Friday, March 28, 2014

Reaction to a Peace Corps Invitation

After we got our official Peace Corps invitation to Ethiopia in January (yay!), I was really focused on all things Peace Corps. I wrote an aspiration statement, all about how I'm going to be a great volunteer and adjust well to a new culture. I took official Peace Corps safety courses online. Spencer and I went to numerous doctor/dentist appointments to prove that we are indeed healthy humans. We visited the American consulate in Sydney to apply for our special Peace Corps passports. We've filled out and uploaded tons of paperwork. I checked out every book even remotely related to Ethiopia from our little, one-room local library (photo above, from my Instagram feed) I read blogs of people currently or formerly serving in Ethiopia. And then, I kind of took a break from it all (besides the doctor appointments...those seem to be never ending).

As I was reading yet another blog post about a Peace Corps Volunteer's frustrations with public transportation in Ethiopia, I realized I've done enough research. I felt like I was learning too much from other people's perspectives. I'm ready to experience it myself. Too much more information and I would be bringing prejudices and preconceived notions. I don't want to do that; I want my mind to be open. I know basics about the country, some history, and I know of a few cool places I'd like to travel to. That's enough for now. All the books went back to the library.

Since then, I'm trying to focus more on the present. We only have a couple months left in Sydney (where did the time go??!) and I want to enjoy it. So I made a commitment to myself to live in the moment as much as I possibly can. I sip leisurely at my coffee at trendy cafes on the weekends. I appreciate the architecture in CBD while I ride by on reliable (for the most part) public transportation. I enjoy the weather when I take the boys I babysit to the park. I wear short skirts, shorts, and sleeveless tops and appreciate that I can. I eat Mexican food and drink margaritas and savor every last mouthful.

It's strange to think that in a few months, I'll be Ethiopia and nearly everything in my day to day life will be different. To avoid the disappointment associated with the phrase "I just didn't expect it to be like this," I'm trying to find balance between being sufficiently prepared and not expecting anything. Instead of thinking about one scenario for what I think life will be like in Ethiopia, I try to think of as many as I can. Or I just don't think of any and go get a coffee. :) I'm trying to live in the present, remember?  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Peace Corps Ethiopia

We have officially received and accepted our invitation to serve in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia!! I can't even begin to describe all the emotions I feel about this. We will be leaving for Ethiopia at the end of June, but have plenty to do until then! Now, we have to get a "Final Medical Clearance" which involves going to doctor's offices to validate our good health and getting immunizations. Also, we need to go to the US Embassy here in Australia to get our Peace Corps passports.  

As to what we will be doing in Ethiopia, our program is called "Promoting English Language Learning in Ethiopia (PELLE)" and our title is "English Language Facilitator". We will be working with Ethiopian English language teachers in high schools or at a teacher's college. We won't know which until we are actually there. 

From early July to mid-September, we'll be in "pre-service training" in Ethiopia where we'll learn about Ethiopian culture, the local language, how to do basic tasks in Ethiopia (like shop for food, hand wash clothing, and take a bucket shower), and receive training on teaching English as a foreign language. During training, we'll be living with an Ethiopian family as part of a homestay. After pre-service training, we'll take a language test and then we will be sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers! After the swearing in ceremony, we'll move to our "site" which is where we will be living for the following two years. 

I"m so looking forward to this opportunity and can't wait to learn more about Ethiopia and its people. I've been interested in international aid work and sustainable development for a long time and am excited at the prospect of being able to get some real world experience in this area. I can hardly wait for the adventures to come!  

Where exactly is Ethiopia?? Here you go.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Blue Mountains Christmas

I wasn't lying when I said we barely got home from our last trip to the Blue Mountains before booking another stay up there. I love the mountains and this time around was even better because we got to spend it with Katie.

Katie's here! 
If you didn't know, Katie is Spencer's sister. She came to Australia two days after us but was living in Perth being an au pair. Now she is finally over in Sydney. Yay! 

Some days were rainy and misty...

the trail from Govett's Leap Lookout to Evan's Lookout (We looked out at fog. Womp, womp.)
Some were sunny and bright...

on the Nature Trail in the Wentworth Falls area
And one day was Christmas! Double yay! We opened presents, made mulled wine, Skyped loved ones back home, ate huge amounts of chocolate and watched Elf. Christmas = success!!  

Our AirBnB host left us a tree and decorations! It was a great surprise.
We did a lot of hiking (of course) and saw some great waterfalls. The best hike we did was the hike to Wentworth Falls and then along the National Pass to Empress Falls. The views of the cliffs and forest were amazing and the waterfalls were stunning. It took about three hours and descended/ascended 210 meters. I highly recommend it! 

yes, we were walking on the side of the cliff! 
Wentworth Falls, upper falls
Wentworth Falls, upper and lower falls
half way along the National Pass
We passed lots of these little spray-like waterfalls.
part of Empress Falls
Another great time in the Blue Mountains! Maybe we should go somewhere else next....Melbourne? Cairns? We'll see!

I hope you all had a very happy holiday season!  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Love Love Love

I love him more and more every day. I couldn't have dreamed up a better person to navigate this life and world with. Here we are in the countryside just north of Amsterdam in 2008.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hiking in the Blue Mountains

Every day we were in the Blue Mountains we would get up, eat breakfast, and go out walking for 4-5 hours. There are so many trails and we could walk to a lot of them from the cottage we rented. The weather was mostly sunny and cool, the perfect weather for walking.

We were staying in the small town of Katoomba which is where the famous rock formation the Three Sisters is. The first thing we did was go to Echo Point where you can look out at them and over a huge vista of forest.

Three Sisters and us

Over the next few days we walked as much as our legs could handle! We would walk all day and then go home and soak in the tub to ease our aching muscles.

Walking on the path towards Leura, things would change, transforming the dry woods into lush rainforest. It was fascinating to see the transformation over just a few bends of the path.

on the path southwest of Leura
We saw all kinds of animals but mostly birds and butterflies. Australia has some beautiful birds!

Eastern Yellow Robin

sulfur-crested cockatoo

Bell Miner (Bellbird)

Swordgrass Brown (tisiphone abeona)

Crimson Rosella

Pied Currawong

People have yet to flock back to the mountains after the big fires up there earlier this season but Katoomba and the surrounding areas were not affected by the fires. They are now, though, effected by the lack of tourists. It was nice for us to have trails with fewer people and the ability to enjoy vista points and attractions on our own.

We hiked down to the Pool of Siloam, where we had the place to ourselves.

making rock stacks at the Pool of Siloam
One of my favorite places we visited (we actually went twice!) was the Bridal Veil Falls Lookout. It was so beautiful to see the waterfall from up so high and the cliffs and forest all around was just epic. I could have stayed there all day watching the water fall and the bright white cockatoos fly over the trees.

view from Bridal Veil Falls Lookout
When Australians talk about anywhere in nature, it's called "the bush" and hiking is called "bushwalking." I don't know about you, but when I think about "the bush," I think scrub land, desert, or basically something barren or without trees, at least. Oh, how different this was and I'm so glad for it!

We were so happy with our trip that we barely got off the train back in Sydney without booking another stay!

Leura Cascades

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Things I Love, Blue Mountains Holiday House Edition

We finally escaped the big city for a long weekend in the Blue Mountains last weekend and it was divine. It was a pleasure to just sit in the woods and hear nothing but nature's sounds. The air was fresh, the sky was blue, and the cottage we rented was absolutely adorable. 

In the midst of all this vacationing, I wrote this list of things that I was really enjoying.

1. the mountains and walking around out in the woods

2. the colorful birds of Australia

3. sparking water

4. spring blooms

5. warm beds on crisp mornings

6. claw foot bathtubs

7. old school charm

in our cottage's kitchen

8. the quiet of the country

wild strawberries in the back garden

9. good chocolate

10. sun shining through stained glass windows 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Explore. Dream. Discover.

This is one of the first travel quotes that really resonated with me. I happened upon it while studying with Semester At Sea and so the sailing aspect was very relevant to my life. I still love it and thought it worked perfectly on this photo Spencer took during a three day sailing/camping adventure in Belize on our honeymoon. We camped on that little island!