When writing a recap of 2013, I remember thinking that my 2014 was going to be much less eventful. After all, how much can happen when you're living in a rural village of less than 300 people? Though I have loved living a more laid-back life, I'm happy to report that 2014 has been filled with productive work, fun travel, great friends, new experiences, and things that are certainly much funnier now that they're over and done with. So what happened this year?
In January my dad wrapped up his Panama visit with a NYE party in my site and a trip to Bocas Island. Then I celebrated another milestone: turning 23 while facilitating a youth leadership camp! For some reason I've always loved working on my birthday and I have to say, camp was a pretty fun assignment for that week.
I spent most of March in my site, working with my gente and recovering from the double serving of parasites I dealt with the month before. Only in Peace Corps would you respond to "I have parasites," with, "Oh, good!"
I especially looked forward to May because that meant I got to go on vacation to the United States! Eleven months is a long time to be away from home, and I admit that I may have slightly teared up when the border control agent welcomed me home to the United States of America.
June marked a full year in Panama for Group 73. Though I spent most of the month in-site, I also got to head to Panama City to meet group 75 and help out with their first week of training. Especially given the timing, it was really neat to see the new group going through exactly the same things that I did one year before!
July was a month of visits and visitors! I finally got to visit Zoe's site on the coast and was able to start a baking and business group while I was there. It was neat to see my projects spread to other areas, and as always, it was wonderful to spend time with my friends in their sites. Shortly after returning to my own site, I welcomed Whitney and Megan, two trainees from the new group. I got to show them the ropes of life as a volunteer and am happy to report that they're both alive and well- Whitney ended up in Bocas like me, and Megan is in a coffee site in Colón. To top off an already great month, my bien metida Darien friend, Alex, also made the long journey up to Bocas. We spent the week visiting cool places in my site and eating so. much. chocolate.
In August I celebrated one year of being in sites by spending most of the month with my sweet gente. They make coming home that much better!
Massy always makes leaving difficult, and in September I finally relented and decided to take him along when I gave a basic finance seminar at Colleen's site on the coast. He loved it and it turned out to be good travel practice for our upcoming move. Another neat thing that happened this month was being invited to bring one of my local artisan's to Panama City to exhibit our goods during the Central/South America Country Director's Conference. Many "higher ups" of Peace Corps were present, and I even got to meet the incredibly sweet Director herself, Carrie Hessler-Radlet!
October... October was good at first. Elena and I were invited to give a week-long agribusiness seminar to micro-finance grant recipients from the Department of Agriculture in Santiago, Veraguas. We had a great week with great participants, and by the end some of them were even asking how they could get their own Peace Corps volunteer! Unfortunately, I got sick towards the end of the week and got slammed by a Pneumonia, a skin infection, parasites (round 3), AND a double ear infection all within a month. That's a new record for me.
After finally recovering from all the issues from late October/early November, I was able to attend two great Thanksgiving celebrations. I love spending time with volunteers because the further we get in our service, the more connected we are- professionally and emotionally. Volunteers have become some of my closest friends and confidants, and I am so thankful to have such a great group of them in my life!
In December I packed my bags (or rather, left them packed) and headed over to explore the Darien. I had been wanting to see that side of the country for quite a while, so I was really excited to have the opportunity to spend the week both working on projects and hanging out with the awesome volunteers that live there. And who knew the people there feed you so much?! In 2015 I'll be heading out to Darien again, this time for a little bit longer, and I'm looking forward to getting to know more people and places (and also to eat some more delicious food...)
Thank you to all of my family, friends, and sweet blog supporters! You guys make the tough days bearable and the great days even greater. I couldn't have done it without you and am looking forward to 2015 and all the new people, places, and experiences that the new year will bring!