Cambodia Comparison

So, we have officially been in Cambodia for a day! You may remember that I wrote a compare and contrast of China and Nicaragua (I actually wrote that in September or October but then forgot to publish it until January. Oops.) That ended up being more of a contrast, but today I just want to start the Cambodia chronicles with a quick compare and contrast between Cambodia and Nicaragua.

Pretty much immediately upon arriving in Phnom Penh, I felt a sense of familiarity. Before we even got out of the taxi, it felt so similar to Nicaragua, and it made me miss Nicaragua even more than usual.

In training, we got around mostly by moto taxi (or walking). You may remember all of Niquinohomo piled into one tiny moto taxi, really testing the limits multiple times per week. Anyway, there are moto taxis here, but in Cambodia they’re called tuk tuks. When we got to the airport, a weird series of events led to us getting a regular taxi. The driver wasn’t totally sure where our house was, and as we wound through the streets, I looked out the window and saw so many familiar things.

  • People driving motorcycles, often with a small child in their lap
  • Dusty roads (it’s the dry season)
  • Lots of little shops that we referred to as ventas and pulperías in Nicaragua

The similarities really went on and on. The buildings looked similar. There are animals wandering the streets (I only saw cats and dogs when we first arrived. We may have to get more out in the campo to see the chickens and horses wandering the streets like we had in Matiguás).

In the day that we’ve been here, I’ve reacquainted myself with my friend the mosquitero (mosquito net) and because there’s no air conditioning, I’m a big fan of the fans. In my room in Nicaragua, I had a fan pointed at me all day long, year-round. My daily routine included getting home and immediately shedding whatever clothing was required for the workday, because one simply cannot survive the Nica heat in jeans and a polo for more than a few hours a day. (I mean, Nicaraguans do it no problem, but I cannot tolerate jeans in a tropical climate.

I remember now how dirty and sticky I felt after even the smallest venture out into the heat. I often walked in Nicaragua, and by the time I got to my destination I was full of sweat. When I took a taxi, I was slightly less full of sweat. I’d often put some facial cleanser on a cotton ball and clean the gunk out of my pores at the end of the day. The first cotton ball was always a dark-brown/black. The second one was similarly gross. Only by the third or fourth did I feel like I’d gotten somewhat clean. I feel the same way here. It was 90 degrees and humid, and I could just feel the dust mixing with sweat and sticking on me all day.

Of course, I don’t want to compare my time in the Peace Corps too closely with this vacation. We’re staying in a very nice Airbnb, and we had our own personal tuk tuk driver today. We’re living a pretty sweet lifestyle, one that we absolutely never would have splurged for as volunteers. (Thomas and I always got INDIGNANT when a taxista in Nicaragua would try to charge us one or two dollars for a taxi ride across the city. “We live here! We know it’s only 50 cents!” we’d exclaim anytime we were in a tourist spot.)

God forbid the time when someone tried charging us to go look at the laguna. First they said that foreigners had to pay 20 cords (less than a dollar) and after we explained that we’d been coming here for months and we lived right over there, one town over and nobody had ever asked us to pay, he offered to let us pay the price that locals pay: 2 córdobas, or about 6 cents. We turned around and left.

The point of that story is that we have slightly released the tight hold we had on our wallets now that we actually HAVE money. Cambodia and Nicaragua are two very different countries, but I can’t help but lie in bed under this mosquitero and think back on my time in Nicaragua with a new level of nostalgia. I’ve appreciated a lot about China–hot showers, air conditioning, flushing toilets, food delivery, the metro–but I’d go back to sticky heat and cold showers in a heartbeat. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to explain the impact that Nicaragua had on me, but it still feels like home in a way that other places never will.

Anyway, it’s been nice to live temporarily in a place that reminds me of the home I had to leave. I’ll keep you posted on our travels (though probably not until the trip is over in a couple weeks, because typing posts on my phone is not ideal.

We should have internet in most of the places we’re staying, so feel free to shoot me a question and I’ll try to get back to you!

Leaving home

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to process my current situation, and now I guess I should blog-vomit all my feelings.

Starting a little over a week ago, Nicaragua has been facing some civil unrest. I’m not going to get into the details, but I encourage everyone to do some additional googling.

On Thursday, April 19, Peace Corps volunteers received an email informing us of some civil unrest and told us to avoid traveling to Managua (where the protests were) for the rest of the weekend. The next morning, I traveled to Matagalpa. I had a STEP class to teach on Sunday, so I’d planned to come in early and hang out with Thomas. By that afternoon, we received another email that we were on standfast, meaning we had to stay where we were and contact staff to report our whereabouts.

My class got cancelled, and I was not allowed to leave Matagalpa. The bright side of that is that I was with Thomas and a few other volunteers in my favorite city in Nicaragua. We spent the weekend eating pizza and waiting for updates from staff and from our friends around the country. There were some protests in Matagalpa, but from what I have heard, it was much safer than other department capitals. There was some confrontation and violence, grocery stores closed, etc, but we felt safe in the hostel and hopeful that we could get back to work soon.

Over that weekend, it became apparent that all volunteers were going to be consolidated to a central location in Nicaragua and then evacuated. I hadn’t been expecting an evacuation, so I was traveling without a passport, and with barely enough clothes for a weekend. I contacted my host family and asked them to pack a few things (including my passport). On Monday, Peace Corps staff drove all over the country to pick us up and drive us to Granada. I’m very thankful to everyone who left their families at 5 in the morning to make sure we were all safely consolidated. I was reunited with my passport and a few other items when I got to Granada.

While I was happy to pass the standfast with other volunteers, I was devastated to have left without having a chance to say goodbye to anyone back in site. Here’s a brief list of things that made me cry during my last few days in Nicaragua:

  • A hug from a woman who worked at my favorite hostel
  • A friend calling me to tell me how much I mean to her
  • A Nicaraguan flag 🇳🇮
  • A bell (brought in from the Peace Corps office for volunteers to ring to mark the end of their service.)

I knew I loved this country, and it has felt like home for a long time, but I don’t think I realized the extent to which Nicaragua has changed my life until I was forced to leave it. We were evacuated to Costa Rica (where I still am) and booked flights back to the U.S, where we will stay for at least 30 days. Some people call it “going home,” but for a lot of us, it doesn’t feel like that. I love my family, and my childhood home will always feel like home to me, but it’s not where I want to be right now. This evacuation feels like I’m leaving home. I was planning to stay in Nicaragua for the rest of my service, and I wasn’t prepared to leave. I feel like I have a lot left to do. I love my Nicaraguan family, friends, counterparts, and students, but I haven’t been great at telling them what they mean to me. It’s been difficult coming to terms with being unable to see them and say what I needed to say before I left. I am committed to going back as soon as I can—to work, finish my service, and hug everyone super tight and tell them how much I love and appreciate them.

Before I left, people often told me they admired me for coming to help their country. They thanked me for leaving my family and my country. But Nicaragua is home to me now, and being a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua has been the greatest privilege of my life. I feel like I’ve received much more than I’ve given. I’m forever in Nicaragua’s debt.

I rarely feel like I’m able to put my service into words, but I’m going to try to share little tidbits of what has made my service so meaningful, and why I can’t imagine it ending yet.

I came to Nicaragua during a year of intense grief, and that grief continued as into the next year as Bev was diagnosed and died of pancreatic cancer within a 6-month period. When I initially talked to my host family about the cancer, they talked to me about how ugly the disease was, about a woman they know who found a lump in her breast. They frequently asked me how Bev was doing, though I never had good news to share. I remember September 1, when I saw the news of her death and knew I had to get to Managua so I could catch a plane back to Missouri. I tried to keep it together as I told my host mom that my stepmother had died. I’m not sure I’ve ever been pulled into a hug so fast and been hugged so tightly. So many things felt so unfair, but in that moment I was thankful that I had a mom in Nicaragua to comfort me.

That is what Nicaragua is to me. The people are the most welcoming and kindest who I’ve ever met. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have invited me to see their community or their finca. I intend to take more of them up up on those offers when I go back. Some of my favorite moments in the week are walking to my counterpart’s house and spending a few hours with her family. We plan classes and make materials and practice English. We chismear and talk about our lives and give each other advice. She always tells me to wait, to stay longer, because she wants to give me lunch and take a taxi to school together.

The week before the evacuation, I left my wallet at home, and she paid for my taxi to school. I fully intended to walk all the way back home after class, and I wasn’t going to borrow any more money, but unprompted, she gave me money for a ride home. She said it was too hot for me to walk. She didn’t want me to be in the heat. She is one of many people who I have come to love, respect, and trust during my time in Nicaragua.

I can’t imagine my service without these people. I can’t imagine my life without them.

I feel incredibly lucky to have had this privilege: to have been invited into this country to live and work with these spectacular people. It’s also a privilege that we get to leave as soon as things get a little tough.

When the protests started, Nicaraguan friends sent me messages. Be safe. Mantente seguro. Tenés cuidado. Me chat cuando estes en un lugar seguro. They care about me so much, and I am so so lucky.

Friends and family in the U.S, please do something for me. Read about what’s happening in Nicaragua. Research what’s happened in the past. Ask me questions privately if you want to (it’s in my best interest not to comment publicly about certain things.) Understand that while you’re happy we’re safe, we’re feeling very conflicted about being evacuated. Understand that though this may seem like a month (or more) of ~fun vacation time~, we feel as though we’ve been taken away from our loved ones without having a chance to say goodbye or see you later or thank you for changing my life so profoundly.

(That said, if you have free time while I’m back, I will be taking limited appointments to reconnect with people. The rest of my schedule is packed with Feeling Things I Can’t Express With Words and binging the new season of The Handmaid’s Tale 😉)

My dear Nicaragua: Te extraño mucho. Gracias por todo lo que me has dado. Nos vemos pronto. Stay strong, and be safe.


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!

Dec. 30 – Playa Gigante: Closing out the year with this guy by my side.
Dec. 23 – Springfield, MO: ❄️
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.
Oct. 10 – Matiguás, Matagalpa: No puedo expresar la alegría que siento cuando la gente me regala fruta.
Sept. 19 – Matiguás: She asked me to pour water in her mouth like this. Also, my floor is filthy.
Sept. 16 – Managua, Nicaragua: Reunited with my Niquinohomo loves.
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: 💇🏽‍♀️🍭
Jun. 28 – Ellijay, GA: S’more 🔥
Jun. 2 – León, Nicaragua: Catedral
May 31 – Matagalpa: Bodas negras
May – Matiguás: Heaven on Earth
Apr. 15 – Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua: Sunscreen Wilson© by Thomas Orange
Mar. 19 – Estelí: Stacks on stacks 🥞
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!

Flaquita, flaquita

“¿Jade, por qué sos tan flaquita?” – my host family, constantemente.

I think most people have heard unsolicited comments about their bodies from people, whether it’s from strangers, family, or friends. Sometimes it doesn’t bother us. Sometimes it does.

I’ve always been skinny. I was born at a healthy 6 lb, 5 oz (over a pound bigger than my twin sister) and throughout my life, I’ve always been seen as skinny, but not quite as skinny as Jasmine. If there are categories of skinny, Jasmine was more lanky-skinny and I was more athletic-skinny. As adults, I usually weighed about ten pounds more than her, not that that’s super relevant.

Anyway, we were blessed with our father’s high metabolism, and no matter what my food intake or exercise regimen was, Adult Jade was always within 4 pounds of her typical weight. No more, no less. When I arrived in Nicaragua, I was weighed by Peace Corps doctors, and I was my typical weight on the dot.

I didn’t have a scale in training, so the first time I weighed myself after the initial weigh-in was at a farmacia in Matagalpa last December. I’d (unsurprisingly) gained about 3 pounds, so I was pretty close to the heaviest I’d ever been, but still well within what I’d consider my normal weight. (I mean, I’m the person who weighs herself before and after Thanksgiving dinner just to see how many pounds of food I can consume in one sitting. Fluctuating 3 pounds is pretty easy to do in one day.) Also, we’d been told that most women gain weight when they come to Nicaragua. The diet is high in starch and fat, and a lot of women alter their typical exercise routine in some way.

Anyway, fast forward to February. I’d done some exercise in my room in December/January (very occasionally. nothing regularly, and nothing since). Anyway, in (mid? Late?) February I put on my Beyoncé pants that I worked out in, and I looked in the mirror and felt different. My pants seemed like they fit differently. I felt less muscular. And like there were places I used to be able to grab some fat, but now I couldn’t get a handful.

I recognize that this is a ridiculous problem, and that I have (and always have had) a lot of advantages because I have this body. People assume that I’m healthy because I’m thin. I’m not seen as lazy or gluttonous, even when I eat junk and don’t exercise (as I have for most of my life). I never diet, and nobody ever suggests to me that I should do certain things or lead a healthier lifestyle.

Anyway, this day I looked in the mirror and suddenly saw a change. A change I didn’t want. But I thought maybe I was imagining it. I didn’t know how it had happened. I sent some pictures to my sisters (a picture from December and one from February) and asked if I looked skinnier. They couldn’t say for sure. I thought maybe I was imagining the weight loss. When I went to the Peace Corps doctors in April, I mentioned that I felt like I’d lost some weight. They weighed me, and I was 3 pounds less than my August weight (6 pounds less than my December weight, which they had no record of since I’d weighed myself in a random pharmacy.) The doctor called a 3 pound weight loss “insignificant,” which is true. I was still within what I’d consider a very typical weight for Adult Jade.

Fast forward to June/July. I went home on emergency leave, and Jasmine immediately commented that I looked skinnier. She took my measurements, but I couldn’t remember what they were before Peace Corps so I had no comparison to my previous body, and I had to just compare my weight to hers. She’d gained a few pounds, and I’d lost a few more (now putting me at about  8 pounds less than August, 11 pounds less than December, if I’m remembering the numbers correctly.) This also meant that, for the first time in our lives, I weighed less than Jasmine (by about 5 pounds) and I weighed less than I ever had as an adult. I bought new jeans (a size smaller than I can recall buying in the last…12-14 years.)

I got back to Nicaragua a couple weeks later (after going to town on alllll the food) and one of the first things my host family said was, “you’re so skinny! You’re too skinny!” Now, I understand that I’m skinny. I’ve always been skinny. But I’d lived with them since November and this was the first time they seemed to have noticed. And in the 3 months since I’ve been back from that first emergency leave, I’ve gotten a barrage of questions.

“Jade, why are you so skinny?” (I don’t know.)

“Did your mom ask you why you were so skinny when you went home?” (No, she said my butt was flatter but I still look healthy.)

“[A previous volunteer] engordaba mucho y ella caminaba y corría. ¿Por qué sos tan flaquita?” (Ok I know that she walked/ran like 7 miles a day when she lived here and that I am both lazier and skinnier but I don’t understand metabolism? My sister is skinny without trying, Dad was skinny without trying. It’s a thing I can’t explain.)

“You need to eat more.” (I mean, I’m trying but all I eat is beans so I just poop it out 5 minutes later.)

“Why are you so skinny?” (I still don’t know.)

“What did the doctors say? Did they say you need to eat more?” (I mean, it would probably be good if I didn’t lose more weight, but the weight I’ve gradually lost so far doesn’t concern them. I’ve only had diarrhea twice in over a year so that’s not the problem and they’re really not worried.)

“Comé bastante. Los doctores dicen que necesitás comer más.” (Ok.)

I understand that these comments come from a place of love. I appreciate that they want me to be healthy and that they want to feed me well. That said, it is frustrating to be so out of control of my diet and my body. When I’m in site, I eat what they give me. I can’t exercise in the ways that I’d like to, because that would require running at 4 a.m. (probably dangerous) to beat the heat. 

I love this family, and I don’t ever want to move, but the hardest thing about my living situation is being so out of control of what and when I eat. When I finish Peace Corps, I will be thrilled to have a crock pot and an oven and to cook all the things I want.

I know that much of this blog post has felt like I’m complaining, either about losing weight or about my family’s comments on it. Now that I’ve rambled for a while, I’ll try to articulate my point. The weight loss itself isn’t that big a deal. I’m still a healthy weight, and I still weigh more than Jasmine has for much of her adult life. The constant comments and questions aren’t hurtful. I think my biggest frustration is just not knowing how to answer them. For my entire life, no matter what I did or didn’t do, my weight would stay fairly stable. Now, I’m seeing a gradual, inexplicable change, one that is opposite of what most people here experience or expect. My family doesn’t understand how I can be so skinny while eating these foods (and they have at least some understanding of nutrition, because my host sister has cut out some of the starch in an attempt to lose weight). That’s why they ask the questions. They don’t understand why I’m so flaca and they assume that I have the answers. The problem is that I don’t get it either, and I don’t like being so out of touch with what’s going on with my body.

I tried to explain this to them, that in the States I ate a lot (“and you got fatter, right?” they interjected.) No, I never got fatter. My sister eats a lot and she doesn’t engordar. My dad ate mountains of food and él no engordaba tampoco. 

El metabolismo es genético, o algo así.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to Christmas. Mom, please bake all the holiday sweets and all my favorite winter foods. I’ll make you a list.

September/October recap

I’ve been putting off writing for so long that now I have to give you a recap of what I’ve been up to for the last two months (much of which I’ve forgotten.)

September started off sad. Less than six months after being diagnosed with cancer, my stepmom passed away. I flew back for the funeral. I was glad I had a chance to be there, but I didn’t want to stay long. I flew back to Managua, where all of my favorite people were gathered. I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for the friendships I’ve built here. These folks were my rock during training and after we got scattered around the country. (Thomas took this photo and is obviously included in the aforementioned “favorite people.”)

Anyway, so I went back to my site and got back into the swing of work as much as I could. I taught more STEP classes and classes in the secondary schools in my town. One of my counterparts has started giving me lunch during our co-planning sessions, and it’s always delicious. I enjoy spending a few hours at her house every week (even on days when it turns out class is cancelled.) Her two-year-old daughter is awesome, even though she’s still not so sure about me.

¿Qué más? 

I’ve traveled to Matagalpa and Managua recently, where I unashamedly blow all my money on food. I just got back from a doctor’s appointment in Managua. I got my teeth cleaned, got two corazón suckers for being so great with my checkup and shots. I’m now realizing that I only ate one of the suckers, and I’m not sure where the other one is.

Panic panic panic.

Just kidding, no need to panic. I found it in my purse.

So what’s next?

The school year ends in November, and in December, Thomas and I are headed back to the States for vacation. We’re excited to see family and friends and eat good food. We’re less excited that everything in the U.S. costs dollars, and we don’t have dollars 😬

I plan on posting at least 2 more updates between now and then though, so stay tuned!


I’ve been semi-busy for the last month, but I thought now might be a good time to sit down and tell you a little bit of what I’ve been up to.

As TEFL volunteers, one of our responsibilities is to serve as English teachers in a program called STEP (Striving Towards English Proficiency). This program givesNicaraguan English teachers in different departments the opportunity to study English on the weekends so they can improve their English proficiency. Peace Corps Volunteers teach 2-12 classes per semester, depending on how close they live to the STEP site. Because I live in the department of Matagalpa, I was assigned to teach 3 classes in August and will teach 5 or 6 more between now and December.

The Nicaraguan English teachers took a proficiency test to determine what level they’ll start at, and STEP Matagalpa is currently teaching 3 of the 5 levels. Students who start in the first level will take classes for 2.5 years before they finish the program, so it’s quite the commitment. Many of these teachers already teach 5 or 6 days a week and give up their only free day to attend STEP classes. Many of them have to travel long distances (4+ hours on the bus) to get to class. It takes me 2.5 hours to get to the department capital where we have STEP, and I’m exhausted every time I make the trip! I feel incredibly lucky that these students are so committed and that they show up full of energy, excited to practice their English (from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday!)

I teach the third level, so my class already has an intermediate high English proficiency. I’ve had so much fun, because we can have discussions completely in English, but it can also be a little challenging because I have to teach more complex grammar (some of which I’ve never had to think about because I’m a native speaker and it comes naturally for me). We are encouraged to use a lot of dinámicas, games, and different methods to teach the content. It’s more fun for all of us, and the students get ideas for activities they can implement in their own classrooms.

It typically takes me a good 10 hours to plan for one day of STEP class, but I feel incredibly accomplished when the day is over and when my class does well on their tests. 

Here are a couple photos from my class last week. We have a lot of fun!

1 Year

August 10th marked one year since our Nica 68 group got off the plane in Nicaragua and became Peace Corps trainees. We had three months of training, which went pretty slowly, and then 9 lightning-fast months in our permanent sites.

A lot has happened in the last year, and I’m so happy to be here. 

A brief list of things that have changed since August 10th last year:

  • I always write the number 7 with a line through it, lest it be mistaken for a 1.
  • I exclaim “¡Que calor!” about a dozen times a day.
  • I walk in the shade whenever possible often crossing the street for just a few seconds of slightly-cooler temperatures.

Most importantly though, I’ve formed friendships that have sustained me in good times and bad times. My Niquinohomo squad, who pushed through training with me every day and came out the other side

All the other volunteers, especially in TEFL 68, who have made this experience so incredible.

(I’m sure I have some pictures of you all but I can’t bring myself to look for them. Please forgive me but I’ve had a 101 degree fever in a tropical country and it’s been an interesting week.)

Of course, I can’t end without giving a special shout out to Thomas, whose unwavering friendship has given me immeasurable strength. He’s the biggest blessing of the last year, hands down.

I’m so excited to see what the next year will bring.

The return to the training town

For some reason, even though I’ve written a fair amount in the last few months, I haven’t been blogging. I’m going to start posting old stuff and try to get back on track with keeping y’all updated on the goings on in my life.

In April, most of the volunteers from my training group returned to their training towns for Spanish class. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the Spanish classes nearly as much as I was looking forward to seeing my friends in our old stomping grounds. We traveled together from Managua to our little town in the department of Masaya, and it was such a surreal feeling. I hadn’t been back since I swore in as a volunteer, and it simultaneously felt like no time had passed and like an eternity had passed. I still feel very much like a new volunteer, but I feel like I’ve grown and learned so much since I got to my new home. I’m still the same person, but kind of a different version.


We stepped off the bus on the side of the highway we’ve walked and driven down a thousand times before.

It felt like home. I was immediately overwhelmed by my love of this place. I’ve been out of this town for twice as long as I was in it, but in some ways, it still feels more like home than my permanent site.

Training was crazy and a little stressful at times, but my town was tranquilo and my host family was wonderful. Above all, I had friends close by who I could talk to and lean on when I needed it. We all supported each other and became each other’s family. We try to get together when we can, but we live all over Nicaragua and it is difficult to go weeks and months without seeing each other. I didn’t really realize how much I missed hanging out as a group. Getting tostones and batidos after a long day, watching the sun set over the laguna.

When we visited one of our favorite restaurants in town, the owner recognized us and said “a couple of you are missing” and she was right. Maddie was in the U.S, and Thomas (honorary member of our training group) was in a different town.

We have such memories tied to that town. We had our regular spots and routines, and that’s where we grew into Peace Corps Volunteers. That’s where our friendships grew, where Adrian walked me home every night even though I’d never felt unsafe.

Returning made me reflect on all the ways in which my life has changed, both in good ways and bad ways. I still have the support of my friends in my training town, but now that we don’t see each other every day, we’re really forced to reach out to each other, and we don’t always succeed at doing that. 

I really do feel like I have a lot of different homes. Some of them are places, and some of them are people, but I’m thankful for all of them.

Nica 68 squad: I’m going to try to be better at keeping in touch, even though we don’t live close. 

There and back again

It’s been a month since my last blog post. I have no excuses. I’ve been putting off writing every day. A lot has happened, but I haven’t really wanted to try to put it into words.

At the end of June/beginning of July, I went home. I say “home” but to be honest, home doesn’t really feel like the right word. These days, I feel like I have a lot of homes. Maybe that’s the subject of another post.

Anyway, I went back to the U.S. for two weeks on emergency leave. If an immediate relative has a terminal illness, Peace Corps will fly you back to see them. I was glad I was able to go, even though it was difficult. For those two weeks, I was able to see family and get their support, even when they may not have realized the extent to which they were supporting me.

I saw my nephews and nieces, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and sisters for the first time in a year, and it was wonderful. 

I don’t really want to talk about illness and sadness and all the definitions of “going home” right now, so I’ll throw a few photos from my trip in.

On that note, as happy as I was to go back to the U.S, I was definitely ready to leave by the end of the trip. When I caught my first glimpse of the lake as the plane made its descent, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of homecoming. I’m happy to be back.