Disclaimer

The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Perspective

Excerpt from this hilarious book I'm reading:

I was a few beers deep and thought texting was a good idea. My roommates helped me out with the wording, since "I want to bone your face" seemed a little blatant.

P.S. The book is actually my journal. Oh man. I am so embarrassed for myself.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Aspirations

Since receiving my packet of information about the Peace Corps, things have been moving alarmingly quickly. Partly because I was approaching the last days at my job, partly because of my camping-road trip, and partly because I had time-sensitive documents to deal with. It's still pretty hectic, but since getting home on Sunday night I've had more time to focus and get things done. 

One of the requirements I've been working on is a statement about my aspirations and expectations for the Peace Corps. This has been especially challenging for me because I've been out of school for over a year, and even while in school I was rarely called upon to write papers. I know I skated through school on inherent intelligence - one thing I truly expect from the Peace Corps is to be forced to knuckle down and finally prove what I'm capable of. But back to the Aspiration Statement. Through conversations with friends and interviewers I've developed my ideas about Peace Corps, but I haven't exactly written them down and organized them into tangible form. This statement has been such a healthy, revealing, and necessary piece of work for me to create! There are still half-formed answers and ideas floating around in the air, barely scratched out on notebook paper, and half-remembered from beer-fueled conversations. But at least I'm that much closer to being articulate and confidant in my decision. 

So, here's what I've got, and I hope it helps answer some of your questions and concerns: 

A: The professional attributes that you plan to use, and what aspirations you hope to fulfill, during your Peace Corps service.

While working on a project and living within the community, I hope to completely immerse myself and find innovative ways to resolve the issues at hand. Ultimately I aspire to be the mediator between the local community and other organizations. I’m determined to get involved and down to work as soon as possible, but I know I’ll also need to make compromises in order to see tangible results.
A large part of my acceptance to the Community Economic Development program was based on my bachelor’s degree in International Business. I look forward to finally putting my education to use in a real, practical manner. One of the aspects that especially interests me is the opportunity to share the information and skills I’ve learned with people eager to obtain them. I’m not sure how much information technology will be available, but I’ve found Excel and other programs invaluable to my work and hope to pass those shortcuts on to others.
While in school I participated in various projects that took us out into the community to assess an issue, so I already have a small idea of what situations are likely to crop up. During those projects I found that my attention to detail and organizational skills were highly valuable while trying to expand ideas and formulate a plan of action. I also really enjoy working on product and market development, and hope to get more experience in that area.
Finally, I realize that the chances of being situated near a body of water are pretty slim, and even then the water might not be fit for swimming. However, I’ve been a lifeguard and swim instructor since I was 16. If it were possible, it would be interesting to look into the feasibility of teaching swim lessons. In general, I’d like to put together some sort of personal project with no relation to economic development, preferably something with a focus on physical activity.

B:  Your strategies for working effectively with host country partners to meet expressed needs.

My #1 strategy for working with host country partners is this: patience. Whether it’s an unexpected conflict, a miscommunication due to language gaps, or delays in getting things done, I realize that a willingness to relax and let things develop at their own pace is going to be the most successful way to see things through. I already work pretty hard at maintaining a sense of humor and positive attitude in my day-to-day life. If I can pair those traits with a big, fat, hearty dose of patience then I’m sure I’ll be able to get along just fine.
However, I do realize that sitting back and letting things unfold won’t always work. I will also go into the program with humility and respect for those who have been at this work much longer than myself. I know that, especially in the beginning, there will be much for me to learn and process. I will be straightforward with my partners, both in the community and at work, and will attempt to initiate conversation whenever possible. My coworkers especially will be an invaluable source of information, and I will do whatever I can to pry that knowledge out of them.
As I become more confident in my role, I’ll try to strike a balance between observation and participation. I realize there will be cultural norms and chains of command to adhere to, and I will do my best to not stir up the pot too much. However, I’ll also try to find like-minded coworkers who are willing to listen to my suggestions, and will do what I can to implement positive changes when needed. Again, all of this will be accomplished via a positive attitude, respect, and patience to let things develop at their own pace.

C: Your strategies for adapting to a new culture with respect to your own cultural background.

            I’m far too excited to learn about the new culture I’ll be a part of to worry about being singled out. But I’m not going to fool myself; I’ll be pretty easy to spot in the crowd when I arrive in Guinea. It doesn’t faze me though – in fact, having already lived abroad and dealt with similar attention before, I’m well prepared for it.   
That said, I am thinking ahead to how I’ll adapt to the new culture. Again, patience is going to be incredibly important. In the same way that I’ll be making mistakes, possibly overstepping boundaries, and learning how to fit in, others in my community will be adjusting to the new girl in their midst. There are bound to be miscommunications, so I’ll do my best to look beyond the obvious behavior and try to recognize intent. I hope I’ll be afforded the same leniency.
Ultimately, the best way for me to adapt will be to first learn about what I’m trying to adapt to. I plan on talking with anyone who is willing to give me the time. I’ll ask questions, listen to stories, and acquire an encyclopedic knowledge of local gossip. I’ll try to participate in even the most ordinary activities, from chores to sporting events. Being younger might actually work in my favor in this case – it won’t be unusual for me to be asking for advice and help. I’m especially hopeful that someone will be willing to teach me how to cook local foods and prepare some tasty meals!
           
D: The skills and knowledge you hope to gain during pre-service training to best serve your future community and project.

            As I explain the Peace Corps to friends and family members, I find that I cannot even begin to stress the importance of pre-service training enough. Right now, I feel barely qualified to be assigned to an economic development project. Much of that is a lack of confidence in my own abilities coupled with the uncertainty of what the projects will entail. I’m looking forward to and depending on the training period to bolster my confidence and prepare me for the work I’ll be doing.
            Language is definitely the most important of those factors. I studied Spanish in school – while French is similar, I still feel overwhelmed knowing that I’ll be learning two new languages simultaneously. I hope that an understanding of the grammatical structure will be provided, and the added language immersion will be extremely helpful as I start to pick it up.
            Above all I hope to gain real, applicable skills. I want to take what I've been taught in the classroom and see how to apply it in practice. I cannot wait to get outside of the classroom and have hands-on learning opportunities within the community – it will be an invaluable introduction to interacting with other professionals and recognizing their attitudes and approaches toward doing business. Additionally I expect to learn the local business methods currently being used, cultural mores that influence economic functions, and the correct procedures for progressing with a project.

E: How you think Peace Corps service will influence your personal and professional aspirations after your service ends.

            Peace Corps has always been the next thing to do post-graduation for me. Many of my peers have continued on to a career or grad school, but I always knew Peace Corps to be my next step. This experience will help me focus on and define my interests and skills for a career. Right now, I’m interested in seeing how the business methods I’ve learned can be applied in challenging and various circumstances. Some methods will work, some won’t be feasible to implement, and some haven’t even been introduced to me yet. The Peace Corps is perfect for me right now in the sense that they offer a multi-faceted approach toward economic development. As a volunteer I’ll be encouraged to take on various projects and have multiple goals. It will be an extensive and well-rounded learning experience that will have a huge influence on where I go next. Whether it leads me into a grad school program, internship or full-time job, I’m looking forward to this becoming the defining experience and guiding force for the rest of my adult life. I’m also expecting that the people I meet through my service will continue to be my peers, colleagues and coworkers in the coming years.
            As for how it will influence my personal aspirations, I hope that the challenges and hardships I face and overcome will help me develop an internal strength I can carry with me in everything I do. I’ll truly know my capabilities, as well as my limitations. I already hike and run and put my physical endurance to the test. Character is just like any other muscle – it needs to be exercised and challenged before it can become strong. The Peace Corps presents an opportunity to test the limits of my character, and once it has been worked into exhaustion, it will be built up even stronger. I look forward to knowing myself fully, doing work I can be proud of, and having something worthwhile to discuss and educate others about.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Manifest Destiny Took Control

... and so I headed west.


Olympic Peninsula!


PS I'm playing around with methods of sharing content. Still trying to figure out the easiest way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Take a deep breath and focus.

Alright, here we go.

I've been sitting on this little egg for a few days now, trying to process it and find the words to express myself. The problem is that the words aren't coming to me. Or rather, too many come at once. I'm overwhelmed and giddy and not quite sure what to do next, or at least what to do first.

You guys, I'm going to Guinea!!

Guinea-Conakry, as opposed to its northern neighbor Guinea-Bissau. I'm going to be a Community Economic Development Advisor, which could mean anything from teaching high school students about SWOT analysis to helping a small co-op market their product. I'll be leaving in November for 9 weeks of training in the country, and while I'm their the PC teachers and support staff will assess my progress, strengths, and weaknesses (ha, they'll perform a SWOT analysis on me!) and find the best location for me. As with everything Peace Corps, one piece of information brings up a million more unanswered questions.

Now I have a stack of things to do, including write up a new resume, a statement of intention, apply for a visa and a new passport, learn French, read up on everything Guinea, and answer all the questions all my friends and family can think of.

The upside of all this, however, is that in a few short hours I'll be officially unemployed. And starting bright and early tomorrow morning, my roommate and I are taking off on a much-longed-for, much-needed camping and hiking trip around the Olympic Peninsula. We're going to survive off of almonds and coffee and PBR, soak in hot springs and camp on sandy beaches, we're going to bike through Forks and pretend we're not there for the vampires, and we're going to take a million pictures of all of it so we can remember and reminisce about the best of the PNW when we're off in our far-distant corners of the world.

For all my excitement about my progress with the Peace Corps, this vacation is badly overdue. I'm taking off , I'm going to recharge, and when I get back I'll try to give you a better idea of what I've got (for starters, it's a 100+ page pdf, 3 books, and a stack of official paperwork.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ran a 5k a few weeks back, my gymfriend just forwarded me this adorrrable pre-run pic!

Good morning!

Well hello there! How is your day going so far? Oh that's just lovely.

Hey, listen. I've been at work for about an hour now and might just go a little bit crazy if something doesn't happen soon. So I went through my email account and found a bunch of pictures that have never made it onto the internet before. Want to see? Ha, of course you do! 


Meet Tracy! Or Trevor. Gender really just depends on your mood. S/he loves going on hikes and exploring the PNW, and often daydreams of breaking free from society and heading off on her own into the wilderness.

Remember this day? I had some guests on the tour from Mexico, and we hit if off really well. They agreed to take tons of pictures for me (I'd lost my camera earlier in the summer) and later bombed my email account with all of them. These are some of the best!

No parking, avalanche zone? You don't say! This was one of my favorite photo stops - you could get a real close look at the fireweed and poke around in the "wilderness", without too much space to stray.

Bove Island! Always so pretty, but especially so in the fall when the trees on the island start changing. Add snow and oh, wow. So gorgeous. (Pretty much everything in Alaska fits that description though.)

Emerald Lake, oooooh. I was the only driver who made it out there that day, mostly because I liked to change the itinerary on tours whenever possible.


Who's the prettiest princess??

Caribou Crossing puppies = so adorable, all the time. Also I'm pretty sure the middle puppy is Chief, the crazy awesome dog one of my coworkers adopted.

Not pregnant, just lots of tips!

That was honestly the best day ever. It's the adventure I'm going to savor as an old lady, repeating it over and over again to anyone who will listen, yearning for better times.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Woman, Quit Complainin!

Now that sprained ankles are a thing of the past, another ailment has stepped in to fill the gap.

Enter the Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Wait, syndrome? That sounds horrible! The other two on that page are described for what they are - "Knee" and "Cyst" - why can't this one be "Tight Band" or something? Ugh.

Anyway, I'm doing the stretch where I have to lay on the floor and contort like I'm leaping through the air, only you know, I'm laying on the floor like an idiot. And oh gross, I have got to vacuum the carpet today.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How to Lose Weight

Look around the pre-packaged section of the grocery store. In and among the Rice-a-Roni and Mac'n'Cheese, you'll be bound to find something that advertises "Makes its own gravy!" Get that.
Next, go home and cook it for dinner.
Add a can of tuna for good measure. Protein!
Now here's the most important part: look at your meal and think about how much it looks and smells like canned cat food. Take a bite for good measure, and savor the goopy texture and fishy taste.
Congratulations, you're not hungry anymore! Keep this up for a few weeks and you'll be rockin' a bikini bod in no time!
Time well-spent at work. Also I know what I'm eating for lunch Saturday!

Testy tester is testing

Monday, July 4, 2011

Family

Remember my brother? No? Yeah, neither do I. Haven't seen the guy in over a year, ever since he up and joined the Air Force and left Washington behind (traitor). But I guess I should say I hadn't seen him, because as of this weekend he's back in town!

I was only home for a few hours on Saturday so we didn't get a chance to catch up too much. We went on a quick hike down to Dash Point and back, and I got to meet his girlfriend who is totally rad.

Seriously, aren't they adorable?

Hard at Work


Only took me 3 hours this morning. So proud!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Soft or Crunchy Tacos?

Arrived at the gym for my class today, only to find the room dark and no one in sight. The folks at the front desk had no idea what was going on, nor did any of the other staff. I made the mistake of spotting one of the personal trainers who sometimes substitutes and asked him if he knew what was up. Nope, but he'd be happy to give me a one-on-one session to make up for it!

Ungh.

So off we go outside and 20 minutes later my arms are jell-o, I've got sweat dripping in my eyes and I'm making those crazy-sounding throaty wheezes and grunts that, oh God you really don't want to think about this but aren't they vaguely sexual? That's a thought to horrify you in the next spin class!

After all was said and done we high-fived, I hopped on my bike and rode home. And all I can think about now is how bad I want crunchy tacos from Jack in the Box. I'm going to try real hard to resist but I'm also going to be drinking and hanging out in Seattle right across the street from a JitB, so we'll see how that goes!