Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Little Things

Last Friday I had to make a trip to the nearest town to see a doctor.  I developed a cough a few weeks ago and it hasn't really subsided, probably due to "too much party" as my host mom referred to it.  I say I had to go because I'm the complete opposite of a hypochondriac; I was just ignoring it and wishing it away, but my host mom was not having any of that.  So before she resorted to thumping me over the head and dragging me to the doctor, I called the PC nurse and reluctantly made an appointment.

It's kind of a funny story because here I am with this cough, not really caring, and my host dad, an older man who is ill and taking a lot of medication and needs daily help from my host mom, was very concerned about my health and actually took me aside one day to have a serious conversation about how I can help my cough.  As he was lying in bed he says to me, "Courtney, come here, you need to listen to me.....I have something to tell you.....you can either do what I say or not, it's up to you...*deep breathe in*...you are sick......you need to turn off your fan and your light...*another deep breathe*....because the fan circulates the heat radiating off the light......and it's making you sick."  What a thoughtful host dad I have, that through all his troubles he is so worried about me.  It was so sweet that I didn't have the heart to tell him I hardly ever turn on my fan. *sigh*

Anyway, making a long story even longer, since I was in the "city" for the day, I decided to take the opportunity to do some shopping and pick up some things that I can't get in my community.  I stopped into a pharmacy because I needed some cough drops and I wanted some new nail polish. (a mildly entertaining story for another time.) 

This pharmacy had a huge upstairs area with a lot of school supplies.  Please forgive me if I'm stating the obvious here, but the schools in Jamaica are in needed of supplies; pencils, sharpeners and rubbers (haha, those are just erasers, sicko!) to be specific, so when I find a place that sells such items, I usually pick up some so I can lend them to the children with the intention that I will get them back. (It's pretty much a crap shoot if you do or not.)  So if you don't, I just go get more.  I enjoy shopping for supplies, so I pleasantly took my time there poking around (very much needed after sitting in the waiting room for 3 hours at the Doc's office).  I picked up a giant glue stick, very handy when making posters and charts for the classrooms, extra pencils, and a fancy sharpener.  I went for the deluxe model sharpener - you can't cheap out or I'm pretty sure you are getting big foot's old blades throw out after a few hundred full-body shaves, not ideal.

Well, I'm back at school now, where the children are constantly asking for a rubber or a sharpener or a pencil to borrow (so typical).  So today I started to carry these items around (minus a pencil, too pointy!) in my pocket at all times because of the continual asking for said items.  It's very convenient because when I get a request, I just whip out my fancy sharpener (that's so sharp it works in a matter of moments!) and get to work on those dullards, or when a child makes a mistake?  Guess who's there rubbing it out with my deliciously-cute purple heart-shaped eraser.  So instead of crowding around the trash bin to sharpen the pencils, or waiting in a jumbled "line" to use a sharpener that is already in use and most-likely doesn't work, or worse yet, grabbing another classmates rubber out of his hands and then getting in a fight about it, the children just come to me and I can generally get the job done much faster. (This doesn't always work as sometimes they just end up crowding around me rather than the bin, but that will often happen weather I have supplies on me or not.)

So after this long, drawn out story - my little thing that makes a big difference?
Always carry a rubber. (and a sharpener)

Thankful for today:
My fancy new sharpener
Light weight sweater, perfect for the "fall" weather here
Meeting tomorrow in B-Town a.k.a. "the city"
Thanksgiving week
I get to see friends this weekend (and hopefully have some wine, num num num)
Fried chicken
Helpful PC nurses who genuinely care
Internet (when I typed this one, I sorta sang it in my head and imagined me waving my arm about, it's all very exciting)
2 blog posts in 1 week, whoa!
Pats Win!
Cute shoes
Coconut bread
Eggs and tomatoes

I love your comments! (wink, wink)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Tale of Courage

Oh I see you, you rodent-sized-disease-carrying insect.  I saw you in the kitchen a few weeks ago, and I was so scared, I just crept past you and little your friends.  And I saw you last week, creeping in my bathroom corner, and then the other night, you were right next to the door that so conveniently leads into my bedroom.  Now you're a little too close for comfort, so it’s time I take a stand.  I choose not to live in fear anymore; I will rise above and become the hunter.  

I know, it’s not easy; it’s no picnic, not for anyone involved.  I mean, perhaps there is a world in which we can co-exist and live in peace; we could be friends even!  But, mi amigo, this is no poorly-written Jerry O'Connell MTV 90’s movie, because if it were, you all would be wearing top hats and donning canes singing the closing number of “A Chorus Line”, while I stand by applauding in awe.  This is no straight-to-DVD-romantic comedy, where we would plot and scheme together to find my prince charming and land me the perfect high-paying job through hilarious shenanigans involving a life-size, creepy, cock-roach-human sporting a trench coat and fedora, gallivanting about town to sabotage my arch enemy who only wants to wreak havoc upon my life.  Oh no, in this version of the story, there’s only me, you and the bottom of my shoe.  Harsh, I know, but only one of us can be the victor, and I choose me.

Oh, and you think your furry little friend is going to somehow distract me from your ultimate demise? 
It happened one night not soon after the discovery of you in my bathroom, that certain little pink-eared fur-ball squished itself into a seemingly impossible flatness so as to fit under my door.  The little brown mouse flew out from the corner to find me, peacefully eating my nutella-on-bread = doughnut dessert. Shocked and a wee bit scared, I jumped up, frozen in place, not knowing what to do.  However, reminding me of the basic rules of nature, big > little, my little Mickey froze in his place as well upon seeing me at my full stature, pulled up a frightened shoulder, spun around in his place and scurried back to the corner only to get momentarily caught there in fear, and then eventually to find the crack under the door from which he came.  It happened within moments, yet my heart was beating at full throttle.  Although, I have to admit, he’s such a cute little guy and under different circumstances, perhaps we, too, could be friends - if I were animated, wearing pink and had a fairy god-mother.  (And it doesn’t count because I only pretend I’m a Disney Princess on occasion.)

Well, Fievel hasn’t been back since, but you, you walnut-sized, slow-antennae-moving, creepy coacky roach, you will be back. And guess what?  I look forward to it.  I can't wait.  Because now, the fear is gone; I’m a soldier, armed with my New Balances and broom, I dare you to come out because you don’t bug* me. 

*Play on words


Thankful for today:

Internet connection
Beautiful day
Went for a walk and met some more locals
New nail polish
Doce de Leite cookie wafers
Fried Chicken
Pineapple juice
Borrowed computer cord for the ENTIRE weekend!
Got to catch up with some old friends over the phone (I missed you guys!)
Eggs and tomatoes

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Season of Emotions

Last week was a little emotional for me, as you can see from my last post I turned *gasp* 30.  And as fun and exciting as it was, it was also kinda stressful and anxiety-driven.  Interestingly enough though, it didn’t actually feel much like my birthday because I associate my birthday with the end of summer and the beginning of fall, one of my most favorite times of the year.  (I don’t have a favorite season, only favorite times of year, which are when the seasons are changing, any season.)  So when the leaves start to turn orange and yellow and brown (great color scheme choice, mother nature!) and the air starts to get a little crisp, and you have to put away your tank tops and flip flops, and pull out your sweaters and boots, that’s when I know that my birthday is fast approaching. 

Now this year was a different story.  I got none of the usual tell-tale signs from my environment that it’s time for me to welcome on a new year.  I’m in Jamaica, which means when it gets to be slightly cooler at night, it’s now fall!  Only slightly, so when I don't have weather.com or the weather channel or boring people with nothing better to talk about to constantly remind me what the temperature is or will be, how am I supposed to decipher!  Even if I did have any of those resources around here, everything here is in the bloody metric system, so clearly I have no idea what it means to be whatever-whatever degrees Celsius. (Adapt you say? No, no, how preposterous!  I don't think so.)  So pretty much my birthday this year managed to sneak up on me even more sneakier than it usually does.

Regardless, I did have a wonderful birthday.  My principal and teachers had a little party for me at work.  They got me cake and ice cream and a big gift basket with tons of goodies.  I felt very special and appreciated.  Before that, I had only kinda suspected that I was lucky to be placed here, now I know how lucky I am to be here :)  And I got a lot of birthday wishes from old and new friends - thank you all very much!

Anyway, here is something more relevant and informative, if you are interested.  Today was culture day at school.  It's National Heroes week here in Jamaica and most of the schools have some sort of celebration.  At my school the teachers cooked all day yesterday and I got the privilege to help.  I've had a lot of Jamaican dishes, thanks to my many host families and loving mothers who would cook for me, so I've been able to eat and help prepare some of the traditional Jamaican dishes.  But yesterday was my first time seeing and learning how to prepare Blue Draws.  Blue Draws is something like cornmeal, sugar, nutmeg and other ingredients that I can't remember, mixed together to form the batter, that batter is then dolloped inside a banana leaf and tied up with string made from the bark from the banana tree.  Then you boil that nice little package for about 1 hour or so, and then open up the leaf and eat the now solid cornmeal dumpling thingie.  It was a lot of fun to make these as we had about 5-6 people involved in the process of wrapping and tying and boiling.  And Jamaicans are very fun and animated people, so a kitchen full of Jamaican women was a lot of fun, loud and crazy at times, but a lot of fun.  Anyway, here is the finished product.  I was very proud of myself for participating...

Blue Draws or as one of the teachers jokingly likes to call them, Blue Panties

There was also a concert put on by the students.  Each grade got up and did something cultural, like a poem, dance or song.  It was very cute.  Some of the boys (like 8-year-olds who are all incredibly good dancers; America, take note, start them early!) even got up and had a dance contest to see who could do the best Michael Jackson impersonation...to a Justin Beiber song.  Yeah, they LOVE The Beibs here.  The crowd went wild when "Baby, Baby, Baby" came on.  I have a video to prove this too, but since it will take roughly a year to upload, that will have to wait for another high speed time.

Some a da pickni dem inna dey Jamaican colors posin's fi di camera...this is my Patwa coming out.

So, anyway it's late in the day, and I just took a little break from writing this post (for lack of inspiration and an excess of tired) and started to get a bit carried away with reading some of my old posts…which have you seen them?  I’m pretty funny.  Just thought you should know.  I have to think I’m funny, even if no one else does.  It’s like how you have to love yourself before anyone else does.  So, I LOVE ME!  (Oh shut up, you know you totally stalk yourself on facebook)

Thank you for today:
  • My fabulous sense of humor
  • Football Season
  • Patriots
  • Fun culture day at school
  • Cooking with the teachers
  • Formatting – for some reason I really like to format documents and I get to do this at work, yay!  (celebrate the little things that make you happy)
  • Music
  • Books
  • Lollipops
  • Nutella
  • DVDs
  • Mini DVD player
  • Parties
  • Coca-cola
  • My phone that works at my site
  • Not taking super long naps after work

Thursday, October 6, 2011

30 Rockin'

I know what you are thinking...I can do better than that pun of a title.  Well, what I say to you is, not today, my friends, not today.  I can't because, not only am I rusty at this blogging thing, as you can see I haven't posted anything in over a month or two?  I can't even remember.  I'm also pressed for time, as I'm at school and was planning on leaving 30 minutes ago, and not to mentioned distracted (school is not really the best "thinking of a witty blog title" atmosphere).  And last but not least, today is one of the most dreaded days of the female human's existence, it's my 30th birthday.

No time for any pictures - sorry.  Just pretend there is something really eye-catching and relevant here.

But since, today is a big milestone for me, so I decided I must find the time for even a short blog post.  A quick update - I've been placed at my site, which is in St. Ann (one of the 14 parishes in Jamaica, which you might equate to our 50 states), I'm up in the hills, not quite the mountains.  Which is nice because the weather is in-between here, not too hot, not too cold.  I've been here for just over a month.  I'm working at a primary school, which is Grades 1-6.  I live with a host family, a mom and a dad, who have a son who lives in Florida.  Also, I'm near a veteran PCV, who is super cool, and I am very lucky to have been placed so close to her.  So despite my first reaction to my new home (that is for another post) everything is so far so good, and most importantly, starting to feel like home.  :)

Next topic - I'm 30.  I'm no longer in my 20's, can you imagine that I feel exactly the same?!?  What a revelation.  Like, what?  Was I supposed to go though some sort of sudden and dramatic change overnight now that I've left my 20's and am officially into my "real" adulthood.  What is this Y2K?

In fact, I not only look like I still am 22 (ahem, I get told this all the time, it's not just my wishful thinking, okay doubters!) but I also feel very much like that.  First of all, I have a lot of young friends (love you, you know who you are!) and also I'm living a very "out-of-college" type of life - in the Peace Corps, of course.  And, as one of my oldest (she just reminded me that our best friendship is hitting it's 12th year) and bestest friends, called me today, and we reminisced about how when we first met, we broke into the dining hall and stole cereal and other various food products.  I thought about that for a moment, and how it seemed like yesterday, and if I had the chance to do that tomorrow, I can say without a doubt, I definitely would and I don't think anything would stop me.  Not even the "30, you're an adult" label that I've been branded with on this beautiful day.  Which it is a beautiful day, so that will bring me to my next point, which is to remind myself of all the things I am thankful for today and everyday:

Thank you for:
My wonderful friends, I have so many best friends, old and new, and I sometimes I can't even comprehend how lucky I am to have them all in my life!
My wonderful boyfriend
My new school that I work at
My new home
My new community
The beach
The sun
My computer and the movies I watch on you
Jamaican transportation - you are taking some of my new friends to me right now!  Thank you!

Thank you for being here now!!

And Happy Birthday to me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

(So pretend it's this past Saturday) I woke up this morning, stumbled sleepily out of bed like I normally do, went into the bathroom to try and wake up a bit, when I heard my host mother call out to me, "Courtney! Courtney!  You're up?!  I want to show you something!"  Curious, I quickly I finished up in the bathroom, changed out of my pj's and followed her outside to the back of the house.  I peeked around to the back yard, not expecting anything too exciting, as it was still pretty early in the morning, but instead, there I stood, still half-asleep, face to face with my future dinner.

Picture this with more feathers.

Oh yes, they were in the back yard slaughtering chickens.  Don't get me wrong, I knew the chickens were there, and I knew what they were for, and I even asked to see what happens to them after 6 weeks of plumping up...but I don't think I was really prepared to see what was happening.  By no means was it gruesome or brutal, but it was something I could not expect, nor was it something I wished to take part in at that moment.  It's hard to explain the weird feeling I got, almost chills throughout my body.  I stood around and watched for a while, trying to be more interested and less disturbed-looking, even though I was very grateful for the experience, but I had to go back inside after about 10 minutes.

For those of you who want more detail into how it's done exactly.  First you need some sort of hanging funnel-type contraption hanging from a tree.  In this case, it was a bag with a small hole at the bottom.  Then you put the chicken in upside down (after it stops flapping it's wings from all the manhandling).  The head has to go down to the bottom through the hole, so just it's little face is poking out.  Then in a hopefully fast and swift motion, you simplly free it's body of it's chicken head.  It's not too messy, the head falls on the ground but only to be picked up and put in a bag for saving and I think to be cleaned off later and used for something. (Chicken beak soup anyone?)  Then the bodies, again after it stops flopping and moving around, (yes, the term running around like a chicken with your head cut off is very true) are removed from the bag and dunked into boiling water so the pores can open up and the feathers can be removed easily.  It was an enlightening experience. 

Where you goin'? NOWHERE!

I know, I'm a hypocrite.  I eat meat, I enjoy eating it, I have no remorse when eating it.  So why can't I do it?  Even more, why can't I be around others when doing it?  Perhaps it's just another one of those things I'll have to warm up to.  But for now, I will gladly accept that label - a hypocrite.

I came, I saw, I chickened out.

What am I thankful for today?
Trip to the beach this weekend - I love acting like a tourist on occasion
The chance to see how chickens are "prepared"
Kids at camp
Rediscovering Shel Silverstein poems
Mail works well here - I've sent and received letters successfully!
My host mom
My Maine mom
Curry shrimp and curry in general
Avocados - so big and good and free from the back yard!
Just watched "Bad Teacher" with Cameron Diaz - way funnier than expected
Listening to great music - I'm currently obsessed with Cold War Kids
Being here!
Being alive!
Thank you for today!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Be Here Now - and other cliché quotes!

Do you live in the moment?

If you truly know how to do it and and live it, consider yourself a lucky one, I do.  Ask me that 2 months ago, and I would say "Sure, of course!  I know what that means, I cherish each day...I even have a blog about it, duh."  So, maybe I wouldn't say that last part, but I sincerely did believe that I was taking in each moment and appreciating life as much as I could.  I even quit my job a couple years ago when I was miserable and didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew I was unhappy and it wasn't worth any amount of money to stay and be unhappy.  I didn't have another job lined up, and everyone thought I was mad, but in the end it was one of the best things I could have done.  That was my way of seizing the day, and I did for a while, to an extent...

Although my life improved a lot, I still worried all the time, stressed about the smallest things, and always rushed around to get to the next place.  And in between all that chaos I would occasionally make the conscious effort to take in some deep breaths, perhaps a long, lingering glace around and think how lucky I am to be alive...but then back to the frenzy.

 I appreciate you, Tree.

And if you couldn't remember to take in life to its fullest, there were a lot of reminders.  It's in your face everywhere, quotes, posters, magnets...how many times have you seen this in someone's Facebook profile or (back in the old days) their AIM away message:

"You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth."

or seen these (which I happen to love, I would buy them all if I could):

But no matter how many magnets you buy, or how many "live in the moment" quotes you put in your facebook profile, who is actually doing this?  Am I?  What is it?  How!?! 

So, cut to the obvious, I have an epiphany: I was not really living in the moment.  Somehow in the last month, my brain or body or subconscious or something clicked for me and figured out how this works.  And in all honestly, it was not a conscious change that I made.  I don't think it's something you can simply decided one day to do, or something that can be taught, or you can't really even try to do everyday, like I was trying before.  It's simply a feeling.

Like running into the ocean on a hot day, I'm so happy to say this feeling has washed over me.  At first I couldn't describe it.  As I settled into my new Jamaican life, I started to feel happy, a different kind of happy, a happy that I hadn't felt in a long time.  Almost like a child, I feel like a new person, because everything is new and everything is there for me to explore.  It's so cheesy, but I feel reborn at times.

I also feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  I got to leave my normal life of bills, insurance, bank accounts, taxes, and all that other adult stuff.  I'm feel so light compared to right before I left when my brain was practically mush because (and if you ask any of my friends they might have some other words to add here) I was completely stressed out and the smallest details would push me out-of-control.  It was so wonderful be able to let those feelings go, to release all the anxiety, because I was here!  I accepted that there was nothing more I could do to prepare, I must go forward or breakdown. (And I did not spend the last two years of my life preparing for Peace Corps to stop now.)

So now, here I am, a month later, and for the first time in my adult life, I feel completely free.  I do not think about the next day or the next week, or even care what I'm going to do this afternoon.  I just live.

I started to realize this feeling when I was waking up each day at 6am not even a bit cranky (if you know me, this is quite a feat).  Then when we got our schedule for 5 weeks in advance, I glanced at it, but didn't really think about it after that. (Some might just call this lazy, which could be true).  It wasn't that I didn't care what we were doing the next 5 weeks, but that I was much more interested in the moment I was in.  I rarely even look at what time we have to be at training the next day until that morning! (It varies each day)  I wake up feeling happy and excited to be.

How I wish I could take credit for this picture

I don't have to worry or wonder.  I just enjoy what's going on now.  I don't try to just "make it through the day" or "get through this week".  I'm not living for my weekends, as I had done miserably for so many years.  I'm in the moment, not looking forward or backward.

I know this seems a bit too easy and obvious for me being a Peace Corps Trainee, living in a new place, a new country, new people, new culture, new everything.  Where my schedule is set for me, and there is always someone there helping me along, letting me know what comes next.  So, okay, it's taken a bit of the stress out of life and I do have a lot of extra excitement each day, but I guess that's what it took for me.  It wasn't easy to get here, so this makes it all worth it and more.  Plus, it doesn't matter to me how I got here, because I'm here now.

Here's me, slowly learning how to use photo shop.

I apologize for my ramblings; I wish I could explain it better.  I had been thinking about this blog post for a while, trying to find the right words, but in the end, I just had to post something even though I don't think it's complete.  It's hard to find the right way to express my emotions, which is a little frustrating for me.  However, I'm not allowing myself to get too frustrated because I accept that a lot of great feelings are indescribable.

Also, it's not much like me to blog about philosophical ideas or sound preachy to others or try to tell people how to live, or go into big concepts that so many others have already done (and much better, I must say), but this has been a big part of my life right now and I felt the need to share it, and blah, blah, blah. 

I may have been inspired by an experienced, older PCT here.  Who, early in our training, shared with us one way that he lives his life, which is: There is no Past, there is no Future, there is only Now.  I don't know if it's this carefree Peace Corps lifestyle, or if what he said (which has clearly resonated with me) has set something off in me, but regardless of how, I'm grateful to be living in the moment.

So, what advice do I have?  Pretty much none at all.  Because no one could have told me how to feel this way or how to live like this, we've all heard it a million times before already.  Lucky for me, it's just something that happened through the choices I made.  All I will say to you is: choose wisely and be happy.

Finally, I will leave you with some more quotes that I enjoy and say it much better than I can:

"To change one's life:  Start immediately.  Do it flamboyantly.  No exceptions."
~William James

"You live longer once you realize that any time spent being unhappy is wasted."
~Ruth E. Renkl
"Spend the afternoon.  You can't take it with you." 
~Annie Dillard

"Enjoy yourself.  It's later than you think."
~Chinese Proverb
"You may delay, but time will not."
~Benjamin Franklin

"Fear not that life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning." 

~John Henry Cardinal Newman

"We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine." 
~H. L. Mencken

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
~Chinese Proverb

What I'm thankful for today:


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Volunteers with Benefits

Last week was our shadowing experience, so we had our first independent field trip!  Like tiny baby birds leaving the nest for the first time, we are finally free to fly!  Well, for 2.5 days, that is and it wasn't exactly on our own, as two other trainees were heading in the same direction, and one trainee and I were actually going to stay with the same Volunteer.  Our independence is something given to us in very small doses....

So we had a moderately interesting trip there - I started walking the 15 minutes it takes to get where I was meeting the other trainees, and about 5 minutes in, it started to pour.  This was approximately 6 minutes after I made the not-so-clever decision to leave my umbrella in an effort to pack light...ugh.  But no worries, I ducked for cover and it let up a bit and I continued on my way to the meeting place.  The first two legs of our journey were pretty low key by Jamaican travel standards (we did defy death a few times when our driver thought he was playing a video game and not actually holding our precious lives in his speedy little hands, but par for the course).  Once in Spanishtown, for the final part of our trip, we hopped on a bus only to wait about 35 minutes because it was empty.  Finally when the bus was properly jammed pack with travelers, the driver put the vehicle in drive, I throw a little "Yay! We're leaving!" look over to my friend (because I can't move any other parts of my body due to our sardine-ness), and we take off....only to go 5 feet and slam into the taxi ahead of us.  The passengers go wild, the driver jumps out, and my fellow American traveler burst into hysterical laughter.  Which really is the only appropriate way to respond to such ridiculousness. Since no one or no thing was injured in the making of this road trip, after 10 or so minutes of yelling Jamaicans, we got on our way once again without further interruption, hallelujah!

We get to our destination, and a huge shock, it's only about 70 degrees here!  I love it already.  This area is known for being very "Americanized" or "Englandnized" so there are a lot of restaurants, big grocery stores and a movie theater.  Our Volunteers took us to a nice restaurant on a hill with a gorgeous view of the city (see pic), and even better, they served burgers and fries, which we took advantage of.  After lunch we went to the grocery store to stock up for the next couple days, and then went home to rest.  The volunteer that we stayed with has a pretty sweet set up.  She has her own downstairs little apartment, if you will.  A nice kitchen, bathroom, dining room, living room, bedroom, and a large open area that I assume is going to be another living room of some sort.  This area of the house is a new addition that is still being finished, so there's not a whole lot of furniture going on quite yet.  However, that doesn't bother us, as we are just happy to be in a comfortable place with a slight air of independence surrounding us.  We ate a small dinner, got into some comfy clothes and snuggled up to watch a movie; in typical girls night fashion, we put on "Set It Off".  I'd never seen it in it's entirety and I'm happy to say I have now.  Movies set in the mid-90's provide loads of unintentional entertainment, as does Queen Latifah.

The next day, we got up and shadowed our Volunteer at her job.  Since it's summer right now, school is not in session, so she arranged to teach a summer computer class to some of the parents at the school.  It's a 3 hour class from 9-12.  But since we are on "island time", the students don't start arriving until 9:30 or so, which was fine with us as we used the extra time to discuss celebrity gossip, which just so happens to be one of my favorite topics of conversation. (Judge me, I don't care)  The class is a work-at-your-own-pace atmosphere, and each student gets an assignment based on their level, so we each take a student to work with independently.  This was a great experience because not only did we get to finally feel like we were teaching and helping people (since we got here it's been the complete opposite, it's always people teaching and helping us) but I also really enjoy teaching adults, as they have an actual desire and passion to learn.  The class ran a little late, but no worries, once everyone left, we packed up and headed home.

Another great thing about our shadowing experience was, we only worked the half day!  This was such a nice break from our 8+ hour training days we've had for the past month.  We relaxed all afternoon and some of us *ahem* might have even taken a two hour nap...

After our no-stress afternoon, we took advantage of the two-for-one deal at the movie theater and met up with the other Volunteer and Trainee in the city.  We got to see Friends With Benefits, as Captain America was sold out (not to our dismay, as the ladies really wanted to see the chick flick but were just being nice to the boys when we agreed to see the comic book movie. C'mon, we all need a little Justin Timberlake in our lives now and then)  The movie was surprisingly very good and very funny, I was practically laughing the entire time from the first minute in to the end.  And here is a little movie theater etiquette for you all non-Jamaicans.  Before the movie starts, you must stand for the national anthem.  Also, don't get up to pee during the movie.  You are covered; there is a 20 minute intermission half-way through.  And lastly, don't get up from your seats for one second after you asked a lovely young couple to move over so your party of five could sit together, because two "I can't be bothered" older women will swipe them, literally, right out from under your butt before you can say "Mila Kunis!" and then your friends have to sit in front of you instead of beside you like you had originally intended, rendering your asking the cute little couple next to you to move completely pointless!!!  Okay - so that last one might be super specific to my own experience and could probably happen anywhere in the world, but...now you know.  Your welcome.

After we left the movie, we headed back home to cook up a delicious, I'm-on-a-Peace-Corps-budget stir fry.  Which we later found out practically every other shadowing Trainee made with their Volunteers, interestingly, or not interestingly enough.  We ate, chatted a lot, and finally went to bed.

So colorful!  Like Christmas with orange.

The next morning, we reluctantly packed up our stuff, went into town and met up with the other trainee at the bus park.  We arrived back to our hub without any trouble, apart from our sadness at leaving, of course.  We were happy staying with our Volunteer at her site and not so anxious to leave only to go back to being those little baby birds in the nest again.  But with patience being a virtue and all that, I know that it's necessary to continue with training to prepare ourselves even more for when we are actually on site on our, dun dun dun, own!  It's a slooooowww and necessary process that the Peace Corps has perfected over the last 50 years, so I guess I'll listen to their wisdom and not complain (much).

Sorry for the long post, but since it was our big first trip by ourselves, which I'm not sure you understand how HUGE it was for us, I thought I should go into detail about it seeing how monumental it was.

Anywine, here are some things that I am thankful for today:

Amazing shadowing experience
Meeting awesome new people that are here on the island that have been through the same thing I'm going through
Lady Gaga
Wine - even though I don't have it here, I'm still thankful for it
Being here
The excited feeling I get in my stomach from being here
Host Family - their inviting me to stay in their beautiful home, I love it here!
Beautiful View
Being alive and feeling alive
I seem to find a new beautiful type of flower everyday

Stop to smell the...whatever this type of flower is

Practice your thanking - leave me a comment to tell me what you are thankful for!  I'm thankful for all the wonderful comments I got :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

PCT: Persons Constantly Traveling

So for all of you who aren't in the Peace Corps, or Peace Corps affiliated, PCT technically stands for Peace Corps Trainee, however, for those of you who have served as a Peace Corps Volunteer or PCV, you know that unofficially, PCT could stand for the above, Person CONSTANTLY Traveling.  Now, I might be exaggerating a bit, but..... I don't care.  The minute you get settled, BAM, they throw you into a whole new world.  NOT that I'm complaining.  As much as I loved Hellshire, where we were the first two weeks, I'm so far loving it at our Hub (another Peace Corps term for our sector specific training site)  We are in the middle of the country and it's just beautiful.  Everywhere there is another gorgeous plant, flower, fruit or tree and you have a view of the mountains from basically anywhere you are.

This picture does not do it justice.

Also, my new host family is just want I need right now.  I loved where I was placed in Hellshire, and I miss my family there, but it's nice to get a break from the kids for a bit.  I have a lot of homework to do now that we are split up into our sector groups, and here I'm able to get it done without interruption (however I'm sure I will be missing those cute little interruptions very soon).  But my host family here is an older couple, they could be my parents, in fact they do have a daughter my age that I'm looking forward to meeting next week.  Their house is very nice too, I have a nice big room, comfortable bed, internet (hence me blogging right now) and my own bathroom (yay!)  So apart from my packing and repacking and unpacking, I'm quite happy with the relocation.  I don't know how I will feel about that in another 5 weeks when we are on di road again, but for now, no worries.

My last snapshot of Hellshire Beach before leaving.

Thankful for Today:

Internet so I can communicate with all you
The view of course!
My caring friends and family - I got your post cards, love you!
The amazing people I've met here so far.
Video chatting :)
The cool weather

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hello Again!

to the internet that is...it's been about 2 weeks since I've been able to be online for more than 10 minutes and it feels good.  Not as good as I thought it would be, since I'm sitting outside on my friend's balcony, on the hard floor, which is not optimal.  (Side note, my biggest complaint is that my arse is killing me from sitting through training all day.  Seriously, any chance I get to stand during the day, I relish in.)  But it's good that I can be back online to give some updates for those of you who I have neglected to call (I have good excuses!) and post some pictures.

 Hardship? What hardship?

Quick wrap-up:  We've been in mostly cross-culture and security training since we got here, and we have one more week of it then we break up into our sectors, mine being Education, and do some specific job related training.  And yes, we had ice cream, sweet sweet ice cream. :P

Longer wrap-up: We've all been living with host families, and mine is wonderful.  I live with a pretty typical family, 3 kids, 2 boys and a little girl, they are adorable.  I eat most meals with them, and last night I even cooked for them!  I had asked my host mom last week (I call her this despite the fact that I'm pretty sure she's only a few years older than me) what American food she might want to learn how to cook, and she quickly responded, "Lasagna" and the oldest boy, without missing a beat, exclaimed, "Garfield", to which I had to chuckle, what?  I grew up watching that!  Never underestimate the power of cartoons.  So, also despite the fact that I've never made lasagna in my life, nor am I the least bit Italian, we made a delicious lasagna, the garlic bread, however was a casualty to our hunger and was left a little too long in the oven.

That's all I can manage for right now.  I have to get home for dinner and then we have the neighborhood exercise group later this evening. (which is another story for a more comfortable time)

Things I'm thankful for today:

Delicious Lasagna, even in Jamaica
Great host family
Wonderful friends
Beautiful beach that's only a 10 minute walk away!
Great Peace Corps Staff
Letter from my mom today!  What a great surprise!
Tiny spider running across my screen right now!
 Much love!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

People are Cool.

 My nervous decent into Miami

So no matter what you think or how much people tell you the opposite...people are actually very cool.  Now, I have to admit, I was one of those people.  I do not like small talk, I'm not big on schmoozing nor am I any good at it, and I have a very hard time introducing myself first, and if you know me, you know that's an understatement.  (Why, you say, did I join the Peace Corps then?  Fair question, well that's a story for another day)  So after months of anxiety and worry, I've finally come to the day that I have to meet 30 plus new people, make friends fast because I'm basically spending the next two years with them.  Just the thought of this made my my stomach turn and palms sweat...until I actually had to do it.  Well, surprise, surprise, like most everything else in life, the thought and build up to it was so much worse than it actually was...I arrived at our staging event this morning, where all the future Peace Corps Volunteers that are serving in Jamaica meet to go over some information and paperwork.  Well, to my absolute delight and peace of mind, I like them, they are all super great!  And I think some of them even like me back!  We are such a diverse and interesting group, from all ages (22-60 something?) and from all over the country (Hawaii to Maine), I feel so lucky and happy (and relieved) to be grouped with these 30 people. (There are 31 of us total that are heading over to Jamaica tomorrow, in case you were wondering)  So bottom line, yet another example of why I do NOT need to be so nervous/worried/anxious about everything else that's coming up, because things work will themselves out, and most-likely, for the best.

Thankful for today:
All my new Peace Corps friends!
All my friends at home that I love and will talk to soon! (Thank you so much for your unbelievable support these past few weeks, you have all surprised and amazed me by how much you care - you know who you are and I love you!)

Monday, June 13, 2011

One step forward, two steps back...

...to laugh at yourself.  Yet another really, really, really important lesson that I (and you, if you want to keep your sanity, or insanity, whatever your fancy) must remember.

A very smart person recently shared some simple wisdom with me the other day, which is to take a step back and laugh at yourself.  At the time, I was like, yah, sure, duh.  Like, I don't need anyone to remind me of that, I already know and find humor in all situations!  No, I don't.  I do need the reminder.  Which is why I'm writing it down here, so we all can remember.

For example: (oh yes, there is a fun story that goes along with my little words of wisdom!)  Today, I was crossing the street in Ballston, (oh, Arlington and your poorly-marked one way streets, 7-way intersections and non-blinker-using drivers) mind you, I was crossing at a crosswalk, where cars are supposed to stop for you, but not only that, it was a 3-way intersection with all-way stop signs.  As I started to cross, a car decides to speed up towards the stop sign, fail to stop, and almost (and when I say almost, I mean not even close) run me over!  I promptly yelled out to the car and his passengers, luckily the windows were down so they could hear my little fit of crosswalk rage, "STOP SIGN", pointing and rolling my eyes up towards the sign...well, you can imagine my fury when he just kept on speeding away!!  How dare he disobey the rules of the road!  And, c'mon, the simplest one of them all!  One that 2-years olds (and I know this for a fact) even know the meaning of!  A giant red octagon means STOP!  HELLO!! (can you hear that sarcastic tone in my voice?!?)  Well, I threw one more evil eye his way, just to make sure he could see how enraged I was (like, if I had a milkshake, it would have been all over his back window à la Election) and stormed away through the street, huffing and puffing, fully ready to pull out my phone to dial up the traffic police and....wait a minute...could this...could this be one of those step back and laugh at myself sort of situations??  Maybe, just maybe...

So needless to say, did I need to get that upset about some stupid driver who can't read a stop sign?  No.  And it's not my job to point out such obviousness, especially since he will probably get what's coming to him in the form of some blue lights flashing in his rear view.  No, not my problem at all, so here I am taking a step back and laughing at myself.  Please feel free to laugh along with me (or at me).

Things I'm thankful for today:
People who are smart and make me smarter
Free gym
Easy workout
Beach camping
No work this week
Nice weather
People who are funny and make me laugh!

Have a thankful day!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Great(ful) Day!

No witty stories here today folks, just getting straight to the punchline...

Things I'm thankful for today:
DOPO night tonight with some wonderful ladies
Making my favorite summer drink
Double header softball game, I'm working on my swing
Last day of work tomorrow
Cleaned up my room
Figured out my flight back from home without spending a fortune
That I'm NOT on the bachelorette - just watched the last episode where the dude was a total d-bag
Good food
Nice bike ride today
I finally posted pictures
Great friends
Fun ladies night last night
My team girls, their parents and my other coaches - they threw me a party last night! So sweet!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!  Life is wonderful :)

Don't forget to comment and tell me what you are thankful for today!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Woe Is Me!!

So apparently the need to wallow in our own self-hatred doesn't build over a lifetime of dysfunctional family problems, bad decisions and abuse, it starts at a much earlier age....like 4, for example.

I found this out today, when the 4-year-old that I regularly nanny for had some seriously hilarious yet perspective-inducing things to say after waking him from his impromptu and restricted nap. (He's getting close to 5 and his mom doesn't want him napping otherwise he won't fall asleep when its bedtime.  So when I went to put the other one down, which took a while, the older one promptly laid down on the couch under a blanket and passed out.) He started whining and crying, which was to be expected, but the after about 10 minutes of this, I ask him what he wants to do.  Does he want to play legos? (his favorite thing) Go outside? (maybe second favorite)  No, no, no, he'll have none of that. So as he's lying dramatically on the ground with his arm draped across his forehead, he says to me, "Miss Courtney, I dont want you to do anything that will make me happy.  Miss Courtney, I'm just going to do nothing, don't try to do anything I like. I don't want to be happy." Oh vey! Whoa is me and my little 4-year-old self!

To see a small child act like a broke, recently dumped, living-in-his-parents-basement-30-year-old is truly a sight to see, but the best part about it was, I can without a doubt say I felt like this, maybe, no less than 5000 times in my adult life, where nothing and no one in the world could make me happy and life was not worth living, over, I'm sure, nothing more than being woken up from my nap.  I couldn't help but laugh at him, and think to myself, no, it does not get any better, my little grasshopper, no and it never will, not until you can see for yourself the humor in the situation.  Until you realize that the terrible horrible life-ending fill-in-the-blank-moment that's happening right now is not the end of the world.  Thank you, young 4-year-old, to help me remember this very important lesson, especially when I'm about to embark on one of the craziest adventures of my life.  This "advice" will be my savior when I'm no doubt feeling like that in Jamaica next month, and probably for the next 27 months.  But alas, no one can expect a 4 year old to realize, let alone understand, this perspective on life; good thing for a short attention span....at the moment he's is very happily playing outside, without a care in the world  :)

God bless me with a short attention span.  Amen.

Thankful for today:
Got out of work early
Going to a free movie tonight (kinda, using my expired livingsocial deal)
Yummy food last night
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Air Conditioning
My friends <3

Get your "secret" on, post a comment to tell me what you are thankful for today!

Friday, June 3, 2011

28 Days

A little less actually, but that made a better title.  I'm leaving in 25 days!  It's going soooo slow and sooo fast all at the same time, how does that happen?  I'm thinking it has something to do with the time space continuum, or the flux capacitor or maybe H.G. Wells...

Thankful for today -
I still have 3 weeks to enjoy all my friends and the things I love in the States
Only one more week of work!  Whoo hoo
Sold some stuff on craigslist
Beautiful outside
Delicious shrimp pasta lunch that I made myself
No work until Monday!
Ropes course tomorrow :)
I'm finally setting up blog for public consumption, you're welcome.

Thanks you thank you thank you!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Everybody Happy - Nobody Sad

Whoa it's been a while - a whole year approximately. And, boy, has a lot happened. I have a job teaching gymnastics that I still enjoy, great friends, cheap and nice apartment and a wonderful person that I get to spend most of my time with...

But I have the most exciting news that I think I've ever had in my life (and possibly ever will??) I was invited to serve in the Peace Corps in Jamaica! I'm leaving at the end of June 2011, this year. I can't believe it. I'm very much overwhelmed, but at the same time excited, sad, scared, happy, fulfilled, empty, bored, nervous, apprehensive, shy, stressed, joyful, etc. Does the list stop? I don't think so. But for now, I'll just say overwhelmed, which could be a good thing or just so-so, because I should really just say that I don't know how I feel.

Ahh Jamaica, no worries!