Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Invitation!

This story starts about a week back, but I was waiting until I actually received and accepted the invitation before posting about it here. I wanted to learn more about my job and tell all my close family and friends about what happened before blogging about it.

Last Friday, December 23rd, I received a phone call from the Peace Corps. After finally coming to terms with the fact that I might have to wait until possibly September and likely not a Spanish-speaking country, the Peace Corps had to throw me another curve ball. When I got the call, I was extremely confused, since I wasn't supposed to hear anything until after the first of the year. My PO (who is probably my favorite person ever) told me that a last minute spot opened for a Water and Sanitation Engineering position in the Dominican Republic, and that he was going to send me an invitation that day! I was bouncing off the walls I was so excited.

The position sounds absolutely perfect for me. I will be an "Appropriate Technology Developer," which means I will be working on engineering type projects to bring better technologies to a small community. It focuses on community needs in potable water, sanitation, small businesses, and alternative energies (i.e. improved cookstoves, hydroelectic power, and solar and wind energy). I will likely be in a smaller, more rural community, but I am okay with that. The job description perfectly fits my engineering education at Columbia and my future hopes for work in developing counties. I really couldn't be happier!

Another wonderful thing about the Dominican Republic is that I am allowed to move out into my own house after 6 months. While I had accepted the fact that in Honduras I would have to have a host family all 2 years, I am excited for the chance to have my own place, cook my own food, and have some quiet time alone. It should be a really great experience.

Thanks to everyone for all your support during this time. I can't believe I was so lucky to get a new invitation so quickly and one that is so well suited towards my hopes for service. I'll post more about the country and things I learn as I get to them - now I've got reading to do and a Visa application to fill out and all sorts of things!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The New Waiting Game

Well, I have now talked to placement. They are looking for positions for me in the April to June range. However, I am being rather picky this time around and only want them to look at positions in my field - Water and Sanitation - rather than for all fields I am qualified for. Because of this, I may have to wait until July to September for a placement. I would prefer to wait and have a placement I am really passionate about and serve for 2 years than take the first thing available with the knowledge that I don't think I will be happy with it. I may be sent to a region other than Central or South America now. I am really sad about that, since I have been working hard on my Spanish and was really looking forward to gaining fluency in Spanish. I should be learning more in the next 2-4 weeks, so hopefully I will get some good news.

The news has come out that they will be pulling Honduras volunteers out and on administrative leave while they assess the country. El Salvador and Guatemala will leave their volunteers in but still monitor the situation. The fact that they have actually pulled out the volunteers shows how bad the situation really has gotten. I hope that Honduras can be a place that will become stable again - I would love to visit after all the research I have done.

I am finally getting to the point that I am accepting this and moving forward. I was really stressed and upset for several days to the point of barely sleeping, but now that I at least have a timeline, I am calming down and starting to plan my life for the next few months. Luckily, my work is really flexible, and they agreed to keep me on for a few more months, even though I had technically put in my last day for December 21st. I can make some more money before I leave and use that for a few more trips. I'm still going to go up to NYC to see friends and family in January, and I am going to try to plan more small trips to get me out of Gainesville and doing stuff. I may try to plan a trip to Europe, but that really depends on what month I leave for Peace Corps and how much money I have saved up.

While this puts a bit of a damper on the holiday season (especially since I know most of my presents are things to take with me for the Peace Corps), I'm trying to make the best of it. My family has been very supportive throughout this entire process and are very patient in listening to my obsessive wondering about what will happen next.

Happy holidays everyone, and let's hope the New Year brings great things for us all.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Goodbye Honduras, Hello ???

So, as some of you may have heard, I am no longer going to Honduras. Due to a security incident in country, it was determined that the security situation was too unstable to send new volunteers. I am of course upset and in shock about the sudden change. I have been preparing for the last 5 months to leave for Honduras in February, and to have it suddenly change and be back up in the air. However, if the security situation really is this bad, it's best that we don't go and I appreciate the Peace Corps looking out for me and not putting me in a dangerous situation.

So what does that mean for me? I should be getting a call from Placement on Monday or Tuesday. I am not exactly sure what this will entail - they could issue me an invitation that same day, or it could be to let me know what the next steps are and to see what I am open to for regions, job placements, and departure dates. I will be sure to update when I have more information. Fingers crossed that it doesn't take as long to get an invite the second time around :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bucket List Updates!

Well, I have in the past week done a few of the things on my bucket list and have plans for accomplishing a few more!

First, I ran my first road race! It was a 5K, and I ran it in 29 minutes 2 seconds. I was really pleased with my time - for my first road race to run less than 10 minute miles, I was really pleased. I have continued my running - I am in week 4 of the 12 week training schedule I have for the half-marathon, and will soon be registering for the Gainesville Half-Marathon the weekend before I leave for Peace Corps. I also hope to run a 10K and a 15K before I run the half marathon, so I should have a better idea for my timing and endurance.

Next, I booked my trip to NYC. I'll be heading there for about a week and a half - I think it's 9 nights exactly. One of my best friends will be overlapping my trip with me also visiting the city, so there should be tons of people to see and things to do! Now to order my tickets to see Darren Criss in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying!"

Finally, I took a little mini weekend trip with my family. We went to Orlando for a night for a concert. We had an amazing dinner and brunch, and then went to the Trans Siberian Orchestra concert. It was an AWESOME concert! Tons of cool lights and pyrotechnics! It was a great little escape for the weekend. We are working on planning 1-2 other short trips to spend some good family time together.

Other than that, things are about the same. I've got about a week left of work - I'm leaving right before Christmas, so I will have time to do all the things I want to!

Hope everyone is having a lovely December!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pre-Honduras Bucket List

So with things getting closer and closer to when I leave (less than 3 months!), I have been working on a list of things that I want to do before I leave for Honduras.
  • Run a Half-Marathon
This has been a goal of mine for some time. It's perfect - I have 12 weeks to train, which is the amount of time recommended to get up to the mileage, and there is a half-marathon in Gainesville the weekend before I leave
  • Go skydiving
Another thing that I have been wanting to do for a while. Hoping to find someone to go with me!
  • Get an additional Scuba certification
I currently have my Open Water Certification, but I would like my Advanced Open Water or a NITROX certification.
  • Trip to NYC
Some of my family and my best friends are still in the city, and it's also one of my favorite places in the world! This one is already in the works, and plans should be finalized soon
  • Go to "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure
I am a huge Harry Potter fan, and I still haven't made it to the theme park! Since it's only 2 hours from my house, it's a must do before I leave
  • Family vacation
My family is very important to me, and we are currently working on planning one last trip, just me and my parents, before I go. Since I won't get to see them for at least 6-9 months once I leave for Peace Corps. We're figuring out exactly where and hopefully will be booking everything soon!
  • Getting through most of Rosetta Stone
I got Rosetta Stone Spanish to better structure my Spanish studying for Honduras (which was basically non-existent before). It's not really challenging me yet, but I hope to get through most of the 5 Levels to get me comfortable again with speaking as well as to improve my vocabulary. I'll have to work on the grammar separately, but it's helping so far!

So that's about it for now - I'm sure I will add to the list as I continue to think about things. It's nice to have these goals, and I hope to accomplish some of them with my wonderful family and friends!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


SO after my major vacation to Hawaii, I recently had 2 "mini vacations." It's tough living back in my hometown with my parents, so it's nice to occasionally get out of Gainesville! I love my hometown, but after a few months, it's a little dull.

My first vacation was to Jacksonville for the Florida/Georgia football game. Living in Gainesville, college football is life. And one of the biggest games of the year is always the Florida/Georgia game. It's held in Jacksonville, at a neutral site, and there are always tons of people tailgating and drinking and having a great time. We went over to Jacksonville for the game and stayed for 2 days with family friends. It was pretty funny, because their fun is also an Ivy League graduate, and we were joking about how its been so long since we hung out with other Ivy Leaguers. The gators didn't win, but it was a fun game to go to!

My second trip was again with my family, and it was to go to Saint Augustine, where my sister and her boyfriend were visiting his family. I had met his parents several times, but it was the first time that I got to meet his sister, her husband, and their baby. Me and Tanner (the baby) became best friends. It was good to see my sister, since it had been a while and will be a while before I see her again. Probably won't be until Christmas that I get to see her again! It was a little chilly out at the beach, but it was a lot of fun for a short, one night trip.

On the Peace Corps front, I found great polo shirts on sale on and bought several. I'm still waiting for them to arrive to see how they fit, but I am feeling pretty good about it. I've gotten shirts from Old Navy before, and they usually fit me fairly well! I've also slowly been discovering more people going to Honduras - I think online I've met about 4-5 now, so there's a bit of a group forming! I can't wait until I start getting more real information about staging!

That's all for now - will update whenever I have anything interesting to talk about!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


This post is a bit overdue, but in October I headed to Hawaii for a little relaxation trip. One of my best friends, Amanda, lives out there for grad school, and she and her fiance were so accommodating and put me up for a whole week. Without the cost of a hotel, the trip was able to be really affordable.

I was able to do some really awesome things while out there. One of the number one things would be that I was able to go Scuba Diving! It's been a while since I had been able to go diving, and it was so cool to go. It was my first time diving out in the ocean rather than a spring or lake, so ti was a whole different feel. I saw about 15 sea turtles, an eagle ray, several eels, and tons of tropical fish and coral! I had a great time, and it was great that one of my dives was led by an amazing divemaster, Amanda!
We also did a really cool hike in O'ahu called Koko Head. The hike was about an hour long, and it was RIDICULOUS. Imagine an hour on a stairmaster in the heat and sun. THe views were totally worth it though. Plus the breeze at the top was really nice. I was so glad I did it, even though my thighs definitely weren't the next day!
Of course, since I was in Honolulu, I had to visit Pearl Harbor and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. It was really sad, but also really powerful. I think sometimes the war in the Pacific is overshadowed by the war in Europe, so it was really interesting to learn more about what happened leading up to and after Pearl Harbor was attacked.

We did several other fun things. We went boogie boarding, which was really awesome! The waves were huge! I visited the International Market, which reminded me a lot of shopping in Ghana, which was pretty funny. We did a drive around the city, where we checked out the Blowhole, the Byodo-In temple, a shrimp shack (yum!), and Sunset Beach, where we watched a beautiful sunset. And we spent a fun night dancing at an underground rave.
All in all it was an amazing trip, and it was so nice to get away for a while. I think I really needed a break!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Surprise Trip - NYC!

I just took one of the craziest trips of my life! Basically, my work has been really slow and for the week September 26-30, I was originally supposed to have 4 days of work, but it got cut back to 1 day, only Friday. Obviously, I was rather disappointed and down in the dumps, considering I am getting really bored and frustrated with living in Gainesville. Well, I decided on a whim to look at plane ticket costs to go to NYC for the weekend. It was my sister's birthday on Saturday and I really just needed to get away from Gainesville. After checking a few airlines and different days, I found a direct flight from Jacksonville for only $270, which is super cheap last minute (the same flight is about $200 booked in advance). After clearing it with my family, I booked it!

It was a really lovely trip. My sister was completely surprised - she had NO idea I was going to come up for her birthday, and since it was so last minute, no time for anyone to give it away to her! We cooked all day for her party that night, which was a huge success. Tons of people came! After that I headed up to Columbia to visit my friend Kal and have a drink. it was o strange being back at the old bars from college not as a student!

Sunday was mostly cleaning and relaxing. I introduced my sister and Nate to Doctor Who, a british sci-fi show I have recently become addicted to.

Monday was a really great day in NYC, and it reminded me of why I love the city so much. I woke up early and went to get breakfast up by Columbia with Nate at my favorite bagel place in the city, Nussbaum and Wu. The guys that work there even remembered me! After being a regular for 4 years, I guess they still recognize me. I then wandered around Columbia's campus. I took some pictures with my new camera, working on focusing and framing. I definitely need some work, but it's fun to mess around with. Also stopped by the Citibank up there and canceled my account. No need for a bank account in NYC when I don't live there! After I finished up around Columbia, I headed down to Madison Square Park to relax in the park for about an hour. Sadly, the lawn wasn't open, but It was nice to just sit and relax in the park. I left around 11:30 to head over to Google, where I met my friend Meghna for lunch! I hadn't seen her in about 4 months, so it was so nice to get to catch up in person! I only wish it could have been longer. Afterwards, I met my sister for some light shopping. I didn't do much, considering I don't have much money! Took a short nap that afternoon, grabbed dinner with Dana and Nate, and then went over to the east side to meet up with a few friends from college: Lili, Megan, and Melissa! Had another small bite to eat, grabbed some frozen yogurt, and just caught up with everything. It was so nice to see my college friends - I've been missing them so much while here in Gainesville!

Sadly, the cheap flight I found had a return on Tuesday, so I couldn't stay longer, even though I don't have work until Friday. I'm just so happy I got to get up there and see some people. I want to see as many people as often as I can before I leave for Honduras. I will for sure be returning to NYC once or twice more before I leave, but it was nice to have a weekend up in the city!

Coming next: Hawaii in 10 days!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Hobby - Ukulele!

In anticipation of Peace Corps, as well as simply because I have wanted to for a while, I have purchased a ukulele! I have been wanting to learn a new instrument for a while. For some time I considered guitar, but I decided that ukulele would be a better beginning instrument for many reasons. One, it's cheaper than a guitar and more affordable for me. Two, it's smaller. That allows me to travel with it easier (i.e. Peace Corps) as well as easier to learn on with my tiny hands. Three, it's just super adorable! I may sound like a stupid little girl, but my uke is seriously adorable. Four, it only has four stings rather than 6 and that makes it easier to start learning.

I got myself a concert ukulele. I decided on that size because it is small enough to travel with easily, but large enough that I don't feel my fingers are overly cramped or that it is too high pitched. I think it's a great size to learn on, though I would love to play around on a soprano or a tenor sometime. Maybe once I actually know how to play... haha!

I now have a lot of respect for people that play string instruments. My left hand fingers seriously HURT. I am working on trying to build those calluses up on my fingers, but until then, ouch! You have to press so hard with your left hand to make the notes sound right, and its a bit painful after playing for a while. Then there is the whole strumming and changing chords. My first day of playing around, I was HORRIBLE. I'm still not great, but I'm getting a bit more comfortable with changing chords and strumming the right rhythm. I've got a few books on the way of songs and techniques to try and teach myself. I'm super excited!

And then there is trying to sing as well. Oh lord. Now THAT is funny with me! I try to sing and my strumming goes all crazy and i speed up and slow down all over the place. Let's just say that's a work in progress.

I have only been playing for a grand total of 10 days, and I haven't played every day of those 10, so I'm not too frustrated. Hopefully by the time I head to Honduras, I'll know lots of little songs on my uke and I can use it for cultural exchange with people in my community! They do say that music is a universal language!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Car Crash

I had a pretty scary day last Monday - I got into a car crash.

I was on my way to the gym after getting off work early, and I was stopped just past a light - there was some traffic or something, I'm not exactly sure what, but when the car in front of me is stopped, I try to do the same. I was stopped for a good 5-10 seconds, and a car came through the light, didn't realize we were stopped, and hit me going somewhere between 35 and 40 mph. The momentum pushed me into the car in front of me, and when it was all done, my car was at least 40 feet away from the car that hit me. As many of you know who read this blog, I don't technically have my own car - I borrow my mom's and my grandma's cars, depending on who needs theirs any given day. That day I had my mom's car, a 2005 Honda Accord.

The important part is that everyone was okay. I was freaking out big time after the crash - I couldn't find my phone, as it flew somewhere in the car when I was hit. My dad works in radio and had just gotten on the air about 5 minutes before the accident, and my mom was in a staff meeting and not answering her phone. Furthermore, I was supposed to pick my mom up in a few hours since I had her car.

It all worked out in the end - I got through to my mom on the man I was hit into's cell phone, eventually found my phone in the car, and my mom got a ride out to the crash from a coworker. She managed to get a message delivered to my dad so that he knew what was going on and to find out where he wanted the car towed to (it wasn't drivable). The man my car was hit into stayed and ended up driving me and my mom home since we had no car. It's wonderful how nice people can be in a time of need.

So the bad news - I got mild whiplash from the accident. I had to take 2 of my 3 days of work off last week because of my stiff neck. With all the driving I do, if my neck is bothering me and I am unable to turn it properly, I am putting the work car in danger as well as myself. I also was only scheduled for one day this week - Friday in Gainesville - because I wasn't sure of my speed of recovery. The person who hit me's car is likely totaled, and we just found out today that my car wasn't totaled, but the repairs are going to be quite high - thank god for insurance! was completely totaled (insurance changed their mind). We should be getting a check shortly for the value of the car and have to go shopping for a new one.

Other than that all is well. I've watched lots of Doctor Who, done some major cleaning of my room, and slept in, a luxury I don't have with work. I am just glad everyone was okay! I drove again for the first time today - neck still a bit stiff when turning it, but I wasn't too bad. May have had a mild panic attack every time a car came up behind me when I was stopped at a light, but that will pass. Just want to heal on up so I can get back to work!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wow, I haven't posted on this blog is a month. Now that I have an invite in hand and nothing to do until closer to my February departure, I have far less to obsess about! Let's see if there are any potentially relevant updates regarding my preparations for Peace Corps...

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that I got myself a new camera! I think one of the most valuable souvenirs that I can bring home from my 2 years of service is memories, and a camera is one of the best ways to record these memories. I finally decided to get a DSLR camera after years of point and shoot cameras that never quite keep their quality. I invested in the Canon Rebel T3 camera - it is one of the newer models that has both camera and video. From what I have seen of other Peace Corps volunteers, lots of events have great opportunities for video, so I wanted that to take advantage. I just have the kit lens, but I am looking to getting a zoom lens as well as a wide angle lens. I especially want a wide angle lens for amazing landscape shots - unfortunately they cost more than I would prefer to spend. Maybe for Christmas/Birthday/Going Away present... I am still working on getting used to and learning all the settings on my camera, but I am confident that I will soon be able to take pictures like a pro! (okay, like a semi-pro)

I have also been working more on my wish list for things I will need for the Peace Corps. I ordered myself a nice North Face rain jacket that I have also been using for work, which has been really useful. Working in Florida outdoors = high chance of rain just about every day. And unless there is lightning, we don't quit working! I'm planning on ordering with Chacos, Tevas, or both soon. I love the Peace Corps discounts! Other things on my list include a light-weight sleeping bag, fast drying travel towel quality cotton socks and underwear. Still working on perfecting it - any suggestions from current volunteers on things I should make sure not to forget or things that are completely unnecessary? I am planning on going mainly by the Peace Corps list, with a few additions that I think I really need

My most exciting news is the trip that I have planned for this October - I am going to be going to HAWAII! One of my best friends from high school lives out there for grad school, and I will be going in October for a week to see her and her fiance. It will be a week of scuba diving, hiking, surfing (well, me attempting to learn to surf), and much, much more. I am sadly going to be in Honduras when she gets married, and it will be during the first 6 months when I will be unable to leave site. I am glad I will at least get to come and have my own celebration with them in Hawaii!

That's about all I can think of. Work is continuing to go well, and I am working on saving up some money - would love to have ome money for potential vacations during my Peace Corps service! Having money when I finish will also help me get resettled, so it's a win-win. Plus there are a few more trips I'd like to make before leaving in February :)

Love to all! To those serving, hope things are going well, to those with invitations, good luck with that anticipation and packing, and to those waiting for invitations, good luck and I am sending good vibes your way!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Paperwork and Shopping!

Finally finished up all the paperwork for my passport and aspiration statement this past week. The passport was the biggest hassle because I had to go to an acceptance facility - I may be traveling internationally before I leave for the Peace Corps and I don't want to be without my personal passport in case that happens. I finally got it in and mailed. I know they say to do it immediately, but considering my leave date isn't until late February, they will forgive it being a week later than it should have been. With my work schedule, it was just too difficult for me to get there the first week after everything.

I am still working on processing everything. I am getting really excited about everything, but I still have the days where I freak out. Sometimes I worry about being separated from my family for that long of a period, and I certainly have a lot of worries about my Spanish (started to study it today for the first time in a few months, and it was really unfortunate). But then I think about it, and how I can make a difference in my community and really get out in the field and I know it is what I want to do, and more importantly, what I need to do during these two years.

I've started to read some of the Honduras blogs as preparation for my time there. It's nice to get some first hand knowledge of life there and what volunteers are experiencing in Honduras. It also will help when planning my packing! The only problem is I have absolutely no idea what kind of environment I will be packing for. Parts are cooler, like up in the mountains, while other parts get as hot as 100 F! It's also interesting to hear about living conditions, because my group will be the second group in Honduras to be required to live with a host family for all 2 years. I look forward to hearing how this first group deals with the lodging so I can be prepared!

So I did some exciting shopping for some Peace Corps things today! I went to the mall to look for a few new shirts, since I'm still gonna be in the states for another 6 months, and I found some great skirts to take with me! From what I've read, its very important in Honduras to keep covered with long skirts below the knee. I found some great skirts and got 4 - two that are short, just below the knee, and two that are down to the ankle. I stuck to gray and black for colors - they also had white, but I figure that there is no way that it could stay clean in Honduras. Especially with hand washing my clothing - it would be exhausting and dirt would get so worked in that it would be impossible to clean after a few months. I am very pleased with my purchases. They are thick enough cotton to not be see through, but are also thin enough and breezy enough to keep me cool if I am in a hot climate! And they were on sale! Yay! I don't want to do too much shopping until closer to my date of departure, but when I see a good deal, I am definitely going to jump on it!

Other than that, it's been pretty basic. Work has been a bit slow, but it's supposed to pick up later this month, so I should start getting some significant overtime then! I am also working on planning a few trips. As of now, I am almost for sure going to go to NYC and Hawaii. Other possibilities include a cruise with my mom and grandma or another trip over to Europe - I really want to see Spain before I go. And of course, the Chile trip is still a possibility, though I have no idea when I will find out if it could happen or what it might cost me. I'm excited to hopefully book some of these trips to go places and see people I want to see before I leave for two years!

Also still waiting on those Honduras volunteers to come out of the shadows... Any of you out there?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Life after the Invite

So I've been all sorts of busy this past week! I had all sorts of reading to do on my program, Honduras, Peace Corps Volunteer expectations and more! The more and more I read about my job description, the more and more excited I get about it. It really is exactly what I wanted to do. I am a bit bummed that I am probably going to be placed in a larger city - part of me was excited for the rural lifestyle and knowing everyone in a small community. No way I could know everyone in a town of 10,000 or more! Trying to not count my chickens before they hatch. You never know what will happen!

Another part I am really excited about is that there is a lot of interdisciplinary work and collaboration with PC Honduras volunteers. For Water and Sanitation, volunteers work in clusters of 3 or 4 to work on water issues for a whole region. We all will be placed in different sites, but there is an emphasis on collaboration that I really like. There also are collaborations between different types of volunteers. An education volunteer might work with a water and sanitation volunteer to create a sanitation component to their lessons. I really look forward to meeting all the amazing people I will get to work with (where are you all anyways? I'm the only February one I know of!)

Honduras is fairly well off technologically - they say most volunteers have cell phone and internet in their sites (particularly in big cities... i.e. me!) This is definitely helping my parents with the possible move - the knowledge that they will be able to contact me and talk to me often. It's also great because I know I will be able to keep up with my blog while I am there!

There are some great vacation possibilities for while I am down there that I look forward to taking full advantage of. Honduras is known for some of the best scuba diving in the caribbean! I haven't been often, but I LOVE scuba diving! I will be sure to take full advantage of the scuba diving opportunities! There are some beautiful beaches, particularly in the bay islands. I think that will probably be one of our family trips, which should be nice and relaxing! Honduras was one of the places that the Mayans were located, and there are mayan ruins around the country and neighboring countries. I would love to see some of these ruins in person! FInally, they have canopy walks and ziplining! I LOVE ziplining!

The weather there is also pretty nice. The country is very mountainous, so even though it is further south, the mountains keep the country cooler. Many sites are located at higher altitudes, which are consequently cooler. It will be nice to not have a completely unbearable weather year round.

There is one thing that has been disappointing me a little, but is also understandable. The Peace Corp Honduras has instituted a policy that volunteers must live with a host family for all 2 years. This is for the safety of the volunteers as well as to ensure that volunteers get cultural immersion and language practice daily. While I appreciate the safety aspect, I can see it being extremely difficult to live with a family for 2 years. I am a very independent person - I can see problems arising with things such as wanting to cook, wanting to get a pet, having visitors, and wanting alone time. One option for volunteers is to live in a separate house in a family complex - it gives more independence while still being with a host family. I think I will definitely be looking for something like that in my site!

Thats all I've got for now. This weekend my plan is to write my aspiration statement and finalize my resume to send in next week. Tomorrow I need to go do my passport application too! Will post more when I know it

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


And my post is....


Basically, it has been the craziest few days ever. Lets start back at Wednesday.

So I had originially been told that January-March invitation would begin going out in late August, early September at the very earliest. Well, I check Peace Corps Journals, Peace Corps Wiki Timeline, and Peace Corps facebook page fairly often. Come Wednesday morning, I saw the first January invites going out. Well, I wasn't going to be left behind - I sent me resume to my Peace Corps placement specialist on Wednesday, with a note to confirm receipt and to let me know if there were any updates. On Thursday I received an email saying my placement specialist had received my resume and there were no updates. I expected I wouldn't hear anything for a few weeks. Well, Friday, my family was leaving to Canada for a 5 day trip. We were going to Toronto and Niagara Falls, which should be a really fun trip. Our flight on Friday had two legs - Jacksonville to Atlanta and Atlanta to Toronto. We had a layover of about 45-60 minutes. Well, who would have thought, but waiting at our gate in Atlanta, I get a phone call from a 202 number. I try to calm myself - its probably just an update about my status and when I should hear an update. Well, this is my approximate conversation:

PO: Thanks for your updated resume!

Me: It was no problem.

PO: So I was looking at January to March placements and I have two programs leaving then. I'm gonna go ahead and invite you to one!

Me: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!

Literally, I was jumping up and down in the middle of the Atlanta airport! He told me 5-10 days for my package to arrive. I can't stop thinking about it all weekend. We land this morning (Wednesday) and my mom calls the USP store. They have my invite. We stop there on our way home. and I find my invitation!

I am SOOOOO excited! The placement sounds AMAZING. I am going to be a Water and Sanitation Engineer. I am probably going to be placed in a larger site (10,000 to 50,000 people) and I will be working with Water and Sanitation Extensionists to work on latrine projects, water distribution projects, and other projects. It sounds so great and I still have tons more to read (as well as my aspiration statement, resume, passport, and etc.) I will post more information as I find it!

Congrats to everyone reading who has their invitations, and good luck to everyone waiting! It will come sooner than you think, and it's so worth all the waiting when it gets here!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Long Overdue Update

Hello lovelies.

I know I have been totally MIA - I was hoping I would get some concrete news from PC before I updated again, but alas, the situation is as follows.

A few weeks ago, I think it was May 27th, I got a phone call from my placement specialist. I had my final interview, and it went GREAT. He told me he was clearing me for placement, and I was SOOOO excited. However, it was followed by a bombshell. My program for 2011 was full, and the soonest I could go in my nominated program (Environmental and Water Resources Engineering) was January-March 2012, and even that wasn't for certain. He told me he could do a teaching position for Math or Science or possibly a health position. I asked if I could think over it for a bit before getting back to him. I was devastated, even though I knew this was a high possibility with the budget cuts. With my engineering degree, I have really had my heart set on doing water work. After thinking it over for the weekend, I told him I would rather wait for January-March 2012 departures. If I don't get a water slot then, we can discuss another slot, or I can just put PC on hold knowing that it will be there for me in the future.

On a better note, I just got back from a 2 week trip around Europe! It was for my graduation, and it was amazing. I traveled with one of my best friends from college, Laura, and we went all over the place. We did a week in Italy, visiting Venice, Florence, and Rome, and then went to Amsterdam, Paris, and London. It was great to travel and see all these sites I've always wanted to see.

I also have a job that will hopefully work out in the coming days. I'm still getting the details worked out, but it would be great to get some experience and money!

I'll try to be better with updating this in the future - it's just been a really rough few weeks with the PC news and then all my traveling!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Current Location: Gainesville, FL

Yes, I FINALLY changed location to update my "Current Location" in my blog entry. After a crazy few days, I have now made it home!

On Tuesday night, we went out to an amazing graduation dinner at Eleven Madison Park. It was so delicious - we had the 4 course meal, but it was honestly more like 7-8 with surprises. It was such a special dinner with my family. Since I might not be back to NYC before I leave, it was great to have one more amazing dinner in the city (even if my parents wallet was rather unhappy about it!). We even got a tour of the kitchen!

Wednesday was commencement, the final university event. It was a lot of fun - engineering got to bring giant inflatable hammers. We all cheered for our school and had one last hoorah. Afterwards I got to pick up my diploma and take some pictures. Even got another one with the dean!

Then it was to finish packing, attend a last few parties, and then Thursday morning bright and early pack up the car and start heading home. My dad and I were driving home, and we finished loading and left around 11:30. We drove for about 12 hours to reach Florence, SC and stayed the night there. Today we woke up at 7 AM (ughhhhhh) and drove the rest of the way. Home, sweet home. I plan on sleeping about 14 hours a night for a week to catch up on this little rest that I've gotten over the past 4 years!

I have a few exciting trips going on to help distract me while I await Peace Corps notification of where I am going (which should be in 2-4 weeks if the email sent was correct). On June 8th, I am leaving for Europe to visit my friend Laura for about 2 weeks! We plan on doing some traveling, though we don't have an itinerary in place yet. We are thinking of hitting up Rome, Venice, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, as well as London and Paris briefly, where I have been before. It should be pretty busy for me - traveling every other day will be exhausting but exciting! It will be my last trip to Europe before Peace Corps, so I'm gonna make the best of it! Then in July, the family heads to Toronto for a few days. I've also never been to Canada, so it should be a great family trip!

Still awaiting an invitation. Turned in my final transcript and diploma with date of graduation, so they have everything needed from me. Hoping to know soon. The first possible country for the two possible categories I think I could work in is Guatemala on August 8th - for the 8 week notification, I need to hear no later than June 13th. Fingers crossed that all works out and I hear something soon!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Graduation Week

The last few days have seriously been a whirlwind! I finished classes, got my final grades, had my senior celebration events, and had my school's graduation! Had a few delicious dinners with my family with a few more delicious ones to come. I am going to do show a photo summary rather than write on and on about all my events.

First, we had our senior dinner, where we ate with faculty and heard about awards in the engineering college. Below is a picture of me with the dean!

Next, we had our senior gala. We got to get dressed up in long, fancy gowns and have something like a senior prom! Below is a picture of me and Laura in our ball gowns

After that, we had our "Last Lerner Pub," where we got free beer and got to dance around to great music. Below is a picture of me with my friends Lucy, Lili, and Melissa.

Then we had a senior boat cruise, to see the sites of the city. If you are on a boat, of course you have to take a titanic picture!

Then it was graduation. These are the pictures I took with my own camera of some of my fellow seas graduates. There will be much better photos from my sister with the family to come.

So yes, now I am a graduate of Columbia! Tomorrow is our commencement for the whole university! I'm so lucky to have had this opportunity.

Also, this week has been GREAT at distracting me from no Peace Corps news. Hopefully something soon, but nothing yet. I feel very lucky that I haven't yet gotten one of those emails telling me to be prepared for a change in date, but it could be coming soon. All I can do is wait and hope!

Also booked my graduation trip to europe but more on that next post! Now I must return to packing up my room :( 2 days until I leave for Gainesville!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Almost over...

So a few days have gone by, and no news from Placement. I can't really say I am surprised - they said 4 to 6 weeks, and so far it has been less than a week :) A girl can dream right?

And that's exactly what I did! I had a dream a few nights ago that I got an invitation to serve in Panama! That is one of the possible countries for my region, start date, and nomination, and I woke up so happy from that dream... then I realized it was a dream :( c'est la vie

In other news, senior design is officially finished and turned in! That leaves me with 2 exams tomorrow, and one final group paper due at midnight (which is super close to being done), and then I'm finished with all my schoolwork at columbia. It's such a bizarre feeling... after 4 years, I'm finally done. When one door closes, another door opens, and hopefully that's what will happen with the Peace Corps!

My family gets up here in less than a week - my dad on Friday, my mom and grandma on Saturday. Then we've got a crazy busy week ahead before I leave for home the following Thursday - less than 2 weeks away.

Less tan 24 hours, and then let the party begin!!!

I also wanted to say happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. In particular, to my amazing mother and grandmother. I am so blessed to have such amazing women in my family that really inspire me to work hard to achieve my goals. I love you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Placement - First Contact!

Oh, happy day!!!! I was in the computer lab, freaking out regarding my senior design presentation at noon, and what do you know - an email from placement!!!! I SOOOOOOOOOO needed that. It's been a hell few days, and until Friday is pretty insane for me. I thought senior year was supposed to be fun and relaxing, but I was wrong! My placement assistant requested an updated resume, proof of my enrollment in my Spanish class, and a final transcript. I only have my current transcript until I graduate in 2 weeks, so I turned that in. After my presentation, I got an email saying she has sent my final onto a placement specialist, and I should hear something in 4-6 weeks. It's possible that I will hear sooner, since I often hear people being told 4-6 weeks and finding out in a week or 2.

FINGERS CROSSED! And now back to end of the semester work :(

Friday, April 29, 2011

The New Waiting Game

So I had the waiting game for medical clearance.... now we are on to the waiting game for placement!

Luckily, with the end of the semester projects, papers, assignments, etc, I am staying so busy I am not having a lot of time to obsess about it, which is definitely good for my mental health (or bad, depending on how you look at it - I'm certainly freaking out constantly about Senior Design, so it's a different kind of worry). It's been a week since medical clearance, and still no word from placement requesting a new resume. I know this part can take several weeks, so I'm not worried, but I am hoping it will happen soon! Sadly, with my moving in less than 3 weeks, it probably won't happen before I have to change my address. My fear is that they will contact me in like, 1.5-2 weeks and I will have to tell them to send the invitation to my new address, and then what if it arrives before I get home? Yikes, the anticipation would be killer! I'm trying to avoid thinking about it.

Weirdly enough, even though my letter was sent and I've talked to my nurse and know I was cleared, my letter still hasn't shown up. Damn Columbia Mail Services for taking forever! I keep checking because there was supposed to be something related to my allergies and I was hoping the letter would have more detailed information about it. Hopefully it will show up early next week.

I am also starting to get a little more concerned about my nomination. I was nominated for Central and South America, and from other PC Journals and their discussions with their placement officers, it seems that that is the region experiencing the biggest cuts in programs. My spanish is shaky, and I am concerned that I could get changed regions. I am definitely more interested in what I am doing than in where I am, but after imagining it for 5 months (and taking a semester of Spanish to refresh and improve my speaking skills), it's hard to think how I would react to a change in region. Spanish would also be really useful in my future career, so I really hope that it will still work out. I also am not sure what I will do if I am deferred to leave later than August/September. I have absolutely no plans after graduation. I'm worried enough about having 3-4 months with nothing to do. Should I start job hunting? Look for a temp job just in case? There is so much unknown, and it's really hard to know what to do. Just preparing myself for a curveball and to be sent to Asia or Europe in November or something! Wherever things end up working out, I'll make the best of it!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Officially Medically Cleared!!!

Today I woke up to this lovely email in my inbox:


I just qualified you medically to serve anywhere in the world. There’s a letter in today’s mail. Placement Office takes over now to invite you to a country.


What an amazing feeling. Exactly 11 weeks after Peace Corps received my medical files, I finally have clearance. This is SUCH a relief to have prior to graduation. At least I know I am still on track for my original departure date. Now the waiting game for an invite begins. I know that this phase also varies in time - some people have an invite within a week, while others wait for several months. With less than 4 months until my possible leave date, my invite could come soon, but I know that finishing June and July programs is probably a priority over my August/September leave date.

Also, a question for PC invitees - should I go ahead an email my resume into the Placement desk, or should I wait for them to contact me? I was thinking of waiting until maybe Wednesday next week and then email it in. I should give a few days for placement to get the word from medical that I am cleared, right?

In other news, I became a member of the Order of the Engineer tonight. It was a cute ceremony, and I got a ring to always remind me to be a responsible engineer and that what I do effects others - too bad its about half a size too big!! It's so weird to think I will actually be an engineer in less than 4 weeks when I graduate. I really enjoyed the ceremony though. They spoke a lot about how an engineers job is to help others and ensure that you provide services to others who do not know the information that you do. It really spoke to me as a (hopeful) future Peace Corps member. I will really be able to apply my engineering skills to help solve problems in a community.

Senior design is close to being due, but we aren't yet done. Wish me luck with this crazy weekend I have ahead of me! I thought senior year was supposed to be fun!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Medical Clearance! (almost)

So after over 10 weeks of waiting and nervousness I am (almost) medically cleared! This morning, I woke up oddly early, considering I was planning on sleeping until noon. For some reason, I naturally woke up at 9 AM. I was a bit annoyed at first, but it turns out it was all for a good reason! I first checked my email and I saw there was an email from my nurse! She told me that she was going to start on my application today! I was so excited I started jumping up and down in my room! After over 2 months, I was starting to feel depressed and pessimistic about the whole thing and afraid I wasn't going to make my departure date. 30 minutes later I get a call! Turns out I was missing one of the hep B tests, but other than that, I was going to be cleared. Sadly, because of my allergies and borderline asthma, I am going to have a flag on my account regarding which countries I can go to. I was a little disappointed, but I know that I do have legitimate health concerns, and I appreciate the Peace Corps looking out for my safety and health. I would rather have a flag and be sent to a country where I can safely complete my 2 years of service rather than having to leave early because of a health condition.

I just went to the doctor and got the blood drawn for the last Hep B test. Turns out last time when they tested the Hep B series, they tested for the wrong surface test? antigen instead of antibody? I'm not exactly sure, but the correct test was ordered this time. I should have my results in 2 days, and hopefully clear medical by the end of this week.

I'm seriously on cloud 9 right now! Everyone stressing out about medical - it will get there!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Harry Potter 7.1 (and a side note about Medical)

So I was going to write a long rant about Peace Corps and how my medical is now at 10 weeks. Instead I wrote it, deleted it, and feel lots better! So instead, in honor of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1's release on DVD, I am going to post my top 5 lists on the movie. It's a happier subject, and I don't want to subject any of you to my whining.

Top 5 scenes I was sad were left out of Harry Potter 7.1
1. Remus coming to 12 Grimmauld place and Harry yelling at him. I always thought this was an extremely powerful scene in the book - it makes Ted's birth so much more meaningful.
2. Kreacher's Tale - what a heartbreaking tale. Plus I loved how Kreacher became loyal to Harry.
3. Potter Watch - the movie could have used a bit more of a comedic break, and in the book, PotterWatch was great for that. It would only have been a short scene change. It was such a fun scene, and it gave a little insight as to what was going on with the rest of the people in the Wizarding World
4. Pettigrew showing mercy and dying by his own hand. This was such a great scene that showed a bit of humanity by Peter. How does he die now???
5. Luna's room and pictures - such a sweet moment when you saw how much they all meant to Luna. I get that it was easy to cut, but it was so cute in the book

Top 5 scenes that I LOVED in Harry Potter 7.1
1. The Opening Scene - OMG, how heart-wrenching. I actually cried in the theaters with Hermione obliviating her parents. They way they showed Harry, Ron, and hermione all preparing for the journey and leaving their parents behind was a perfect way to start it
2. The 7 Harrys. HYSTERICAL. Props to Dan Radcliffe for the fabulous acting.
3. The Ministry of Magic - this entire scene was PERFECT. They really nailed the characters personalities and mannerisms. Props to the actors of a job well done.
4. Malfoy Manor - other than the Pettigrew part, this was fabulously done
5. The story of the Deathly Hallows - such an interesting way to do it!
(I could go on, but yeah, I said top 5. Pretty Much everything).

Top 5 minor things that bugged me
1. Polyjuice potion is supposed to change your voice!
2. Phineas Nigellus! How do you explain the doe now? (No more details - I don't want to spoil!)
3. Why were Harry and Hermione naked in the locket scene? I don't understand...
4. Why was Dobby at 12 Grimmauld Place? I like Dobby and all, but that made no logical sense
5. I wanted Harry to find Lily's letter in Sirius's room. That was such a sweet part of the books.

I hope my little geek out was more enjoyable than a Peace Corps medical rant!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The day I ate meat again, and more waiting...

So I haven't updated in a while, but that's really because I have had nothing worthwhile to update on. Peace Corps continues to be at a stand still - I got legal clearance, but medical still hasn't received any indication that it's going to be reviewed any time soon, even though they will have had all the paperwork for 9 weeks this Friday. April 1st marked the 4 month point from my nomination, so things should start hopefully moving a bit faster now that I'm within that time frame. It's very stressful to not know where I am going or when I am leaving, and to know it could still be several months is killer! For example, my region is Central or South America in August or September. One such country is the Dominican Republic, leaving August 17th. By the 6 week rule that the Peace Corps holds, I might not find out I was going there until July 1st. While I do know that is unlikely, the fact that I could still have to wait 3 more months is killer. Also, if things end up falling through, I'm not quite sure what I will do...

Well, on the subject of backup plans, last week I did apply for my first backup option in case Peace Corps doesn't work out. I applied for the Americorps NCCC Program. It is a 10 month commitment from September to July and you travel around with a small group doing different projects. Project areas include disaster relief, environmental conservation, and others. I think it would be a really fun back up option that I would really enjoy for a year. My only fear is if I get accepted into this program before I know about Peace Corps. It would be a difficult decision.

I cant believe that in less than 2 months I will be graduating. I got my cap and gown, so it's real. This have been so crazy this semester - I think the teachers secretly don't want me to graduate with the amount of work they are piling on to me! Things are finally starting to slow down as we reach the end of the semester. Right now the major thing I've got to work on is senior design, which is really getting to the end. Lots of late nights to be coming up to finish it all on time!

On another note, yesterday marked the end of my pescatarian ways. Yes, I ate chicken for the first time yesterday in 2.5 years. I had chicken noodle soup (actually, technically it was chicken and stars, but yeah). It tasted kinda weird to me... I mean, there isn't much chicken in it, but it's been so long since I've had chicken that it tasted bizarre. I'm going to slowly introduce chicken over the next week or two, and then start moving a little into some red meats. I know with Peace Corps I need to be able to eat meat, but I'm still talking it slow. I think my mom had a celebration - she wasn't very happy when I stopped eating meat to begin with!

That's all for now. Just continuing with end of the semester plan, getting my parents trip up in may for graduation settled, and starting to trash stuff from my room that I won't be keeping. Can't believe these four years are almost over...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nicaragua Adventure

Well, my Nicaragua Adventure was absolutely AMAZING! It was the perfect way to get away, get some rest, and do some exploring of a new country! I am totally in love with Nicaragua now, and I really want to come back sometime soon to do more exploring.

Our adventure stated on Saturday, when we headed to the airport around 2:30 AM for our 5:30 flight. Because we had 9 people, it actually ended up being more expensive to take 3 cabs than to rent a limo, so we ended up in a limo to the airport! I felt a little bit silly, but in all honesty, it was pretty awesome. Our first flight was to San Jose, Costa Rica, where we had a hour layover before taking a tiny plane to Managua. Both flights were fine – the second one was so small that we could feel every bump, but it wasn’t bad at all. Seems I might be over my flying fear a bit – hooray!

The house we stayed in was so wonderful! It was a 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom house with a huge open kitchen and living area. We had our own pool, with tons of chairs on the back porch for tanning. The ocean was about 100 yards away, and we had boogie boards and a longboard to go into the ocean with. There was also a small guest house where there was another bedroom and bathroom. It was perfect for the 9 of us – 3 rooms with 2 to a room, and the king bed 3 of us slept in. The house had great open windows, and the caretakers were amazing. They would sweep and make our beds every day – just like a hotel!

For the first few days, we did nothing but tan, eat, and sleep. The northern winter made me really pale, but now I have a great tan! None of us got serious burns, unlike last spring break, so it was a successful undertaking! Having our own house (and ridiculous amount of sunscreen) really helped prevent burns. We also headed down to the ocean a few times to boogie board and attempt to surf. I was good at boogie boarding and was actually better than I thought I would be on the longboard. I managed to get up onto my knees several times – every time I tried to stand though, I wiped out. After a particularly bad wipe out, I decided to call it quits. It was still fun though! Maybe I can actually learn to surf at some point.

On Wednesday, we had scheduled an excursion, which was probably the highlight of the whole trip for me. We were picked up at 8 AM to drive to Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve. Mombacho Volcano is an ancient volcano in Nicaragua that helped form the landscape of the area. It is located really close to Granada, one of Nicaragua’s busiest tourist cities. Along the way, we stopped at a small town that specialized in pottery. We got to see someone throw a bowl, which was really amazing – I’ve tried before, and all I get is misshapen attempts! I was able to do some fun souvenir shopping there. I love to get art, and I got a beautiful clay plate with colored clay. It was really beautiful.

After the stop, we headed to the Nature Reserve. A bus truck took us almost all the way up. We stopped by a coffee plantation about half of the way up. The coffee was so delicious! We then went up almost to the top – we still had about 100 m to go. It was a bit of a tough hike up – the hill was really steep. Once we made it to the top though, it was totally worth it. The top of the volcano was in a cloud forest – it was wonderful and cool. We went on a hike around the crater that was about 1 km long. There were some really great views that we got to see. Halfway through our hike it started raining though! We all god pretty wet, but it was a lot of fun.

After the Nature Reserve, we headed down the mountain a little bit to go to a canopy zipline. The zipline was so fantastic! I had always done ropes courses and similar things, but it was the first time I had done a canopy zipline. I really enjoyed it, and had a great time. The views were fabulous and it was so much fun! For the last part, we had a 10-meter free fall! Reminded me of my desire to go skydiving :)

To end the day, we headed to a small town called Catarina for dinner and final souvenir shopping. The town was right by a beautiful lagoon. We went to a restaurant and all got food. I got shrimp that were fried and absolutely delicious! After dinner, we headed to the shops and did our final shopping. I got a really cool purse that will definitely be going with me to Peace Corps (wherever that is). It’s an across the body hobo bag that I can carry everything in. After all that, it was time to head home. It was another two-hour drive, and then we were back. After that exhausting day, we all headed to bed fairly early! I was definitely sore on Thursday morning!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Saturday, we had to head home. After a last bit of enjoying the warm weather, we got picked up and taken back to the airport, landing in NYC finally at 2:30 AM. Now I am back into the real world, with deadlines, homework, and more! Eeeek!

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Survived the Week from Hell!

I survived and it is officially my SPRING BREAK! And that means in 24 hours, I should be on the beach in Nicaragua! I can't believe we leave so soon - at 2:30 AM a car is picking us up, and our flight leaves at 5 AM. I am so excited!!

Midterms actually went better than I expected. My first midterm, for groundwater, went really well. I'm quite confident that I did very well on it :) The second midterm, Hazardous Waste Management, was... interesting. It was way shorter than I thought it would be, and I screwed up most of the multiple choice. The short answer and calculations were good though. Finally was Spanish, which was pretty good again. A few questions I was a little unsure on, but for the most part, I thought it was really good. So yay, classes are done and it's time to relax and sleep and have a good week tanning and swimming and other things.

Nicaragua is going to be really awesome. Our house is literally right on the beach, and we have a pool, so if we don't feel like getting sandy we can just relax out there. Our house is big enough that everyone should have a bed to sleep on - and everyone is 9 people! We've got a kitchen with all sorts of pots and pans necessary for cooking. Right next door to us is a hotel in which we can organize excursions though, like horseback riding, snorkeling, or scuba (which I would LOVE to do, but none of my friends are scuba certified, only me). We already have one really amazing trip planned - a day trip to Granada to hike an inactive volcano, see a nature preserve, and zipline in a canopy! Should be fabulous! Even if we do nothing else, I'm going to have a great time. I need a tan and to sleep large amounts.

Due to this trip though, I will be unable to check email or internet for a whole week. Needless to say, I was a little nervous, considering I am in the middle of medical review for Peace Corps. I know sometimes they will call for additional information, and I would hate to miss a call for a week and have them think I was not interested anymore! So I emailed the medical assistant I had asking for my current status and to inform them that I will be out of the country and unable to be contacted. I got a very nice email back letting me know I have been assigned a nurse, but they are currently handling applications with an earlier leave date than mine (August). She noted in my file that I will be out of town. It's been about 5 weeks now, so it's still early. I'm just impatient :)

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Japan and the Pacific, particularly Hawaii. I have two friends living out there right now, and I am sending happy thoughts their way! Stay safe!

P.S. more mini changes pn my page! Added an "About Me" section! Woohoo!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Week from Hell

Okay, so maybe I'm being mildly dramatic, but this upcoming week is truly not my week. On Saturday, we leave for Nicaragua (which I still haven't yet managed to wrap my head around - I'm going to be in another country in less than a week? What?), but before that, I have a hell of a week to get through. Specifically, I have 3 midterms to get through before my break. I also have 3 problem sets due, a project proposal due, and a big chunk of senior design to get through. Sigh. Sleep is overrated anyways, right?

I have found my best way to study is to listen to movie soundtracks - particularly movies that involve some sort of quest or deadline to meet for something important. For example, Lord of the Rings, Titanic, Inception, and Harry Potter are some of my favorites. There's something about that "running out of time" movie soundtrack that gets my butt in gear to do my studying/homework/project work. It's kinda funny actually - Over a quarter of my iTunes is move soundtracks or Glee music, and I'm totally okay with it.

This past weekend had one exciting part to it other than studying - Casino Night! Casino Night is a Columbia event put on every year in which a bunch of casino games are set up and you win chips that can be exchanged for prizes or raffle tickets. There is also free food, free drinks, and lots of fun! Laura, Lucy, and I all went, and we spent most of our time at the craps table. It was a lot of fun, and I did fairly well - I got 2 stemless martini glasses as well as the shot glass free giveaway. It's always fun to get all dressed up and pretty for a fun event!

I have one little change on the blog that you might want to check out - a slideshow of my travel pictures! It's been so hard to choose which pictures from my travel to feature without it being cluttered, and this is a perfect way! Check it out on the sidebar - I think it's pretty snazzy if I do say so myself!

Well that's about it for now. I'll try to update again one last time before Nicaragua, since in Nica I won't have internet to update all week! Fingers crossed I might hear something (anything?) from the Peace Corps by then!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Peace Corps! And other stuff

Happy 50th Anniversary Peace Corps! It's so crazy to think 50 years ago the first group of people took the leap of faith to embark on this amazing journey. If it weren't for the bravery and faith of those original volunteers, I wouldn't have the opportunity to (hopefully) serve this fantastic organization! Thanks to all the Peace Corps Volunteers over the years!

On another Peace Corps note, August and September invites have started going out! Eeeeek! I want to get my medical clearance so I can get an invite as soon as possible, but there are still no updates on that. I think I'm going to email my medical assistant on Friday (4 weeks after they received my package) just to touch base and see that things are all going smoothly. The cool thing about the timeline is that I know 3 potential countries I could go to (if my nomination holds true) - Dominican Republic (August 17), Mexico (August 29), and Peru (September 15). However, knowing how many people have had their region change, I know there is a high likelihood of going elsewhere. However, it's fun to think about it! The only country I see potential issues with is Mexico - with all the drug wars going on there, my family would be extremely hesitant to my serving there. However, if that's where my skills will best help the people, I'll have to make the decision!

Other than the usual Peace Corps stuff, there isn't too much going on! These next two weeks are going to be very long - I've got so much work to get done before Spring Break! I know I've got 3 midterms, 2-3 problem sets, and a lot of work on my senior design project. However, a week from Saturday, and I'll be heading off to Nicaragua to relax in the sun! I can't wait! A full week living in a house on the beach... heavenly!

Also exciting in the past week is that one of my best friends, Meghna, got engaged! I am so happy for her! Since her boyfriend is heading to business school in Boston for 2 years, it's going to be a long engagement, but they are so perfect together, it's really meant to be! I love seeing all my friends so happy!

More later!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yet Another Week...

Hello world! Figured it's been about a week, so I am due for another blog post! I had quite the exciting weekend with two different visitors - needless to say I am very exhausted from the busy weekend!

Well first things first - to all my Peace Corps applicants out there, still no word on Medical. They haven't even had my paperwork for 3 weeks, and I'm not expected to leave until August or September, but I want to know ANYTHING! The waiting seriously is the worst part of it. March 4th, I'm letting myself email the person who is my medical assistant, just to see if there is a timeline for anything.

Well, this past weekend, both my friend Nick and my Mom were in the city! Nick came up to visit me after I went to Tennessee last semester. We had a really great time. I don't always get to go out and do a lot of things in the city, and we went to a comedy club one night and a jazz club another night. It was nice to do a few of the things I wish I had more time and money to do. My mom was up with Nate's mom to see my sister and Nate, but I got to see them a few times. It was unfortunate that both trips ended up on the same weekend - it let to a lot of Jenni running around trying to do things, and then a lot of exhaustion. I'm really glad both of them got to come though. I won't see my mom again until probably May, so it was nice to see her, even if it's only for a little bit.

I am really getting excited for my upcoming trip to Nicaragua. I just now realized that it's less than 3 weeks away! It should be a lot of fun - we are hoping to maybe go canopying, and maybe visit a cool historical city there. Eve if we don't do a ton of excursions, I will be happy to get some sleep and a nice tan!

It's also scary to think that there are only about 10 weeks left until my graduation. It really seems just like yesterday I was moving up to NYC, and now I'm going to be done with 4 years up here. It's bizarre, but I am so excited to see what this next part of my life brings!

Last of all, I changed the name of my blog! Thoughts?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Paintball and Senior Gala

Well, nothing too exciting has been going on. A little whatever. From all your PC peeps, still no word on medical - I'm not expecting it anytime soon - they've only had my paperwork for 10 days, so it's not like they are going to look at it that quickly!

However, this past weekend was such a great weekend with amazing friend and fun! On Saturday, for Chelsey's birthday, we went paintballing! It was a lot of fun - we played several rounds, and there were 12 of us in all. I have several lovely bruises to show for the fun, but it was great. I even made it to the end of a few rounds (though it was teamwork). Its freaky when you get hit in the face - the mask protects you, but it would scare me! The balls stung a bit when they hit as well, especially if they didn't burst. A few times I got hit with no paint and accidentally called myself out. Whoops! All in all it was a fun was to spend a Saturday afternoon.

That evening was our senior gala. This was the winter gala - there is an even bigger one in May right before graduation. However, even though this was the "small" one, it was SO much fun! I took some great pictures with the girls, and after it was over, we headed to Mel's to have a table for the night. Oh lord, such a funny night. I won't go into details (I'd probably bore you all), but it was fun.

Seriously though, a mis of RAS (Restless Applicant Syndrome) and senioritis are making this semester really tough for me. I'm really struggling to focus at times because there is so much currently unknown in my life. I know that I need to focus and finish strong, but it's hard to put into actually occurring. I'm close to being caught up with everything I need to be, so fingers crossed that things get better soon!

That's about it for me. I'm going to give PC 2 more weeks before emailing my Nurse to ask the status on my heath review. They will have had my paperwork for a month, and I think that's a reasonable amount of time to check in. Hopefully cleared medically Earth March, and an invite by May for an August departure date!

Monday, February 7, 2011


So for now, I've quit with my "Current Location." Let's be honest, you all know I'm in NYC. It's not changing anytime soon (well, in 6 weeks I'll be in Nicaragua for a week, but prob won't have internet and therefore won't be updating there). SO yeah, for now, no more current location. It will be cool and exciting if I include it because it means I am somewhere new!

My happy news of the day is that I am dentally cleared for Peace Corps! Hooray! I wasn't really worried about that - I have no cavities or work that needs to be done, so the clearance was pretty much a check. Now the long wait for medical clearance.

I also have a question regarding invitations that if anyone knew anything and could give me some advice or personal stories would be greatly appreciated. I was nominated to leave in August/September 2011 to serve in central or south america contingent on my finishing 2nd semester college Spanish (which I am taking right now) and receiving a C or better (which I am not even a little bit worried about achieving - I took Spanish for 3 years in high school, just brushing up on vocab and grammar). I will finish the class and get my grade mid May, right when I graduate. That's 2.5 months before my expected departure date. Is the Peace Corps going to wait until they get the paperwork with the grade to invite me to a program, or are they likely to invite me contingent on that grade, so I could get all the information and paperwork in. I hate the idea of getting notified with 2 months or less, once all the paperwork is processed! Also, I'm just impatient and want to know as soon as possible. If anyone has had an invitation contingent on a class or volunteer activity, any advice could help!

Nothing else too much going on. Watched the Super Bowl last night - below is my favorite commercial of the night!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

So I Want to join the Peace Corps...

Hmm.... this seems a little pessimistic! I do have realistic expectations in joining the Peace Corps - I know it won't all be sunshine and rainbows, but I also know it's what I want to do. Unlike some people, I think I have a realistic idea of what it will be like from my month spent in Ghana - I've already lived on what the locals eat, seen the lovely spiders that infest your homes, and had the little children running after me yelling in a language I don't understand. It's the best!

Also, it seems my blog has somehow been added to the Peace Corps Timeline on so welcome to everyone that found me from there!

This is what I more expect my Peace Corps service to be like:

And I apologize to all my friends about how annoying I'm going to be when I return!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Another Week

Current Location: New York, NY

Another post so soon?!?!?!? I am sure you are all wondering what exciting things could have happened since my last post. In all honesty not much!

Well first, as I'm sure you can see, the blog has a new look! I am rather a fan of it, especially with the travel theme and everything! I think it suits it quite well. I also added a few new pages - one particularly about my Peace Corps timeline. I have been rather tightlipped about the whole thing, but as things more forward (which they are continuing to), I think getting some of the stress off my chest will be a use for this blog. Sorry in advance to all the people I bore with my ramblings about wanting medical clearance or my invitation to come.

On the Peace Corps news front, I received confirmation that the Peace Corps received all my medical paperwork, which was a sigh of relief for me - when mailing that many important papers, I always worry that it will be lost. I made photocopies of everything, but still - I'm always still nervous. However, with that notification, it also says that if the program you are nominated for is not leaving in the next 4 months, your medical file is not currently being reviewed. Since I am not expected to leave until August or September, that means they might not start looking at it until April! I understand thats a possibility, but I want to know now where I am going and what I will be doing and when I will be leaving. I am usually okay with the unknown, but I'm so excited about this that I want to know as soon as possible!

In other news, I have my required winter illness right now. I first started feeling off on Tuesday, and then Wednesday I was hit with a 100 degree fever and a terrible cough and sneezing. It progressed to the congestion phase, which is where I currently am. However, I do seem to be getting better, slowly. Right now the congestion is the biggest issue - I still can't really breath through my nose. I am a slight bit worried it could progress to a sinus infection and perhaps bronchitis - that is what it usually does. I am hoping through plenty of rest and staying indoors as much as possible, I can avoid worse illness. We will see if this holds true!

I am also currently trying to watch all films nominated for the top Oscars before the actual Oscars in 3 weeks. I've seen 4 of the 10 nominees for best film. After that, I have most of the top nominees done with. Will I actually be able to do it? I don't know. The ones I have seen so far are: Toy Story 3, Black Swan, The Social Network, and The King's Speech. Next I think I will watch Inception, and then maybe the Fighter? Not completely sure yet.

For the rest of my weekend, I will sleep, do homework, and watch the Super Bowl! I don't particularly care about either team this year, but I think I'm going with the Packers, mainly because I dislike the Steelers. Hope for a good game either way (and good commercials!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

NOLA, Dentist, and Dance Marathon

Current Location: New York, NY

Bahhh!!! I'm so behind in life! I kept meaning to update this sooner with New Orleans, but of course, life got in the way. All sorts of exciting news going on though!

So NOLA was really fun. It was a great trip, but too short. I wish I had more time to explore the city. I arrived the first night very late and we just went to bed - Friday was to be a busy day! On Friday, we split into two different groups - one group went to Lafayette and Baton Rouge with the car, and the other group was to stay in New Orleans for meetings. It was decided that Julie and I were to be the two who stayed in New Orleans. We met with two different professionals about Wetland Growth in the New Orleans area as an example to base our senior design project off of. I won't bore you with all the details, but it was very productive! That night, a few of us went to the restaurant "Mothers" which was delicious! The NOLA food is great! We headed to Bourbon Street that night, and wow - nothing like it! It's such an odd feeling drinking on the street like its no problem! It was a crazy atmosphere there though, and a lot of fun. So much live music and fun! The next day was for us to explore the city some, particularly the French Quarter. We got delicious beignets and wandered around doing some shopping. It was really fun. Sadly, Sunday we were heading back to NYC for classes. I can't wait to plan another trip back there at some point!

On Wednesday, I had my final appointment for my Peace Corps Medical and Dental clearance - the dentist. I was a little bit freaking out for it - I hadn't been to a dentist in 2.5 years as well as I have the unhealthy habit of drinking Diet Coke. I was really afraid that I was going to have a bunch of cavities to get filled. Imagine my surprise and happiness to discover that I had no cavities at all!! So all my paperwork is done, and was mailed in last week. Now I have the waiting game for medical and legal clearance... I'm so impatient! Given my expected departure date and the fact that it usually takes 4-6 weeks, I should hopefully be medically cleared by the end of March and get my invitation in April for some time in August or September. Eeek! I will be sure to keep everyone updates as my clearances go through - PC should be receiving my paperwork any day!!

This past weekend was the annual Dance Marathon. I have been involved with it for all 4 years of college - my freshman year I was a moraler, my sophomore year I was a dancer, my junior year I was on steering, and for my senior year I went back to be a dancer. Let me back up for a second though. For those of you who do not know, Columbia University Dance Marathon is a fundraiser to raise funds and awareness about Pediatric AIDS. All funds are donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS foundation, which works to prevent transmission to HIV from mother to child and to treat infected mothers and children so they can live healthy lives. This year was different form the past marathons because it was only for 18 hours - in the past years it has been 28! However, from my exhaustion from my trips to Chile and New Orleans, it was actually really hard this year. I made it though, and had a great time. As you all know, I love to give back to philanthropic organizations (hence my interest in the Peace Corps), and it was great to be involved in such an amazing event for all 4 years of college.

Other than that, school has been good - I am loving my Spanish class and I'm learning a lot. I was looking through my book last night, and by the end of the class I am going to be able to hopefully say a lot of stuff! Definitely going to help my vocab and grammar. Fingers crossed for a Spanish speaking PC country!!!

Love to all my amazing readers, and I'll update again as soon as I have something worth updating about!

Friday, January 21, 2011

End of Chile, my Birthday, and Senior Spring

Current Location: 36,000 ft in the air, USA

I think these past few days might be some of the craziest yet! I’m just traveling all over the place!

Last I had posted, we were on our last day in Chillan. For that last night, we had a farewell party at the house of Florencia, the in country woman from Oregon State that organized all the homestays and trips. The party was so much fun! We had some delicious food (though lacking a bit in the vegetarian options), good music to dance to, and took TONS of pictures! I learned how to do some Chilean dancing, which was super fun – Sebastian was a great teacher! It was the perfect way to end the time in Chillan, and we returned to our house around 3. Unfortunately, the next morning my bus was leaving at 8 AM! Not much time for sleep.

After a late night of packing and maybe 2-3 ours of sleep, I woke up to catch a cab at 7 AM to the bus station. I had really wanted to see my host family one last time, but they were still asleep and I didn’t want to wake them up. They were so sweet though, so I left them a little note. I also bought a vase and Julie got some flowers, so we were able to show them how much we appreciated everything. Surprisingly, all 3 of us on the 8 AM bus (myself, Leah, and Kyle) made it on time – after the late night I wouldn’t have been surprised if one of us accidentally slept in! We have quite the journey ahead of us – we had a 5-hour bus ride to Santiago, and we were then catching a 2 hour bus to Valparaiso. If the buses weren’t so nice it would have been far more of an obnoxious trip, but when you have buses with movies and air conditioning and comfy seats, its not too bad. We arrived in Valparaiso around 4 PM and grabbed a cab to an area that we had heard was pretty good. We had no hostel booked, which is something unusual for me – I usually book my trips fairly carefully! We went to one hotel first but it was full – luckily there was another one nearby that the woman knew and she called over and there were beds for us.

Valparaiso was such an amazing city. It is built right on the coast of Chile. The area is very hilly, and the whole town is built on the slope. The architecture was so cute – there were all sorts of colors everywhere. There was also a ton of graffiti, but it was very nice graffiti – almost like art. It was all over the town, but things weren’t overlapping or trashy looking It gave the town a very cool feel. The first day we just wandered around – we went down by the water and walked around the hills stopping at cute little boutiques. I was able to do a bit more of my shopping for people, which was a good thing. We finally got hungry and after much searching (and a run in with the worst street performers/clowns I have EVER seen), we chose a little restaurant. We were apparently there very early because it was almost empty when we arrived, but by the time our food arrived, there was a live singer and tons of people singing along and clapping. It was such a fun atmosphere. After the night before, we were all really tired, and called it night around midnight. The net morning we got up bright and early so we could go and see the poet Pablo Nerulo’s house. The house was really cool – there were beautiful views from the windows. By entering we got a sort of walkie-talkie that gave an explanation of the whole house, room by room. He was really into ship things, so all over the walls were maps and other things. It was so fascinating to see everything.

However, all good things must come to an end, and that included my trip to Chile. After only one night in Valparaiso, Leah and I had to head back to Santiago to catch our flights back to the states. I really want to return to Chile again – I’ve only begun to scratch the surface on this amazing country, and there are so many things I still want to do! We caught a bus back to the city and then a transfer to the airport. After some interesting problems with check in not being open I finally got through. However, through all the waiting I met some really cool people, including a few older couples returning from a cruise and a returned Peace Corps volunteer from the Dominican Republic. Talk about small world! After a few hours in the airport, I boarded my plane and it was back to the USA. All flights went fine and I arrived back in NYC Monday morning safe and sound and ready for classes on Tuesday to start.

The first few days back in class have been good. Instead of taking a really light load this semester, I’ve decided that my senior spring will include me doing two classes that I want to do rather than need to do or have to do. That means I’m dropping my minor one class short of finishing. I know it seems stupid, but I’d rather love my last semester than get a single sentence on my diploma for something I’ll be miserable in. The two classes that I am so excited to take are Comprehensive Beginning Spanish and African Dance. Comprehensive Beginning Spanish covers two college semesters of Spanish in one semester, or over 2 years of high school Spanish. Since I have such a strong background in Spanish, having taken 3 years of it, I thought this was the best class for me. I can improved my conjugations and grammar as well as expand my vocab. My Peace Corps placement is also contigent on me finishing this class with a C or higher. I am happy though, because having this skill gives me a better chance of getting to do what I want to do in the Peace Corps. I love the flexibility and I have also loved the language for a long time. Even though I will have the most homework in this class, I know it really won’t seem like work because I am so excited to learn. African Dance is something that I have thought was so much fun, but have never had an opportunity to take. It is such a lively dance and it makes me so happy. And what a work out! Taking this class twice a week is going to help me get in good shape! On top of these two classes, I have my Environmental Engineering classes (Hazardous Waste Management, Data Analysis, Water Management, and Groundwater) and my senior design project. I’ve been to three of the four classes so far, and I think I am going to like most of my classes.

Yesterday was also an exciting day – it was my 22nd birthday! I had a really great day thanks to my amazing friends. I had class all day, so I couldn’t sleep in. My girls made it a great night though. They cooked me a delicious diner, bought me a ridiculous hat and balloons, got me a cake, and miscellaneous presents. After that, we all went out to senior night and Campo. I should wear a birthday hat out more often – I didn’t have to pay for a thing all night! I am so lucky to have such amazing friends – On top of this I had many texts and over 70 facebook posts or messages. A special shout out to the lovely Meg Brodeur, who gave me a lovely blog happy birthday wish!

Now as I write this post from 36,000 feet (though technically will be posting it from New Orleans after landing), I am heading to New Orleans for the weekend with my senior design group. We are meeting with many different professors and engineers in the area to better understand how wetlands work and about traditional hurricane protection systems. We were very lucky and received a grant from the Earth Institute for this trip. It should be a busy few days, but I hope to at least have some time to explore the city. It’s actually my first ever visit! It should be a great time, and I can’t wait to tell you all about what I get to do while there.

Well that’s probably one of the longest blog posts I’ve written, and it’s probably fairly boring to most of you, so sorry! I just started writing, and next thing I knew, I was at 2.5 pages! Don’t worry though, after this weekend my life will be getting much more dull, so expect more spaced and boring blog posts! LOVE

Friday, January 14, 2011

Being Sick and Last Few Days

Current Location: Chillan, Chile

What’s a trip to another country without getting sick at least once? On Monday, it was my lucky day. I don’t think I could have gotten sick on a day I would have disliked more. But in the end it was okay.

Monday was the day that we were spending the morning taking streamflow measurements, and in the afternoon we were driving out to the beach to see the effects of the earthquake as well as have a more fun, relaxing afternoon. I woke up feeling fine – a little tired, but not sick. I grabbed an apple for breakfast and headed to school with Julie. I didn’t start feeling a bit sick until we were on the bus on the way to the field site. I had brought my computer and had been writing some stuff on it, so I thought maybe the screen was making me feel car sick – something that has never happened to me. Once we stopped the bus, I thought I would start feeling better, but little by little I started to feel worse, until I finally had to stop taking streamflow measurements and sit down. After a bit of resting and sipping water, I started to get sick. I had hoped that after throwing up once, I would be much better, but I continued to get sick. Eventually they made the decision to take me home. I was so sad to miss the beach, but my health was more important. Once getting back I continued getting sick and was quite miserable, so being in the field would have been much worse.

My home stay mother practices a type of medicine called biomagnetism, which is similar to acupuncture. I don’t quite understand it, but it’s the belief that the body has certain energy pockets, and by using magnets, you can activate those pockets of energy. I think it also has something to do with oxygen in the blood, and by using magnets, you can kill bacteria by depriving them of an oxygen source? I’m not exactly sure, but she offered me a session of biomagnetism to help me feel better. It was really interesting. She had many different magnets of different sizes and would place them on various parts of my body – on my chest, my stomach, my head, my fingers. Then, she would take my ankles and shake them. Perhaps it’s mainly the placebo effect, but it actually helped me feel a bit better! I only got sick once more after the session, and was luckily able to make it back to the field the next day

While I missed a fun day, I luckily didn’t miss anything that was that significant field wise. Since what I am paying for is mainly the field portion, it’s nice that I’m not missing that part. The next two days were our last two in he field, and I was able to go and participate for both days. I still wasn’t feeling great and was rather weak from my inability to keep food or fluids down on Monday, but with resting, sitting in the shade, and continuously sipping water, I didn’t have any major issues. It’s weird to be done with the field – these two weeks have really been flying by! I’m sad to be leaving so soon, but I am also excited to get back and see all my friends again. It’s difficult not being able to talk to people as often as I am used to.

Yesterday was reserved for Data Analysis. We took everything we had collected, conducted our last experiments and tried to make rhyme or reason of it. We didn’t probably do the best job of that part, but we did our best! After finishing for the day, most people decided we had most definitely earned a drink, and we heading to a bar called “Saints and Sinners” for a few drinks. It started with 5 people, and eventually grew to I think 15 people! It was a lot of fun, and next thing I knew. It was 10:30 at night! I headed back to my families house – they had already eaten dinner, but my homestay mom heated me up some of dinner – a homemade pizza that was delicious – and stayed to talk to me while I ate. She is so sweet – I’m sad to have to go! I’ll have to start making my own dinners :(

Today we have our presentations, some free time in Chillan, and then a farewell party! I think for my extra day that a group of us are going to head to a town called Valparaiso on the coast. It’s supposed to be really fun and beautiful, and it is a lot close to Santiago. We still are figuring out the bus situation and our exact time of leaving and arrival. I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated!