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!