Tag Archives: reflection

Here I am six months later…

25 Dec

I’ve now been in-country more than eight months and in-service for more than six. (This is a week or so late, sorry!) That means I am 8/27ths or 29.6% done with my overall time here. OR I am  6/24th or 1/4th or 25% done with my service. I am a quarter done with my service and it feels oh, so good.

Why six months is a big deal?

I’ve been here more than half a year and that seems pretty significant. I’ve also completed my first of four semesters. So one down and three more to go! If you don’t think that’s worthy of celebrating then boo to you!


As I mentioned in a recent post, something is happening. I’m starting to feel happy. That’s not to say I wasn’t happy before but this is a different kind of happy. It’s the kind of happy that comes with the security and comfort of being able to keep your head above water.

I’m not sure what exactly has been causing me to be happier lately, but I’ve got a few theories.

  1. The change in weather from the hot season to the rainy season means sometimes it’s cool out. Crazy, I know. It also rains a lot, hence the name rainy season, and I like rain.
  2. I’ve had a recent and brief reunion with the show 30 Rock. It’s a show that actually makes me laugh out loud, and laughing out loud is rather nice.
  3. Or perhaps the happiness is derived from a spike in my Vitamin D levels.  I’ve been getting proper exposure to sunshine and consequentially getting some exercise through playing kasti and jalan-jaling with the neighborhood kids.
  4. Or maybe there were so many things to suddenly look forward to like In-Service Training (IST), Thanksgiving, the end of the semester and vacation time. Whereas those first three-months, there seemed to be no end to my discomfort in adapting and integrating in my new home and community. However, now there are occasions that break things up, keep me on my toes, and it doesn’t feel like so long anymore til the next time I’ll see other volunteers or get to have an ice cream sundae.
  5. It could also be that after IST I had some kind of direction. This direction led me to work a hell of a lot harder.  Working harder keeps me busy and makes me feel productive. And I’m generally more happy when I’m busy and productive.
  6. I’ve also come a long way in adapting and integrating. (See accomplishments below.)

Likely all of these play roles in my new-found happiness, combined with me feeling like I have a place, fill a role here and people generally like me and are happy that I am here. (Either that or I am hugely ignorant which is also a source of bliss, go figure.)

So I’ve been feeling more productive, more happy and I’ve got some things to look forward to. The past two months (basically since IST), I’ve made leaps and bounds. Now the challenge lies in maintaining my new-found enthusiasm and motivation leading into next semester.

Looking back on the last six months, I can definitively say they were harder than I let myself think they were. It’s hard to explain this because, like I said, I wasn’t necessarily unhappy before, but I also wasn’t happy. I was just blah, which in my opinion is the worst kind of place to be. I was in a state of general functioning, getting through one day to the next with no vigor, conviction, interest and with intermittent bursts of happiness and sadness like I previously explained in my post on Peace Corps Mood Swings.  Bah, even as I write those words, I find myself wincing at the thought of such a lackluster demeanor. Perhaps those that dealt with me would disagree, but I know me and it wasn’t me.

So now I’ve pulled myself back up from general functioning to a state of living once again. I’ve gone through some changes, learned some things and that’s going to continue. I still have a year and a half of all of this. There will no doubt be more storms, but I finally feel like I have the strength to keep myself afloat.

On my work:

This new-found happiness  does a lot for my work here. I no longer have to keep telling myself what an amazing opportunity it is to be here because I actually believe it. I no longer have to force myself to smile when people call out after me because the smiles come more naturally. I no longer feel like interacting with people here is an obligation—something I have to do to be a good volunteer—because now it’s something I want to do. I still have to push myself, but my interactions are more genuine and things are starting to happen more naturally.  I feel more relaxed, comfortable, capable.

On shifting perspectives of time:

I’m also starting to feel like two years’ time isn’t quite so long, and in fact I almost feel like time is already slipping away. Saying I have a year and a half to go seems a lot different than saying I have two years to go. And now that I have all these marvelous ideas and some kind of direction to go with it, I fear there won’t be enough time to do half the stuff I want to do here. I’m beginning to appreciate that Peace Corps keeps us here for two years, rather than any shorter period of time because it’s part of what we came here to do.  I remember during training we met two volunteers, from Canada and France, respectively.  They were seven months into a one-year commitment to live and teach English in Indonesia from some other organization.  Perhaps they were particularly in a bad mood from the hot sun beating down as they hiked but they went on about how they were so ready to go home. They were complaining about the food, people always staring and treating them as tourists, etc. , etc.  To me it seems they hadn’t integrated and with the thought of going home in their near futures they were in their last stretch. They had already checked out and were ready to get out of here.

I can’t imagine if I were only here for a year…to only have four months left…I’m at point where I’ve been away from home long enough that I clearly cannot just go back to how things were and resume what I was doing before. I’d have to start over again. I’m at a point where I’ve worked so hard and come so far and yet there’s still so much I don’t know, I don’t understand. But I’ve come a long way.

On accomplishments:

  • I’ve got some direction and focus. Thank you Peace Corps and In-Service Training. I’d still be running in circles if it wasn’t for that.
  • I’ve got some experience under my belt. 
  • I’ve never been so far away from home for so long.  The homesickness will get you. I’ve never been so far away from my home, family and friends for so long. It’s hard, so to have made it this long completely on my own, to me, is an accomplishment.
  • I’ve made some more friends, including ones outside of school. There are actually several groups of people, neighbors mostly, that I recognize and will stop and say hi to from time to time. (This also means I really can’t go anywhere now without having to stop to talk.)
  • I know some more names. I’m still so awful at names. My trick is to avoid using names altogether when addressing people. It works most of the time, but whenever I have to use someone’s name my Achilles’ heel is  revealed. It’s a work in progress.
  • I have a rough idea of some possible secondary projects. The problem now is just knowing which ones to follow through with and hashing out the details. They are all mostly centered around what kinds of things we could implement there. So many opportunities to have some sort of positive influence or impact!
  • I hardly rely on my Indonesian-English dictionary anymore. This is both good and bad. I can communicate most essential things and pick up on a lot more than I could before. The problem is I’ve gotten comfortable and lazy in my language learning.

On challenges:

  • Continuing to push myself  – Now that I’m feeling more comfortable I have to push myself more to get out there. Before my focus was so myopic, focused on myself and surviving. Now my focus is expanding to be more available to others.
  • Vamping up the language learning. I’m nowhere near fluent and I may never be, but there’s still a lot more I could do in the language learning department.
  • Maintaining enthusiasm into the new semester
  • Knowing there’s not enough time to do everything and everything won’t go according to plan but being able to work past that and more forward anyways.

On Lessons learned so far:

The lessons learned this time around are more personal lessons learned versus the more obvious lessons learned a few months back.

  • Time flys when you are having fun and when you are not. I still can’t believe I’ve been away from home for eight months. There’s been some amazing moments, but there’s been a ton of difficult ones as well.
  • Some things just take time. It’s a lot easier to talk about having patience than to actually have it.
  • Sometimes you’ve got to ask for what you need. This gets tricky because you have to be able to identify what it is you need first. For me it was a lot more personal time than I was willing to give myself at first for fear of being a “bad volunteer.” But the result of giving myself that time has done wonders with my attitude and interactions with people in my community.
  • Other people’s expectations of me are a lot lower than my own expectations of me. I often have higher expectations of myself than others do, so learning to chill out and not trying to do everything has been essential. When I need a break, I need a break. There’s no reason to be needlessly be hard on yourself or beat myself up, and that balance is hard to find between pushing myself and giving myself a break.
  • Having a little direction does wonders for my productivity and sanity.
  • I can do this. Or at least I’m foolish enough at this point to think I can.

On celebrating six months:

These last few weeks have been busy with wrapping up school stuff before leaving for vacation. We have a two week intermission between the first semester and the second semester of the school year. I’ve also been bouncing around East Java. I went to Jogja for a school field trip of sorts. We visited some touristy places, I’m in Surabaya for Christmas and soon enough I’ll be in Bali for a little R&R and to ring in the New Year! Sampai Nanti! See you later!

A year since graduation

14 May

I can honestly say a year ago today when I walked off the graduation stage carrying my empty diploma case,* I had no idea I would be where I am today. Literally, I had no idea in the world where I would be located. I had just submitted my application to the Peace Corps and was due for an interview that I had later that month.

It’s odd that it’s already been a year since graduation and over a year since I applied to the Peace Corps. It’s like I’ve been hiking, and I’ve been so focused on the trail, staring at my feet the whole time, that I’d forgotten to look up until just now. And me oh my, the view is spectacular.

This year, just like any other, has had its ups and downs. I’ve also had quite a few amazing opportunities…In the past year since graduating I’ve…

Touched down on three different continents1 …. I’ve felt the world crash down around me, like everything I had going for me and everything I had worked towards was falling to pieces2… I’ve stayed up into all hours of the night and am now unable to sleep past 5:30 a.m.… I’ve said goodbye to my entire support system of family and friends3… I’ve felt like I was losing my mind, and I’ve had moments of great clarity to make up for the times that I felt I was losing my mind… I’ve had far too much fun (OK let’s not be silly, there is, of course, no such thing as too much fun)…I’ve had time to do the things I never had time for in college4… I’ve been crazy busy and crazy bored5… I moved back in with my parents and I’ve moved in with complete strangers … I’ve held a variety of jobs6… I’ve been up, I’ve been down, I’ve been all over the place physically and mentally.

Though things are going quite well, considering I dreaded the day I was pushed out into the “real world” by finishing school,  it’s not at all like I pictured it.

Wait a second, isn’t life just like that though? We never know what lies ahead. We never end up exactly where we think we’ll be or doing the things we thought. And even if we are doing some of that… it’s never exactly as we imagined…

So to those of you graduating, congrats and good luck with what lies ahead. It won’t be quite how you imagined… but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A large part of what the Peace Corps has been trying to ingrain in us is managing expectations because it’s just a fact of life that no matter what your preconceived notion of any situation is, it won’t turn out just how you expected.

To see special footnotes for this post click on “Continue Reading”

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Goodbye life as I know it

5 Apr

I don’t know if I knew you could feel so many emotions at once and on such opposite sides of the spectrum. Stress. Excitement. Sadness. Pure Joy. Fear. Hope. Calm. Anxiety. Uncertainty. Certainty. Love. Love. Love.

But that’s what I’ve felt these last few days and even weeks preceding my leaving. I’ve come to the realization that I am going to be missed. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure that one out. I have such love and support at home, which makes it so hard to leave. But I also know it’s that love and support that has brought me to this point in my life, and I’m forever grateful.

I am going to miss so much about home. I’ve had time to mull it over, and here a just a few of the things I’ll miss:

  • Mexican food, mexican food, mexican food — specifically chips and salsa and guacamole
  • Some of my favorite places (in no particular order): the Tempe Library, my neighborhood greenbelt, Robbie Fox’s, Canteen, Casey Moore’s, Coffee Rush, Camelback, South Mountain, Cornish Pasty, Gallo Blanco, Joe’s Farm Grill, Phoenicia Cafe, In-N- Out Burger, Filaberto’s haha and many more.
  • Arizona sunsets
  • The dry heat
  • Shorts
  • Long hot showers ( I thought about this every time I took a shower in the past few weeks — which was every day)
  • My bed
  • My commute to Downtown Phoenix and my daily dose of NPR
  • Spring training
  • Summer, laying out by the pool, margaritas
  • My dogs

But most of all I will miss my family and friends. I wish there was a way I could pack them up and take them all with me.

This was my last view of Phoenix, the place I’ve called home for 23 years. The picture doesn’t do it justice but it was beautiful and a great way to be sent off.

Looking towards Downtown Phoenix from Sky Harbor Airport

On that note, here begins a new chapter in my life… the next time you hear from me I’ll be halfway around the world!

Birthday post, birthday post — the rebel in me

17 Mar




Photo credit

Is it sad that on this, my 23rd birthday, I’m begining to realize I haven’t gotten myself into nearly enough trouble? I vow to spend the rest of my life remedying this. I find it necessary to make up for the lost time of my childhood and adolescence because let’s face it, I think it’s safe to say at this point that that is behind me.

Let’s take a brief at my track record, shall we?

  • Age 5ish or so – my parent’s ground me. This may be just about the only time I can recall being grounded — or I guess “time out” would be a bit more appropriate considering my age. I can’t recall the transgression but it was enough to warrant being incarcerated in my room where I did some serious thinking about my future, if I was to have one.
  • Fifth or sixth grade – In my first ever visit to the dean’s office, I was chastised for staying in the computer lab a bit too long. Heaven help me.
  • Sophmore year of high school – I recieved my one and only detention for an untucked shirt (For those who didn’t attend Catholic School, yes we did wear plaid skirts, and the shirts– they had to be tucked in. And they were serious about that.) If you only knew how much of a rebel I felt like for this— in detention— with the bad kids? I’m unstoppable. Charlie Sheen status.

So on this my 23rd birthday, I vow, to get my hands a little dirtier, play a little rougher, bend a few more rules and live life on the edge. This, of course, is subject to interpretation ; )

Three things

15 Feb

Photo courtesy of  National Geographic. See more from the Indonesia gallery.

I’ve been volunteering as an English tutor at Maricopa County Literacy Volunteers since last summer in part because I never had time in college to consistently volunteer somewhere and in part to prepare for my assignment as an English teacher. The other day I was reading a poster on the wall of life lessons shared by random people of all ages. Some were cute like a 7-year-old who said he learned you can’t hide brocolli in a glass of milk.  Some were a tad more profound. One that struck me said something to this effect:

“There are three things that no one can take away from you:  experience, knowledge and memories”

I thought it was worth mentioning here.

On the topic of anonymity:

8 Jan

Photo courtesy of Banksy.

I will soon be giving up my ability to be anonymous, unknown — blend in. I’ve finally received word on my official destination and accepted an invitation to serve in Indonesia. (More on Indonesia later.)

I’ve been considering the fact that I am going to stick out for better or worse in Indonesia. The Peace Corps even cautions of this in one of its handbooks which addresses adjustments volunteers must be prepared to make. Peace Corps volunteers reach a sort of “celebrity” status in the country they serve in. This is due to the fact that in the areas they go, they might be a person’s only exposure to a citizen of the U.S., Westerner or even a  foreigner. A great deal of interest will be associated with this as many people will be curious to learn about me and what I’m doing there.

So this, coupled with my recent viewing of “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” which features, was produced by and directed by the elusive street artist Banksy, has got me thinking a lot of about the luxury of the ability to remain anonymous.

Think about it. It’s apparent some people desire to be seen and known or pop culture wouldn’t be riddled with faux celebrities soaking up their 15 minutes and making careers out of just being seen on TV. These people get paid to attend club events and parties, tweet and more. They want to be heard and seen.  So there’s those people . . .

But, if you ask most celebrities (especially ones with talent and especially über celebrities), I’m sure there are times when they’d give anything to be completely unseen and blend in just like everyone else.  (If you want to refute this, just think of how much they invest in creating a world of privacy around themselves.)

Bansky on the other hand . . . his name is known. His work appreciated. Yet, he retains the ability to get a cup of coffee or a box of cereal and not draw attention. If I may opine, this is possibly the best of both worlds.

Obviously, I haven’t experienced any sort of celebrity.  I’ve lived my life as most, another face in the crowd. I just thought I’d give some thought on anonymity being that it is held to some as dear and to others a plague to be avoided at all costs. (I’m talking about you, Lady Gaga.)

I will have to make many changes when I go to Indonesia, and one thing is for sure: I will be very out of place, and I will be giving up the freedom of going unnoticed while going about my daily business. Whether the attention is sought or not, good or bad,  I think I will enjoy blending in for the time being.

Photo courtesy of Banksy.


So long 2010, it was fun. 2011, I’ve got a good feeling about you.

1 Jan

Photo courtesy of freeimageslive.co.uk – creator.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.

My reasoning is if you are going to do something, do it. Why wait for a new year? I also firmly believe you should always be working towards goals and bettering yourself in whichever way that may be.

The new year does, however, usher in plenty of emotion for me in the reflection of the past and pondering of what the future holds. Out with the old, in with the new. 2010 has been great, but 2011 is where it’s at.

There’s so much to look forward to — and not just for me, but for many of my friends too.

One such case is the recent engagement of one of my best friends. After receiving a text that “she said yes” and giving a call of congratulations, I found myself driving home with a goofy grin across my face. I can’t help but take part in a friend’s joy as if it were my own. Perhaps it’s this timeframe in life, but I feel we’re all on the verge of big things. I can’t wait to see how it all pans out. It’s exciting, no? Excuse me while I ooze with optimism at the possibilities.

Happy New Year everyone!