Hi friends! Great news! I am really happy! It’s great. I’ve been here for almost 11 months, can you believe it? I know I sure can’t. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog or I talk to you on a semi-regular basis, you know I’ve certainly had my ups and downs but for awhile now, I’ve been cruising at a pretty high altitude. (Omg that was so cheesy I almost deleted it but I figured what the hell, who doesn’t love cheese?) During training, the Peace Corps shows us this absolutely terrifying graph that outlines the emotional roller coaster that is PC service. By roller coaster, I do NOT mean the wimpy ones they have at Elitch’s or World’s of Fun. I’m talking not up to US standards, probably can only find it in Asia or Europe because it is too wild kind of roller coaster. Unfortunately, after climbing up and up during months 8-10, there is a HUGE drop around the 1 year mark. I’ve spoken to several veteran volunteers about this “one year slump” (sounds like marriage) and they all verified that this isn’t some PC resiliency test to scare the weakest into early-terminating. The one year slump is real, it is terrible and it is just on the horizon. So, because I am sometimes a planner, I decided to strategize some ways to deal with the inevitable doom that is headed my way. No one knows this, so keep it a secret, but when I’m feeling down I like to put on the “Sound of Music” soundtrack, sing and dance in my room while wearing this adorable scarf my mom bought me for my 25th birthday after she saw me admiring it in a hospital gift shop. For those of you who haven’t watched this cinematic masterpiece, 1) Do it immediately 2) there is a great scene where the VonTrap children are afraid of a thunderstorm and so Frouline Maria sings a little ditty called “My Favorite Things.” In this song, she encourages the children to list their favorite things to take their mind off their fear. This is something I periodically do while I’m resting after my Julie Andrews dance party. However, I am terrified that I soon will be too depressed to even think of favorite things so I am doing this in advance and will use it as a reference on those days when I can’t even get out of bed and put pants on. I figured it has been a while since I posted a list so I might as while make it a blog post. Here it goes…
*My little pink bed and my little matching bedside stand. My 4 year old “nieces” have the same furniture in their room J
*The fact that my mom has no idea that Sound of Music is one of my coping mechanisms and now that she does know, she is probably crying.
*Speaking of my mom, I really love our Sunday night phone calls.
*Street animals: I will NEVER get tired of seeing pigs, goats, horses, donkeys and chickens walking along with me on my way to school.
*The generosity, kindness and helpfulness that I witness here every single day. I could start a whole other blog that is purely stories of random acts of kindness that have been bestowed upon me during my time here.
*My students’ smiles. More cheese, I know but I just can’t help myself. They are so dang cute!
*Seeing my students become more and more comfortable learning and speaking English.
*Dance parties during class, during recess or just during any downtime.
*The delight on the students’ faces when they see the gringa dance.
*The delight on any Colombian’s face when they see the gringa doing anything remotely interesting. For example, I am the talk of the town after riding a horse after the races last Sunday.
*Random Sundays filled with street horse races. As my bud Michael described it, they are drag racing but with horses. It is crazy and there are NO rules.
*The music: I was warned that in the pueblos I would hear only vallenato but I don’t even care because I LOVE it! That link is to one of my favorite vallenato songs about a Colombian who falls in love with a gringa and all the adventures they have. Every time it is played here, the kids go wild.
*My fully loaded external hard drive. My brother, John, hooked it up with my favorite movies, tv shows and music.
*My little group of work out buddies. EVERY SINGLE DAY they ask me if they can exercise with me. It used to drive me nuts but once I embraced it, I knew I couldn’t go back to boring work outs in my room.
*Random pick up soccer games that I am never invited to play in but always encouraged to watch. After my falling incident, everyone agrees that I make a better spectator.
*The snacks my counterpart brings me. Empanadas every day. Yum!
*The fact that I never have to get off my lazy butt, I just tell a child to get something for me and they do it with no complaint.
*All the fun questions I get asked about my country and the excitement the kids have when they learn something new about the USA.
*Visitors! I have been so lucky to have my mom, my brothers, and two girlfriends come and visit me. SO MUCH FUN! (hint hint, wink wink)
*Care packages filled with white cheddar popcorn, chocolate covered pretzels, pink lemonade Crystal light packets, Starbursts for the students (they are obsessed after trying the ones my mom brought!) and, most importantly, little love notes. (again, hint hint wink wink)
*Hearing almost every single student, and a good majority of adults, say “Hello Jessi” in beautiful English.
*My wild host nieces who love it when I swing them around while they pretend they are birds, read them stories and take selfies with them.
*My incredibly shy, quiet host nephew who says “Hi Jessi” with a big smile on his face every time he sees me.
*All of the free time I have to read because I have zero house responsibilities.
**Also the fact that our wonderful housekeeper does my laundry. I know, “house keeper” sounds so not Peace Corps but it is very common here and my host mom is elderly and doesn’t move around very easily.
*Feeling 100% safe all the time in my community.
*Cheap food from the tienda. I bought 8 eggs, 4 potatoes and a Jello cup for a little over $1.
*Wearing sandals every day.
*Not washing my hair for 6 weeks and not feeling disgusting at all. I’m in the Peace Corps, this is the only time in my life where this behavior will be acceptable! Also, I swear it doesn’t smell and I don’t have dreadlocks.
*Being able to keep in touch with my friends and family back home.
*My AMAZING PCV family!
*Having Colombian friends, it finally happened!
*When my Daddy sends me pictures of my sweet baby Nala (for strangers, she is my dog).
*Finally getting over my extreme fear of chickens. I still won’t touch them but I finally don’t feel like passing out when one gets near me.
*Piglets! Oh so cute!
*Falling in love with someone almost every day. Not like “OMG be my boyfriend forever love”, but just seeing a glimpse of their soul and recognizing what a beautiful person they are and feeling so happy and lucky to have met them.
*Being proud of myself in the knowledge that I am overcoming my fears, making myself vulnerable and following my dreams.
I could really go on and on but I am hungry and it is time for my bedtime snack. Today was the last day of school for the week as it is our Patron Saint festival. I am looking forward to sleeping in, parading through the street worshipping the Virgin Carmen (7 years of Catholic school and I’ve never heard of this lady) and lots of dancing! I hope you all had a fantastic 4th of July! I spent the day laying on a beautiful island with two of the coolest ladies in California. I miss you all lots and lots but I’m definitely where I’m supposed to be. Besos
P.S. The cute scarf I mentioned has a beautiful quote on it: In our best moments, we understand that our vulnerabilities are what connect us. That we can step into the power that is uniquely ours. Play hard, love bravely, offer comfort to our younger, broken selves, and soar, always soar on the brightness of being alive. Follow your true North.