oh mexico

James Taylor anyone? After finishing with Peace Corps I was hankering for a trip (some change, some perspective, you know the story).  So for Easter week Rene and I headed off to Huehuetenango to see his family and then ship off to Chiapas, Mexico for 72 hours (the amount of time Mexico allows Guatemalans in their country).

Before we left, I read a book called Uprising of Hope: The Zapatista Journey to Alternative Development by Duncan Earle and Jeanne Simonelli.  It was a FACINATING read, especially as someone super interested in what is development and how different communities envision progress (and who was planning on going to Chiapas).  Anyway, it helped me understand or at least start to understand a little bit of the history of Chiapas and the Zapatista movement.  (I bought the book at a used bookstore in Chagrin Falls, Ohio for $1, when my friend Katherine was visiting Ohio last summer).

Anyway, my 72 hour Chiapas experience was great!  We took all public transportation and I was blown away by 1.) how efficient their system is and 2.) how terrible Guatemala's transport is in comparison.  Rene had a great time (once we made it through the border crossing from hell).  Highlights were:  1.) A taxi driver saying 'Sorry, I'm lost.  There are a lot of streets in this city'. 2.)We didn't have a lot of time, so we each picked one place/activity and Rene chose an orchid nursery! Which was super cool and something I would have never done.  I chose a long walk to the cemetery. 3.) One day we took a road trip to Aguas Azules, Misol-ha and Palenque and it was 12 hours of car time and it was so fun!  4.) Lots of cools stuff to buy that you can't get in Guatemala, Rene bought a leather wall hanging and I got some amazing weaving (guipil, wrap, and another embroidered wrap).  Wish we'd had more time, definitely going back in the future!

Pickup ride to La Democracia, Huehuetenango

Canopy in Santa Ana Huista, Huehuetenango

Terrible Mexican man who was determined to ruin our vacation!

Beautiful painting displayed in the Central Park of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

View of San Cristobal de las Casas from the Cementary

Cool cars all over the place...

Nerdy trip to an orchid nursery!

One of the main plazas in the afternoon

Aguas Azules, Chiapas

Aguas Azules, Chiapas

Misol-ha Waterfall, Chiapas, Look for the people to see how big it is!

The Mayan Temples of Palenque!

Just cool. 

Super cool.



the after...

I always thought I knew how I would feel when it was over.  An enormous sense of accomplishment, a relief, a freedom, an excitement about pushing forward with my life.  But that was not how it was.  I felt a loss, a penetrating and profound loss.  The feeling that it was all over, not that it was just beginning.

My journey through Peace Corps was rough, in the sense that life is rough.  Peace Corps isn’t any different than what my life would have been like in the U.S. (crappy days, amazing days, love and heartbreak, terrible bosses and wonderful bosses, hectic days and relaxing days).  We are humans, and no matter where in the world we find ourselves, these emotions and challenges find us.  Period.

I sometimes try to imagine what my life would be like right now if I had not become a Peace Corps volunteer.  And it’s funny, because normally I love exercises like that, dreaming up the ‘what-if’s, but I’m drawing a blank on this one.  I have no idea what I would be doing if I weren’t here, lounging on my bed with a computer in my lap in the highlands of Guatemala.  This is place where I feel so very right at this very moment.

But I suppose that’s the joke of it all.   When you go into the Peace Corps, you can’t imagine what it will be like.  And when you leave the Peace Corps, you can’t imagine your life without that experience.

What was it like down there?

How will I answer this question?  How have I answered this question?  It was transformative down here.  Absolutely and irrevocably transformative.

Yesterday, I felt a loss.  A heartache.  I felt an ending.

But today, with the sun pouring through my dirty window, my dog cuddled up for her morning nap, my second cup of coffee by my side, I feel a possibility in my room, bouncing around like the lone fly that has managed to enter.  I feel a calm.  I feel that even though I don’t have my future mapped out, even though I’m not ever quite sure, that it’s okay.  That I made the right decision taking some time off to write, to think, to enjoy life ‘down here’. 

And while a part of me wishes that I had gone home, wishes that today I was on a plane Cleveland bound, another part of me knows that I would be a wreck.  That I would be selfish and sour, not at all the person I want to be.  That I would be grieving the loss of so much that I have fought so hard to gain here.  So for now, it’s for the best to work through my story here.  Work through all of the chapters that have piled up in my brain and put back together the scraps that were once, my heart.
Goodbye with my coworkers!

Last day goodbye to my counterpart Riva!

The entrance to the Peace Corps Guatemala office...

My final presentation for some of my favorite PC Staff.

Ringing the bell as a symbol of the closure of my service...


The last day...

It’s hard to believe at 10:00 a.m. today I will finishing my Peace Corps Service.  The past three years have FLOWN by.  It has been a transformative experience to live and work here in Guatemala, an experience which was hard, incredibly hard but also incredibly rewarding.  In honor of this, my last day, I would like to thank all of the people far away who made it possible…

My parents:  Mamacita y Papi, you two were my saving grace throughout my time here, I would not have made it this far without you…. You were the first to come and visit, your emails dad, your 5am calls mom.  I love you both!

My sisters:  Sommer, Nicole, you both wrote me funny emails to check in and make sure I was alive, sometimes a Peace Corps Volunteer just needs to see her sister’s names in her inbox and that helps her get through the day!  And to Jenny, who has been there for me every Thursday at the break of dawn to make me late for work (and to my bro in law, who turns a blind eye to the phone bill!)  I love you all!

The sobrinos: Gavin, Karin, Bennyboo, Lilis and Winny!  Thanks, for the cuteness, letters and drawings…

My Aunts and Uncles: Jim and Nancy, my tios locos who believe in the healing power of natural water and who check my blog more than I do!  Leslie, who sends me postcards from all over the world and is never too busy for her niece.  Vicky, who writes me the most amazing emails just to let me know that she was thinking of me.  Stevie, who has a way of making me feel like I’m loved even from far away.

My Grandma:  This amazing lady who I save up minutes to call once a month (because we chat for like two hours)!  She always tells me how proud she is of me, which sometimes I just need to hear.  And we always find similarities of her childhood on a farm in Wisconsin and the highlands of Guatemala.  Thanks grams!

My Friends: My lades: Kate, Laura, Christina, you are my conscience, my good side, and my laughs.  Allie and Katherine, even though we’re terrible at staying touch, I know you’re there and that’s enough (and you both came to CLEVELAND just to see me when I came home to visit).






One more day...

Laguna Chicabal, 2012


Two days to go: Best Crazy Face

La loca, La Calera, Zunil, 2014

3 days left: Best Smiles...

Carnaval, 2012

my best animal pic...

Baby Turtle, Monterrico, 2012


this is one my best...

Great grandpa, 2013

still going...

My favorite girls visit Guatemala, 2012


7 days left...

My best PC Photo Bomb!!! 2013