When it Rains, it Pours…

Hello Everyone!

Well as much as I had wanted to continue writing in my blog around once a month, the universe is conspiring against me and I have found myself with no time.

disappointed

As the title of this post suggests, yes, more has happened since the last time I wrote and a lot of it hasn’t been good.

I continued working on my Substance Abuse Prevention classes with my group of kiddos at work and I also started a youth group with my coworker for the HIV prevention through soccer program.

I was very excited with how everything was going, I also adopted my kitten, Pippin! All in all I was feeling like…

happy

Then I received the news that my cousin had passed away suddenly from a heart attack. When I found out I felt like…

falling

And I immediately bought a ticket back to the States to be home with my family.

It was very difficult but I’m glad I went back so that I could support my family as much as possible. I also was glad I went back so I could grieve with everyone instead of being abroad. It’s still unbelievable and my family is all still processing everything so please keep them in your hearts and minds.

While I was home, my landlady found out that I have a kitten (I forgot to tell her previously) and the then declared that she hates cats/has a phobia of cats/is allergic to cats so insisted that my roommate and I either get rid of him or move. To which we were like…

bye felicia

So immediately upon my return from the States, I had to look for a new apartment. My roommate and I took this opportunity to look for our own separate apartments since when we first moved to Quito it was not an option because we didn’t know Quito very well.

Fortunately, through a friend, I was able to find a great apartment within my Peace Corps budget. I also was able to move into my new apartment with the help of my coworker and his nephew. I am extremely grateful for his friendship and seriously couldn’t have done it without him…

thank you

So needless to say, everything has been pretty stressful these past couple months. The kids are on vacation right now so all of my projects have been put on hold for vacation camp at work. I am enjoying the field trips with the kids and my coworkers but I’m feeling a little discouraged since I haven’t been able to follow anything through. Work wise I’m kind of feeling like…

discouraged

Fortunately, for my mental health, I did get a visitor this month! My friend came down and while she was here we got to do some sightseeing in Quito and she joined me for a hike to Quilotoa, a crater lake in a dormant volcano. The hike took us through farmlands and indigenous villages tucked away in the mountains. The views were breathtaking!!! The entire time we were pretty much like…

awe

However the hiking was way more difficult than we originally thought and at the end of the day we were like…

tired

While it was definitely a challenge, it was definitely worth it. I am so glad that my friend was there to do it with me and that we got to have that adventure together. We are definitely like…

sam and frodo

Those are some memories that will last a lifetime and that visit made me feel like…

recharged

So now I am in my new apartment, with Pippin, and I am preparing myself for another visit! My friend and my cousin are planning on coming to visit in August! We are going to go to the coast for some relaxation and then do some sightseeing in Quito!

While I feel bad about taking vacation after so recently being in the States, I am definitely pumped about them being here with me and getting to show them around Ecuador! We’re going to be like…

beach spud

Hopefully after this trip, I’ll be able to start planning my projects for the new school year that starts in September. We will also be having the Substance Abuse Prevention training that I’ve been working so hard on and I am hoping to expand my projects at my work and with Peace Corps. If all goes to plan I’ll also be attending a training on Women’s Empowerment so…

feminist rants]

While this year has been very difficult, I still remain optimistic that things will all work out.

In the meantime, I’ll try to keep you posted as much as the universe allows.

Well, that’s all I have for now! I hope everything is great in your part of the world!

Peace out!

Picking Up the Pieces…

Hello Everyone!

I am sorry it has taken me so long to write again, as you may have noticed in the news, things in Ecuador have been pretty hectic recently.

March and April were rough months for pretty much everyone I know.

In March, two of my friend’s mothers passed away within weeks of each other which just felt like…

how can it be

All I wanted to do was go home and support them but unfortunately, volunteer budgets do not allow for last minute trips to the States. Instead, I am trying to support them, as much as possible from here, but I must admit it’s difficult.

Then on April 16th there was a 7.8 earthquake on the coast of Ecuador that killed over 650 people. Fortunately, Quito (where I live) was not severely impacted by the earthquake and all of the Volunteers were safe. However, there were THOUSANDS of Ecuadorians that were injured, many missing and now even more are currently homeless. Watching all of this unfold in a country that you consider your second home was like…

awful

After everything happened, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers stepped up and immediately started collecting donations to help the affected areas. Since currently serving volunteers can’t accept financial contributions, they were the link that made it possible for us to help on the ground.

Also, since currently serving volunteers were living in some of the most impacted areas, we were able to communicate with local community members and ask what resources they needed so that we could send supplies to the areas that weren’t receiving media attention.

Once the immediate emergency level of the situation subsided, the volunteers decided that it was now best to focus our efforts on the rebuilding process. As I mentioned before, THOUSANDS of people are homeless and since most structures in Ecuador are built by cement, the reconstruction effort is daunting at best. There are now tent cities popping up all over the coast which will create a different set of issues ranging from hygiene to crime. So with the media attention subsiding, it is even more imperative to focus on different kind of relief efforts in the affected areas. It’s going to be a long process but this small country is strong and will hopefully rise to the challenge.

I want to take this time to say THANK YOU to everyone who reached out and donated to the relief efforts. It means a lot to me that you helped support in any way you could. While we all feel very helpless, we are trying our best to help our families here in Ecuador. So,

thank you

In more personal news, the Substance Abuse Prevention Training project I was working on was postponed because of the earthquake which was disappointing, but also expected once the details of the disaster started coming in.

Fortunately, the project will continue, but I’m now concerned about sustainability since they also had to cancel the arrival of the newest group of trainees that were supposed to arrive this week. I am sure it will all work out but my 4th year definitely looks a lot different than it did a couple months ago. I’m still feeling like this though…

everything alright

Now that things are getting (kind of) back to normal, I have been able to start different projects at my counterpart organization. I am currently working on substance abuse prevention classes and I’m also going to start teaching the HIV/AIDS prevention curriculum my counterpart and I were trained in a couple months ago…

happy

I am also looking forward to having several visitors over the summer! In July, one of my friends is coming to visit and in August, my friend AND my cousin are coming to visit all of which makes me feel like…

happy 2

I also recently bought a ticket back home for my brother’s wedding in December so ALL of my current and future vacation days are BOOKED! I better get medically cleared to stay another year or I’ll be like…

freak out

But I’m obviously optimistic about everything so no worries!

In other small (but big to me) news, I got a slow cooker and I’m considering adopting a kitten! Both unrelated to one another, but equally exciting…

sqeal

Well that’s all I have for now! Hope everything is great in your part of the world!

Peace out!

PS. If you’re interested in helping out with relief efforts please feel free to contact me and I can get you any information you’d like!

Big News in Little Ecuador

Hello Everyone!

I have a lot of stuff to share with you all and this post might be a little long so…

deal with it

At the end of January I got to be a judge for an English singing competition at a high school a volunteer works at in Quito. They sang songs ranging from “Eternal Flame” to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and we were all pretty much like…

this is awesome

Then in February Carnival happened! I went to the beach like I do every year and I got to go snorkeling with a fellow Volunteer Leader and visited some of my favorite beaches. I ended up camping with some of my other friends and I pretty much felt like this the entire weekend…

giphy

Then on my last night on the coast my roommate came down with some of his friends that were visiting from the States and we had so much fun!!! We played Carnival, which basically involves getting soaked with water and spray foam. It was pretty much like…

foam

Also during Carnival weekend I got terrible news that my aunt wasn’t doing well with her chemo treatments and she ended up passing away shortly after I received the news. It was difficult news to get and it was even more difficult since I was so far away from my family. I am grateful to my friends here in Ecuador and my family and friends back home that helped support me during that time. Thanks guys…

i love you

After Carnival we had a meeting for the LGBTQ volunteer support group which is one of my favorite times! I got to hang out with volunteers that I don’t usually get to see and then after we supported each other, we went out dancing! I was pretty much like…

dancing

It was so much fun!!! I am so happy to be a part of that lovely group with all those amazing people! It just makes my heart feel like…

happy

Work has also been going great over the last few months! I’ve been starting to suggest different project ideas at my counterpart agency and they’ve been super receptive and supportive of all my ideas. At the end of this month I’m going to have a volunteer come do a training on positive reinforcement with my coworkers.

fist pump

I recently got permission for one of my coworkers and I to go to a Recycled Art Conference that Peace Corps is putting on. I also got permission for another coworker and I to go to a training in Guayaquil on Grassroots Soccer which is a curriculum for HIV/AIDS prevention that’s combined with soccer!

Genius-new

My projects have also been growing a lot with Peace Corps and I’m super excited! An organization that I collaborated with in the States has not only agreed to let us use their substance abuse prevention curriculum here but they are also flying down to Quito to train a group of volunteers for FREE! I’m so excited I’m like…

high five

They’re also going to make me an official trainer so I’ll hopefully be able to continue training volunteers here and keep the project going!

crossing_fingers_kevin_bacon

Because of my projects growing and taking off I have some other big news to share!

I’M GOING TO EXTEND MY SERVICE FOR ANOTHER YEAR!!!

say what

Yup! I’ve decided that my projects would have a better chance of becoming sustainable if I’m around so I decided to go ahead and stay and keep working on them for yet another year. I’m still in the process of finalizing everything but I wanted to go ahead and let everyone know that apparently I’m going to stay here forever…

for ev er

This now means that (if everything goes smoothly) I will be finishing with Peace Corps in August of 2017. Don’t worry, I am going to come back for Thanksgiving and for my brother’s wedding in December so I will get to see everyone over the holidays. This also means that people can come visit me in Quito for another year!

warriors

Speaking of visitors, I am actually going to be getting 2 visitors coming down in a week! My friend who has already visited me twice (she’s a better friend than you’ll ever be) is coming down to visit AGAIN! At the same time my Spanish professor and friend is also going to be coming down that same week! It’s going to be so much fun! I will let you know how it goes I’m sure it’s going to be like…

party fun times

I’m so happy with my life here and my projects that I am very excited to see where this next year and a half takes me!

Well that’s all I have for now! Hope everything is great in your part of the world!

Peace out!

Fiestas, Fiestas, Fiestas!

Hello Everyone!

I knew that living in Quito would be slightly busier than Celica…

understatement

But these last 2 months have definitely been some of the busiest of my time in Peace Corps!

As I mentioned in my last post, I started working at a new organization, which is basically a before and after school program for children. We help them with their homework and also provide healthy activities for them to do in their free time.

I started working at my new counterpart at the beginning of December, right before the fiestas of Quito. My first week was basically watching various programs that the kids put on for the festivals, helping with recycled art project and moving groups of kids from one location to another which was basically like…

herding cats

After the festivals were over, it was time for all of the Christmas celebrations! During these weeks I helped take a group of kids to see the Nutcracker on ice which was pretty much like…

what just happened

And the kids were pretty much like…

stewie-running-o

We also had a Christmas program for the children that involved a soccer demonstration, baton twirlers/dancers and a magician! During the entire program I was pretty much like…

thats awesome

After the Christmas celebrations I took some time off of work because one of my friends from the States came to visit me for Christmas! It was pretty much as magical as this…

magical

Her first night here we hung out with several volunteers and some of our Ecuadorian, Peruvian and Brazilian friends. We spent the whole night dancing in our apartment and we had a BLAST! We were pretty much like…

whip nae nae

The next day we went to the historical center of Quito and magically got pickpocketed along the way to which we were like…

sad whatever

The next day we went to Mindo, which is a National Park in a transitional zone so it’s kind of like the jungle. While we were there, we went to a butterfly sanctuary and were pretty much like…

MindBlown

There were so many butterflies EVERYWHERE!!! It was amazing!

Then we went on a hike to see some waterfalls at the end of the hike it started raining and I was pretty much like…

No 2

So we went and hung out at a shelter and a nice couple gave us a ride back to town.

After Mindo we came back to Quito and spent Christmas Eve/Christmas Day with volunteers! We had a potluck and a white elephant gift exchange! On Christmas Day, we went to Chili’s (yes Ecuador has Chili’s) and then went to watch a movie. It was pretty much the epitome of…

usa

After Christmas we went to Otavalo, which is famous for it’s market. While we were there we did some Christmas shopping and also ran into some volunteers and got to hang out with them for a while!

The next day we went to hike around a crater lake called Cuicocha with a volunteer from my training class. We loved the hike and the scenery and I could not stop staying…

so beautiful

Seriously one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to!

After that we went back into Quito and just went around the city. We went to my favorite museum here and mostly just got to hang out and relax together. All in all it was an amazing and relaxing trip. I’m so blessed that I have friends that will come and visit me so far away during the holidays!

Elf-Buddy-I-Love-You

Also a big shout out to Lesley who sent goodies down for me and my kiddos!

youre-the-best

You make me feel so loved!

After my friend left to go back to the States I ended up staying in Quito for New Year’s. I was going to go to the coast but by the time my friend and I went to buy tickets, they were all sold out…

tears

However, I was pretty tired (and broke) after my vacation so it actually wasn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened. So I ended up getting to hang out with some of my friends in Quito and we went out and watched people set of fireworks and burn things. Then we jumped over the burning things for good luck so hopefully 2016 is lucky!

luck

After all of the holidays and traveling I finally went back to my counterpart. Right now I’m currently helping kids with their English homework, helping my coworkers with whatever they need and mostly observing everything to see what projects I could potentially start.

In Peace Corps I am doing various training activities with volunteers and staff, working on organizing site visits and hopefully getting a substance abuse prevention training organized for the spring!

fingers crossed

Overall I have been pretty busy either with work or play so we will see what happens next! I’m hoping I can really take off with my projects at my new counterpart and Peace Corps over the next months. I’m still loving life and all of my visitors in Quito.

living the dream

Well that’s all I have for now! Hope everything is great in your part of the world!

Peace out!

Viviendo el Sueño!!!

Hello Everyone!

Life in Quito so far has pretty much been like…

yasssss

Shortly after the last time I wrote, my roommate (and fellow Volunteer Leader) came back from his visit to the States and a conference in El Salvador. When we FINALLY started living together we were pretty much like…

Friends1

I am so happy to be living with him and I’m excited about all of the adventures we’re going to have over the next year! I’m really hoping this happens soon…

tandem

… It’s only a matter of time.

As far as work is concerned, I’m really loving being a Volunteer Leader. So far I have been able to visit several volunteers and help some of them get apartments approved so they can live on their own. I also had my first cluster meeting which made me feel like…

freak out

But was a great chance to meet all of the volunteers I’ll be supporting over my next year here!

Over the last month I also had a change in counterparts. I was originally working with the Red Cross, but after further evaluation I realized that unfortunately, I would not be working directly with youth and families which made me feel like…

sad michael

So after helping them with a substance abuse prevention manual I talked to my Program Manager and we agreed that it would probably be best to find a new counterpart that fits my interests.

Unfortunately, finding a new counterpart is HARD! I spent several weeks looking online and just being like…

npln

But fortunately for me, a new volunteer knew of an organization that works with at risk children and families and he was like…

do this thing

After going to meet with them a couple times, I was worried that it wasn’t going to work out because of all of the paperwork we were going to have to do and I was feeling like…

now what

But my Program Manager called them and they were so excited to work with me that they said I could go ahead and start working before the paperwork is finished! After receiving that news I was pretty much like…

excited2

So now I will be working with a local government organization called Casa de la Niñez #1, I’m starting in a few weeks so I’ll give you more details on what I’m doing there next month.

This last month a few of my volunteer friends and I celebrated Halloween in Quito! The Independence Day of Cuenca was right around the same time so we also had a 4 day weekend!

woot fist pump

I dressed as Frida Khalo which surprising to me, most people didn’t recognize…

frida brows

We went out to the clubs and my friend told me that I became a “whirlwind of dance” which I’m pretty sure means I looked like this…

happy dance

I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the rest of the weekend hanging out with a fellow Volunteer Leader and all of the volunteers that passed through Quito for the holidays!

After Halloween I was asked to attend another cluster meeting and present information about the Monitoring and Evaluation workshop I attended back in September. This cluster meeting was on the coast and I was very excited to see the beach again. Unfortunately, it’s rainy season for the coast so it was overcast and windy…

realizations tantrum

But I really enjoyed seeing my coastal volunteer friends and getting to hang out, dance and get to know other volunteers even better! All in all I was pretty much like…

funnnnn

Next week is the Reconnect training for the newest Omnibus and as a Volunteer Leader I will be helping out the entire time with training and support. I am excited to see the new volunteers again and see how everything is in their sites! I’m also happy to be involved in several training sessions so I pretty much feel like…

ron-burgandy-very-important

After Reconnect, it’s Thanksgiving and the fiestas of Quito so I’m sure I will have A LOT to share with you next time I write!

Time sure is flying by and I’m LOVING living in Quito, overall I pretty much feel like…

I deserve this

Life is good.

Well that’s all I have for now! Hope everything is great in your part of the world!

Peace out!

“Sigo Siendo el Rey!”

Hello Everyone!

Sorry it’s taken a while for me to write again, as usual, since the last time I posted a blog soooo much has happened!

I had my last going away parties in Celica and had to say goodbye…

sad1

I then successfully moved all of my stuff up to Quito! Which was pretty much like…

tupper

I unpacked and was here a week before going to the States for a month!

Being back home was AMAZING!!!

I was pretty much like…

shark week

And this…

i just wanna eat

I got to go to Colorado with my family, spend a week my best friend, float the Comal river, visit my family in Houston and spend time catching up with everyone in Fort Worth! All in all it made my heart feel like…

excited chris p

I want to say thank you to everyone who offered me a place to stay during my visit home. At one point I had keys to 5 of my friend’s houses in my purse! I also want to thank my friend for letting me borrow his car and for all of the people who drove me around town! You all reminded me how lucky I am, I don’t know what I’d do without you guys! It just makes me feel like…

right-here-bro

You’re all welcome to come visit me in Ecuador!!! I promise to take care of you and repay your kindness with all of the fun!

So after I left the States I came back right in time for Midservice training for Omnibus 112. It was great seeing my friends and getting to train them on different topics throughout the week! I also got to see some of my friends from my Omnibus that were there for training and all in all it was pretty much like…

dance party

Then after that training we had a week long training about Monitoring and Evaluation at the office which I thought was going to be like…

bored

But ended up being like…

fascinating

After that I had a week to kind of relax and get myself organized in Quito and then I went BACK to the States again for the 1st annual Global Leadership Summit with the Peace Corps!

When I got DC I went to my hotel room where I had a room all to myself with a KING SIZED BED!!!! When I walked in I was pretty much like…

excited 3

I then got to see two of my Returned Peace Corps Volunteer friends from Ecuador!!! Needless to say we had an adventure and I was pretty much like…

its all happening

The next day I went to the Summit in West Virginia where I had the honor of being 1 of the 6 Volunteer Leaders selected out of the entire agency to participate. It was an EXTREMELY humbling experience and I was pretty much like…

one boob at a time

It was truly incredible to be able to participate alongside almost every Country Director, the selected Host Country National employees and Headquarters staff. To be honest, no one warned me how big of a deal this was and when I walked into dinner the first night I was pretty much like…

confused run

Fortunately, I adjusted quickly (like us volunteers know how to do) and was able to network, advocate and appreciate this incredible opportunity.

During the week, we had A LOT of focus groups and I was able to be like…

tell you everything

Also, part of the week was dedicated to figuring out…

what do you do here

Because they’re trying to make the Volunteer Leader position more defined across the agency.

During the summit we had various speakers and workshops and I was able to think of new ways to improve our post in Ecuador and the agency as a whole.  It was a lot to take in and at the end of every day I was exhausted and pretty much like…

sweatpants

I hope I represented Ecuador and my fellow volunteers well and I can definitely say it was an amazing experience!

After the Summit I got back to DC and I got to see my best friend who is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Togo! I got to hang out with her and her fiancé and it was pretty much like….

rofling

She is also coming to visit me for Christmas this year so I’m obviously EXTREMELY excited about that!

So I finally returned to my sweet, sweet Ecuador Saturday night and I immediately went out to see some of my friends here. It is so nice to have that friend community to welcome you back and to go on adventures together with you. Once I went to bed I was pretty much like…

love my life

And then on Sunday I was like…

day long nap

This next month will be busy as I transition fully into my new role and try to find a Counterpart Agency to work with for my next year. I am so grateful for everything and everyone in my life and these last few months have definitely reminded me of how lucky I am.

I hope this next year can live up to the expectations I’m putting on it!

Either way I’ll be keeping you posted!

Thanks again for all of your love and support! I couldn’t do any of this without you!

the best

Well that’s all I have for now! Hope everything is great in your part of the world!

Peace out!

Closing Time…

Hello Everyone!

So since the last time I wrote you I have been all over Ecuador and back again!

I had my last cluster meeting down south where I was able to see some of my Loja and Cuenca friends and then I made my way back up to Quito for our LGBTQ volunteer support group! The Friday I arrived I took a nap and then was awakened by my friend jumping on me screaming that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality!!! Needless to say we were all like…

excited happy

So we had our meetings/celebrated and then the next afternoon happened to be Quito Pride! I had so much fun watching the parade and performances and dancing the night away! All in all we were pretty much like…

machine

Also one of my friends from college happened to be traveling through Quito at the same time I was there so I was able to see him and catch up a bit which was like…

such a good friend

After cluster meeting and pride, I then went back to Celica and had my last party with my Kid’s Club.

sadface 2

I taught them about how we celebrate the 4th of July, we watched a video, colored some patriotic pictures and we even got to play with sparklers! It was a lot of fun and the kids were all like…

freak out 2

And because there was fire, I had to be like…

crazy pedal

But we had a blast and nobody caught on fire! It was definitely a great way to say goodbye to my kiddos!

For the real 4th of July I went up to visit the most northern volunteers from me since I hadn’t gone to visit them for the entire 2 years I’ve been here. I had fun spending time with them and seeing some volunteers that are now finished with their service. For the 4th we grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and were all like…

all of the food

We also swam in a pool, played with the extra sparklers and listened to the National Anthem about a million times…

usa

After the 4th I went back to Celica and started packing up my room. It’s crazy how quickly time has passed by and how much stuff one accumulates after living somewhere for 2 years! If I wasn’t moving to Quito I would definitely be leaving all of this stuff behind and only taking my backpack but since that is not the case I’m pretty much like…

packing

After getting most of my stuff ready to go, I had to go back up to Quito again for Volunteer Leader training. That was a lot of fun because I got to learn about all of the fun things I’ll be doing this next year and I got to hang out with my friends who are also staying! During that week I got to drive a car around Quito, eat sushi, go to a dinner party and have a movie night! Living in Quito is definitely going to be…

totally awesome

So after Volunteer Leader training I finally got to come back to my sweet celestial Celica! I will be here for about another week and then I’ll be moving my stuff all the way to Quito. Before I go though, a friend is coming to visit me so I’ll get to have a final visitor!

excited

After that I will have my last going away parties and then I will close this chapter of my life!

I’m sad to leave Celica, since it has been my home for the last two years but I know good things await me in Quito. I’m excited to continue this journey and I will make sure I keep you posted during my next year of service!

I will be back in the states next month so don’t expect an update until September!

Well that’s all I have for now! Hope everything is great in your part of the world!

Peace out!