Holy crap, that year went fast

Hi friends. Remember me? Your friend, Jessi, who is living in Colombia and working as a Peace Corps volunteer? I don’t blame you for forgetting about me. I forgot about this blog for a really long time. It’s not that I’ve been overly busy or suuuuper bored with nothing to write about, I’ve just gotten so used to life here that I sometimes forget it is still adventure and a couple people (my parents) want to hear all about it. Time really got away from me but I’ll try to do a quick recap of the last 3 months of 2015 and I shall try and write more in 2016, promise!

Last time I wrote, I had just celebrated my 27th birthday with my amazing host family and I was on top of the world. WELL, that didn’t last long let me tell you. To celebrate my birthday, my best gal pals and I decided to meet up in the mountains outside of Santa Marta for a weekend of wine, hiking and good food before our final Peace Corps training. My friend has a cat so I opted to sleep outside in a hammock. It was actually really comfy and I was a tad chilly so I snuggled up in my hoody and blankets. The next day I woke up feeling really crummy and as the day went on, I realized I was having an asthma attack. My friends convinced me to call the Peace Corps Medical Officer who told me to get my butt off that mountain and to the urgent care clinic. Luckily, I have the best friends ever and one of them, MC, accompanied me down to the city in some random stranger’s pick up truck. At this point, we were both pretty certain I was toast. Anyways, long story short, the ER that I went to was awful and I was so miserable and sad AND they gave me two shots in my butt so I was pretty much ready to end it all. I called my mom the next day crying and she decided I needed to come home for Christmas and escape my endless stream of illnesses for a couple of weeks.

The rest of September passed uneventfully and I spent the first week of October touring Medellin and the Eje Cafetero (Coffee Region) in the interior of Colombia. I had an absolute blast even though my friends forced me to do an 11 mile hike. It ended in a gorgeous valley of some of the highest palm trees in the world and then they made me rice krispy treats so I suppose it was all worth it 🙂  One thing that kind of surprised me was that I found myself really missing Rotinet and my awesome host family and was happy to return to site. I missed them so much, in fact, that I took them as my guests to the 25th anniversary celebration of Peace Corps Colombia. Isabella dazzled all of my friends with her charm while my other sister, Elsa, and my mom learned about the history of Peace Corps Colombia. That part was cool but I just really liked having a chance to show off these wonderful people who have saved me from several mental breakdowns.


As some of you may know, I detest all things scary and as such, Halloween is one of my least favorite holidays. I’m obviously only in it for the candy. So I was pleasantly surprised to find out that in Rotinet, the tradition is that children dress as little angels and go around trick or treating for candy and the ingredients to make sancocho, my favorite Colombian soup. We celebrated at school and all of us teachers pitched in to buy the ingredients and the kids made a big ol’ cauldron of soup for everyone to share. They even butchered and plucked the chickens! It was so cool to see these kids step up and be leaders. The older ones took charge and helped teach the younger students. They were doing things that I’ve never in my life imagined doing (plucking chickens?!?!? WHAT?!?!?) and they did it all so expertly, I was truly impressed and felt so lucky to share this fun tradition.


November was a pretty chill month. School was wrapping up so there wasn’t a lot of work to do. I got diagnosed with an ulcer so my theory that Peace Corps rapidly ages us was proven true. All of the volunteers got together at a hotel on the beach a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving to celebrate and stuff our faces. The organizers even managed to find a little turkey! I made 10 pounds of mashed potatoes that I smashed using a tiny pot, as we had no mixer. It was a good work out so I really felt like I earned my meal :)It was fun to celebrate with my amazing friends and reflect on all we had accomplished in the past year.

Once December hit, I had extreme vacation brain. School was out, no one wanted to learn English or talk about building fish ponds and chicken coops so I took a hint and spent 2 weeks relaxing and spending time with my host family. I did take some time out of my Buffy the Vampire Slayer binge to work on a grant for Camp GLOW 2016. I am lucky enough to be one of four co-directors of this amazing leadership camp for teenage girls on the coast. It is quite an undertaking but we have a solid team and are all very motivated to make 2016 the best camp yet.

FINALLY the time came for me to go home! I was so excited I barely slept the week leading up to my trip! I arrived on John’s birthday and my whole family was at the airport to pick me up and then we went out to celebrate our little Johnny turning 25. My mom sporadically broke out in tears, typical. I got my hair chopped off on Friday (I hate it, I look like a surfer bro) and then spent the next two days basically attached to my mom at the hip. My dad couldn’t believe how quickly I reverted to my 13 year old self. I hope he found it cute and endearing and not pathetic and weird. We celebrated Lukey’s birthday early because obviously a cool, hip and social 20 year old can’t possibly be expected to stay at home with his lame family for his birthday so after he went to a party, John and I locked ourselves in the basement for a Law and Order SVU marathon. I spent the rest of the week relaxing and just being a normal American. It was nice but it got pretty boring. The day before New Year’s Eve, my best friend Sam flew out to spend my last few days in the US with me. We had SO MUCH FUN! I am so lucky she took the time to come see me and it reminded me why I’ve been friends with her for so long. She even booked the latest flight possible out of Denver so we could go to the airport together (my flight left at midnight) and she didn’t chastise me when I threw a temper tantrum when it came time for her to board her plane and leave me. I actually handled leaving a lot better than I thought I would. I was ready to come back to Colombia but I hate good-byes more than anything and avoid them at all costs so it was really tough when John dropped us off at the airport. But, I lived. Especially because I knew that in less than one week my parents were coming! Oh, and I guess it didn’t hurt that my mom was so exhausted after searching for the best flights that she accidentally booked me first class the whole way back! I have never felt like more of a queen and I hope to travel like that forever and always.

It was my dad’s first trip to Colombia and my mom’s second time out of the US. We had an absolute blast! We ate, drank, shopped and burnt ourselves to a crisp on the beach. My dad was surprisingly relaxed with the crazy driving and he actually enjoyed Colombian food. We spent some time in Rotinet and they absolutely loved meeting my host family and people in town. I think they especially loved it when, every time they met a new person, they would exclaim “OH MY GOSH JESSI YOUR PARENTS ARE SO YOUNG!!!” I actually took offense because this means they think I am too old to have such good looking parents but my mom was in heaven when people mistook her for my sister. After our pueblo visit, we spent the rest of the week in Cartagena and my parents got to meet a bunch of my PC friends. It is really just embarrassing how much my mother thanked them for being my friends.

As always, I was dreading the moment that I would have to say good bye to my parents for another ten months. My mom and I made a huge scene at the airport, which I continued in the taxi and then on the bus home. My dad was the tough guy and only got a little choked up. However, they loved it here so much they are going to try another trip before I leave! I am so lucky to have adventurous parents who are willing to visit their wild daughter as she muddles through her journey of self-discovery.

I really do love it here but every time I have to say good-bye, I hate it and want to just book a flight home so I can avoid the whole situation. However, the second I got off the bus, I ran into my friend who I haven’t seen in months. She was super pumped to see me and made me promise to come visit her ASAP. When I walked into my house, everyone shouted “Jessi’s home!!!” and showered me hugs and kisses. I even got a nice little grunt from the newest member of our family, Esperanza the pig. My host mom said how much she enjoyed meeting my parents since they are also a part of her family, as I am her adopted daughter. I know I say it all the time, but I am SO LUCKY! I spent the afternoon laying in bed with Isa watching Frozen for the millionth time. When she finally got sick of it, I decided to book a flight to Peru for our Easter break. All in all, it was not a bad a way to come home after a rough morning.

It’s back to school next week but I promise I will try to update my blog more consistently this year. In fact, I will add it to my very short list of resolutions. My other one is to not just b**ch about things that bother me, but actually try and change them. So far, I’ve been sticking to it!

Exciting things are coming this year, I can just feel it. As always, thanks for reading. I hope 2016 is the best year for you all! Besitos



We made it!


Taking a well-deserved rest


My sweet Isa


My mamas are so tiny! This is us in front of the “club” in town


Elsa loves to do nails and she gave my mom a pedicure


Island life


I wasn’t exaggerating when I said they made a cauldron of soup


Hating every second of my life whilst crossing this bridge





We’re going to be fine

Hi friends! Long time no talk. I’ve been pretty busy with little projects and things and then, I spent the last 8 days with my family! I was so lucky to have them come visit. It was an amazing week. Wanna hear about it? I hope so because that’s really all I’ve got for this blog. 
They arrived on a Friday and were brave enough to make the journey to the pueblo. After a wild bus ride, complete with broken seats and being trapped in the aisle by a washing machine, we arrived to a small town about 30 minutes away from Repelón (the mother town of my little pueblo, Michael’s site and where we were staying since my house cannot accommodate 3 extra visitors). I didn’t want to wait for the bus and I also wanted my brothers to have an authentic experience so we piled into a little motocarro (a motorized tricycle with a seat attached to the back). We were crammed in there like sardines and my poor mother was a great sport and sat on the floor. We dropped off our stuff at Michael’s house and then hopped into another motocarro to head to Rotinet. My brother had his eyes closed the whole journey and said he felt like Paris Hilton on the “Simple Life” and was imagining he was somewhere else. As you can see, drama runs in the family. After a quick tour, they were ready to leave and start the festivities. You see, Repelón was celebrating its annual patron saint festival and Luke was eager to watch some drunk Colombians run around and fight a bull and everyone wanted a few Costeñitas before the vallenato concert that night. Some other volunteers came for the festival and my family got to meet some of my PCV family as well as my new Colombian friends. It was a great night but the gringos tapped out early and hit the hay at about 1am but the party went well into the morning.
After experiencing the pueblo, the family was ready for some R&R. We went to Cartagena (we hired someone from the pueblo to take us, my mom couldn’t stand the thought of getting back on that bus). I had found an apartment online to rent and the posting title was “nice apartment near the beach” and they did not lie. This apartment was HUGE and my mom and I were thrilled that we didn’t have to share a room or a bathroom with my stinky brothers because, as every lady knows, boys are gross. It even had a full kitchen and my mom cooked up some of my favorites: nachos, seafood pasta and mac&cheese. We spent the week exploring downtown Cartagena, relaxing poolside, drinking coffee and hanging out at the beach. We explored the old fortress that protected the city hundreds of years ago and watched a sunset from the famous wall. It was the perfect vacation until it ended. 
Friday night I tossed and turned in my bed because I was so anxious at the idea of my family leaving me here for another 16 months. All Saturday morning I felt like there was a brick on my chest and I couldn’t catch my breath. We took a taxi and the second we pulled up to the airport, my mom burst into tours. I tried to stay calm but the second the driver pulled away, I started to cry and I spent the 15 minute ride to the bus stop fighting the urge to tell him to turn around and take me back so I could climb into my brother’s suitcase (or more realistically have my mommy buy me a one way ticket home). I really had no idea I was so codependent-it’s kind of embarrassing . I decided I couldn’t face going to my pueblo so I hopped a bus back to Barranquilla where I stayed in the hotel for one more night of AC and, more importantly, privacy while I got out all the tears and tried to convince myself that I can stay here for the next year and a half. 
I gorged myself on chocolate and a marathon of Law and Order SVU until I passed out. Today I woke up, still not ready to come back but I grit my teeth, checked out of the hotel and trekked down to the south side of town to wait for the bus. I spent over an hour waiting in the sun, ignoring the obnoxious cat-callers and thinking “what in the hell am I doing here?” Unfortunately, I quickly fell back into my spoiled, diva habits during my week hiatus in paradise and even briefly considered hiring a car to take me home. I mean how ridiculous is that? As if any normal citizen needs a private chauffeur service let alone a Peace Corps volunteer. Luckily, my good pal MC stayed on the phone with me for an hour while I complained about the heat, the wait and the endless stream of “compliments****”. At one point I even said “I hate everywhere and everyone. I will probably die here on this corner waiting for the bus.” Remember, I’m never lacking the drama. However, about 30 seconds after my pathetic mental breakdown, a nice young man came up and asked if I was going to Repelón. I said yes and he grabbed my bag and said come with me. Ok, stranger danger is real and I know that but I was desperate. Thank goodness he led me to where the bus was waiting a couple blocks of way. He found me a spot in the shade and said to wait here, we would be leaving in a couple of minutes. I asked how he knew where I was going and he said he recognized me from when I rode the bus a couple of months ago (thank you, blonde hair!) 
Finally, for the first time in over 24 hours I felt like I could breathe. This tiny gesture reminded me that this is my home, even though it doesn’t always feel like it, this is where I belong. This feeling was only solidified when a little girl fell asleep on my shoulder during the bus ride and again when I got into town and was immediately invited over for beers at a neighbor’s house (I declined as I figure I need a couple days of detox from vacay). 
As my friend MC says “we’re going to be fine, we have to be.” Sure it sucked having to say good bye to my family but I am privileged enough to have had the opportunity to see them. Many volunteers aren’t as lucky. While I wish it was a little cooler, that we had running water and that there weren’t bugs crawling on me as I write this, I am more privileged than I’ll ever be able to realize. 
It’s back to the grind tomorrow and next week I’m off to the mountains for a week long girl’s camp…more details to come. Happy Father’s Day to all the awesome dads out there and a special shoutout to my daddy who makes it possible for me to follow my dreams. Love you all and thanks for reading! 
*Catcalls are NEVER compliments. If you think this, you are wrong. Fact. Just don’t do it. I cannot stress this enough. 

In case you haven’t realized it yet, besides the fact I speak Spanish and live in a tiny village in Colombia, I am your stereotypical white girl. As further proof, I give you my stereotypical girl power song that I’ve listened to about 78 times in the past 36 hours. Thanks to John for fueling my passion for power ballads featuring strong female singers. But seriously, listen to this if you need a pick me up.


Family (minus dad) sunset☀️



Beach time! Mom loves the mangos 🌴☀️🌊🌈
  Cheering on Colombia in the Copa!

  Friends and family at the vallenato concert in Repelón 🎤

     Trying to fit in the motocarro

  Mommy was just a little excited to see me 😭❤️ 

  Such a good reminder that we’re all in this together 💕 (yes I just quoted “Highschool Musical)

Roots and Wings

I was sitting at the mall last night with my friends (yes I’ve regressed to my middle school habits since being in Colombia) and I saw a man with his baby girl in his lap. They were playing peek-a-boo and it was just the cutest thing. This was my third baby encounter of the day and it got me thinking. I’m totes ready to start a family. Kidding! It made me think about my parents. I obviously don’t remember being a baby, but I do remember being small enough for my dad to throw me up in the air and catch me or sit on his stomach, leaning on his knees with my feet on his chest while he read me story. If I have those memories, I’m sure my parents do, also. Now, I’m all grown up and if I sat on my dad I would probably crush him. How strange it must be to go from holding your baby in your arms to watching them leave home to move halfway across the world where you can’t be there to protect and provide for them. I’m so lucky to have parents that completely support me and my dreams, which include traveling and living far away from home. Last night I found myself wondering if that baby girl would grow up to leave her family for her own adventure just like I did. Watching the way her dad interacted with her, it seemed impossible.

As Peace Corps Volunteers we hear all of the time what a wonderful, selfless endeavor we are embarking on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “you are such an amazing person!” Obviously, I love it and never get tired of hearing it, however I’m not sure it’s totally accurate. As we get closer to swear in, we are thinking about our commitment to service and I think we all agree that none of us are selfless, Mother Teresa saviors who have given up our lives to service. We all made the conscious choice to come here because we wanted to help and make a difference, but also know that we are gaining so much from this experience, whether it be adventure, personal growth or an awesome line on our resume. However, there are people we had to leave behind in order to do this. People who had no choice in the matter. Because I chose to leave, my parents worry every day, my brothers don’t get to call up their big sister whenever they feel like it and my friends don’t have their crazy partner in crime anymore. The same goes for the friends and families of every PC volunteer. They know we will eventually come back and instead of telling us how much they miss us or that they wish we were there, they support us. These people are the selfless ones, the ones that deserve the praise. I can’t thank everyone back home enough for all of the love and support, especially my family.

We have just under a week until we swear in and commit ourselves to 24 mons of service. It’s both terrifying and invigorating. I’m ready to begin my work but I’m also realizing that all of this real and I’m signing myself up for 2 years of living in Colombia, with my only connections to America being through FaceTime or Facebook. I think I’m ready, at least I hope I am 🙂 While there are certain American comforts I miss, I’m not really homesick. I’m definitely family/friend-sick (is that a real thing?) but I don’t think that will ever go away. However getting hugs and kisses from the girls in our group at CEDESOCIAL, salsa music, hearing my little neighbor shout “buenos días, Jessi!!!” and soccer games with my fellow volunteers make it a little easier.

I love you all! Next post should be all about swearing in so stay tuned! ❤

Second to last day of soccer before everyone heads off to their sites!

CII-6…the most professional group of trainees Peace Corps has ever seen.

Thanks Mom and Dad, I love you.