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Hello Asia

Map

Try as I might to stay in Denver, maybe I didn’t try very hard, in August I’ll be headed to Laos as an English Language Fellow. A few weeks ago I had an interview with the folks there via Skype. They laid out the challenges to the assignment and asked if I’d accept the job if it were offered. I said I would, despite my aversion to sea level, bugs, heat, and malaria.

A little about Laos, it’s a communist country and the capital where I will be posted is Vientiane. Buddhism is the predominant religion. It is one of the least developed countries in the world, similar in size to the state of Utah, sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand. If I need medical care, between the hours of 6AM and 10PM, I can cross the Mekong River via the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge into Thailand. I don’t know a word of Lao at this moment, but that shouldn’t be the case for long.

Laos Flag

The design of the Laos flag includes some interesting symbolism. The white circle is the moon reflected in the blue Mekong River. The moon stands for the unity of the Lao people. As a landlocked nation the river is particularly important to economic prosperity. The red stripes symbolize the blood the people shed in their struggle for independence from France.

It’s going to be a great learning experience, and unlike any place I have visited. At 80% humidity and 100 degree temperatures, I’ll probably never get the smell of mold out of my clothes. My contact stressed that I should pack lots of cotton. I’m excited to see what life there is about. Conveniently, Vientiane also happens to be a Texas-sized stones throw from Kathmandu. Until it’s time to go, I’ll be here in Denver Googling images of Laos, soaking up the sun- whenever it returns, the mountains, and the micro-breweries.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2015 in education, EFL, travel

 

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Home

Storm building at 14,000ft.

It’s been about a month since I got back to Colorado. There were a few bumps, still are a few bumps, culturally speaking. Some I can identify, like the overwhelming amount of eye contact even with strangers, and others that make me uncomfortable, but that I can’t quite identify. To avoid being incapacitated by choice, my grocery shopping strategy was to stick with what I bought in Azogues: eggs, cheese, tomatoes, tortillas, coffee, and onions. I anticipated immediate and substantial weight gain, though that hasn’t been the case, to the contrary of what Lilia insinuates when she sees me on Skype: “Erin, I don’t think you are really fatter, it’s just your hair cut.”

Home is better and different in ways that I hadn’t foreseen, and maybe the same thing can be said for myself. It’s rare that something is as good as you imagine it to be, but that is the case. Hopefully some time soon I’ll have some perspective to better articulate this. For now, I can say it’s really nice to be back in Colorado.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2015 in peacecorps, travel

 

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The Devil I Know

PlanningIn 2012 I began speculating about what Ecuador would be like. After two years of calling Ecuador home, I realize there are a few aspects of the U.S. that will take some time to adjust to when I get back next week. This time I know what to anticipate:

People tend to be tired and stressed in the U.S. I seem to remember that many Americans are one broken glass, flat tire, or cutter-in-line from losing their cool. I’ve been there myself. Being tired and stressed is like a merit badge indicating that an American is working hard. Here that state of mind doesn’t exist. Very little falls into the “it’s OK to snap” category. Working too hard is frowned on because it means you’re neglecting the people around you. After 27 months of living in Azogues, it’s only logical to me that work should not come first in my priorities.

Planning is very important. At home in Colorado even small outings often require some amount of anticipation. Here I have been kidnapped for entire days on the pretext of “going and coming right back.” Perhaps a more telling comparison: Weddings in the U.S. often take a year to plan and execute. In contrast, couples in Ecuador will announce, organize, and wed in less than a month, often in a week or two. Invitations may even be hand delivered by the bride and groom the day before the wedding. I’ve come to appreciate that the focus here is on the present, not the future. When I get home, I will shoot for a middle ground on this one.

Buying. U.S. advertisers have our number. It’s a science and consumers are the white mice. Buying is how we cope with stress, and recreation when we are bored. Americans have 24/7 access to purchase almost anything. In Ecuador, access to goods and exposure to advertising is much more limited. Maybe it’s for that reason that Ecuadorians in my community tend to buy food and replace things when they’re worn out, unless it’s an event and that always requires a new dress, and maybe shoes. My landlord brings suitcases of clothes back from the U.S. to sell. We try on dresses in her bedroom and she lets us pay in installments. With the limited exposure to U.S.-style consumerism, I believe I’ll find the wave of advertising and accessibility of products to be especially difficult to resist.

Anyhow, these are the three big ones that I believe I’ll have to wrestle with right out of the gate. Although in the case of these differences, I will try to avoid readjusting completely.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in Ecuador, Peace corps, readjustment

 

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Legendary Mountaineer Reinhold Messner’s Advice to the Next Generation

“In the end there is not a happy life, but a successful period if you act.” There’s a lot of great advice on the art of true adventure in this short video. Video: Legendary Mountaineer Reinhold Messner’s Advice to the Next Generation.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2015 in climbing

 

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(Almost) RPCV

checklist

The day finally arrived with little fanfare besides a quick drum roll on the desk of our financial officer before she put the last signature on my check-out list. I’m officially a returned volunteer, technically. My flight won’t leave until April, so I have about a month to pack and say goodbye to everyone.

Luck was on my side and I found an apartment in Denver with a fellow RPCV who served in Paraguay. She’s sure to be familiar with some of my challenges with reintegration, e.g.: Spanglish, my use of confusing Ecuadorian hand gestures to communicate, inability to choose one of the fifty varieties of ________ at the store, or over informing her about where I’m going and when I’ll be back. I feel very fortunate to have landed back in the state that I love, sooner than I thought I would.

So, four short weeks of goodbyes and packing until my feet hit the ground in the U.S. I can’t wait to give some long overdue hugs to the people I love.

packing

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2015 in Ecuador, Peace corps, travel, volunteer

 

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<3: The Collection

abuga heart

Kibo Hart

trash heart

jungle hearts

cement heart

Ceiling heart

toast heart

construction heart

unsuspecting cow heart

grass heart

Hair heart

garden heart

rain hole heart

plant hearts

hand made heart

giant rose pedal heart

stone heart

#2 trash heart

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2015 in Ecuador, Peace corps, travel

 

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Oh, These Sights

Cotopaxi

Last Friday, I finally returned to Cotopaxi accompanied by a talented guide named Jamie. It was beautiful from start to finish. It snowed, but there was no wind. The moon was bright so I could see some sights while we climbed. It was a nine-hour round trip starting at 12AM. These are a few photos of the climb.

Headed to the top

Cotopaxi glacier

 

Cotopaxi

He patiently explained when I asked questions like: But what do I do if you fall into a crevasse?

Additionally, Jamie’s a lawyer, speaks four languages, and does fair job with armchair psychology and palm-reading.

Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi

The end

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2015 in climbing, Ecuador, hiking, Peace corps, travel

 

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