Category Archives: Peace Corps

Reintegration Everyday, 1 Second at a Time

“Have I even done anything today?”

This thought was all too common during my first few months as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Being thrust into a new community, in a new country, with the oh-so-specific guidance to “integrate” for two months, can lead to us Type-A Americans feeling a bit down about our lack of accomplishment.

But I’m not in the Peace Corps anymore.  I’m back in the states, trying to get back into the swing of “American” life.

It’s funny how similar readjustment to US culture can be to the initial adjustment to a foreign culture. Thinking back to early in my Peace Corps service, I realized that journaling and blogging helped me gain perspective; it made me feel like I was taking advantage of my time.  Even if I didn’t do it as much as I wanted to, it was still helpful.  I had things to share, about Nicaragua, about the transition, about how life is like in another part of the world.

But I’m not in the Peace Corps anymore.  What is special or interesting about my life?  And what am I doing with my time?

Life.  Readjusting.  Moments with friends and family I dearly missed. Enjoying the summer. Reading. Yard work. Gardening. Parties. Summer camps.  When I paused to reflect, I realized there were an infinite number of small things happening that I loved, that mattered, even if they didn’t necessitate a 500 word blog post.  So how could I capture and share this special, yet simple, time of life?

Enter 1 Second Everyday This awesome app has been the perfect remedy for my social media lethargy, and helps me feel like I’m documenting this unique period of readjustment while not taking time away from actually living and experiencing it.  As the name implies, it’s helps you record and edit 1 second of video a day, with an end goal of having a 6ish minute long video at the end of the year to help you recap your life, to see the moments in time pass by and help us grasp the slow transitions from one year to the next.  It’s simple, yet powerful.  It’s easy, yet profound.

I’ve found that working on this project has made me more intentional and aware during my day.  Knowing I have only 1 second to capture the essence of a day keeps me on the lookout for moments that matter. This can range from the mundane (reading a good book) to the memorable (capture a bridal party jumping photo at a wedding I officiated). I feel more grounded knowing I have a record of this time of life. Being more grounded gives me the space to reflect internally and the time to readjust before jumping back into our blog here with more formal posts and redefining what we write about.  1 Second Everyday is allowing me to lean into this time, to experience it for what it is, to live.

I would’ve loved to have taken a video of 1 second everyday during my Peace Corps service to complement my blogging and journaling, but I can’t change the past.  May I suggest, however, that you start right away?  Whether you’re in Peace Corps, grinding away 9 to 5, or struggling to find even one second to breathe between kid activities, I think you’ll find 1 Second Everyday to be an empowering, entertaining, and easy addition to your life.  

I guarantee you’ve done something today that deserves being remembered.

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Personal PC Goals: A Review

It seems like ages ago that we made these goals, and indeed it was! A few have changed over time and a couple we didn’t quite finish, but it’s still fun to look back at how far we’ve come:

By the time we rang “the bell” to signal the end of our service in Peace Corps Nicaragua, we wanted to:

  1. Reach Advanced levels in Español
    • Andrés – 8.2014 Intermediate Low / 11.2014 Advanced Low /9.2015 Advanced Mid / 2.21.17 Superior
    • Emily – 8.2014 Novice Mid / 11.2014 Intermediate Mid /9.2015 Intermediate High / 2.21.17 Advanced Mid
  2. Learn some local slang: Dicho Doce
  3. Buy a Nicaraguan-made guitar: Meet Camilo
  4. Read a bunch in español
  5. Learn to cook some delicious Nica foods
  6. Visit all the departments of Nicaragua (sin R.A.A.N.)
  7. Join a basketball/volleyball league and/or yoga studio 
  8. Visit the houses of our counterparts: Ana Cecilia, Meysel, Regina, Cristina, Rolando, Zeily, Mariela
  9. Have all of our counterparts over to our house 
  10. Visit at least 20 Peace Corps Volunteer sites: Final count 32
  11. Host family/friends from the U.S. Best Surprise of My Life, The Payne Gang, Molding Memories in Nicaragua, Allen Christmas,Visiting our Peace Corps Family, From the Eyes of the Old Tiger,Cigar Tour with Adopted Family
  12. Run a 10/25 K: Taking Back the Run
  13. Start a new tradition in our family so that we can continue them for years to come, regardless of where we are in the world: 12 Days of [Nilsen] Christmas 2014, 12 Days of [Nilsen] Christmas 2015From May Day to May We, May We Reflect, Intentions for year dos, May We Aprovechar Peace Corps, 12 Days of [Nilsen] Christmas 2016
  14. March in a parade with our schools
  15. Climb/board/swim a few volcanoes. (Yes. You read that right.)
  16. Make Nica friends: It’s Nice To Meet You, EstelíEvery Nica Cloud has a Silver LiningSmall World, Big HeartsAdventure and Company30 Miles to IntegrationAndrew’s First NicaBdayOn Jack-o’-lanters and Histroy: Cultural Exchange Chasing Away the Darkness, #People: Photo Challenge, A Woman who is Changing My Life
  17. Follow a telenovela¡Mi Corazon es Tuyo!
  18. Start the STEP program in Estelí through Fundación Uno: What is STEP?, Permiso, Meaningful Work One STEP at a Time
  19. Return to visit our training towns/families: New Years in Masatepe
  20. Learn at least 5 songs together with some sort of fiddle/banjo/guitar/voice combo
  21. Learn the Nicaraguan National Anthem: Somos Voluntarios
  22. Swim in both Oceans
  23. Participate in Nicaraguan traditions (i.e. folkloric dance, holiday traditions, etc.): Home is where the holiday is, Easter morning, 30 miles to Integration
  24. Visit Ometepe IslandVisiting our Peace Corps Family, From the Eyes of the Old Tiger
  25. Kayak in the Rio San Juan: Adventure is Out There! – Rio San Juan Edition
  26. Visit Corn Islands
  27. Visit Indio Maiz Nature Reserve: Nil Sibs
  28. Facilitate the start of a Community of Practice with the English teachers in the Estelí area: Community of Practice in Practice, We Share a Passion
  29. Don’t adopt a pet, even though they’re so cute!
  30. Help run camp(s): ACCESS Camp 2015, 2016, and 2017, GLOW 2016, and CHACA 2016
  31. Visit the Community of Christ congregations here in Nica
  32. Visit the GU Winter term group 
  33. Go to a Real Estelí (futbol) game: Comparing Christmases
  34. Publish an average of 6 blog posts every month during PC
  35. Feel as comfortable in the Nica street market as in La Colonia:Produce Paradise
  36. Learn/create 10 different ways to braid my hair (Emily) 
  37. Challenge Donald Ugarte to a ping-pong match (Andrew): was challenged…but never was able to find a place/time for the match.
  38. Watch an Español based TV series from start to finish
  39. Buy a hammock: Meet Paz
  40. Visit and/or learn the history of all the sites on the (now old) Nicaraguan currency:

La aventura nos aguarda

We had the most beautiful Valentine’s Day yesterday. We curled up last night with some apples and cheese, some dark chocolate sea-salt caramels (that Andrew brought us back from the states just over a week ago), and a wonderful movie. I’ve always loved UP, but last night took it to a whole new level:

South America Travels

We spent Valentine’s Day planning parts of our 3 month after PC travel – half of which we’ll be backpacking through South America. The only “for sure” we have in our trip thus far is a flight from Buenos Aries to Portland, ME on April 13-15th. Our current itinerary (which could still change as we travel) may include Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and finally Argentina. From hiking in the Andes to boating in the Amazon, we’ve got plenty to explore. And while we won’t be making it to Angel Falls like Carl and Russell (things are a little tricky in Venezuela right now), I couldn’t help but feel like a giddy little kid thinking about all of the adventures we’re about to have in South America, “a land lost in time”….

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Possible bilingual futures

I’d never watched Up before in Spanish, but we did last night. Doing so with such ease reminded me that while I may have had some ups and downs with my Spanish over the course of our service, I’m extremely proud of the progress I’ve made. We’re even looking at potential bilingual jobs for this fall. (Example: I found a 7/8th Science teacher position that would be taught completely in Spanish immersion.) Depending on our final language interviews next week, we could be pretty competitive for those positions and have the internationally accredited certificate to prove it.

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Goodbyes right around the corner

I usually cry during Up, but last night I sobbed. Ellie’s funeral scene just cut me to the core. Not only has Peace Corps brought Andrew and I closer than ever and strengthened our relationship, we have so many family extensions down here now, some of whom are older and might not be here when we return. We have 13 days left as Peace Corps Volunteers. I’m not ready to say goodbye, but the time has come. I’m going to cry so much.

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Filling our book

We’ll be arriving at the Portland, ME airport around midnight Fri. evening/Sat. morning of the 14/15th of April. We’ll start our re-adjustment and re-entry to the United States with my sister and a good college friend up north before starting our trek across the states. We’re planning to attend two of our brothers’ graduations, visit Midwest family and friends before heading out to the PNW. We’ve got a couple weddings and summer camps to attend as well. We may be adventuring for a bit in South America, but afterwards we’re coming back home, and spending time with the loved ones we’ve so dearly missed. It’s family and friends, after all, that fill our adventure book with the most important moments, memories, and love.

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¡La aventura nos aguarda! / Adventure is out there!

Home is Where the Holiday Is

For our last holiday season in Nicaragua, we wanted to be at home in Esteli and spend Christmas and New Years Eve like most Nicaraguans do: in family.  We had two main goals, one of for each holiday.  For Christmas I wanted to try the seasonal dish lomo relleno, and for New Years Eve Emily wanted to make our own viejo. Continue reading Home is Where the Holiday Is

Peace Corps and the Cultural Blogging Community

One reason we currently write May We Suggest is to work towards the Peace Corps’ third goal: to help promote a better understanding of other peoples (in our case, Nicaraguans) on the part of Americans. We want to share our experiences and a bit of the Nicaraguan world with as many as possible state side and beyond.

And while we think our blog is pretty sweet, we are obviously not the holders of all knowledge.  There are un montón of other blogs out there that deserve to be read.

This post aims to share some of the networks of bloggers we’ve developed over our time in Peace Corps.  Whether you’re looking for country specific information, what to pack, cultural insights, travel tips and routes, general information on Peace Corps, or just good stories, we hope these lists are helpful, inspiring, and insightful. Continue reading Peace Corps and the Cultural Blogging Community

Felices Fiestas from Nicaragua

Dearest friends and family,

christmas-card-2016

When we joined the Peace Corps in 2014, we never thought we’d be this comfortable and at home in a foreign country.  Yet throughout our 27+ months and extension we’ve slowly come to understand and embrace our Gringo Pinolero identities.

Like any year, 2016 brought it’s own ups and downs.

We grew closer to our friends and host families here, but we also greatly missed our loved ones back home.  So we visited home – once to IL (for a funeral) and once to OR (for a birthday/GRE).  And we hosted so many (11) different friends and family members! Showing them our Nicaragua has been an honor and we hope that they now understand a bit more why we love it so much.

We survived a hurricane, and zika, and the long recovery of chikunguyna.  Don’t worry.  None of them were as bad as they sound.

We experienced two national elections – of our host and home countries – through a lens we’ve never had before.  It was quite the experience to be abroad during an election year.

We said goodbye to our cohort since we extended our service, counseled/co-directed 4 camps this calendar year (ACCESS, GLOW, CHACA, and ACCESS again), and celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary.

Gallo pinto is now a welcomed staple in our diet.  We learned a lot from teaching in a completely new setting.  We continued to immerse ourselves in Spanish and up our Nica street cred.

We worked hard and earned our keep.  One of our PC Nicaragua staff members says that the longer we’re here, the more qualified we’ll feel to dive deeper into our work.  Now that we’re almost done, we keep thinking of new projects that we could do if only we had the time.

And we’re starting to feel that pressure of time.  So we’re taking as many pictures as we can, celebrating small moments, and striving to live into the intentions we set to aprovechar our time left in Peace Corps.

Life is full of comings and goings, of challenges and lessons, of transitions and blessings.  We embrace what we can, while we can, and strive to have the lessons we’ve learned from our journey guide our way on.  That is what we wish for you this holiday season, and for ourselves in the (big transition) year to come.

Feliz navidad y prospero año nuevo.

Love and light,
Emily and Andrew

12 Days of [Nilsen] Christmas 2016

Two years ago, we began a tradition in our family that would allow us to celebrate the holiday season no matter where in the world we found ourselves.  After 2014 and 2015, we figured we were getting the hang of this 12 Days of celebration and fun, but this year Nicaragua threw us a curve ball.  ACCESS Camp (the annual intensive English camp we’ve helped with the past two years) dates were changed from January to right before Christmas, so we had to be creative.  Nevertheless, our 12 Days were spent remembering to celebrate the small things, to be thankful for what we have, and to invite spontaneous joy into our lives.

The 12 Days of [Nilsen] Christmas 2016

Continue reading 12 Days of [Nilsen] Christmas 2016