Whew, what a year! Between college graduation, joining the Peace Corps and moving to a new country, 2013 has been packed with challenges, blessings, and most of all, change. Though it's quite cliche, I couldn't help but post a photo recap of 2013; it was a great year!
I rung in the New Year in January with a trip to Missouri to celebrate with Natalie, Lisa, and Jess, three wonderful friends I made while studying abroad in 2011. I'm so blessed to have friends like them, and am anxiously awaiting their trip to Panama. * Hear that, guys?*
In February, I made my most momentous decision thus far- I accepted an invitation to join the Peace Corps in Panama!
With the coming of March I got an awful sunburn and an incredible 6 days when my dad gifted me an early graduation present- a Spring break trip to Mexico! A relaxing week of fun and sunshine was just what my stressed-out, pre-graduation self needed, and the opportunity to practice my Spanish made me more excited than ever for my upcoming move to Panama.
April was filled with exams and a final push at school- quite a feat with 20 credits, a part-time job and an internship! However, I did get a nice surprise when I found out that the McKenna School faculty had selected me for the 2013 ACBSP Leadership award.
After four years of hard work, packed extra-curricular calendars, and unforgettable memories with friends, in May I graduated from Saint Vincent College with a Major in Marketing and Minors in Spanish and International Business. How did four years go by so fast?!
In July I stuffed my brain full of information on Panamanian agriculture and spent more than four hours studying Spanish each day as part of our rigorous training program. I also got to spend a week visiting a current volunteer in Bocas del Toro, where I completely fell in love with what would turn out to be my future home province. Unfortunately, July is also when the honeymoon phase ended and I came face to face with some of the many challenges I would spend my next two years living with. Mom and Dad, thanks for talking me through everything… even if it did send your phone bill through the roof.
August was another month of excitement as I swore in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer (and gave a speech at the embassy while I was at it!) That also meant that I finally got to head to my new home and begin work in a small village in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Oh, and I adopted a puppy. He's pretty much the cutest thing ever.
September was tough. Though it likely never seemed that way on my Facebook account, I had a really hard time integrating and those few weeks without friends, confidants, or even anyone who could speak my language were rough. It probably would have also been easier if I hadn't been dropping weight and dealing with side effects from not receiving decent nutrition. Thankfully, those moments are all in the past!
In October the unsanitary water around my house at the time led to a nasty bacterial infection on my arms, leg, and hip. After reporting to my boss about what our regional leader referred to as "the grossest thing" she had seen in her entire three years, I got permission to move into my own house over a month early! The move did wonders for my morale and it wasn't long at all before my neighbors happily pointed out that I was gaining some of my weight back. Thanks?
Though it will always be hard for me to celebrate the holidays away from my family, in November I got to spend several days enjoying Thanksgiving with volunteers from all over Panama. As part of the newest group in country, it was great to meet more of the 250 volunteers here, and the Thanksgiving feast we prepared was every bit as delicious as Tennessee meals. If only I could've gotten my hands on some leftovers… Work wise November was another big month for me since my boss flew in from Panama City to attend my Community Analysis presentation.
And finally, here we are closing out the year in December. It's been a busy month and I was able to host two different programs during the first two weeks of the month- a cocoa grafting seminar and a children's Christmas Party. Despite constantly playing Christmas music in my house, the warm, sunny days made it hard to feel like Christmas was coming. It did come though, and even better, it brought my dad in with it! We spent a few days in Boquete enjoying the cooler weather and even cooking a nice Christmas dinner. After that, I'll be giving him a much better introduction to my village, and then it's off to the island in the first of 2014.
I hope all of you had a happy, successful 2013 and carry that with you into the New Year. As always, thank you for your prayer and support!