You smell like a monkey and you look like one, too!

Hi friends! Today is the most important day of the year, MY BIRTHDAY! I actually don’t really like my birthday, I have this really weird phobia of aging and every year since I’ve turned 21, I’ve been really stressed out as my birthday approaches. Dramatic, unnecessary and slightly bratty- I am aware. Last night, the stress was compounded by the fact that when I was a teenager, I had it in my head that 27 was going to me the year that I had everything figured out. Back then, I was obsessed with the idea of being a doctor and so I figured by 27 I’d have graduated medical school, have my dream job, dream home and be in a happy, healthy and stable relationship. My life is LITERALLY the exact opposite of that. I randomly became a Spanish teacher, have a half Master’s in special ed, I’m studying to back to grad school for another random Master’s, I make about $350 a month, live in a tiny town where I think it’s a victory when people call me by first name instead of Blondie, White girl or fatty, I take baths with brown water from a bucket, I regularly find myself stepping in animal excrement and I pooped my pants more than once this year. Needless to say, this is not what I imagined 27 would look like. I am so happy that things don’t work out as planned (although I could live without the endless tummy issues). I would be a terrible doctor, owning a house right now sounds like the biggest nightmare and I am having way too much fun wandering through life on my own to be in a serious relationship. It is so funny how things turn out.

Today, I woke up and received a birthday kiss from my host grandma, host mom, host sisters before I even brushed my teeth. My host mom, who struggles every single month to pay the bills, bought me the most adorable earrings (from the States!) and a cute little ring. While I was getting ready for school, my neighbors walked right into my bedroom to give me hugs and kisses, I went to school and was serenaded by every class, and, of course, there were a zillion more kisses. My counterpart bought me two new pairs of nice underpants (I never even told her about my bus disaster!) Today is also the principal’s birthday so the teachers went all out and there was a band, a sanchocho (local party food-soup!) lunch, dancing, cake and fun decorations. As I was walking home from school, I got a birthday shout out from someone in almost every single house. I came home to more kisses from my host family. My sisters and I just settled into bed to take a nap when it started pouring rain. Our mom came running in and said get out there! Without any hesitation, all three of us ran outside and danced in the rain with all of the other neighborhood kids. Obviously, I was the oldest person out there by almost 10 years but it didn’t matter. We were just happy souls enjoying a break from the oppressive heat. It was a beautiful way to celebrate aging but keeping young at heart.

After the rain dance, we were starving and decided to cook pasta for dinner. We all piled into bed, listened to rain and laughed and told stories while we ate. Today, while I was at school, my host sister went to the “city” (a town of about 80,000 people) and picked out the most beautiful birthday cake. She even bought candles to say “27”…although she thought it was HILARIOUS to switch them around and pretend like I was 72. After dinner, my neighbors and some students came over and sang happy birthday to me and then we just hung out. My mommy called and I was able to talk to both of my brothers AND my dad (who is soo not a phone person). It was a great day!

I learned that today is also the birthday of fabulous poet, Mary Oliver, who wrote this lovely piece that I believe perfectly describes where I am at in life right now. Enjoy!

The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

The one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the field,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what it is you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Thanks for reading and thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your wonderful birthday wishes! I wish you all the happiest of days! xoxoxo

My family sent me a brand new, indestructible digital camera for my birthday so finally I will have some higher-quality photos! Here are some fun ones from today.

Cutting the cake after being smashed in the face with frosting

Cutting the cake after being smashed in the face with frosting

The adorable little neighbor boy and I. Bet you never thought you'd see me looking so cozy with a baby, huh?

The adorable little neighbor boy and I. Bet you never thought you’d see me looking so cozy with a baby, huh?

After rain dance cuddles and laughs

After rain dance cuddles and laughs

Isabella and I

Isabella and I

Dance party after school. This is the only picture I have because I after I took it, I was yanked out of my seat and joined the dancing. Everyone sat down and the principal and I had to dance since it was our birthday.

Dance party after school. This is the only picture I have because I after I took it, I was yanked out of my seat and joined the dancing. Everyone sat down and the principal and I had to dance since it was our birthday.

My wonderful host sisters! <3 them!

My wonderful host sisters!

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You smell like a monkey and you look like one, too!

Hi friends! Today is the most important day of the year, MY BIRTHDAY! I actually don’t really like my birthday, I have this really weird phobia of aging and every year since I’ve turned 21, I’ve been really stressed out as my birthday approaches. Dramatic, unnecessary and slightly bratty- I am aware. Last night, the stress was compounded by the fact that when I was a teenager, I had it in my head that 27 was going to me the year that I had everything figured out. Back then, I was obsessed with the idea of being a doctor and so I figured by 27 I’d have graduated medical school, have my dream job, dream home and be in a happy, healthy and stable relationship. My life is LITERALLY the exact opposite of that. I randomly became a Spanish teacher, have a half Master’s in special ed, I’m studying to back to grad school for another random Master’s, I make about $350 a month, live in a tiny town where I think it’s a victory when people call me by first name instead of Blondie, White girl or fatty, I take baths with brown water from a bucket, I regularly find myself stepping in animal excrement and I pooped my pants more than once this year. Needless to say, this is not what I imagined 27 would look like. I am so happy that things don’t work out as planned (although I could live without the endless tummy issues). I would be a terrible doctor, owning a house right now sounds like the biggest nightmare and I am having way too much fun wandering through life on my own to be in a serious relationship. It is so funny how things turn out.

Today, I woke up and received a birthday kiss from my host grandma, host mom, host sisters before I even brushed my teeth. My host mom, who struggles every single month to pay the bills, bought me the most adorable earrings (from the States!) and a cute little ring. While I was getting ready for school, my neighbors walked right into my bedroom to give me hugs and kisses, I went to school and was serenaded by every class, and, of course, there were a zillion more kisses. My counterpart bought me two new pairs of nice underpants (I never even told her about my bus disaster!) Today is also the principal’s birthday so the teachers went all out and there was a band, a sanchocho (local party food-soup!) lunch, dancing, cake and fun decorations. As I was walking home from school, I got a birthday shout out from someone in almost every single house. I came home to more kisses from my host family. My sisters and I just settled into bed to take a nap when it started pouring rain. Our mom came running in and said get out there! Without any hesitation, all three of us ran outside and danced in the rain with all of the other neighborhood kids. Obviously, I was the oldest person out there by almost 10 years but it didn’t matter. We were just happy souls enjoying a break from the oppressive heat. It was a beautiful way to celebrate aging but keeping young at heart.

After the rain dance, we were starving and decided to cook pasta for dinner. We all piled into bed, listened to rain and laughed and told stories while we ate. Today, while I was at school, my host sister went to the “city” (a town of about 80,000 people) and picked out the most beautiful birthday cake. She even bought candles to say “27”…although she thought it was HILARIOUS to switch them around and pretend like I was 72. After dinner, my neighbors and some students came over and sang happy birthday to me and then we just hung out. My mommy called and I was able to talk to both of my brothers AND my dad (who is soo not a phone person). It was a great day!

I learned that today is also the birthday of fabulous poet, Mary Oliver, who wrote this lovely piece that I believe perfectly describes where I am at in life right now. Enjoy!

The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

The one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the field,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what it is you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Thanks for reading and thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your wonderful birthday wishes! I wish you all the happiest of days! xoxoxo

My family sent me a brand new, indestructible digital camera for my birthday so finally I will have some higher-quality photos! Here are some fun ones from today.

Cutting the cake after being smashed in the face with frosting

Cutting the cake after being smashed in the face with frosting

The adorable little neighbor boy and I. Bet you never thought you'd see me looking so cozy with a baby, huh?

The adorable little neighbor boy and I. Bet you never thought you’d see me looking so cozy with a baby, huh?

After rain dance cuddles and laughs

After rain dance cuddles and laughs

Isabella and I

Isabella and I

Dance party after school. This is the only picture I have because I after I took it, I was yanked out of my seat and joined the dancing. Everyone sat down and the principal and I had to dance since it was our birthday.

Dance party after school. This is the only picture I have because I after I took it, I was yanked out of my seat and joined the dancing. Everyone sat down and the principal and I had to dance since it was our birthday.

My wonderful host sisters! <3 them!

My wonderful host sisters!

download

Laughter is an instant vacation

Hi friends, Happy September! My birthday is in 6 days so you better hustle up and get my cards/candy in the mail 🙂 Just kidding, but kind of not really. This is, hopefully, a light-hearted post about the worst weekend ever (I alluded to this in my last post). One of the best parts of serving in the Peace Corps, besides changing the world and having adventures and all that, is the journey of self-discovery. Being plopped in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles away from home and not knowing a single soul in town really shows you what you’re made of. When you’re put in an especially tough situation, you are forced to confront your faults but you also learn some of your strengths. Fortunately, I have placed into countless of sticky situations, which have helped me to really learn a lot about myself. Through this experience, I have discovered that I’m lucky enough to have, for the most part, a positive attitude and I can always find the humor in any situation. This REALLY helped me from having a mental break down during the worst weekend of my life (although there were tears). When I told the Medical Officer about my weekend, she tried to make me an appointment with a counselor because she was worried I was so traumatized. I told her that I had gotten my tears out and now I just think everything that happened was hilarious. She didn’t believe me and called me 3 more times through out the week to make sure I was maintaining my mental stability. I’ve told pretty much all of my PCV friends this story and one of them, who happens to enjoy my blog and my silly commentaries, challenged me to somehow put a positive spin on my latest fiasco so here it goes…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

DISCLAIMER: IF YOU ARE A JUDGY PERSON, DO NOT READ THIS POST BECAUSE I DISCLOSE ONE OF THE MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENTS OF MY LIFE. IF YOU JUDGE ME, I WILL FIND YOU. Also, I hope you aren’t easily grossed out. You’ve been warned.

Ok, remember in my last post I said that at the end of July, we had a Project Management and Leadership conference at a resort outside of Barranquilla? Well, afterwards, some of us spent the night with another volunteer who lives close to the resort. We were exhausted from the week and after stuffing our faces with pineapple cake and homemade pizza, we passed out. The next day, my good Nebraska buddy, Derek, and I went to the fancy mall in Barranquilla and decided to be super American and treat ourselves to Big Mac’s and fries before heading back to the pueblo diet of plain rice and plantains. After lunch, I hopped in a cab to catch my bus. I had a slight tummy ache but just assumed that it was because I had just eaten a ¼ lb. of nasty meat smothered in cheese. Now, my bus is always incredibly full and to ensure that I have a seat, I always go down to the “station” (parking lot), which is in the absolute worst part of Barranquilla. Picture the pit of hell, plus the smell of a garbage dump plus crack heads and you have a pretty accurate picture. This is a place that was marked off limits (with good reason) by the Peace Corps and when the safety and security manager found out that I had been going there, he was not pleased. He found a car service that would take me to a safer spot to catch the bus and wait with me until I was safely on my way. Well that is fine and dandy but I had a week’s worth of luggage that I was not willing to hold onto while standing for 2.5 hours. I told myself that just this is the last time I would head down to the crack-head-garbage-dump spot and then I would take the car service next time. I confidently got out of my taxi, walked towards the bus and the next thing I knew, some dude had grabbed my backpack. It was now wide open and a butthead was running away with my wallet. I only had about $25,000 pesos (approx. $10 USD) in there but I also lost my Colombian ID, Peace Corps ID, copy of my passport, US debit card, Colombian debit card, my commitment to service, a nice my friend wrote me before I cam here and, most tragically, my Sephora Beauty Insider card. Luckily, I had planned on buying some fruit so I had put $15,000 pesos in my pocket before exiting the cab. I got on the bus, angry, embarrassed that I broke the rules and got robbed, and terrified to call the Safety Manager to report everything. I reluctantly got out my phone (which also, luckily, was in my pocket and not my backpack) and called our SM and confessed my idiocy. He was SO nice and was happy that I hadn’t been hurt and told me to just get home safe and we would deal with this on Monday. There you have it, Part 1 of the Worst Weekend Ever.

Part 2: (This is where it gets embarrassing). So you may remember that I mentioned having a little tummy ache, or what I like to call “a rumble in the tumble” after eating McDonald’s at the nice fancy mall. Well, while I was sitting on the bus waiting it for it to take off, I started to feel sicker and sicker and realized I was not going to make it another 3 hours without going to the bathroom. I asked the nice bus worker if there was a bathroom around here and he laughed (remember, we are in crack-head-garbage-dump hell) and said MAYBE the little store would have one. So I made him promise not to leave me and ventured back out onto the terrifying street in search of a toilet. I found, what I could only describe as a porcelain hole in a closet at this crusty little bakery. Obviously there was no flushing mechanism so I tried to sneak out in shame when the cashier chased me to down to tell me it cost 500 pesos to use the lovely facilities they offered. I paid him and slunk back to the bus. FINALLY we were on our way home and as we were making our way through town, another volunteer called me. While I was on the phone, I realized that I was not going to make it another 2.5 hours without a bathroom break. I was panicked because, remember, I had very little money. If I got off the bus now, I was going to be stuck in Barranquilla with basically nothing. I was debating between getting off the bus or just sticking it out for the ride home when my stupid body decided for me. Yes, that is right, I pooped my pants. Obviously, I wanted to die right there but unfortunately, life isn’t that kind. I called the Emergency Medical Phone to, for the second time that day, confess my shame and beg for a night in the PC hotel while I recovered. SHE DIDN’T ANSWER. I had no choice but to get off the bus, grab the first taxi I saw and have him take me to the closest bathroom because my body was screaming at me that the worst was just beginning. The first place that popped into my head was the mall and I made awkward small talk the entire ride in an attempt to distract myself from the monster that was wreaking havoc in my stomach. When we arrived, I threw the rest of my money at the driver and sprinted inside. I got to the women’s restroom and IT WAS CLOSED OMG WHAT DO I DO?!?!? I knew there was a facility in the basement but worried I wasn’t going to make it. My concerns were valid because it turned out I was right; I definitely didn’t make it. I had now had 2 accidents, had no money and was 85 km. away from home. I obsessively called the emergency medical phone but I received no answer. I ended up calling my bff, MC, and sobbed into the phone while sitting in the mall cafeteria. She suggested I just suck it up and call the doctor’s personal phone number. I waited another hour and decided I couldn’t stay at the mall any longer. I called her number and it turns out, she wasn’t on call that weekend and had contracted out another doctor to take the phone. She immediately called the hotel and booked me a room and so off I went. My good buddy Michael stopped by and loaned me some money to get by and then I took the longest shower of my life.

Part 3: I bet you though the nightmare was over? Unfortunately, no. The worst had passed but I still had one big challenge before making it back to my town and my loving host family. After overcoming my tummy illness, I felt well enough and ready to go home. I decided to use the car service that was contracted by the Safety Manager as to avoid another robbing situation. Well, the poor driver had no idea where to go or what to do so we ended up sitting on the side of the highway for almost an hour. I was feeling stressed because it was starting to get dark (night travel is strictly against Peace Corps policy). After what seemed like an eternity, a bus finally approached. The driver flagged it down, I got on and breathed a huge sigh of relief-I was home free. I found a seat and finally relaxed. About 30 minutes into the ride, I was looking at my phone when suddenly the bus smashed into the back of a giant cattle truck (there were no cows, thankfully). I flew forward, smacked my face on the seat in front of me and my stuff tumbled to the ground. The bus was totaled. Everyone had to get off and wait, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere for the next bus to pass. I finally made it home, gave my sweet host sister a big hug and collapsed into bed.

There you have it, the worst weekend/most embarrassing moment ever. Even as it was happening, I could not fail to recognize the humor in the situation. I was providing a play by play to one of PCV friends who said, “This is why you’re going to make it, you just laugh at everything.” Even while writing this post, I laughed out loud several times and I realized that my “worst” weekend really wasn’t that bad. In fact, two positives came out of it: I learned that I can handle anything that life throws at me and I will never poison my body with a Big Mac ever again. Also, I was lucky to have the support of the PC Safety Manager and the Medical Officer and, of course, my PCV family. It was a good lesson that life is only as good or as bad as your attitude and laughter really can cure anything. So, here’s to another 15 months of laughing my way through my Peace Corps service. Cheers!

P.S. This post was approved by my PCBFF Mary Catherine, who is a marvelous friend but also likes to mess with me so hopefully this was internet appropriate. Another side effect of my Peace Corps service is that I have become incredibly candid, I have no shame and I don’t hold anything back. I’ve been told that I am very “authentic.” 🙂

l_ccf84960-6552-11e1-998e-a709d7700003 images (2)

A not so subtle hint that I would love a birthday card. I'm not picky, handwritten notes on napkins or backs of receipts are perfectly acceptable. Love you all! <3

A not so subtle hint that I would love a birthday card. I’m not picky, handwritten notes on napkins or backs of receipts are perfectly acceptable. Love you all! ❤