Month: May 2014

Holy Crap I’m in Nicaragua

I could not think of anything else to title this entry. 

Image

My view the whole way from Miami to Managua: The Wing

I arrived in Nicaragua at 1:00 PM, and it’s 10:30 PM right now. I have been awake since 3:00 AM and have traveled a total of 7.5 hours by plane and car. I am exhausted. Yet I am also exhilarated.

This is it. I’m here. There’s really no turning back. I am about to spend these next 12 unpredictable weeks in the beautiful mountain town of Jinotega, Nicaragua with Outreach360, an incredible organization.

There’s not much to report right now. A wealth of feelings in my head and a slightly slippery and nauseating feeling in my stomach because this is real and this is happening. I can not tell you how I feel right now. It is as if someone took every emotion possible and threw them all into a blender, hit purée, and poured it into my brain. I remember feeling the same way when I arrived in Spain, although it is slightly different because as I’ve said before, I’m here alone. I had a group in Spain. I had a group the first time I went to Nica. I’ve always had a group when I’ve traveled. A home base of sorts. Even if we didn’t get along I had a little bit of home with me.

So it’s sort of cool. I have to make my own home; carve my own base and find my own comforts. That’s a new challenge. I guess I will write more about that when I have actually been able to figure out how I feel about being down here.

Although that might not be the point. It doesn’t matter how I feel about being down here as much as how I am down here. Even if I am uneasy (which is one of the many mushed-up emotions in me), I need to walk with confidence. Even if I am homesick (which I will be), I have to embrace the culture around me as my new home. Because it is. Whether I like it or not, this is where I will be for 83 more beautiful, enriching, and completely unpredictable days.

Thanks for reading. Leave me some homesickness advice if you have any, please! I’ve never experienced it before.

Feelings

I have felt so many feelings in the past two days. Here is a quick breakdown of the 3 main ones:

  • Excitement- I love adventures. I love exploration. I get to go TEACH! I love teaching! I get to see the beautiful, curious faces of the children I grew so attached to in just one week. I am incredibly excited for this opportunity.
  • Fear- Holy crap am I also incredibly afraid. I will be out of the country for a whole summer. 3 months! That’s longer than I was in Spain! Whaaat? I am afraid because I know that bad things can happen to people abroad (and at home) and bad things have happened to me in my travels before. So of course I’m afraid. Plus, I’m just generally anxious about everything and I worry a lot. A new fear that has been introduced (with awful timing) is that of a personal note. I met someone. And this person is pretty fantastic and this person makes me feel all wibbly-wobbly twitterpated. But I’m leaving the country. Will I be a part of the “out of sight, out of mind” mindset? I hope not. I’d like to come home and continue whatever has been started, but I’m sort of afraid that my time away will change me in some way that this person may not like. Also, I felt the ultimate fear and anxiety about 12 hours ago when I went through my mental list of things I might need to pack and realized I had no idea where my passport was. Which leads me to….
  • Relief- oh boy howdy I have never felt relief so strong than I did when I found my passport in an awful “I will totally remember where this is” place. But I found it! And oh wow. I had been crying from anxiety and suddenly began doing that relief cry-thing that’s part laughter and part hysteria. Also I am relieved that I am still going. I find solace in my comfort with myself and knowing that regardless of how I change, I am going. Nothing can change that. And I will enjoy my time in Nicaragua greatly. I need to realize that even though I met this lovely person I am interested in pursuing something with, I have to patiently and logically spend my time in Nica the way I planned and not let this possibility of something make me wish that my time in Nica moves faster. I want to take my summer one day at a time and cherish every moment. It is relieving to know that I can logically understand all of this, even if I am afraid of some of those things happening.

Be on the lookout for a “holy crap I’m leaving!” post sometime soon. Probably after I go and actually pack everything into my suitcase. Thank you all for following my adventures, both creative and literal.

Going Back

Something I have realized but have not really thought about is the fact that I am going back to Nicaragua alone. I do not again have the pleasure of experiencing this amazing opportunity with the 11 wonderful people with whom I travelled in March.

That, that thought right there, that is the one that scares me.

I don’t get the camaraderie. I don’t get the late-night heart-to-hearts with my classmates about whom I knew very little before this trip (save my sorority sisters). I have to travel entirely alone and experience this summer (for the most part) on my own.

Of course there are full-time employees of the program with which I’m volunteering and there will probably be other long-term volunteers. Additionally, there will be a new crop of volunteers to work with almost every week. I will not be alone.

But for the purpose of this post, I offer you the first feelings of anxiety I have about my trip. It’s funny, because anxiety only set in 8 days before my departure, but oh well. I am now worried that my experience won’t be the same. OF COURSE it won’t be the same, logic tells me. Duh.

And it shouldn’t matter that I’m going alone. I loved my time in Nicaragua because of the culture, the volunteer work, the people of Jinotega, and the amazing qualities of OutReach360. But I also loved (and cherished, etc.) my time in Nica because of the 11 beautiful, loving, inspired leaders with whom I shared my first experience with O360.

This post is a tribute to those 11 fantastic people- you are all amazing. This post is also a farewell to my past feelings of Nica. I am determined to go into this summer without expectations. I will not compare my second experience to my first, for that would be unfair (not everyone can be as great as my first group).

This is a promise to all y’all readers, and to myself, that I will fly my happy butt to Nicaragua in 8 days and know what I will be doing, but not how I will feel doing it. And I am ok with that. I look forward to a new chapter in life. I will always love and cherish the time I spent in my first week in Nicaragua as well as the people with whom I spent it. But I will not allow that great time to overshadow or hinder my future with the program. And that’s that.

Anxiety ameliorated by a blog post. How sweet.

Until next time!

Advice

When my mom was driving me home (for the last time) from college, she asked me “now that you’ve graduated, what advice would you give incoming freshman?”

I initially thought: I have no wisdom. I don’t know. I sort of botched some of my time at school.

But then I realized that I have learned so much from college and I’d love to share those life lessons with anyone. So here! My advice to incoming freshmen, underclassmen, and just about anyone else, really. 

Say yes when you want to say yes, say no when you want to say no.

Barring harm to yourself or others, this advice works in almost any situation. 

My example: There are too many to list. This is the piece of advice I recommend to everyone everywhere. If you want to do something, and you have the opportunity, then do it! If something or someone crosses your path you don’t wish to entertain, then say no and go on with your life. 

Do something crazy.

Similar to the last bit, but this is a challenge. A challenge for you to step outside of your comfort zone and jump in to the cultural, social, and educational smorgasbord that is college. Take a road trip, talk to someone who intimidates you, just do something that makes you step outside of your personal bubble and connects you with someone or something else.

My example: Okay, I did a lot of crazy stuff in college, most of which I’d rather not share on the internet. My crazy story I am sharing here is my trip to Nicaragua for Spring break. This was crazy in that, other than my sorority sisters, I did not now the people going on the trip very well. Also, I knew it would be difficult to pay for but that it would be an experience I would not regret. And so, I flew to Nicaragua for a week almost on a whim. Talk about crazy. 

Take a class on something you know nothing about.

But really. I can’t tell you how important it is to educate yourself on issues you don’t understand. Don’t be intimidated by the subject matter; learn something new! 

My Example: I did not need to take any more history classes in my final semester, but I chose to endow myself with the stress of a 300 level course taught by one of the toughest professors on campus, The History of the Modern Middle East. Why? Because I knew nothing about the Middle East and I was entirely ignorant to the goings-on of that region. It was difficult, but it was eye-opening and I wish I would have branched out more.

Get involved.

Yeah, yeah, stereotypical college advice. But really. Get involved! You don’t need to go Greek (if you want to say no), but join something. Chemistry Club, a GSA, or be an orientation leader. Connect yourself with like-minded people. Do something (other than, you know, college) that gives you responsibility and teaches accountability.

My example: If you ask anyone at my school, I went a little overboard with this piece of advice. This advice definitely should be taken in moderation. I was in over 13 clubs in my time in undergrad, and I do not recommend that headache. But find one, two, or three organizations to really commit to, and then commit! You won’t regret it. 

 

This is only a smidgen of the advice I have, but it’s where I will leave you today.

Priorities

As finals time reaches its peak today at Heidelberg, I’m reminded of a few things.

  1. I still have 5 assignments to complete
  2. I graduate in 6 days
  3. I move back to my Mom’s in 8 days
  4. I leave the country in 26 days

I am also reminded that I am about to leave a place that I have called home for 1,344 days. A place where I have established myself as an academic, a leader, and someone independent of my family and my past. All of these realizations are making it very hard for me to prioritize my life.

Obviously, in order to graduate I must complete those pesky assignments. So that means they must be priority for the next 48 hours, since that is the time I have to finish them (did I mention I’m quite the procrastinator?). But what about the rest of those numbers? I am graduating. I am moving home. I have to say goodbye. There are so many people at Heidelberg without whom I may not be here, both physically and geographically. How to I divide the time I have before I move back home to these amazing, wonderful people? Do I try to spend time with everyone I’ll miss? Or do I give a final reach-out just so they know that I am thinking of them and that they affected me? Additionally, when I move to my mom’s I’ll have 18 days to spend with family. But my dad doesn’t live close to my mom, so how do I tell him how much time he gets to see me? While I’m home I would like to see childhood friends, some of whom I haven’t been able to see in over a year. I would love to rectify that and get one last hoorah in my hometown. Also, my sister lives much closer to my mom’s house. Is it selfish to spend the majority of my 18 days in my hometown for those reasons, when my dad is just as important to me? It’s really hard to answer this. It’s hard to justify how much time each person gets, because I never want to slight anyone or upset anyone unintentionally (I forget a lot of things). And finally, on top of all of that, how much time do I devote to myself? I am graduating and leaving the country for 3 months (kind of undetermined if I’ll actually come back, but that’s a whole other post). I have a lot of homework I still need to do (whoops, blogging instead…) and I have stresses that come from living in a house with 4 other people. How much time do I give myself to make sure that I am okay? How should I spend that time? I have to make sure that I’m okay, my grades are okay, my relationships are okay, and my life is okay? Where does each go on my list of priorities? Or should priorities shift as life progresses?

W hat that huge rant really tries to say is: it is hard to prioritize. Pressures from your own expectations bundled with those of your family, peers, and superiors make it hard to figure out what you should do.

My advice? You do you.

It’s cheesy and newly cliche,  but it is so true. Prioritize for your life, and not for anyone else’s. Because your life needs to reflect your priorities. Because living by the priorities of others will never allow you to exceed. Live for yourself, for the right now, because you cannot assume anything about tomorrow.