Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Home, again

I've been meaning to write this update for a while (I think every one I've written starts like that), but I've been in and out of a sunshine and percocet haze (more on that later).  I am, however, home, again.  It's been over a month now and I'm finally starting to get used to it.  Big NYC crowds are still a bit hard for me and I tend to shout at pedestrians and drivers in my way (whether I'm walking or driving), but that's normal...right?

In continuation of my last post, here are some highlights from the second part of my trip:

1. Nicaragua's Solentiname islands - a beautiful refuge in the south of Lake Nicaragua filled with interesting homegrown artists
2. Spending some time with Anais in San Jose :)
3. Dancing, meditating, yoga-ing, and beaching at the fantastic Envision music festival in Uvita.  I now want to go to so many festivals this summer!
4. The Cloudbridge Nature Reserve.  I cannot even begin to explain how much I loved it, especially having been sent there by Julia!  That whole region was gorgeous; also fantastic was spending the night in a treehouse in nearby Pueblo Nuevo.
5. Chilling with sloths (GAHH SLOTHS!!) and other fun animals at the jaguar rescue center in Puerto Viejo
6. Fearing for my life while going over a decrepit bridge at Costa Rica and Panama's sketchy Caribbean border crossing.  Arriving at Bocas del Toro was a treat.
7. St. Patrick's Day and the other days I found myself unable to leave the Lost and Found eco hostel
8. Snorkeling off of Isla Boca Brava in Chiriqui's national marine park
9. Unsuccessfully searching for quetzales on the Sendero Los Quetzales (at least it was a gorgeous hike)
10. Beaching it again in Santa Catalina and snorkeling again off of Isla Coiba - I have to go back and spend a few days on the island!
11. Exploring Panama City's colonial Casco Viejo (I was a bit obsessed) and seeing the Miraflores canal locks
12. Enjoying a few more days of beach time on a tiny sand island in the indigenous San Blas archipelago
13. Meeting some fun PCVs during my final stay in Panama City

So as you can tell, it was amazing and I didn't exactly want to come home.  However, with only $80 left to my name, it was time.  This last month home has been great - seeing lots of friends and family, going to shows, having my Guatemala copy of Eva Luna signed by Isabel Allende :)  I've been working part-time (and just got hired for the summer at a day camp!) and had a cyst removed (hence the percocet...I was relieved to have the cyst gone, but sad to part ways with one of my bodily souvenirs from Guatemala).  I've even lost some weight, which is nice - adios, tortilla tummy!

The most exciting thing actually happened within two days of arriving stateside: I accepted my offer of admission to The New School.  I'll be starting my MA in Economics (with a focus on development) at the end of August.  A swanky admitted students reception, the convenience of a nearby octogenarian's bachelor pad, and a merit scholarship swayed my decision and I could not be more happy about it!

I met some of the other admitted grad students, but I hope that the campus is filled with friendly people.  Because that's one thing that has been terrible about coming back - New Yorkers (and most are not even native!) are such assholes!  If it wasn't hard enough returning home from my Peace Corps service and restraining myself from shouting "Buenas tardes" at everyone I passed, now I have to remember that smiling at strangers will not in any way be well-received.  I loved the total openness of all the backpackers I met; even though I was traveling alone for 2.5 months, I could count on one hand the number of times I felt lonely.  This trip definitely made me become more in tune to others and definitely to myself.  I can't wait for the next one - when will I have at least 4 months with nothing to do and money to burn??

Here are some photos from Central America:

my Rasta guide in San Ignacio, Belize
getting ready to board down Volcano Cerro Negro outside of Leon, Nicaragua
fun times at the Envision festival
as close as I could get to a SLOTH (!) in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
the view upon arriving at the Lost and Found
a little taste of my obsession with Casco Viejo, Panama City :)
And here are the rest:

This might be the last post, so thanks for reading!


Friday, February 22, 2013

Travel Blog pt. 1

Jan. 17

I meant to compose a whole piece reflecting on being home and life in America, but I somehow ran out of time.  Let's just say that while I love stinging-hot showers, milk and butter, and fios internet, I am sufficiently bored enough here to return to my querido Central America.  I leave tomorrow (Friday) morning for Guatemala, the starting point of the backpacking adventure I never got to do upon completing my Peace Corps service.  From there, I'll visit Belize (maybe), Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama before flying home from Panama City on April 1st.  If I have some extra time, I may even get to Colombia and finally touch South American soil!

Visitors are more than welcome.  I have no plan (no really, I'm not lying when I say I ran out of time), but I will have access to email, so hit me up!  I'll hopefully send some exciting mass emails throughout the trip :)

Oh also I did succeed in submitting all seven of my graduate school applications (most of them even waived the application fees on account of my poverty level!), so yay for me!  I should hear back from them mid- to end of March and then I'll make my decision once I'm back.  I'm really, really hoping that I'm accepted into more than one and that I'll have a decision to make!

Feb. 22

It's been a little over a month of travelling now and I meant to write earlier, but never got around to it.  Since I had a bunch of time to kill yesterday (on lovely Ometepe island, Nicaragua), it seemed appropriate to finally pull out the notebook I bought a few weeks ago (I'm transcribing what I handwrote).  Incidentally I bought the notebook for its cover art: a stick drawing of a girl with curly hair under the caption "shorter, but smarter."  Fitting, no?

Anyway, as I write this, I am preparing for my last leg of my time in Nicaragua.  Then it is off to Costa Rica for the fourth country of my adventure (or fifth or sixth, if you count a night in San Salvador and a bus ride across Honduras without getting off.  So far, it's been totally awesome (ugh, I'm even starting to sound like a backpacker haha).

Some highlights:

1. Spending a week in and around Antigua, Guatemala catching up with good friends
2. Waiting in Guatemala City for the bus to Puerto Barrios when into the terminal walked Frank (PCV from my group) and we just smiled at the coincidence of it (we were no longer smiling when the ride was extended for 4 hours due to traffic)
3. Swimming in waterfalls at a reknowned Belizean jaguar reserve
4. Being shown around San Ignacio, Belize by an insane Rasta man
5. ATM caves.  Oh my God incredible (and incredibly dangerous...gotta love Central America).
6. Crossing back into Guatemala to Flores, overnight bus to Guate, and picking up a chicken bus to El Quiché at 5am...good thing I'm no longer a PCV
7. Seeing more friends in Quiché and having a blast at the Cunén those Conejos!  Also I accidentally went into a cantina and was the only female patron...good thing I no longer live there lol
8. Romantic Atitlan getaway with Hilary
9. 6-hour bus ride from Guate to San Salvador (btw papusas at the border are gross), hanging out with a Mexican hippie who got questioned and searched at every border crossing, and then 12+ hours the next day to Matagalpa, Nicaragua
10. hiking in a not-so-cloudy cloud quetzales was a disappointment
11. Chilling with awesome people in León and going to the nearby beach for one night and staying for 3 because we loved it so much
12. Getting accepted to Indiana University and LSE's MPA programs!
13. Volcano boarding in León - I went all of...13km/hour downhill!  Definitely a record for slowest descent
14. Taking local transportation to Managua and getting picked up in a Mercedes-Benz (mind was blown.)
15. Crazy weekend in and around Managua - Cultura Profética concert, ATV riding, private beaching - hosted by Walter, member of the Eskimo family dynasty
16. Fancy hotels in Granada and Ometepe with Matt and Mike

And now?  While writing this, I was getting ready to leave the fancy hotel for an overnight boat ride across Lake Nicaragua.  Having completed it, I have seriously welcomed myself back into backpacking reality.  I still feel like the floor is moving below me lol.  I'm currently waiting for a boat to the Solentiname Islands :)  Oh also I have a hair wrap with a shell tied into it...I'm praying it doesn't turn into a dread!

Photos and more to come later.