Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review

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?! 

Over a year after initially submitting my application, in June I packed my bags, said goodbye to family and friends, and moved to Panama to begin Agri-business training in the Peace Corps.

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!

1 comment:

  1. Good morning, how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately, it is impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are very small countries with very few population, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this, I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Panama? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Panama in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
    28902 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally, I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez