Sunday, June 15, 2014 - 0 comments

The End.

My apologies for procrastinating on writing this post. It's been weeks months in the making, but it's also taken that long to figure out what I want to say.

Two years. Twenty seven months...not to be stereotypical, but they indeed did fly by so fast. Now, looking back, I feel like that whole experience was so long ago, but I've been home for less than 3 months!

Let's go back to March. Pípe made it home safe and sound when I shipped her back. She is in love with Colorado and I think that my dad has taken my place as her favorite human.

After sending her home, it was time to put the final touches on my PC service. My group got together one last time to do a staff presentation showcasing the highlights of our services to staff members who may not have the chance to get out of the office and visit our sites and see what we really do as Health volunteers. We did it in the form of Jeopardy and what started off as a friendly game got really competitive between the staff members and was all around a really enjoyable time. 

At the end of our presentation, we got our official Peace Corps certificates commemorating the completion of our service.

After one final "family" photo of our group, we packed our things and headed out for our despedida (going away party) at Laguna de Apoyo.

Dolores Dream Team!

Nica 58!

After our going away party, it was time to go back to site for a couple of weeks before saying goodbye there and ringing the bell. During those couple of weeks, I spent a lot of time with my Nica friends and getting Jalapa all ready for the new volunteer. I couldn't believe that I was getting ready to saludar (say goodbye) Jalapa, my home for two years, for real. Sure I said "adios" a couple of times for a vacation back home to the states, but thinking that after 2 weeks away that I wouldn't be coming back? I couldn't wrap my head around it. 

The days started to dwindle, my bags were slowly getting more full, and my room more empty signifying I was on my way out. The volunteers of Nueva Segovia had a get together for the three of us that were leaving and it was good to see the Segovian crew one last time.

¡L@s Segovian@s!

Nica 58'ers of Nueva Segovia with our beautiful capitol of Ocotal in the background

I had a modest despedida dinner with my closest Nicaraguan friends two nights before I left. It was hard to say adios por ahora (goodbye for now), but once the bus swung by my house at 3:40am a few days later, I gave my host mom one last big hug and headed south.

¡Adios, cuartito!

"White Carolina" least I had a good seat reserved!

When I got to Managua, there was little left to do before ringing the bell and calling my service a wrap! I spent a few days in Granada and Carazo where I said goodbye to my host family from training then met up with all the girls who were going to be ringing the bell with me.

Mi familia linda

Monday came, the morning flew by, and when the clock struck 3 (ish), we all lined up and rang the bell! I'm pretty sure we were the biggest (if not, definitely in the top 3) group to ring at the same time (7 ladies in total)

So, this PCVL, PCVs and RPCVs walk into a bar...

And just like that...I was an official RPCV! A fellow RPCV's parents were so kind and treated all of us to a lovely dinner in Managua that night and the following morning we all went our separate ways.

Which brings us to today. It's so weird that the sun is still up past 8pm (what happened to rising/setting at 5:30?), I'm still fascinated by laundry machines and dishwashers, I've been baking ALLTHETHINGS, and amazed that I can take a hot shower whenever I want for however long I want. The food options are endless, people don't look at me weird when I go jogging with my dog, Ranchera & Reggaeton music aren't occupying every single radio station (though I am guilty of listening to the two latino radio stations available in town), and I get to drive my own car! A lot has happened since I've been home in these short few months; and instead of making this post longer than it has to be, I'll bullet point it :)

  • I went to Grand Rapids to see my boyfriend and some of our RPCV friends. It was so cool to see people that I knew in Nicaragua in, essentially, a completely different environment. We all played pinball, had yummy donuts, cheesecake and had a great weekend that went by incredibly too fast.

Nica 56 and 58 reunite!

Not too long after that trip I was back on a plane to go to my cousin's bar mitzvah in California and catch up with an old friend. Not before I got to hang out with Denver Broncos' #56 Nate Irving! He came up to Colorado Mountain College to do some PR stuff for a local hero in his hometown. I got invited to Sunday dinners at his place, too, when I'm back in the Front Range...not too shabby, eh?

Nate Irving and me


Oh hey, California traffic.

Me and mama at the bar mitzvah

CD & CY finally reunited

Almost immediately after coming home from California, my mom and I were back on a plane to go to the bay area to visit my uncle. He'd been fighting esophageal cancer for the past year and had been one of my heroes and rocks my entire life. He was so supportive of my Peace Corps endeavor and was the least deserving of such a hurtful illness. He was starting hospice in his home when we visited, and from what I hear, was in the best care until his last breath. I miss him so much, but was so grateful that I was able to say "Aloha" one final time.

Since being home from California, I became a certified TurboKICK instructor! I look forward to auditioning at some gyms and getting back to one of my passions! 

The newest group of Colorado TurboKICK instructors

With the Master Trainer who got the group certified!

My boyfriend has also recently come up to visit Colorado and check out his new home (he will be starting law school at CU Boulder in the fall)! After much discussion, I thought best to defer my enrollment to the School of Public Health at UI Chicago and save up some money to pay for my graduate school education. 

So, Peace Corps. There's so much to say, but I'm having hard putting the words together ("But Carli, you've had 2.5 months to think about this blog post!"). It's hard to describe the past two years of your life, also hard to not bring it up in every conversation ("No, I don't know what the fox says...I've been in Nicaragua with the Peace Corps for the past 2 years"), but I do know that the past two years has made me a different person. I've grown from the experience, I will always have a little "Nica" in me (I clean the kitchen every morning before I do anything else with my day), I have SUCH a huge respect for what is available to me and think people need to take a step back and realize how lucky they are to have what they've got because I've seen the polar opposite. You know what? People living the polar opposite are completely content with what they have, too. The majority of Nicas may not have the newest iPhone (I'm surprised the iPhone 8 isn't out yet) or a brand new car for their quincenara gift, but that doesn't stop them from caring for their loved ones unconditionally like we do in the United States. We all have the same values. We are all human. Though I was the gringa, I was the gringa pinolera, all of my Nicaraguan friends treated me with just as much respect as they did with their families and welcomed me into their homes; as I did with them (and hopefully will) in my little Nica abode. They're the definition of "Don't judge a book by its cover"...though my skin may have been a little lighter than theirs, that didn't stop us from all collaborating together and getting great feats accomplished (two half marathons, two youth camps, trips to coffee farms, etc etc).

I hope to return to Nicaragua sooner rather than later. I already miss my Nica friends terribly and can't wait to see them again. For now, it's off to the Front Range to figure out the next chapter of my life. The Peace Corps chapter will definitely be one of my most important bookmarks, and though I'm slowly turning the page, I will always go back and read it with a smile on my face.

With regards to this blog, I intend to keep it alive in the blogosphere. I may post here and there with life updates, but most of it will be happening on my Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Friday, February 21, 2014 - 0 comments

Busy Week in Managua

After the Youth Leadership Camp, I started making my way down south towards Managua for what was going to continue to be a very busy week. I had a couple of days  free between the end of the camp and the beginning of my close-of-service medical appointments, so a couple of my closest friends and I went to the beaches of Chinandega to have an early birthday celebration.

When I realized I was going to celebrate 3 birthdays in Nicaragua, I wanted to make it a goal to hike 3 volcanoes. The first year, in training, my whole group went to Masaya and hiked around Volcán Masaya, enjoying the views and all the sulfur-y goodness. Last year, I decided to run up and down Volcán Concepción on the island of Ometepe...for "fun" (the race itself was so hard, but the other festivities were totally worth it). This year, I wanted to try and attempt Coisgüina which was in the Chinandega department, close to where we were staying.

Unfortunately, we found out it was going to be close to $40 dollars a person. That's how much I pay a month for rent! Long story short, we opted for beach over volcano and traded the latter in for a tour of the Flor de Caña rum factory for $6 dollars instead. It was a good decision.

I'm going to miss the Pacific sunsets...

At the Flor de Caña factory

World's Largest Barrell

With Volcán San Cristobal (the one that blew up in 2012) in the background 

With 25-year rum! Too bad it's over $130. wah wah

After our Chinandega adventure, we all headed to Managua to start our COS process, with interviews, medical appointments and the like (had my first cavity, EVER, that was fun to fill...). We also had a meeting to wrap-up the mobile population survey project and though it's now in the stages of being analyzed, we were able to execute over 630 surveys over 4 departments! I'm eager to see what the results read as well as see how this project evolves in future years.

My time in Managua also brought my last HIVaids Task Force meeting. We discussed future projects, including a camp for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, a training for teachers on how to educate about HIV in the schools, another HIV conference similar to the one we did in October and future developments on the mobile population survey. We also did something completely new. The night after our meeting, we baked some goodies to deliver to people living with HIV at a hospital in Managua for Día de Amor y Amistad (Day of Love and Friendship, celebrated on the 14th). It was quite interesting hearing their stories and they all were super grateful for the treats and basic goods we brought (i.e. toilet paper, toothbrushes, soap). I happily passed the torch of "chair" to another PCV from my group who is extending her service for another year and I'm sure that she, and the rest of HIVaids Task Force will continue to do great things!

Shopping for supplies

Choco rice krispies!

The group with our goodie bags

Well...that's it! My pup goes home next week all by herself. Delta is being very accomodating and reassuring me that she'll get home just fine; mom and dad are at the ready to see their grandpuppy!

I won't be too far behind her 3.5 weeks later. WEEKS. I just have to get thru a final staff presentation, my group's going away party, my Jalapeño going away party, and then me voy.



Retiro de Liderazgo


During the first week of February, I escorted 5 teens from rural communities of Nueva Segovia to the cold regions of Jinotega to participate in a youth leadership camp at Vida Joven (Young Life). The camp was started a couple of years ago by other PCVs with the topic of leadership and becoming leaders in their communities. It involved youth from all departments of Nicaragua, far and wide, and this year the PCV camp organizers decided to expand the camp to involve all Peace Corps sectors (Health, Environment, English and Entrepreneurship) and continue with the main theme of leadership.

All the PCV camp counselors with our fearless PC director and assistant

Alongside another Health volunteer from the group that's about to celebrate their one-year anniversary, we taught a 1.5 hour session of how to educate about HIV and teen pregnancy to the campers' peers. We went into the camp assuming (we assumed correctly!) that all the campers had a basic knowledge of what HIV and teenage pregnancy are, so we decided to educate them on how to present this information in a fun way; thru dinamicas. It was a fun, interactive presentation and I think the campers enjoyed themselves.

The "White Blood Cell" Dance: Explaining the process of HIV

My co-counselor with one of our "juguetes"

Condom demonstration

When the campers weren't in the informational sessions, the counselors put on glow in the dark frisbee, a fogata (bonfire) in which we taught the kids how to make s'mores, basketball, volleyball, KICKball (good times!), football (the kind we play in the states) and a series of adventure games like climbing up a 15ft ladder and sliding down a pole, or doing a scavenger hunt at 6 in the morning, as well as having a dance night starting with a one-hour session of Zumba taught by a new volunteer and yours truly. (Nicas, including teenagers, regularly wake up between 4-5am every day; they were the ones waking the counselors up! It was rough, but I kinda wish that teens in the states were up and motivated at that hour!)
Photo scavenger hunt: the whole group laying down on the bleachers

PSH: The group with a kitchen lady

PSH: Looking "lost" at the entrance of the labyrinth

PSH: Creating a "human table"

PSH: The entire group touching the camp leader

PSH: Human pyramid

PSH: "Jailed" at the camp, with a guard

PSH: Playing Leapfrog on the baseball field

Second place!

After teaching ZUMBA

Aside from being FREEZING (well, 46* F) with even colder showers, it was a great time and I think all the kids had a blast. I hope this project continues to thrive in the future!