accomplish.

Anyway, to celebrate a year since swearing in, a group of us went to the Laguna de Apoyo and swam in the warm water and ate expensive food and generally enjoyed each other’s company. Then some of us went back to Matagalpa because we had STEP class to teach.

Sorry, but I took exactly zero photos during that trip.

Last week, a few of us had Friendsgiving (which I also took no pictures of). I saw a couple friends who I don’t see often, and a few I see all the time, and we made macaroni and cheese and sangria. Thomas had a high fever and unfortunately couldn’t really enjoy the food, but it was still a good long weekend, and now the school year is officially over and I’m almost in the U.S.

This month, I may even see some of you in real life!