Category Archives: Featured Post

Readiness to Serve: A Peace Corps Essay

Note: This essay was completed as part of our Pre-Service Training tasks to prove that we are indeed ready to swear in on November 7, 2014 for two years of service as Peace Corps Volunteers in the department of Estelí.  

To find out more about our Peace Corps Service check out this brief Peace Corps (Global and Nicaragua) overview, our Assignments and Projects, Stories and Experiences, or any number of series and features we have on our blog.

As we walked up the stairs towards the porch I could already feel the butterflies in my stomach long before we shouted, “Buenas!” My husband had assured me that Doña Nubia was worth talking to, but I was still feeling nervous about my Spanish abilities and wondering if it really was worth our time to speak with her tonight. It was soon to be dark, I was tired from the day, and just felt the weight of training tasks yet to be completed.

But in the time it took us both to kiss Doña Nuvia on the cheek, I began to relax.  Continue reading Readiness to Serve: A Peace Corps Essay


I love the rain the most

I love the rain here. One moment is calm, dry, and hot…the next a small but steady rain settles in. It tinks and pinks off my tin roof. But the small steady drizzle doesn’t last long. Within minutes it is pouring. Hard. Loud. Beautiful. Powerful. The sound and smells overwhelm me. The dry, cracked ground rejoices for the deep drink.

The down pour don’t seem to last for long. Just when your mind begins to get used to the overwhelming amount of water tumbling out of the sky, it lightens again. The drizzle may continue for a bit with another down pour cycle to follow or it may fizzle out, leaving that after-rain-smell that calms my heart.

I feel like my experiences with culture and language here in Nicaragua are similar to the cycles of rain I’ve witnessed the first few weeks. Most of the time I’m dry, cracked, thirsty for understanding why things/risks/habits are the way they are here. They’re not bad, just very new, different, and foreign. In reality, I can’t even make sense of what is good/bad/fine/normal/etc. yet. I’m still in the first stages of adapting to a new culture, with a mix of the honeymoon stage and the beginnings of culture shock. Between the new language, new family, new home, new food, new customs, new work, new sleeping schedules, new levels of noise, new eating/bathing/cleanliness standards…it’s a lot to take in.

Then occasionally, a drizzle comes.

I learn new words; a bridge to communication. I learn new rituals; a bridge to connection. I get a glimpse of what’s going on around me and a tiny bit of potential understanding.

There have even been a few down pours – moments where I’m able to move past the newness and just recognize the beauty. Family gathered together to celebrate the baptism and birthday of Diego. Blowing bubbles with a three-year-old cousin. Andres embarrassing our ten-year-old cousin by dancing in the streets. My host mom telling me over and over again not to be sad that Andres is gone through the week or anxious that I won’t learn enough Spanish. Getting up with the rosters and the sun and greeting then both with yoga. Listening to a conversation in Spanish and knowing some of what is being said and being able to reply in Spanish to keep the conversation going.

In some ways, in those moments of clarity and insight, I feel more alive than I have in years. Perhaps it’s the stark contrast between the dry, thirsty days where I have no idea what’s going on that makes it so. Regardless, those moments where understanding and connection pour into my soul leave me feeling a little more whole.

And when the rain stops, I hold on to those moments and smell that after-rain-smell, and I know it’s the first step of creating a home for myself in this new land for the next two years.

Jumping Together

big jump
Andrew – Pacific City, OR

I’ve always loved jumping pictures.

When I think back on good times with people I love, it amazes me how many jumping pictures I’ve taken. I think they show how much joy and excitement I truly get out of life. A good jumping picture, though, has to have some thought put into it. You have to make sure everyone is on the same page. Are we jumping on three or after three? Holding hands or striking a pose? Is the camera lady/gent ready? One…two…three…GO!

The past 5 years have been a series of jumping-picture-worth-events in my life.  I graduated university with my undergrad in Education.  I found and married an amazing, thoughtful, ridiculous partner.  After realizing I wanted to spend my life with said partner, I moved across the country away from my family and friends.  I completed my student teaching, taught for a session at an outdoor science school, and fell in love with a tiny charter school in rural Oregon.  I’ve  taught, laughed, grown, cried, struggled, and come so far.

Andrew has had his fair share of jumps, too.  While he moved home, he moved home with a fiancé and now spouse.  He’s shifted through changing friend dynamics, bringing a new person into his family, and entering the job world after college.  In a lot of ways, we have lived the emerging adulthood of the 20-somethings, even living our first year in Portland with Andrew’s parents as we yet couldn’t afford rent.

Transition.  Struggles.  Jumping.  Yes, jumps can be scary, but they can also be beautiful and freeing.


Andrew and friends – Columbia River gorge
Emily – moving to Oregon.
Nilsen Wedding Party
Mrs. Nilsen’s students – Outdoor School 2014

Like many other 20-somethings, we’ve been trying to figure out what to do with our lives.  While we’re no where close to figuring out all of those details, we recognized a few foundational truths: we love people and want to work on creating greater community and love in the world, we want to do some traveling before we settle down (house, family, etc.), and we want to embrace the adventures that life has to offer.  With all of these in mind, we applied to the Peace Corps last May.

After the long application, shifting and re-shifting our expectations, and the long hurry-up-and-wait-game (we’ll probably do a post on this whole process), we finally received our invitation!  We’ve been invited to serve in Nicargua as TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Teacher Trainers with a leave date in August.  So we’re jumping again.  It’s what we do in life, right? We’d only been dating a month and we knew. We jumped. Who knows where this adventure will take us and what hardships await, but that is what life is all about.

“Things can fall apart, or threaten to, for many reasons, and then there’s got to be a leap of faith. Ultimately, when you’re at the edge, you have to go forward or backward; if you go forward, you have to jump together.” – Yo-Yo-Ma

Let’s do this.  Together.

jumping together
Andrew & Emily – Pacific City, OR